22nd Annual African American Marketplace & S.E. Manly Short Film Showcase

I'm always excited when I get the chance to cover events celebrating the arts. In fact, when I got the call earlier last week to attend opening night of the 22nd Annual African American Film Marketplace I couldn't have been more stoked. As you may know, I'm a creative writer (Number of completed scripts: 75% of a feature and 25% of a short - but that's not the point), so you know I was anticipating rubbing elbows with a few black film pioneers.

Opening night, commonly referred to as the Black Academy Awards, was held at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset, and was dedicated to honor those who've paved the way for many black entertainers. The red carpet was lit with some of the brightest up and coming filmmakers in black Hollywood.

Floyd Marshall, a filmmaker from Philly, was excited to be in attendance.  His project, entitled A Child of God, explores one of the many taboo topics in the black family. It’s a story about a young man who’s transitioning, and the obstacles he faces with acceptance in his community. Although his mother is supportive, his father’s acceptance doesn’t come as easy seeing as he runs one of the largest African American churches in their community.

Whoever said that black films aren’t diverse, lied. I had the chance to chat with a few other filmmakers on the carpet, and their stories were just as compelling as Marshall’s. Joy Parris’ film Sexless after 40, No. was also on the roster to show this past weekend and from the looking at the title, I’m sure it wasn’t one to be missed. Penda Diakite is a young filmmaker from Portland, by way of Mali, West Africa, showed two shorts in the festival – Words from a Silence and Diary of Reflection.

Hosted by William Allen Young (aka Frank Mitchell, bka Moesha's dad), the event kicked off with a beautiful performance by Korie Davis, an outstanding violinist from Antioch. Young presented the first award of the night, Community Service Award, to LaRita Shelby, a media professional with a heart of gold whose mission is  of ensure that students have access to music and the arts. Jazzy Rita’s acceptance speech set the tone for the rest of the night: Inspirational, Celebratory and REAL.

The beautiful Vanessa Williams (Soulfood) presented the Lifetime Achievement awards to a few major entertainment pioneers: Ron Brewington, seasoned radio broadcaster; Billy Woodberry, independent filmmaker and educator; and the incomparable Julie Dash, filmmaker extraordinaire.

Thoroughly impressed with the night, I left feeling motivated to continue sharing the stories of our people. I wish the best to all of the filmmakers sharing their art, some for the first time.

Visit the BHERC’s website for more information on the annual festival and for a detailed schedule of the films showcased, here.

The Bridges of Madison County - Not your average review

This time last week I received an unexpected Twitter dm from Center Theatre Group LA, asking if I'd want to attend their latest production. Uh, that's definitely a no-brainer. You already know I accepted. I'd do pretty much anything to see a musical for free - anything except sitting on the infamous casting couch... If you know what I mean.

So I accepted their generous gift, and received 2 tickets to see The Bridges of Madison County this past Sunday. Let me preface by mentioning how I hadn't heard of The Bridges of Madison County until CTGLA reached out to me. And apparently I've been living under a rock for the past 20 years - I hear both the novel and original film with Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood were just as good. I was blown away, as to be expected, by everything - the storyline, the singing, the stage set ups - everything.

If you're unfamiliar with Bridges, it's a story about an Italian immigrant, now Iowan farmer's wife, and an American photojournalist's quest to find true love. Francesca and Robert meet as Robert is passing through her small Iowa town to take photos of the neighborhood bridge for National Geographic. While Francesca's husband and kids are out of town at some farmer's fair, she lets her hair down and has a secret rendezvous with Robert for 3-4 days. It's amazing, and my brief synopsis isn't doing it any justice; So much so, that I'm dying to see the original film (it's hard to imagine Meryl pulling off an Italian accent, but I hear that this role earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress).

In the end, Francesca is forced to choose between her newly found, true love and her family. Spoiler Alert: she chooses the latter. Although I understood her thought process - I'm a mother and could never imagine leaving my son - I left the theater extremely pissed off. I mean, I was fuming. Thinking about the sacrifices women make for the betterment of the loved ones in our lives is depressing. Francesca put her happiness aside to fulfill her obligations. She was loyal, and couldn't leave her husband behind. Francesca loved Robert, but she loved her children more.

You'll have to watch The Bridges of Madison County for yourself in order to get more of the deets - no more spoilers from me.

And, if you're in the LA area, be sure to check out The Bridges musical at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown LA. You have until January 17th - and trust me... You don't want to miss it.

Special thanks to the wonderful folks over at CTGLA for the tickets.

Stereotyping, or just speaking your truth?

... That is the question.

News flash. I'm a black woman. I'm a natural sistah, I speak very loudly and I'm all about empowering other people of color - even if that means being a little radical; All of which are stereotypes of one particular kind of black woman, and all of which are true when it comes to me. I'm not ashamed - I fit that mold.

Stereotyping is wrong; not all black people love fried chicken and watermelon (I do, though), not all Asians are good at math (debunked), and not all Muslims are terrorists (ignorant). But what if some stereotypes happen to be true? Is that even a possibility?

Let me explain...

I witnessed a very uncomfortable conversation earlier this week - well, not quite a conversation, more like a comment gone south. Without giving too much detail - a group of folks were talking about moving to a new space. When one of the folks asked if they had to pack their own boxes, another individual responded sarcastically, "no. I'm sure if you drive past a Home Depot, you could find someone to do it for you". I'm totally paraphrasing, but you get the point. To be blunt, the comment bombed, but only because everyone in the room envisioned the same type of person hanging outside of the Home Depot; and I'm sure after reading this paragraph you did as well. That's our truth.

Was that necessarily distasteful to say? Maybe... But it's someone's truth.

Saying that all black people can dance is a stereotype, and I've found it be false on numerous occasions. But what if the person making that comment has yet to come across a single black person who couldn't swag it out? Are they stereotyping, or speaking their truth?

Let's just take it there - I haven't met a single Mexican / Mexican American who isn't a hustler. As far as I'm concerned, no job is ever too degrading or too hard for them to not do what they have to do to take care of their families. Would it be wrong for me say that Mexicans are some of the hardest workers I've ever come across? Is that stereotyping, or is it my truth? I've never met a lazy / haughty Mexican. Sue me.

Sorry, not sorry for my political incorrectness.

Not here to preach - I just think stereotyping becomes negative when someone's truth offends someone else. If you're ballsy enough to speak of your truth, you should also acknowledge that your truth isn't necessarily someone else's.

I think that's where the disconnect happens.

Saying that “when white people get wet they smell like wet-dog” can certainly be someone's truth. But, to place that stereotype on the entire race is ignorant. Have you smelled every single, wet white person in the world?

Every time you or friends have been robbed may have been by a black person; but to say that all blacks are criminals would be absurd. Have you encountered very black person in the world? And if so, have all of them committed a crime?

Generalizations happen. Your truth is your truth - but to try and force others to adopt your truth is detrimental. That's how wars happen.

I don't know... Just my thoughts... 

The Wiz Live – Not your average review

I watched The Wiz Live last night, just as every other black family in America did, I'm sure. It was amazing. So much melanin. So much soul. So much life. I love my people.

This morning, I woke up just as every other living human did. Not sure how your day started off, but mine wasn't so pleasant. Against my better judgment I checked my social media accounts - leading with Instagram and wrapping everything up with Twitter. I was anxious to see if Black Twitter was as thrilled about The Wiz Live as I was, and most were. What I didn't expect to see as I searched "The Wiz" terms was an unsettling amount of white folks complaining about last night's NBC special - sporting their white privilege per usual.

It's funny how white folks feel entitled to point out when they're feeling left out of the conversation.

"If The Wiz had an all white cast black people wouldn't be too happy."

"I'm tired of black people always screaming about 'discrimination'. This is discrimination against whites!"


I'm sure if The Wiz Live premiered on BET, there wouldn't be any complaints. You see, as long as people of color stick to their lanes and don't infiltrate prime time media they're not offending anyone. Having an all black cast in ANYTHING on public television channels just isn't 'American'.

I was tired.

I was done.

I was just about to wash my hands of all things "racist" until a college friend made a Facebook post about her 9-year-old nephew. He saw a news headline calling the Planned Parenthood bomber a 'Terrorist'. Confused, he asked my college friend, his aunt, how the Planned Parenthood bomber could be a terrorist if he wasn't Muslim. The 9-year-old's family is Muslim and of Middle Eastern decent. This little boy associates his skin color with that of a terrorist because prime time media has conditioned him to believe so.

And just as I was about to wash my hands of all things 'racist' I was reminded by a 9 year old child to keep fighting – To keep writing these blogs with hopes of changing the perspectives of bigots, and to empower people of color.

Prime time media wasn't created to show 'us' in a human light. We can’t continue to let them condition our children to believe something that just isn't true. History has taught us whom the real 'thugs' and 'terrorists' are - and history doesn't lie.

Sharing Session: My Black Awakeness Story

So, I've been tuning into a ton of Buzzfeed content - I mean, everything from their podcasts to the viral YouTube videos on all things Race in America.

I was inspired to share my Black Awakeness story after listening to one of the older episodes of the Another Round podcast. Unlike many others I've heard from, my Black Awakeness didn't happen until the latter part of my life. College to be more exact. You see, growing up, I always shied away from discussing my blackness. I went to predominantly white schools the majority of my life, and didn't want to offend any of my classmates. 

My blackness started to peek through in high school. Again, surrounded by mostly whites in my neighborhood, I felt myself recognizing ignorant and racially driven comments, from both students and teachers, about people of color. Comments that I never picked up on before were now being implanted into my psyche - replaying all of the time. I never spoke up because I didn't want to be an "angry black women" – 'cause you know, being an "angry black woman" is "wrong".


Sophomore year of college I joined one of the greatest organizations ever, You Beautiful Black Woman. How much more unapologetically black could it be? I was challenged to acknowledge my blackness and the unfair treatment of other people of color (both men and women) around me. I say "challenged" because it was just that. A freaking challenge. Where as before I would ignore the passive aggressive racism of my peers, the phenomenal women I now called 'sisters' would no longer allow me to do that. 

Conveniently, during this same year I was fired from a local bar and grill because of my Black Awakeness. My manager (can't recall his name) pretty much told me that I was hired because he knew that their black customers would "identify" with me. I was pretty much only there to fill his quota - to be his "token blacky". His comments didn't sit well with me, and with my newfound Awakeness in tow, I spewed out pro-blackness word vomit (can't quite remember what I said), pretty much telling him that he was everything that was wrong with America. This, of course, didn't sit well with him, and about a week later I was fired. 

Scared because I was unemployed and didn't know how I was going to pay bills, I called my mother in the middle of the night. Frantic. Crying. Not making much sense, I'm sure. I didn't get the reaction I was hoping for... She didn't console me and lie, telling me that everything was going to be 'ok'. Instead, she demanded that I abandon my pitty party, and stand up for what I believed in. 

I immediately went home and wrote about it. The piece went viral around my campus, and the story was picked up by a local journalist. I wasn't ready to be the voice of this potential movement - hell, I was just getting used to seeing the world in a whole new light - so I cowered. Not to mention, my former employer had their ducks in a row, and I didn't. I was unprepared for that particular battle, but in a weird way preparing myself for the war. 


Fast forward to today - 1 child and countless, racially motivated blog posts later - and I'm oddly taking part in the war I've been preparing myself for all along. No longer afraid of being an angry black woman, and speaking up when I see things that are dead wrong. It took 19 years of life to finally become comfortable in my blackness, and to view it as a privilege instead of a burden. I'm no expert, and I'm still growing – writing and challenging other young people to think better, be better, do and feel better. 


What's your Awakeness story? Believe it or not, we all have one...


What's wrong with you?

I’ve seen the video. I’ve read the news. I’ve listened to Raven-Symone continue to make an ass of herself…

Bottom line: a child was thrown out of her desk by a male officer, who decided to flex his muscle instead of grabbing his balls, and using his badge to gain compliance. She was a child and should’ve been handled as such – not as a criminal. The child refused to get up from her desk after being asked by the teacher to refrain from disturbing the class. The officer used extreme force to remove her from the desk because he didn’t have enough manpower to get her to comply otherwise. The person with the real issue is the officer – not the child.

What’s even more disturbing are the numerous outcries from previous students affected by the officer’s history of abuse. He’s notorious for his violence against students. Why was he allowed to work with children if he couldn’t discipline without using violence? That should be the topic discussed on national news – not the child’s distressed past and post-partum issues… Because, again, this issue is not with the child, but rather with the officer.

Children will act as children do. We need educators, officers, and adults in place that have the patience to reach them where they are.

The officer’s life was not threatened. The child was not violent towards any of her classmates or the teacher. The child was being a disturbance to the learning environment – not holding anyone hostage. Her actions didn’t warrant such extreme treatment, and something is seriously wrong with you if you believe otherwise.

If you can’t compose yourself and walk confidently in your leadership, treating those you serve with professionalism, you shouldn’t have taken the job. If you don’t have the patience to work with unruly children, you shouldn’t be working with children. It’s that simple – no rocket scientist needed. 

Boys in blue, girls in pink

Something tragic, well to me, happened this past Thursday. A normal Thursday to boot – I dropped Jace off at daycare a little earlier than usual because I had a client meeting in Pasadena, but still normal nonetheless. Me fighting to get him to wake up, fighting to get him to put on some clothes, trying to pry his mouth open so I could brush his tiny teeth – you know, the norm. Had an awesome meeting, and as a result, got to leave Pasadena a little earlier than expected in the afternoon. I went home to change into something a little more comfortable and to grab Jace Michael’s “diaper bag” (we were going to a friend’s house) before heading to scoop him up.

I walk through his classroom door only to find that the little nuggets were out on the playground. I opened the door to outside, searching for my kid. Looked high and low – all over the playground. Just then, a sweet voice and warm body attached itself to my legs while screaming “Mommy!” I knew it was Jace! I reached down to pick him up, and to my surprise Jace Michael was decked out in a pink and orange, floral printed, peplum top with an orange bow to accent his waist.

Double-you. Tee. Eff.

My first reaction, you ask? All I could do was fall to my knees and laugh. The juxtaposition of his boyish Mohawk haircut and this floral peplum top brought funny-tears to my eyes. My little man was so happy to see me – he didn’t even notice that his clothing no longer matched his God-given masculinity.

His teachers said that he got his shirt wet during lunch, and since he didn’t have any extra shirts from home (Only 2 pairs of shorts. I forgot to replace the shirts) they had to put him in the only extra shirt they had available. My heart sank for a moment. I set my little boy up for possible ridicule because I didn’t replenish his shirt supply (he’s a messy kid). Or so I thought.

You see, Jace was fine. I was the one with the issue. Still continuing to play with his trucks, cars and doing things that little, 2-year-old boys do. I was festering on the inside once I started to think about what other passing parents in the daycare would say, or how they would look at me and my little boy as we exited. I was embarrassed.

Jace was fine.

He was healthy, happy and fine. He was safe, full and loved.

Happy and actively, as we chilled with our friends, Jace continued to laugh, talk and play with his cars and trucks… In his floral printed peplum top. He wasn’t affected. He didn’t even care – after all, it’s just a freaking shirt.

Putting my expectations of what a “man” should wear on my baby boy won’t do anything but stunt his creativity. Not saying that I’ll purchase girly clothing purposely for Jace Michael, but I can’t let the fear of what others may say or think stop him from spreading his wings and becoming the person he’s destined to be.

Ask Jace what his favorite colors are and 9 times out of 10 he’ll name a combination of blue, purple or pink. Does liking purple or pink make him any less of a man? Will being particular about the way he looks make him, God forbid, gay? If you were to ask me this a week ago, I would’ve answered with all sincerity “absolutely not. That’s nonsense!”… But after experiencing my own gender role mishap, I can’t say that the latter didn’t cross my mind at least once.

I’m going to burn that top.

#NightlyRant: The forgotten people

Ya’ll know I’m all about black power, and will fight to the death for the respect and fair treatment of my people. I’m so enveloped with black culture and black issues that I, sometimes, neglect to even recognize the mistreatment and blatant disregard of other minorities on this land.

Truth moment.

While #blacklivesmatter, and will always be a priority of mine to stand up for, I feel it’s also my just due to bring awareness to the historic genocide of our Natives. Yes. The true owners of this land.

It’s sad.

I don’t remember ever learning about Native history in grade school. As far as I was concerned, Natives were the savages who made Columbus’ job a little tougher. Boy oh boy, the ignorance you unveil when you take someone else’s word for it. At the end of the day, we know nothing about an entire race of people whom we continue to subconsciously disrespect.

Cowboys and Indians.

Washington Redskins. Kansas City Chiefs. Chicago Blackhawks.


What we cherish and recognize as parts of American heritage deliberately disrespects an entire race of people. The same people driven into concentration camps Indian reservations, which are plagued with alcoholism, depression and erroneous suicidal rates – all of which are completely ignored by the majority.

America has stripped the humanity away from the Natives – Turning their culture into costumes, mascots and tall tales. We know nothing about the trailblazers of the land in which we call “home”, and ignorantly celebrate holidays that serve as nothing more than constant reminders of rape and extermination.

I can’t imagine waking up and seeing blackface spewed across sports jerseys.

As I get older, America’s stripes get brighter, and I find myself becoming less blinded by their bullsh!t.

Slavery Indentured servitude, rape, extermination, racism and theft – What else do you have up your sleeves, AmeriKKKa?

Dear white ladies,

Dear white ladies,

There's been a ton of talk surrounding cultural appropriation lately. Between Amandla Stenberg's eloquent rant on Kylie Jenner's Instagram pic, and Azalea Banks going ham-sammy on Igloo Australia, I can see how a ton of you are still confused on the issue. Why can't you just live life, wearing what you want, listening to the music you'd like, and continue dipping your toe into the pool of chocolate, black American men? Why are you scrutinized for simply being "yourself"? Why are black women "jealous" of you? Well, I'm here to be your go-to girl, answering any and all questions you have honestly.


Dear white ladies,

No one cares about you rocking cornrows and dashikis. But when Elle Magazine considers both to be a hot new "trend", we have a problem. You see, little black girls have been wearing both since birth. Big butts and plumped lips were birthrights to most of us. It's ghetto when we embrace our God given curves, but fashion forward as soon as someone of your persuasion doctor's up. And that's the issue.


Dear white ladies,

Listening to rap music and using "black" slang does not make you an expert on my struggle as an actual black woman. Just because you may have grown up next to the only black family in town, and went to school with black kids doesn't make you an insider. You can be a supporter without inserting yourself into the mix, and making everything directly relevant to you (e.g. white feminism). Respect your position, and you will be respected.


And lastly... Dear white ladies,

Black women are not jealous of white women because they're white. Women are jealous of other women because we're women. With that said, date all of the black men you want. 9 times out of 10, we didn't want him anyway. And if you find that any of us has an issue with your case of jungle fever, please note that our issue more than likely lies with the black man in said scenario, and not you.


Did I forget anything?

An Open Letter to McGraw-Hill

So, Facebook is the devil. I've said this before and I would be remiss to not mention it again. If you need to be somewhat productive, opening a tab to simply "check your notifications" will jack your morale alllllll the way up. Just. Don't. Do. It.

Today's post isn't about the ratchetness - well, sort of. Let's just say a well-known textbook publisher pissed me off. Royally.

McGraw-Hill, the textbook publishing conglomerate, decided that slavery has been misunderstood. Apparently, we've been making a bigger deal out of it than we should've. African slaves were simply immigrant workers.

Pause. Breathe, in and out. Pause.

Dramatic pause.

Instead of flipping my top, and because McGraw-Hill offered up an apology and made refinements to the chapter, I've decided to pen a, frank, letter to the publishing house.

Dear McGraw-Hill and its prominent advisors,

"Upset" isn't the appropriate term to describe my emotions towards your recent oversight. To see your, once, prestigious company handle my ancestor's struggle with such disdain disgusted me, to be honest. So much so that I no longer hold you and your trusted advisors in high regard, and can't bring myself to entrust that you would retell the rest of American history accurately.

Instead of reducing the anguish of black Americans in this country to immigration, indentured servitude and a slew of misunderstandings, maybe it would be more beneficial to connect America's dark past to it's dark present? Not sure if you're aware, and after evaluating your recent antics I'm pretty positive you aren't, but black Americans are still suffering from the effects of the movement that you casually tried to dismiss. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but if you ever find that you have some downtime, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

You see, in 2015 black Americans are marching, protesting and being murdered for taking a stand against discrimination and senseless killings of other black Americans - as a direct reflection of how much the Atlantic Slave Trade destroyed the morale and self image of future blacks.

Erasing history to reinforce a positive image of your ancestors, in turn, disrespected mine. Publishing a watered down version of the truth in order to benefit the "majority" is oppressive. And while I understand that "racist" is the last thing that white Americans want to be known for being, "oppressor" is just as bad - if not worse.


*Another Angry Black Woman*

Are Negro Girls Getting Prettier?

…. Graced the front page of a 1966 Ebony Magazine article. “Are negro girls getting prettier?”, meaning negro girls aren’t usually?

As the knot in the pit of my stomach began to quadruple in size I flashed back to a 8th grade bus ride I had while attending Snelson Golden Middle School in Hinesville, GA. My hair was still in a red and black weaved up-do that I sported at the past weekend’s homecoming dance. Not exactly sure how I was feeling that morning, but I don’t, for the life of me, remember feeling bad or anything. Not exactly sure if I was expecting something out of the ordinary – I just remember it being a typical Monday morning. What I am certain of is that I didn’t expect to be greeted with a backhanded compliment from one of my white, male classmates. “I like your hair. You’re really cute for a black girl.”

“Uh, thank you”, I responded dry and confused.

“I’m really cute for a black girl? As if, black girls aren’t usually the cream of the crop?”, I asked myself.

A usual bubbly and upbeat Ashley was the quietest passenger on the way to school that morning. I was silenced. Appalled. But could I really be upset? I mean, he did say that I was cute, right?

Even then as a 13-year-old prepubescent teen I didn’t know how to feel about the young man’s comment. My whole life I’ve been reminded of how pretty I was, and besides being teased by the black kids in my Lawnside, NJ summer-neighborhood for having bucked teeth and dark hair on my upper lip, I never really doubted my prettiness or worthiness until then. You see, my Lawnside crew never dissed me for the color of my skin – everything they teased me about I knew could be fixed one day – but being written off because I was black? I never felt that kind of worthlessness before.


Fast-forward 13 years and survival of countless insecurities later, I come across the former Ebony Mag headline. All of the women on the cover are light-skinned with (horrid) straight wigs. I tried to imagine how a headline like that would make other little brown girls feel. To grow up during a time where no one on the cover of magazines or leading ladies looked like you. To internalize that you’re somehow “bad” or “unworthy” because of the skin color you were born into. To recognize that your hair, which grows from your head, is deemed as unsanitary or unprofessional?

You want to hear something even more heartbreaking? A magazine that was created to serve as platform for women of color delivered a backhanded compliment to their viewers. Granted, I wasn't successful in pulling the 1966 print from the worldwide web, I can't imagine that it lead to negro women basking in their deeply-pigmented glory. 

But, not only are negro girls ugly, they're not human. 

Although our headlines aren’t as blatantly disrespectful as this, we (black people) have been conditioned to believe all of this to be true, and are still working to train our brains, and the rest of society, to believe the opposite. 

Still working, and still fighting.

Fighting to be visible and not written off as Angry Black Women when we have the audacity to share our opinions. Fighting to be respected and to not have our bodies deemed as sexual fetishes. 

Recognizing that society will only consider your birthed, physical features "beautiful" when they're surgically implanted on someone of the whiter-persuasion is one of the frequent torments of the black woman. 

Today, with the help of social media and cultural / ethnical appropriation, white women with negro features are the cream of the crop – black women with negro features are disregarded. 

Seems to me that society will consider everything about the negro girl "pretty", except for, said, negro girl.