Justice

#MLKNOW: The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

#MLKNOW: The Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

... On Monday January 18, 2016 some of the greatest artists and activists of our time came together to commemorate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Held at Harlem’s Riverside Church, in the same room where Dr. King delivered his infamous “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech, the sanctuary was filled to capacity with eager spectators. As the audience patiently waited for their favorite celebrities to take the stage, you could feel the historic energy in the air.

...Free Books on race, gender, sexuality, and class that are bound to get you woke!

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I am a man on a mission! As a writer, I expound on Black culture from a millennial perspective and unite and empower marginalized communities through journalism and social media. A Master’s in African American Studies, I’m also the creator of The Corner, a one-hour student run weekly radio at Temple University. Follow me on Twitter: @Tyreebp..

Frame by Frame with Romel Rose | #TheWokeFolk

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In this month’s installment of The Woke Folk, we hold a stirring conversation with rising indie filmmaker, actor, and director,  Romel Rose. Romel, a native of Los Angeles, California, is being recognized for his films' subject matter and insight.

Romel was recently named winner of the 2015 Online Viewer's Choice Best Cultural Film Award at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and his next short is already creating buzz for festival season.

In our interview, Romel discusses his passion for filmmaking, the controversial themes his films confront, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and his ambitions to change the face of Hollywood. Check it out below:

So Romel, how did you get into filmmaking?

Initially, I started off as an actor. I became frustrated with the projects that I was doing, so I decided that if I'm going to do independent projects, I might as well create my own so that I would have full creative control.

That's very entrepreneurial of you!  With that, what are your films about and what inspires them the most? 

My films are about things I care about most. Things that I feel aren't addressed enough and things that I want to change in the world. The inspiration usually comes from something that bothers me. Something that I want to see change in. I try to create relatable stories out of my life experiences.

What films & filmmakers inspired you to become a filmmaker?

For me, I loved The Great Debaters by Denzel Washington. I'm also a really big fan of Fruitvale Station by Ryan Coogler. Actually, that film changed my life. For me, Fruitvale was the first time I ever deeply identified with a character  I saw on screen. It was also the film that inspired me to to tell stories about characters that look like me.

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After watching your content, I've noticed that they are much more than films -- they’re almost like conversational pieces. Is that an intentional choice as a director? 

It's very intentional. I want to make films that make people think. I knew that my last film would start conversations about certain issues and that's what I wanted. I feel like dialogue is the first step to progress, but it cannot stop there.

I think the issues I address, people aren't use to talking about them. A lot of times we just sweep them under the rug in our every day life. So when you see a film like High Yellow, it's kind of in your face and doesn't hold back any punches. I'm talking about topics that effect our everyday lives.

How have your friends and family responded to your films?

I've gotten a lot of positive feedback. At first I thought it was just because they love me. Lol, but a lot of the feedback seems genuine and I couldn't ask for anything better. Whenever someone tells me "I loved your message," that feels very rewarding.

All of your films focus on Black life and public perceptions of it. What importance does that hold to you and the craft of filmmaking?

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I feel like it's my job as a young Black man to show Black Life in a positive light. We see the stereotypes that are often portrayed of us in television and film and a lot of times we get upset about it, as I often do. But I had to decide -- am I going to continue just getting upset about it, or am I going to do something about it? I decided to tell my own stories instead of waiting on "Hollywood" to tell them for me.

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How important is that type of Black filmmaking in light of the Black Lives Matter Movement in Ferguson & across the country?

Black filmmaking is important because we have to control the narrative. We cannot rely on anyone else to tell our stories. We have to tell our stories and make sure it's done with integrity.  

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For me, Black Lives Matter  means not waiting on society  to give us  opportunities or open up doors for us. Instead, we create our own opportunities and burst through those doors. Not only going through the doors, but holding the doors open for those following behind us. That's what Black Lives Matter means to me.

Do you consider your filmmaking to be a form of activism?

I view my filmmaking as a platform to express myself. I try to have a message in my films that get people to think about themselves and the society that we live in. If that's a form of activism, I'll take it. However, I do think people are tired of the same ole stories and same ole portrayals of black life. In my humblest opinion, I think I shake it up a bit because I'm fighting against those stereotypes rather than playing into them, which is completely backwards in regards to how they say you're suppose to "make it" in Hollywood.

Where do you imagine yourself in 15 years? What type of impact do you want your films to have? 

Hopefully, I'm in a position where I can do this for a living. I think true success is when you're able to do what you love for a living. Hopefully, I will be able to reach a national audience and have people from all over the world connect with my films the way that Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole do with their music.

What words do you have for other Black millennials who are living inside this historic moment beside you?

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Let's come together and make things happen. We always say "let's come together," but what does that really mean? It means exactly what's happening now. You giving me this platform is an example. Let's continue to build and move forward. Millennials are the most powerful because we have a voice and a platform, social media, to connect and touch people all over the world. Let's make things happen and not wait around.

Ase! We salute you and wish you nothing but the best!

To watch  Romel's latest content, check out his YouTube  channel and  follow him on Twitter.

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#TheWokeFolk series is TyreeBP.com’s monthly highlight of Black millennials  who creatively use their talents to upset the status quo. They do so byways of political activism, advocacy in media, and performance arts to bring about social change across the country!

Disrupting Hollywood w/ Makiah Green | #TheWokeFolk

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In this month's installment of The Tikisa Series, we hold a powerful conversation with one of Hollywood's newest names, Makiah Green. Makiah, a recent graduate from USC's Master in Professional Writing program and one of the newest creatives at Charles King's Macro Ventures, is already making her mark in the entertainment industry.

In this interview, Makiah discusses the climate of Hollywood, its issues with diversity, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and its influence on her ambitions to change the face of Hollywood. Check it out below:

...What is the current climate in Hollywood?

We’re living in a very interesting and contradictory time. In the same year where we have more Black people on TV than we’ve seen in decades, major Hollywood publications are still publishing covers full of white women (and justifying it).

Due to the success of Empire, Straight Outta Compton, and a host of other minority-driven projects, diversity has become a buzzword in Hollywood. Not because it is reflective of the world we live in, but because executives have deemed it beneficial for business.

So while it may seem that this is the golden age for minorities in Hollywood, we are still operating in a system that is largely dominated by white men. Although we are being invited into the room more frequently, once we’re in the room, we still have to pitch to white executives and appeal to white audiences in order to sell our content.

Until we are able to obtain real power (i.e. senior executive positions at studios and networks) and financial resources to create our own studios, we are simply benefiting from a marketing scheme disguised as “diversity.” We saw a very similar push for Black content in the 1990s, but as soon as networks, namely FOX, managed to turn their ratings around, they ditched the folks who made it all possible—Black people. It’s never been about a genuine commitment to diversity. In Hollywood, it’s always about the bottom dollar.

...What factors play a role in preventing Hollywood from becoming more diverse?

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When you consider how Hollywood was formed, it’s no surprise that, in 2014, 73% of characters in the top 100 films were white. Hollywood is simply a microcosm of America, and so we must consult history in search of solutions.  

I am a firm believer in affirmative action and believe that the conditions in Hollywood will not permanently improve unless certain changes are mandated. In addition to diversity programs and initiatives, we need to cement clear pathways for people of color to secure positions of power. For example, I would love to see a program that replaced white male studio executives with women of color. Most people in the industry would probably deem that as too radical, but a radical shift is precisely what Hollywood needs right now. 

...What role does the Internet play in leveling the playing field for Black & Brown people to participate in cinema and media?

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The internet is everything! Without it, we wouldn’t have Awkward Black Girl, Black&Sexy TV, Broad City, or Orange Is the New Black. Not to mention the millions of shows and online channels that are being created as we speak. The internet truly is our ticket out. But it’s important that we don’t only view it as a gateway to mainstream media.We now have the power and the resources to create our own infrastructures and revenue streams. In a few years, we won’t have to rely on mainstream media outlets for breaking news and creative content. We’ll be relying solely on each other, which is scary, but powerful!

...Do you believe that your advocacy in Hollywood is a form of social justice?

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Absolutely. My Hollywood ambitions are 100% rooted in the movement for Black lives. I recognize the way that media shapes public thought and perception, and I have made it my mission to contribute to that narrative in the best ways that I can. If I ever reach a point where I feel like my time and energy is better spent within a different branch of the movement, I will make the necessary adjustments. But no matter what industry I find myself in, Black liberation is the ultimate goal.

...Can you explain the ways in which your passion for social justice and Hollywood intersect?

Similar to how I will not be at peace until my people aren’t being killed by the police every 21 hours, I will not rest until I’m able to turn on the television and see a range of fully developed characters of color on every channel and in every movie theater. Our children deserve that. We deserve that.

...How do you disrupt Hollywood?

I disrupt Hollywood by prioritizing Black lives over profit. In reviewing scripts and discussing potential projects, I am always considering whether the content is working for or against us. I always ask myself: Is this advancing our narrative or is it reinforcing destructive tropes and stereotypes? To me, a review isn’t complete unless it considers the social implications of a particular project.

...As a Black millennial, what are your feelings about the movement for Black Lives and its depictions on film and screen?

Young people are reclaiming what is rightfully theirs and I am absolutely here for it. Mainstream media has never treated us or our stories with the respect that we deserve. The difference now is that we have the tools to correct them. With social media on our side, literally anything is possible and it’s been beautiful to watch my generation mobilize so effectively. We are leading and sustaining national conversations on race in America. That is a huge deal.

...What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to you?

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Black Lives Matter is a declaration of our individual and collective humanity. From the inception of this country, Black people have been deemed as less than human, somehow deserving of our own demise. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” counters that deeply racist logic. And though dismantling centuries of white supremacy is a lofty goal, I believe that we will win. We’re already winning just by being here. 

Ase! We salute you and wish you nothing the best. #Tikisa

For more about Makiah and her activism follow her BlogTwitter.

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.. If you liked this post, share it with your friends!

 The Tikisa series is TyreeBP.com's monthly highlight of Black millennials  who creatively use their talents to upset the status qou. They do so byways of political activism, advocacy in media, and performance arts to bring about social change across the country!

Shutting Down City Hall: Kayla Ingram and the #TheBaltimore16 | The Tikisa Series

Welcome to #TheWokeFolk!

In this months fist installment of The Tikisa Series, we are honored to highlight Baltimore activist Kayla Ingram. Kayla Ingram is a M.A. Social Design Candidate at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD, and affiliate of the grass roots organization Baltimore Bloc.

In a exclusive interview with TyreeBP.com, Kayla shares the motivation behind City Bloc's student-led direct action at City Hall in Baltimore, her experience being arrested alongside her peers, the growing movement for Black Lives in Baltimore, and how, ultimately, her faith is what inspires her to continue to protest. Read her riveting story below!

Hi Kayla, give us some background about who you are:

My name is Kayla Joy Ingram. I am a M.A. Social Design Candidate at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD. I am also an affiliate and advocate of Baltimore Bloc.

What inspired the decision to shut down City Hall and your desire to participate in something so audacious?

This action was inspired and led by Makayla Gilliam-Price, a student at Baltimore City College and founding member of City Block, which is the youth (but equally awe-inspiring) version of the grassroots collective, Baltimore Bloc.

Upon moving back to the country after a year-stint in Central America, my burden for my people grew immensely as I became conscious of the systemic bondage that plagues us. As my passion for Christ grew I realized that I serve an audacious God who requires me to live the Gospel out in tangible ways. For me, this action and any other action that I will be involved in will ultimately give way to the poor feeling love, the oppressed experiencing liberation, and the broken healed.

How would you describe the social climate of Baltimore right now? Has relations changed/ strained between the community and police since the death of Freddie Gray?

Since the death of Freddie Gray, the social climate in my city has remained stagnant. The uprising still continues because the toxic relationships between the community, activists, and the Baltimore City Police Department has remained the same in lieu of Freddie Gray’s death.

Can you describe the first several hours of the action being inside of Baltimore’s City Hall?

For the first several hours of the action (occupying city hall after the hearing), we were very hopeful. We were told that we would get what we came for–an open conversation with Commissioner Kevin Davis, where we could discuss our “rules of engagement” and our three demands. So, naturally, we waited and the opportunity to engage in conversation with him never came. We tweeted and flooded our social media accounts in hopes that our live tweeting and periscope streams would not only keep the public in the know, but would also keep the BPD and the other powers at play responsible for their direct and indirect actions.

After several hours, the authorities decided to close off all access to food, restrooms, and electricity? When you noticed this, what was the response?
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Once we knew that they weren’t allowing us access to fundamental human needs and electricity we continued to grow closer in community. We had a poetry slam, expressing our qualms, got to know one another and even took turns napping as we anticipated occupying City Hall as long as it took for our voices to be heard.

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Can you recall those moments as police officers were approaching you with zip ties to arrest you. What were you all chanting?

We were not only physically linked arm-in-arm, but we all were united on one mind and one accord. We chanted Assata Shakur, reminding ourselves of our commitment to fight for our liberation and that we had nothing to lose but the systemic chains that bind us. As the police approached, we banned more tightly together declaring to the BDP and all who watched, “United we stand, divided we fall.” And we did just that. We stood united until the end and had to forcefully be divided.

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Describe how you felt when you were put in the back of a police van and later arrived to the holding area.

This was a time a reflection for me. As I tried to maneuver my tightly cuffed hands, I couldn’t help but to take in my surroundings. The dried droplets of splattered, dried blood on the ceiling and door of my paddy wagon caused my mind to race and I couldn’t help but wonder whose blood it was. I anxiously counted each detained body as it took well over an hour and a half for everyone to come outside of city hall.

Were you ever struck with any fear or trepidation about the sit-in?

I was never fearful for my own safety.

...What was it like being in jail for nearly 24 hours? 

Everything about Central Bookings is cold. For the nearly hour-long wait, some of my fellow activists stood outside to the dealings with personnel inside. From the time we arrived we were told that our sit-in flustered city officials, the BPD and jail employees alike. Having been disconnected from social media for many hours we had little knowledge of how much traction our action received. We moved from cell to cell. The process to see one commissioner is daunting. We had to see two. I ate enough mystery bologna meat to last me a lifetime. Exhaustion and thirst for water that didn’t come out of the same system as our silver communal toilet were recurring thoughts. It was an emotional rollercoaster. There were times of laughter as we interacted with some of our fellow inmates who told us their life stories and applauded us for our bravery. There were times of sadness as we worried about the wellbeing of our brothers who were across the hall and Makayla (the leader of the action), who was the only arrested female minor and alone.

I eventually was left alone for hours as all of my other counterparts and cell mates were released. I spent the remaining few hours with my eyes closed singing praise and worship songs. As I waited for my second commissioner hearing, the guards would walk by and ask me if I was Kayla Ingram and laugh. One eventually told me that their phone lines were blowing up with requests and demands that I be released. Not only that, but a crowd of familiar faces had gathered outside of Central Bookings cheering and chanting in solidarity.

As a millennial, what are your feelings about this youth-led movement? Do you think it’s important for other young people get involved with the movement for Black Lives?

This movement led by us is imperative. If we look at history, youth have been at the forefront of leading the charge for social justice. Youth involvement is not only important, but necessary for sustainable change.

What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to you?

Black lives matter essentially means that I matter. My predecessors, the people I am passionate about, and the people that the majority deem as unlovely are vital fibers to the fabric of our communities and our world.From this experience, I am now certain that our voices have validity and have earth-shattering potential to create platforms for change. [And] Until there is sustainable change, I will not be silent and I will act.

What words do you have for other Black millennials who are living inside this historic moment beside you?

Now is the time to rewrite our history. Pick up a pen and be relentless in creating the change you want to see.

Ase! We salute you and wish you nothing the best. #Tikisa

For more about Kayla and her activism follow her on Twiitter.