African American Men

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!

The Theology of Black Unrest

In the wake of the budding unrest in Baltimore, Ferguson, and the terrorist attack at Emmanuel AME, Black Christians are trying to comprehend how Christianity informs their forms of resistance. While some have dismissed the faith altogether, others are attempting to fit their radical ideologies within the confines of their faith. This dichotomy is emblematic of a double consciousness that can be paralyzing in moments of social unrest. But in order to reconcile our Blackness with Christianity, we must reexamine the attributes of God, reconsider the role of the church, and reclaim the Gospel.

In seeking to qualify God and his attributes, it is imperative that we situate God alongside us in our distresses along our quest of liberation. Much like the Hebrews marching out of Egypt from Pharaoh, Black people need to situate God in their exodus from racism.

To do so, we must strip Jesus of his whiteness and center Him in his otherness and marginalization. Instead of seeing God as a tyrant, we must reimagine Him as a God who is completely given to the notion of grace and a love that transcends human performance. Instead of requiring perfect adherence to the law, the true God extends unmerited exchanges of love and forgiveness. And the true Jesus is one who loves and forgives unconditionally, consistently empathizing with those on the fringes.

The Black soul recognizes that bigotry was not a part of the creation story, nor was it outlined in the attributes of God himself, but is still confronted with the absolute of it’s existence. But the Black soul rejects this false gospel. Any gospel with tinges of tyranny and exclusion could never proselytize this soul. In the interim, the Black soul, due to this false gospel of intolerance, attaches itself to the evidence of any faith at all, which often manifests as unrest. This unrest is indicative of the symbolic groaning of all creation—the same groaning outlined in Romans 8:22-24. A day where Black souls long for our bodies to be released from sin, suffering, and societal oppression.

In the climate of Black unrest, the Black soul is confronted with the perceived sinfulness of his/her resistance. In these moments, the Black Christian is often paralyzed, unsure of where their allegiance lies. They can either defend their blackness against the onslaught of systemic aggression, or defend their Christianity by remaining patient and complacent in their own oppression as they await spiritual deliverance.

In the same way that self-righteous Christians attempt to make amends for their moral indiscretions, the Black soul is constantly attempting to atone for the sin of his predicament - but to no avail. Unaware of the fact that the quandary of his social position is not of his own doing, he tries to satisfy the demands of white supremacy through respectability. But even after integrating, assimilating, and whitewashing, it still doesn’t remedy his distress. The sin of his skin is ever-present, unyielding to his efforts.

This devotion to respectability is so deep that it has driven some to believe that Black bodies are to be offered up as sacrifices to a fictive white supremacist, Old Testament God. From Emmitt Till to Renisha McBride, we consider these figures as covenantal lambs. But no Black lamb will ever be without blemish in the eyes of white America due to the perceived sinfulness of black skin. From Michael Brown to Rekia Boyd, these bodies are offered in hopes that they will satisfy a false god built in the image of white greed, who has a never-ending appetite for Black Death. But unlike the fabricated god of white supremacy and political repression, the real God is eternally satisfied with the sacrifice that Jesus made once and for all.

The true God is a divine figure void of the trappings of racial bias, exclusion, and an insatiable desire for destruction and demise. God, personified in his Hebrewness through the life and death of Jesus, was sent to proclaim a simple and radical message that has the power to release captives, heal the blind, and free the oppressed. However, today, that Gospel message remains largely unemployed to address societal unrest in spiritually productive ways.

In an attempt to maintain the status quo, the church has exalted white supremacist values over the true message of the gospel. Their modern interpretation of the gospel misses the opportunity to cast down the systemic apathy responsible for the Black soul’s unrest. To do so would invalidate the politics of respectability that society places on Black people in times of turmoil. And instead of encouraging righteous indignation, the church often uses religion to quell rebellion and reasonable outrage.

The indignation that should be directed towards the infrastructures of white Christian indifference is instead inverted. In the same way that victims are blamed for the crimes committed against them, the poor in spirit are met with more rules and regulations rather than support. These pillars, erected by white privilege, are so lofty that they shut out those on the margins and unwittingly cooperate with racial exclusion. Until there is an adequate gospel response to Black unrest, this contention will persist and religion will be of no utility to us.

As Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.” I assert the same. I believe that God can indeed make us larger, freer, and more loving; it is our current conception of Him that has rendered Him null and void. God, in light of the work of Jesus, still situates Himself alongside the oppressed and afflicted. But until we reclaim the Gospel and contextualize the unrest that surrounds us theologically, historically, and spiritually, God will be of no use to Black people—or anyone else for that matter.

#TrustTheProcess Ep. 1

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSZ5sI9ONt8

Follow a day in the life w/ Tyree!

In this episode (the first of many ) I travel across Los Angeles on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Both, to stop in to serve at my local Church and meet up with friends along the way.  I'm doing  this new series, to show you guys just how I 'Trust the process' after Grad School.

Disclaimer: It's pretty EPIC!

#TrustTheProcess.

The Clippers and the 'Ruby Bridges' effect

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Ruby Bridges is escorted to William Frantz Elementary by US Deputy Marshals in November 1960.

... Apparently some people felt a way about my post the other day about the Clippers. However, when we come from a tradition like this can you expect anything less? If a 6 year old can integrate her elementary school, why should we expect less from our million dollar athletes? 

"... but Tyree, what about Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Jessie Owens? Should they too have stopped playing/fighting because they were playing under racism? " No, because unlike the  Clippers, we knew distinctly why these men were playing and for what reasons. The Clippers never once said why they were other than for the Hard work they put in all season; NOT for being essentially being called N-words. It's sad state of affairs. 

My original post was in no way to disrespect the Clippers, but more so a challenge/ call to action.  I challenge these men, because my desire is to have myself held to the same standard.

We as Black men, cannot afford to cower at the remarks made by racists OR the traditions of protest that people like Robinson gave there lives for!

Why? Simply because It's far too expensive and detrimental to the generations that will succeed us. But hey, I'm sure Donald Sterling will pick up the tab, right?