Race

NMAAHC presents #GodTalk at the California African American Museum

On August 24th, 2018, the National Museum of African Museum’s CSAARL along with Pew Research Center held the first in a series of conversations exploring the intersection of black Millennials and faith at the California African American Museum.

Hosted alongside my exhibition “How Sweet The Sound: Gospel Music in LA,” the conversation was robust and thought-provoking. Joined by Dr. Besheer Mohamed, Candice Benbow, Tyree Boyd-Pates, Dr. Ryon Cobb, and Dr Michael Fisher, we discussed social media, mental health, gospel music, and other themes related to the Black millennials’ experience with the Black church/religion.

What was your favorite part of our discussion?


Learn more about gOD Talk: s.si.edu/2MkzJgh #gODTalk #BlackFaith

Taking Center Stage: African American Women within Race Films

"Since the beginnings of cinema in the late nineteenth century, African Americans have sought to claim their agency on screen. Black women, in particular, have fought to counter stereotypes and ensure adequate representation on film..."

Center Stage: African American Women in Silent Race Films highlights a community of black filmmakers in the early twentieth century who made films outside of the Hollywood system, building space for black women to operate with autonomy and away from the white gaze. These filmmakers often called their work “race films,” or motion pictures made by black filmmakers with mostly black casts for black audiences after WWI and through the 1940s. These films sought to advance the portrayals of African Americans and counter the racist stereotypes found within such films as D.W. Griffith’s propaganda movie, The Birth of a Nation (1915).

From silent pictures to those that utilized sound, the films shown in this exhibition give a sense of the range and depth of black women’s performances outside of Hollywood by some of the race films genre’s most famous actresses: Evelyn Preer, Iris Hall, Anita Thompson, Lucia Lyn Moses, and Cathryn Caviness. Through their performances, we see how African American women from this era delivered nuanced portrayals that were considered progressive for the time. Today, as the entertainment industry debates diversity in public discourse, these films provide insight into the modern quest for three-dimensional representations of black womanhood.

Within Our Gates

this_is_theWithinOurGates_original.jpg

Within Our Gates (1920), the second film of director Oscar Micheaux’s prolific career, tells the story of Sylvia Landry, a role played by Evelyn Preer. Sylvia, an educated black woman, returns to her southern hometown where she teaches at an impoverished school for black children. To save the school, she travels north, where she convinces a white philanthropist to supply the funds necessary for the school. Sylvia’s return is not without anguish as she confronts memories of witnessing the lynching of her adoptive parents as a young girl. Her new love, the white school superintendent Dr. Vivian, learns of her pain, and he admonishes her to find strength in thinking of the role that black people have played in history and the power of black dignity. Confident in their ability to build a new life together, Sylvia and Dr. Vivian marry.

Within Our Gates is the oldest surviving race film. Although it earned contemporary success with black audiences, it was controversial for its depiction of lynching and its frank take on interracial relationships. Sylvia Landry in particular proved a compelling character: a woman determined to do good in a world working against her, and a victim of horrible trauma who finds strength in her embrace of black pride.

The actress Evelyn Preer was born in Mississippi in 1896. After her debut in Micheaux’s first film, The Homesteader (1919), and her role in Within Our Gates, she went on to a successful career with the Lafayette Players, the first all-black theater company in the United States. A great talent, she moved fluidly between stage and screen, as well as between silent and sound films, becoming one of the most recognizable black actresses of her day before her death in 1932.

The Symbol of the Unconquered

zoom_1428091476_the-symbol-of-the-unconquered@2x.jpg

The Symbol of the Unconquered, like Within Our Gates, was written, directed, and produced by Micheaux in 1920. The story centers on Evon Mason (Iris Hall) after she inherits land from her grandfather. On her journey to reclaim the land, Evon is aided by her new neighbor, Hugh Van Allen (Walker Thompson), with whom she develops a romance. When the Ku Klux Klan tries to force Hugh off his land, Evon rides gallantly to alert the town and saves the day—a reference to, and an inversion of, D.W. Griffith’s Klan sequence in The Birth of a Nation. In this scene, Iris Hall depicts a fearless and determined woman, a film role that black actresses were rarely given the opportunity to play.

A singer, dancer, and actress, Hall was born in Barbados and immigrated to the United States at age thirteen. Like Preer, she became a member of the Lafayette Players and also had a role in Micheaux’s The Homesteader. Beyond her acting career, Hall was a popular Harlem beautician and business owner. Little else is known about her, but she remains one of the most distinctive black actresses of the race film era.

By Right of Birth

The Lincoln Motion Picture Company (LMPC) was established in 1915, and its fifth and final film, By Right of Birth, was produced in 1921. Today, only four and a half minutes of the LMPC’s entire catalog survive.

By Right of Birth depicts the struggles of Juanita Cooper (Anita Thompson Reynolds), a young, educated woman searching for her birthparents. The narrative includes a romance between Juanita and Philip (Clarence Books), a law student and popular athlete. Designed as a response to The Birth of a Nation, By Right of Birth was praised for portraying African Americans and Native Americans in a better light than many early movies.

Anita Thompson Dickinson Reynolds (1901–1980) offered a sensitive and compelling performance as Juanita. The role in some ways mirrored her real life, in that she often traversed racial boundaries in pursuit of knowledge and experience. Reynolds described many of these experiences in her memoir, American Cocktail: A “Colored Girl” in the World (Harvard University Press, 2014). A world traveler, intellectual, and performer, she shared the company of Ruth St. Denis, Rudolph Valentino, W.E.B. Dubois, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Nella Larsen, Langston Hughes (her cousin), and many others. During her remarkable life, Reynolds worked as a dancer, model, actress, artistic muse, literary critic, journalist, Red Cross nurse, and educator.

The Scar of Shame

scar-shame-lucia.jpg

The last production to come from Philadelphia’s Colored Players Film Corporation (CPFC), The Scar of Shame (1927) was written and produced by CPFC founder David Starkman shortly before the company folded. In the film, a young working-class woman, Louise Howard (Lucia Lynn Moses), marries Alvin Hillyard (Henry Henderson), a talented concert pianist. Yet Alvin remains ashamed of her economic background.

When Louise becomes entangled in a business venture with a saloon owner, Alvin fires his gun, accidentally wounding Louise and inflicting the titular scar. After his release from prison, Alvin becomes a successful music teacher and finds new love. Devastated, Louise commits suicide.

The Scar of Shame is one of the earliest race films to depict levels of social stratification within the African American community. Designed specifically for African American audiences, it discusses communal conflicts around upward mobility, assimilation, and the retention of black culture. These themes may not have been apparent or compelling to white audiences, but they present a strongly moralizing view of self-improvement through hard work and clean living.

The Scar of Shame was Lucia Lynn Moses’s only film role. She began her career as a chorus girl, and during the film’s production, Moses maintained her commitments to New York’s Cotton Club, commuting to Philadelphia to shoot during the day before heading back to Harlem to dance at night. Like many black actors, she never achieved the stardom she hoped to attain. Her sisters, Ethel and Julia Moses, also had successful careers in show business: Ethel was a leading actress for Oscar Micheaux, and Julia was a Broadway performer.

The Blood of Jesus

zoom_1428091645_blood_of_jesus@2x.jpg

The Blood of Jesus (1941), written, directed, and produced by actor Spencer Williams, is the story of Martha (Cathryn Caviness), a devout rural black woman. When her drunken husband Razz (Williams) drops his shotgun, Martha is near-fatally wounded. As she hovers between life and death, she struggles to overcome obstacles placed in her path as she seeks the road to heaven. When Martha throws herself at the mercy of Jesus Christ, she wakes in her bed, resurrected by the power of faith.

The Blood of Jesus was remarkable for its unflinching portrayal of African American spiritual and faith traditions in the Jim Crow South. As the film’s director, Williams sought to create a narrative that reflected the power of the religious community and his own belief in the power of prayer. A prolific actor and race film director, he later rose to fame as Amos of the television comedy duo Amos ‘n’ Andy. The Blood of Jesus was presumed lost until its rediscovery in a dusty warehouse in Tyler, Texas, in the late 1980s as part of a cache of stored and forgotten race films. In the early 1990s, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress's National Registry of Films.

In The Blood of Jesus, Cathryn Caviness brought sweetness and fragility to her depiction of a woman seeking the path of righteousness in the face of adversity. Very little is known about her, save that she was born in 1914 in San Antonio, Texas. Her sensitive and poignant portrayal as Martha in The Blood of Jesus served as her sole foray in professional film. She passed away in 1993 at her home in Austin, Texas.

Center Stage explores how African American actresses from this period challenged demeaning characterizations of black women through the employment of wit, sensitivity, intelligence, and determination. Their exercise in agency pushed back against race and gender stereotypes that black actresses still face to this day, creating multidimensional representations of women in complex circumstances. The performances showcased in Center Stage capture the spirit of enterprise endemic to the race film industry and the women who worked through this medium to elevate black voices, black artistry, and black womanhood. Just as these actors and filmmakers paved the way for future generations, contemporary artists can learn from the work they left behind and create new characters and forms of storytelling that speak directly to today's social and political concerns.

This essay accompanies the exhibition Center Stage: African American Women in Silent Race Films and was written by curator Tyree Boyd-Pates and students from the UCLA Center for Digital Humanities: Francesca Albrezzi, Aitana Balam, Anastasia Gershman, and Brian Tran.

7 Things You Never Knew About Dr. Martin Luther King Jr...

On this wonderful day where we commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I felt the need to share some seldomly known things about the him and his life. Things ranging from his actual name, favorite food, to even his impacts on Hollywood. Do enjoy and share with others.

martin-luther-king-jr-2015-baby-pictures-5.jpg
  1. Fact: When Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott got married, they decided to stay in a White motel to celebrate the occasion. Upon arrival,  they were denied access and had to spend the night at Black-owned funeral home.
  2. Fact: Martin Luther King's favorite foods were pecan pie and fried chicken.
  3. Fact: King skipped the ninth and eleventh grades and never graduated from high school. He enrolled in Morehouse College in 1944 when he was just 15. He completed his doctorate at Boston University when he was 25.
  4. Fact: Dr. King apparently improvised parts of the “I Have A Dream” speech in August 1963, including its title passage. Clarence B. Jones worked on the draft of the speech, which was being revised up to the time Dr. King took the podium. He says Dr. King’s remarks were up in the air about 12 hours before he spoke, and the “dream” reference wasn’t in the speech. Dr. King later added it live when singer Mahalia Jackson prompted him to speak about the “dream.” In June 1963, Dr. King had talked about his dream in a speech in Detroit.
  5. Fact: King was jailed 29 times over the course of his life. Most of the reasons he was jailed were for acts of civil disobedience, and utterly ridiculous charges including driving 30mph in a 25mph zone- evidence of the time.
  6. Fact: When Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, at the time he was the youngest Peace Prize winner ever, at the age of 35.
  7. Fact: Actress Nichelle Nichols, who made history playing the first non-black stereotype role on a television show, planned to quit Star Trek after the first year when her role as Uhura was reduced to a supporting character. It was only after King sought her out at an event to tell her he was a huge fan -- and entreated her to stay when she told him of her imminent departure -- that she reconsidered and stayed.

Happy King Day!

 

 

5 Times MLK Clarified My Role In The Fight of Injustice

mlk-vietnam-march-chicago-1967-latimes.jpg

"What is my role?"

... I asked myself this question as I witnessed droves of people on social media express their frustration with another non-indictment of a police officer who killed an unarmed Black man.

Feeling helpless and frustrated as to whether I should march or picket, I decided to do something else constructive: read.

Reading has always been therapeutic for me, especially when trying to find others in history who attempted to articulate the angst of their times in profound ways. I then decided to read up on Martin Luther King Jr. and his views on injustice. After reading his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, I learned it was eerily addressing all of what was going on in 2017.

As I read through the letter, my mouth fell open. I finally got clarification on how I should respond to everything.

Hence, these are the five takeaways I had from reading Martin Luther King Jr.'s Letter from Birmingham Jail. Each of which explain why fighting injustice and inequality today matters as much as it did in 1963.

1. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny: “...Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

2. A Justice delayed is in fact a justice denied: "We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied.

3. Direct action opens the doors of negotiation and reform: "Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue."".. Direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. …The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation."

4. Extremism for Love or for Hate: "..Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal . ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"

5. The Church will serve as our thermostat: “There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are. “If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

 

Happy MLK DAY!

10 Black Literary Works Every Person Should Read | List

fullsizerender-2.jpg

Whether interested in learning, or just gaining more knowledge about African heritage and culture, nothing beats opening a good book. Still, with so many choices at one's disposal, deciding on a title can prove difficult.

With the help of several well read scholars and emerging millennial voices: Writer & activist  Melanie Coco Mccoy (@MelanieCoMcCoy), Hip Hop Artist & Professor, Timothy Welbeck (@TimothyWelbeck ) & Middle Tennessee State History Graduate student, Joshua Crutchfield (@Crutch4), we thought it was fitting to do so.

This list is a list ranging from fiction, non-fiction, and autobiography. From Ta-Nehisi Coates to James Baldwin, many of these authors have been the recipients of national awards in the United States. Furthermore, these ten titles have heavily contributed to contemporary narratives about the black experience across the globe.

Did you see your favorite? If not, feel free to share with us what you think should've made the list below in the comments.

1. "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)

2. "Kindred" by Octavia Butler (2004)

3. "Song of Solomon" by Toni Morrison (1977)

4. "Coconut" by Kopano Matlwa (2008)

5. "Half Of A Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Adichie (2008)

6. "No Name in the Street" by James Baldwin (1972)

7. "Sister Outsider" by Audre Lorde  (2007)

51tVnfJ0gvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_
51tVnfJ0gvL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

8. "Invisble Man" by Ralph Ellison (1952)

9. "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander (2012)

10. "The Fire Next Time" By James Baldwin (1963)

 Let's make reading cool again! 

15 reasons why Harriet Tubman deserves the $100 Dollar Bill too..

13006661_1752592431641500_7542844731661836770_n.jpg

Racks on racks on racks! With the news that Harriet Tubman is being placed on half of the $20 dollar bill has everyone very excited - and they should be. However, contrary to popular belief,  I think the American Treasury's Jack Lew still has short changed her. Why? Harriet has been keeping it 100 her entire life.

Urban Dictionary defines 100  as: to stay true; to be real; straight up

...And if you ask me,  Harriet Tubman has been keeping it 100 her whole life. Don't believe me? Here are 15 ways Harriet Tubman kept it '1o0 throughout her life:

harriet_tubman_civil_war_woodcut1.jpg

 

  • Tubman or the slaves she guided were never captured.
  • Tubman used disguises to avoid getting caught. She dressed as a man, old woman or middle class free African American.
  • During the Civil War she was paid $200 over a period of 3 years. She supported herself by selling pies.
  • During the Civil War she worked as a nurse and a cook. Her knowledge of local plants helped her cure soldiers with dysentery.
  • Tubman was the first woman to lead an assault during the Civil War. She conducted the Combahee River Raid which set free 700 slaves.
  • After the Civil War she became involved in the cause for women’s suffrage. She gave speeches in Boston, New York and Washington.

 

  • Unable to sleep, Tubman underwent brain surgery in Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. She refused anesthesia, instead she insisted to chew a bullet just like soldiers did when they had their legs amputated.

In conclusion:

 Harriet Tubman was a G! 

...In my opinion, Harriet Tubman is worth far more than just a $20 dollar bill. Not only was she enslaved, she was a cook, a nurse, a spy, and also a soldier in the Union Army,  on top of being an abolitionist, too.  And because of these achievements, she not only deserves a $20, she deserves a grand stack of  $100 dollar bills, too. Why? Harriet's been keeping it '100 her entire life.

..Keep it 100 and share this with someone else!

The BLACK HISTORY MONTH PLAYLIST you’ve been waiting for!

0vo8thdp-ivxtxpiz.png

In celebration of Black History Month, I created a music playlist for us to jam, reflect, and rock out to. The songs included reflect our history, our struggle, our joy, creativity, and most importantly, our brilliance and diversity. In curating this 3 1/2 hour playlist, I was reminded of how much Black people have contributed to music over the years. This is not at all a conclusive list, if there’s such a thing, but hopefully it sets the tone for this month–and the months to come! If you have any songs you feel should be included, comment on this post or connect with me on social media. Let’s vibe out!

Happy Black History Month!

[spotify id="spotify:user:kiahkeys:playlist:26bZCc0nZaCNJP5iOwo3ZS" width="300" height="380" /]

This playlist was brought to you by The Woke Folk.

#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!

pedagogyoftheoppressed.jpg
z_zuuHBm_400x400
z_zuuHBm_400x400

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

10906084_10204731482280594_757730744845755966_n.jpg

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.

10400018_10204551094771019_262578611204126653_n.jpg

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?

12105938_10206687386936988_6403672761894104262_n1.jpg

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.

12096441_10206687382376874_2502128054882005992_n.jpg

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.  

b7hu1jnccaa7tvi.jpg

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?

12191603_10206859809647448_5193836481471473434_n.jpg

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.

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

#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

img_0335.jpg

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?

thr_issue_39_actress_rt_2015_cover1.jpg

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?

09rae1-articlelarge1.jpg

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?

screen-shot-2015-11-30-at-11-09-35-pm.png

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?

7094.jpg

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.

&

.. 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!

15 Black Businesses for Black Friday in L.A.!

Let's put the Black back in Black Friday! 

best_places_for_black_businesses.jpg

Black Friday is here and we're all looking for great gifts for our loved ones. If you're looking to spend some of your hard-earned dollars with black-owned businesses this Friday, we've got you covered!

I've compiled a list of amazing businesses in Los Angeles, all run by Black entrepreneurs. You can buy everything from jewelry to natural beauty products to a captivating photo shoot session. Check them out below.

Gifts & Books

cultural-interiors-west.jpg

Dual-purpose tea light/tea storage tins at Cultural Interiors West.

  1. Cultural Interiors West http://cultural-interiors.myshopify.com/
  2. Eso Won Bookstore http://www.esowonbookstore.com
  3. Shades of Africa http://www.shadesofafrika.com/

Restaurants

screen-shot-2015-11-22-at-11-26-59-pm.png

Green Grotto Juice Bar has an assortment of the best juices in L.A!

  1. Green Grotto Juice Bar http://greengrottojuicebar.co
  2. Pips on Labrea Restaurant http://www.pipsonlabrea.com/
  3. Simply Wholesome http://www.simplywholesome.com/
  4. Stuff I Eat (Vegan Cuisine) http://www.stuffieat.com/

Desserts & Treats

southern-girl-desserts.jpg

Southern Girl Desserts brings a taste of southern hospitality and a taste of home to the West Coast.

  1. Southern Girl Desserts http://southerngirldesserts.com/
  2. Cobblers, Cakes, and Kream http://www.cobblerscakesandkream.com/kream/
  3. Bonnie B Bakery https://www.facebook.com/Bonnie-B-Bakery-635776283207664/

Black Beauty

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iEL8Y4moNU&w=560&h=315]

Whether they are faux-locs or senegalese twists, get your hair "did" at Mahogany's Hair Revolution.

  1. Mahogany Hair Revolution http://mahoganyrevolution.com/
  2. Kyra’s Shea Medleys http://www.kyrasheamedleys.com/

Dry Cleaners

  1. Bowers & Sons Cleaners http://bowersandsonscleaners.com/

Wedding

morgan-raquel.jpg

Seeking beautiful wedding photos? Enjoy Morgan Raquel's beautiful photos of Black love here.

  1. Morgan Raquel Photography http://www.morganraquel.com/mrpweddings
  2. Rhoda’s Best Spot (Custom Wedding Brooms)http://rhodasbestshot.com/

Did we miss something? If you know of any Black-owned businesses in Los Angeles, let us know in the comments.

This list was compiled by The Woke Folk. 

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?
ytk4ytu2odgzyymvaljdswnbag5bmhbseex5qkyydzk0rm5jeui4ps8zn3g4mdoxndyzedkymc84otl4ntmwl2zpbhrlcnm6cxvhbgl0esg3mckvahr0cdovl3mzlmftyxpvbmf3cy5jb20vcg9sawn5bwljlwltywdlcy9rb3nibwdnewx4c2xmmd.jpg

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.

[embed]https://twitter.com/kaylajingram/status/654552839474257920[/embed]

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.

e7e0022f-4d85-4291-ae62-9bb2773b670e_cx0_cy4_cw0_mw1024_s_n_r1.jpg
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.

 

On Dashikis & Face Paint: Decolonizing the African Culture Line

fv2a7663_vbofps.jpg
082614-b-real-afropunk-16.png

Recently, a post written by Zipporah Gene posed the question, “Can Black people culturally appropriate one another? The piece accused African Americans of committing cultural appropriation in the same way white people do. Needless to say, her piece has caused quite the stir on my Facebook timeline. Though well intentioned, she missed the mark tremendously. By asserting that Black people are guilty of the same appropriation that whites are, the author failed to factor in the forced dislocation of an entire population of African people and dismissed their attempts at reconfiguring any semblance of African identity, which brings me to my thesis.When native African people restrict the cultural involvement of others based on their Diasporic location, they implicitly perpetuate the same colonialism that separated Africans from Africa.Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon. In Gene’s piece, she states that Black Americans, because of their misuse of African fashion and tribal markings, are responsible for the same type of cultural appropriation that white people are. Though well-meaning, she has a very eurocentric way of looking at things, including her own people. However, this isn't unique to her. Quite honestly, it’s a problem that many people across the diaspora have when attempting to make cultural distinctions among themselves.

The reason this piece garnered so much support is simple––colonialism. Attempting to define someone else’s Africanness by where they fall on the globe is a direct byproduct of the colonialism that removed Black people from Africa in the first place. It is deeply misguided and disrespectful to disqualify non-native Africans from partaking in African customs and practices solely because of their dislocation from the continent. Such narrow and exclusionary definitions––cultural and otherwise––reinforce the colonial separation people across the Diaspora are still grappling with today.

This line of reasoning shames non-native Africans for a problem that they did not start. Black Americans, Afro-Brazilians, West Indians, and others are not responsible for their dislocation from the Motherland. Need we be reminded that during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, approximately 11,863,000 Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, with a death rate during the Middle Passage reducing this number by 10-20 percent. As a result between 9.6 and 10.8 million Africans arrived in the Americas. Do these facts make those who traveled that tumultuous middle passage and their ancestors less African? Of course not! Black people have just as much stake in the continent as native Africans do. This includes access to traditional African religions, customs, and rituals, and most certainly includes the right to wear a dashiki.

Our relationship to African practices directly correlates to how we identify with the continent itself, both ideologically and culturally. Many Africans––both on and off the continent––tend to identify more with their specific region than with the continent as a whole. As a result, they define their differences based on the territorial demarcations that they have known all their lives. However, unbeknownst to them, most of these demarcations are colonial in nature and were imposed on them by white powers. When we use these same distinctions to isolate one Black culture from the next, we are reinforcing the white supremacy that begat it to begin with. This becomes clear when engaging in conversations regarding intracultural appropriation.

afropunk-fest-brooklyn-2015-lola-who-fashion-music-photographyb-blog-2.jpeg

To be clear, appropriation is a viable concern and it is problematic when we don’t take time to educate one another on the the customs we are choosing to adopt. In the states, Black people, like white people, benefit from American privilege. As we all know, some Black Americans use their privilege to disregard and lump the diversity of Africa into stereotypical slogans and  catchphrases. Some utilize this same privilege even more by not educating themselves on their own cultures and customs. And although this is indicative of a certain kind of privilege, it isn't appropriation. When Black Americans and others within the Diaspora employ aspects of African culture, they do so in an attempt to associate themselves with their long lost homeland. Some do this more consciously than others, but regardless of the surface-level motivation, it is all rooted in a genuine desire to connect with a stolen legacy.

Conversely, first generation Africans in America have the privilege of identification and access to customs that Black Americans and others across the Diaspora do not due to their native affiliations. When this association to Africa is leveraged to exclude other Africans (native or not), this claim to relative fame only promotes a false sense of entitlement to Africa that is based on location instead of ancestry.  

Recognizing the dislocation of nearly 169 million African people from the continent, conversations like these must be had. While there may indeed be a misuse of African customs and symbols by Black Americans in the U.S., this should not be classified asappropriation. If anything, it highlights our relentless attempt to create an identity of Africanness here in the states, despite the dislocation we've had imposed on us. The sooner our native Africans brothers and sisters see that, the better.

The Color of Hatred

charleston-shooting4.jpg

Over the last year, we’ve lost a countless number of Black lives to police brutality and senseless murder. After losing nine lives at Charleston AME Church in South Carolina, discussions surrounding the Confederate flag surfaced, and several southern Black churches burned to the ground. Though all of these events were racially motivated, none of them were accurately reported as such. Instead, networks like Fox News attempted to cover black pain through a color-blind prism that merely deflected from the real issues at play. In true fashion, the media placed a color-blind lens on an explicitly color-based issue. Due to the media’s refusal to see this crime as a race issue, we witnessed the siphoning of Black pain, the normalization of white terrorism, and the imperviousness of social accountability in America. Each of these contributed to the myth of post-racialism and emptied hatred of its color. This projected absence of color was most evident after Dylann Roof ruthlessly murdered the Charleston 9.

After Dylann Roof was taken into custody, mainstream media immediately devised a campaign to humanize him at the expense of his Black victims. They projected his baby pictures and shared stories of his troubled past, while not delving nearly as deep into the lives of the actual victims, including State Senator, Clementa Pinckney.

As I perused my timeline, I noticed a deep hesitation to call Mr. Roof what he was: a racist and a terrorist. Instead, the media invited pundits to temper the discussion by providing diagnoses of his sanity. They muddied the conversation with discussion of gun reform, mental illness and religious freedom, all to avoid categorizing the massacre as a racist attack on Black people. And by omitting the racial component of the massacre, they furthered the normalization of white terrorism, which only gave way to the next phase in draining hatred of its hue - the expectation of Black forgiveness. This expectation routinely minimizes racism and excuses the perpetrators of it, completely dismissing the need for sincere apology and repentance.

America has always relied on black forgiveness to absolve itself of white guilt. The Charleston massacre was no different. By choosing to highlight the forgiveness of the Black faith community, they shifted the burden of responsibility onto the oppressed in a classic display of deflection.

In the name of being a model Christian, these Black families waived their right to exercise their justified anger. As the headlines touted Black America’s ability to take higher ground in racially oppressive moments, the Charleston narrative morphed into an endorsement of the gospel of colorblindness. This doctrine calls for reconciliation in the midst of Black suffering, and bypasses the healing necessary to sustain it.

By rushing the healing of the Black community in Charleston, society assumes that the Black community is immune to issues that threaten its very existence, such as racism and systemic oppression. This assumption asserts that terrorism and trauma are not worthy of diagnosis or treatment. Due to our resilient history, society assumes that Black people are able to withstand consistent onslaughts of racism to no avail.

When delivering the eulogy at Clementa Pinckney’s funeral, President Obama emphasized the significance of God’s grace, even going so far to sing his own rendition of Amazing Grace. While the moment was refreshing, President Obama’s solicitation for reconciliation is nothing new for Black people. From chattel slavery to Jim Crow, Black folks have had to summon this resolve in order to survive.

But now, Black people have another adversary. This enemy remains wading in the shadows, hiding his candor. This enemy is named post-racialism, and almost managed to rid Charleston of its black hue, but didn’t. And though the myth of colorblindness was debunked this time, the same threat is still exists, whether we're aware of it or not.

You see, colorblindness is the social cataract that makes America visionless to the reality of race, and thus, the possibility of pain--a pain that unleashes itself in the pews of Black churches and in the embers of sacred crosses burned to the ground by white supremacists.

Dylann Roof’s manifesto ferociously outlines his hatred for Black people. And yet, the media still gave him the benefit of the doubt. Even as he is charged with multiple hate crimes, the FBI has failed to label him a terrorist. He single-handedly, on the canvas of nine innocent lives, painted with the hue that has historically haunted Black Americans. This shade of hate poignantly eliminates the trace of color -- whitewashing any vestiges of pigment in order to cover its  tracks.What is the color of hate? It is not a color at all, but rather, the intentional and utter erasure of it.

Tyree Boyd-Pates is a man on a mission. As a writer, he aspires to expound on Black culture from a millennial perspective and unite and empower communities through journalism and social media. A Master’s in African American Studies, he also is the creator of#TheCut, a brand new podcast! You can follow him on Twitter: @Tyreebp.

Post-Rachel: 5 Things Rachel Dolezal Taught Us About Race | List

Post-Rachel: 5 Things Rachel Dolezal Taught Us About Race | List

Aside from ‪Rachel Dolezal’s hair deserving a BET award for being so on point, I am still disturbed by this bizarre story. I’m not particularly disturbed at her high levels of delusion (though, it would be valid), but moreso of how delicate our definition of race is in 2015.