Representation Matters – Wakanda Forever Represents

I can’t say enough about Black Panther.  The movie evoked so many emotions and thoughts that I have to write more than one blog post about it.  Today we’ll focus on representation, in the forms of: origin and heritage, costumes, hair and makeup, gender and age

A cast and crew of hundreds of people literally came from around the world to create the majesty that is Black Panther.  People from countries in Africa, North America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia were all represented in the film.  Here are a few:

Angela Bassett (Queen Mother Ramonda) – St. Petersburg, FL (born in NYC and also raised in NC)

Isaach de Bankole (River Tribe Elder, w the lip plate) – C’ote d’Ivoire

Nabiyah Be (Linda) – Brazil & Jamaica

Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa) – Anderson, SC

Sterling K. Brown (Prince N’Jobu) – St Louis, MO

Connie Chiume (Mining Tribe Elder)-  South Africa

Ryan Coogler (Director), Oakland, CA

Winston Duke (M’Baku) – Tobago

Jason Elwood Hanna (stunts) – Nassau, Bahamas

Danai Gurira (Okoye) –  Zimbambwe (born in Grinnell, Iowa)

Michael B Jordan (Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens, N’Jadaka) – Santa Ana, CA

Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi) – England and Uganda

John Kani and Atwande Kani (Elder T’Chaka and Young T’Chaka, and real-life father-son acting duo) – South Africa

Florence Kasumba (Ayo)  – Uganda and Germany

Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) – Mexico and Kenya

Sydelle Noel (Dora Milaje) – Grenada

Danny Sapani (Border Tribe Elder) – Ghana and England

Rashad Smith (stunts) – Hattiesburg, MS

Dorothy Steel (Merchant Tribe Elder) – Atlanta, GA (side note: I heard a snippet just today on radio station V-103 as part of the morning news blurbs that Ms. Steel is 91 years old, and has been acting for only the past 3 years – it’s NEVER too late to pursue anything you want to do)

Denzel Whitaker (young Zuri) – Torrance, CA

Forest Whitaker (Zuri) – Longview, TX & Carson, CA

Shaunette Renee Wilson (Dora Milaje) – Georgetown, Guyana (SN: Guyana, STAND UP!)

Leitia Wright (Shuri) – Guyana and England  (SN: once again, Guyana, STAND UP! )

 

I am sure there were many more states and countries represented – but could you just take a minute and marvel (yes, marvel) at the representation of our black and brown brothers and sisters?

 

We also had representation in the attire, hair and makeup for the movie.  Can we take a moment to reflect on the 30+ year career or Ruth Carter, two-time Academy Award nominee (for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad)?  She also did the costumes for many other Spike Lee movies: School Daze, Mo’Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, and Chi-Raq, as well as The Five Heartbeats, What’s Love Got to Do with It, Love and Basketball (one of my favorite movies), Four Brothers and Sparkle (Ms. Whitney Houston’s last cinematic effort), the Butler, Selma and television’s Being Mary Jane.  So the lady has put in the work, for many years, and through many different genres and time periods; she has been recognized in the form of two Oscar nominations, but the ultimate cinematic recognition has not been bestowed up on her…yet.  Now have you seen Black Panther?  From the authentic attire in 1992, to the various tribes represented in Wakanda, Ms. Carter’s designs rang true to form.

The Atlantic did an extensive interview with Ms. Carter, which you can find here: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/why-fashion-is-key-to-understanding-the-world-of-black-panther/553157/

My two favorite paragraphs are:

Of course, Carter couldn’t rely on this familiarity for Black Panther. “We didn’t really have … a visual model of people living in Wakanda,” she told me. “So it was kind of a fantasy or an imagined place for me. It was very intimidating. Creating a world is no joke.” The comic books alone couldn’t explain everything Carter needed to know. So to pull Black Panther off the page, she and her team relied on the Wakanda “bible” created by the director Ryan Coogler and the production designer Hannah Beachler. Carter said she kept four words on her vision board as she designed: Beautiful. Positive. Forward. Colorful. The costumes had to fit seamlessly into the film, telling a story of their own but not competing with or distracting from the plot. The result is a dramatic look that makes clear that Wakandans use clothing as an important form of self- and community expression, to honor their ancestors, and to maintain a progressive social order.

Carter’s first step was to do a deep dive into the continent’s diverse history of dress. “My approach was the same as [it is] on a period film: I did a lot of research,” she said. The textile production, hand-dyeing, and beading techniques of the Tuareg, Zulu, Maasai, Himba, and Dinka peoples helped inspire an eclectic color palette: deep aubergine and crimson, effervescent chartreuse and tangerine, rich jade and silver.   

If you saw the movie, I know you would agree with me that Ms. Carter’s vision was “mission accomplished”.

Hair and makeup played an important part as well.  Makeup for dark skinned people often comes off as ashy, dry, monotone (because there are not enough shades available).  But in Black Panther, every single one of the sisters, from the lightest milk chocolate to the deepest dark chocolate hue, looked smooth, vibrant, moisturized, properly shaded, colorful, and flawless.  Regarding hair, checkout this interview excerpt from The Cut with Camille Friend, who headed up the hair department of Black Panther:

The movie’s hair wizard explained the month-long process of creating Angela Bassett’s wig, why Michael B. Jordan needed to wear extensions, and what it was like working on a film that celebrated natural black hair.

What was the overall creative direction for the hair in Black Panther?
There were three parts. For the “traditional” look, we used inspiration from the Zulu tribe, the Maasai tribe, and the Hima tribe. Then we looked at the modern styles in the natural-hair movement. Finally we looked at the Afropunk movement, which has a lot of natural and creative styling. Also, there are five tribes in the story, and we had to create different looks for each tribe.

All of the Best Products and Methods for Curly Hair

What was it like working on a movie where everyone was styled in natural hair?
There’s no press and comb in this movie. No relaxers, no nothing! That was one of the things that I really was firm about. I requested that people come with their natural hair. People were like, “Are you sure?” and I was like, “Yes, I am sure! We have a qualified staff of hair people who are phenomenal and who are well-versed in natural hair.”

A dark skinned, kinky haired little girl – who wore her hair in various cornrow styles for years, who braided her own hair and didn’t get a press till 10 and a perm till 14/15, who got ridiculed for hair texture and hair styles, and lack of long full, lush, flowing hair; who got ridiculed for her darker skin and broad nose; who didn’t see many stars or celebrities who looked like her growing up – swelled with immense pride at seeing the natural hairstyles, the flawless darker skin and makeup, the bold and colorful authentically African costumes, and the fully realized depictions of gorgeous dark skinned women.  Yes, people costumes, hair and makeup are important.  They set a tone and mood and look, just like cinematography, scenery and location.  And the tone, mood and look of Black Panther is one that completely embraces, celebrates and luxuriates in people of color who look like me.  What a powerful piece of artistry that is also affirming to Black womanhood everywhere!

 

Representation Matters – Wakanda Respresents

I cannot say enough about Black Panther.  It has evoked so many emotions and thoughts that I will be posting multiple times.  Today we’re focusing on representation, in the forms of: origin and heritage; hair and makeup, costumes, gender and age.

A cast and crew of hundreds of people literally came from all parts of the world to create the majesty that is Black Panther.  North and South America, the Caribbean, many countries in Africa, Europe and Asia were all represented.  Here is a partial list:

Isaach de Bankole (River Tribe Elder, w the lip plate) – C’ote d’Ivoire

Angela Bassett (Queen Mother Ramonda) – St. Petersburg, FL (born in NYC and also raised in NC)

Nabiyah Be (Linda) – Brazil & Jamaica

Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa), Anderson, SC

Sterling K. Brown (Prince N’Jobu) – St Louis, MO

Connie Chiume (Mining Tribe Elder)-  South Africa

Ryan Coogler (Director), Oakland, CA

Winston Duke (M’Baku) – Tobago

 

Danai Gurira (Okoye) –  Zimbambwe (born in Grinnell, Iowa)

Jason Elwood Hanna (stunts) – Nassau, Bahamas

Michael B Jordan (Erik ‘Killmonger’ Stevens, N’Jadaka) , CA

Daniel Kaluuya (W’Kabi) – English and Uganda

Florence Kasumba (Ayo)  – Uganda and Germany

John Kani and Atwande Kani (Elder T’Chaka and Young T’Chaka, and real-life father – son acting duo) – South Africa

Sydelle Noel (Dora Milaje) – Grenada

Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia) – Mexico and Kenya

Danny Sapani (Border Tribe Elder) – Ghana and England

Rashad Smith (stunts) – Hattiesburg, MS

Dorothy Steel (Merchant Tribe Elder) – Atlanta, GA (side note: I heard a snippet just today on radio station V-103 as part of the morning news blurbs that Ms. Steel is 91 years old, and has been acting for only the past 3 years – it’s NEVER too late to pursue anything you want to do)

Denzel Whitaker (young Zuri/James) – Torrance, CA (Denzel is no relation to Forest but they did favor each other in the movie)

Forest Whitaker (Zuri/James) – Longview, TX & Carson, CA

Shaunette Renee Wilson (Dora Milaje) – Georgetown, Guyana

Leitia Wright (Shuri) – Guyana and England

I am sure there were many more states and countries represented – but could you just take a minute and marvel (yes, marvel) at the representation of our black and brown brothers and sisters?

Let’s shift a bit and focus on the costumes, hair and makeup.  Can we take a moment to reflect on the 30+ year career or Ruth Carter, two-time Academy Award nominee (for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X and Steven Spielberg’s Amistad)?  She also did the costumes for many other Spike Lee movies: School Daze, Mo’Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, and Chi-Raq, as well as, The Five Heartbeats, What’s Love Got to Do with It, Love and Basketball (one of my favorite movies), Four Brothers and Sparkle (Ms. Whitney Houston’s last cinematic effort), the Butler, Selma and television’s Being Mary Jane.  So the lady has put in the work, for many years, and through many different genres and time periods; she has been recognized in the form of two Oscar nominations, but the ultimate cinematic recognition has not been bestowed up on her…yet.  Now have you seen Black Panther?  From the authentic attire in 1992, to the various tribes represented in Wakanda, Ms. Carter’s designs rang true to form.

The Atlantic did an extensive interview with Ms. Carter, which you can find here: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/02/why-fashion-is-key-to-understanding-the-world-of-black-panther/553157/

The two paragraphs that, to me, crystallized the process are:

Of course, Carter couldn’t rely on this familiarity for Black Panther. “We didn’t really have … a visual model of people living in Wakanda,” she told me. “So it was kind of a fantasy or an imagined place for me. It was very intimidating. Creating a world is no joke.” The comic books alone couldn’t explain everything Carter needed to know. So to pull Black Panther off the page, she and her team relied on the Wakanda “bible” created by the director Ryan Coogler and the production designer Hannah Beachler. Carter said she kept four words on her vision board as she designed: Beautiful. Positive. Forward. Colorful. The costumes had to fit seamlessly into the film, telling a story of their own but not competing with or distracting from the plot. The result is a dramatic look that makes clear that Wakandans use clothing as an important form of self- and community expression, to honor their ancestors, and to maintain a progressive social order.

Carter’s first step was to do a deep dive into the continent’s diverse history of dress. “My approach was the same as [it is] on a period film: I did a lot of research,” she said. The textile production, hand-dyeing, and beading techniques of the Tuareg, Zulu, Maasai, Himba, and Dinka peoples helped inspire an eclectic color palette: deep aubergine and crimson, effervescent chartreuse and tangerine, rich jade and silver.   

If you saw the movie, then you know it was “Mission Accomplished”; beautiful, positive, forward, colorful.  You only had to experience the pagentry and lush richness of the Warrior Falls scenes to know that the costumes hit on every part of Ms. Carter’s vision.  Give. This. Woman. The. Academy. Award. For. Costume. Design. For Black Panther.

And this excerpt from the Cut sums up the why the hairstyles played such an integral role:

Ahead of the movie’s premiere, the Cut talked to the head of Black Panther’s hair department, Camille Friend. The movie’s hair wizard explained the month-long process of creating Angela Bassett’s wig, why Michael B. Jordan needed to wear extensions, and what it was like working on a film that celebrated natural black hair.

What was the overall creative direction for the hair in Black Panther?
There were three parts. For the “traditional” look, we used inspiration from the Zulu tribe, the Maasai tribe, and the Hima tribe. Then we looked at the modern styles in the natural-hair movement. Finally we looked at the Afropunk movement, which has a lot of natural and creative styling. Also, there are five tribes in the story, and we had to create different looks for each tribe.

All of the Best Products and Methods for Curly Hair

What was it like working on a movie where everyone was styled in natural hair?
There’s no press and comb in this movie. No relaxers, no nothing! That was one of the things that I really was firm about. I requested that people come with their natural hair. People were like, “Are you sure?” and I was like, “Yes, I am sure! We have a qualified staff of hair people who are phenomenal and who are well-versed in natural hair.”

A dark skinned, kinky haired little girl – who wore her hair in various cornrow styles for years, who braided her own hair and didn’t get a press till 10 and a perm till 14/15, who got ridiculed for hair texture and hair styles, and lack of long full, lush, flowing hair; who got ridiculed for her darker skin and broad nose; who didn’t see many stars or celebrities who looked like her growing up – swelled with immense pride at seeing the natural hairstyles, the flawless darker skin and makeup, the bold and colorful authentically African costumes, and the fully realized depictions of gorgeous dark skinned women.  Yes, people costumes, hair and makeup are important.  They set a tone and mood and look, just like cinematography, scenery and location.  And the tone, mood and look of Black Panther is one that completely embraces, celebrates and luxuriates in people of color who look like me.  What a powerful piece of artistry that is also affirming to Black womanhood everywhere!

 

 

The Day the Snake (almost) Took Over

We are a three person operation; the founder/owner, the operations manager (me) and the front office person.  All three of us are deathly afraid of snakes.  I don’t know anyone who likes snakes, who wants one as a pet, who speaks of them in loving terms.  I know those people exist, it’s just that I don’t know any; those people are not in my circle and are not my friends.

Today, after I dropped the boys to school, I made a couple of stops before I went home to get Dad.  He in turn wanted to pick up a few items from the grocery store.  So we got to the office a little later than usual.  A was already there and I saw another car.  “Oh we have a client”, I said.  As we pulled up, Dad asked me to get the door leading into the kitchen as he took out the four bags of groceries that he bought.  I picked up my purse and saw A open said kitchen door.  She motioned from behind the screened door “go around” and I thought I heard her say “snake” but I wasn’t sure.  I just know she asked us not to come in from that direction.  We walked into the front door as usual and saw that the client was a family friend, so someone from Guyana.  As this was registering in my mind, I definitely heard A say “snake; there is a snake out there”.  WTH, WTF, and all the WWWWWWW’s that you or I can think of at a time like this.  She explained, “I was mopping, and I went to take out the garbage.  As soon as I opened the door, I saw something drop and it started to move and my whole insides just turned”.  Then she went on, “I was waiting for Dionne to come in”, to which I immediately replied, “FOR WHAT????  I do not do snakes; I will kill a roach before I look at a snake, and I don’t kill roaches, I call the boys or my husband when I see a ‘water bug’; nuh uhh, you were NOT looking for me”.  Dad doesn’t like snakes either; all three of us said that if we even see a snake on tv, we turn the channel.  In the meantime, the family friend who came a repeat client, was laughing at us.  She asked for a cutlass, which we didn’t have; she asked for a stick and I think A gave her a broom and dustpan.

She went out the kitchen door and the next thing I know, she said the snake was dead.  She was calling us to take a look and no one wanted to see it.  I told everyone that if she wasnt’ there, I would have gone back home.  And if we couldn’t figure out how to get rid of the snake then I would have shut down the office for the day.  I mean that too.  I. WILL. NOT. DEAL. WITH. SNAKES.

I don’t care if it’s bad business to close up shop during the peak season.  I don’t care if we had clients who were there.  I don’t care if clients spread the word about the fraidy cat business owners who can’t stand snakes.  Unless they’re coming with cutlasses, or Snake-Be-Gone, then I don’t wanna hear it.   I. WILL. NOT. DEAL. WITH. SNAKES.

J, the client, said that in Guyana, her family lived just beyond a swamp, and that her mother didn’t like snake either, so it was up to the children to deal with them.  And apparently, there were lots of times when snakes would sidle up to their front steps, even though those steps were UP ONE LEVEL.  The ding-dang nerve.  My skin crawled as she told me and I knew, I just knew that God knew what He was doing by having me be born and raised in the streets of Brooklyn.  I am a city girl through and through.  Thank God J was at the office at just the right time.  If I was there by myself, it would be a wrap, and some exterminator would have to provide proof (to my husband, cause I won’t want to see it) that the snake was gone.  If it was just Dad and me, I would convince him to go home.  If it was just A and me, I would leave and she would probably follow.  And if it was the three of us, I would speak up about shutting down for the day (“Stop. Drop. Shut ‘Em Down, Don’t Open Up Shop. No-oh oh; No-oh oh, That’s how Ya Girl Dee Rolls”  Shout out to DMX and Ruff Ryders) Anyway, my vote forever and always will be for us to vacate the premises because I. WILL. NOT. DEAL. WITH. SNAKES.

Thankfully it didn’t come to that; God sent a snake Killmonger to our midst (yes, I will make a Black Panther reference very chance I get).  Now to continue the rest of our day, snake-free.

6 Ways That the Black Panther Movie Already Has People Trained

So Black Panther is a cultural phenomenon that is breaking records, capturing attention and creating a sense of pride all across the nation  It’s also causing people to change behavior or to tighten up their behavior, all in positive ways.  This is a strictly observational, unscientific poll conducted by moi, but I’ll bet if you peeped what I’ve been peeping, you’ll feel the same way.  Black Panther is causing people to: plan ahead, expect multiple viewings, dress accordingly, arrive on time, not talk during the movie, and not share spoilers.  Check the details:

  1. Plan Ahead: Pre-sale tickets broke all types of box office records; people have been anticipating this movie for days, weeks, months and years.  So yes, they already planned time off work, make arrangements with baybsitters and adults sitters and pet sitters – whatever it takes to make sure faces are in the place during opening weekend. Also, there is a commitment to see the show more than once, which can get pricey. But I know folks ate rice and beans, bought the basic necessities, gave up a few luxuries (Starbucks, lunch, dinner, drinks, shopping) – however you spend your disposable income, I  am sure it was curtailed so that you could get multiple tickets.

2) Multiple Viewings:  I mean this should go without saying, but Imma say it – you will want to see Black Panther at least twice.  AT. LEAST.  The storyline, the dialogue, the acting, the COSTUMES, the cinematography, the set design, the direction, the production value, the action scenes – you need at least two viewings to take it all in.  I mean, you don’t have to go five or six times like I plan to do, but you HAVE to go, and go more than once.  I think people expect that this is how they’re going to spend their weekend and or next few weeks – going to see Black Panther.  Trust me, this is what you want to do for February.

3) Dress Accordingly: The African themed ahn-sahm-blays (ensebles) that I have seen so far have been giving me So.MUCH.LIFE.  Dashikis, and kente, and anakara, and geles and other headwraps and makeup and colors and ladies and gentlemen – everyone has come through with the African HAUTENESS and it has been a visual feast for the eyes.  All the YASSSSS that can be mustered, just prepare yourself to say it every time you go to see the movie.  And you will want to see this more than once.  With different attire, cause that’s how we roll when we plan ahead.

4) Arrive on Time: We already know what happens with blockbuster movies, especially during opening weekend.  If you don’t have reserved seats then you choose your seats based on first come first serve.  Opening weekends of blockbusters pretty much mean that the theaters will be packed, so if you’re towards the back of the line to get in, then you’re sitting towards the front of the theater.  You know the seats, the ones so close to the screen that you have neck cramps just trying to look up.  So imagine a blockbuster on steroids, cause that’s the level of Black Panther’s opening weekend.  Every body is going to see it.  Which means if you arrive late, you know what, just don’t arrive late.  That’s it.  Get there ahead of time, take some pics of your crew in your attire, get your snacks and then get your seats.  Or you could be like one lady who walked in at 10:35 and the movie showtime was 10:15. So you’re already 20 minutes late, and I guess it didn’t matter to her because she correctly assumed there would be previews.  But did she anticipate that she’s going to the THE biggest movie release in months, and possibly the most anticipated movie for black people, ever?  I guess not, cause she walked in late, with 5 other people.  Listen, you already know where the seats were…in the front row.  But yes, sis still had the nerve to say “Let’s see where we’ll sit”.  Chica!!  Ma’am! Miss Girl! You’re going to be sitting in that front row, where the seats are waiting for you and your crew; don’t even waste time looking around.  I watched her scan the crowd for about five seconds, then the party of six slowly sunk to their awaiting seats…in the front row.  Neck cramps in full effect.  Get to the movie on time, people, get there on time.

5) No talking during the movie: I cannot recall the last time I attended a movie and no one talked.  I mean, you could hear other people breathing, that’s how quiet it was.  No one was on their cell phone, no one’s cell phone rang accidentally, no one shouted back at the screen, no one cracked jokes; when we laughed in all the right places, we did it quickly so we didn’t miss the next line or scene.  Everyone was transfixed.  Again, I’ve seen Black Panther twice so far, and this was the case both times.  There was one time, towards the end, when an audience member made a comment; it was funny and appropriate and the entire theater laughed.  We all laughed because we all heard the joke; I’m telling you everyone was staying quiet and soaking it all in during this epic event.

6) No spoilers: So far no one on social media has given anything away.  I’m not looking for it, so maybe it’s there but the people on my timeline on “the Twitters” and the “Book of Faces” have posted pics of the attire and the joy and excitement of being there.  No one has reviewed or rehashed the movie, no one has quoted lines from the movie beyond what was already in trailers, no one has given away plot points, and no one has shared details that you can only see…at the movies.  So YAY good people, way to keep it classy and contained.  Now, it’s only Friday; I can’t promise that this will still be the case on Tuesday or even Monday.  People have a lot to say about this cinematic marvel (see what I did there); and they’re not going to wait a week because some of you have dragged your feet.  So get up, get out, and go see Black Panther!

 

#WakandaForever

#BlackPanther

#KingsandQueens

My POTUS & FLOTUS make Black History, again, during Black Panther Month

So for this year, I’ve renamed Black History Month to Black Panther Month.  If you don’t know why, shame on you.  In the meantime though, Black History to continues to happen all around us and we should continue to applaud all of the #peakblackexcellence every time it happens.

For example, the only POTUS and Forever FLOTUS I acknowledge in these 20-teens are once again giving us reasons to stand tall, applaud, and cry happy tears of joy.

Per CNN.com “The former first couple’s official portraits were unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, a rite of passage for most former presidents, all of whom have their portraits hanging in the museum.”  The difference is that this is the first Black President (because there will be others, as well as women Presidents and other People of Color) to grace the Smithsonian, and the first Black First Lady of the Unites States to do the same.  As reported in several publications, the power couple interviewed and vetted the artists who were commissioned, with former President and First Lady Obama choosing Keyhinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively, for the final portraits.  And the results still have people talking, four days later.

Keyhinde Wiley, known for utilizing floral patterns in his work, used flowers of significance for Mr. Obama: the African blue lilies represent Kenya, Barack’s father’s birthplace; jasmine stands for Hawaii, where he was born; and the chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, reference the city where his political career began, and where he met Michelle – according to the NY Times.  President Obama looks…presidential: wise and strong and competent and capable and charismatic – all the traits we knew and loved while he was in office.

 

Obama Portraits

Amy Sherald created the portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama and it appears to have the most debate.  While Ms. Sherald’s work is known for using greyscale to depict Black subjects, people have commented that this particular piece is too “grey”, not dark enough, not enough color, the blue background is too light, too flat, and the depiction of Aunty Shelly is not Shelly enough.  Oh my, it’s a portrait, meaning it’s the artists’ rendition, who said it had to be exact?  You can tell it’s Michelle Obama, her pose is regal and strong and polished and purposeful – again, traits that we came to know and appreciate about FLOTUS while she graced us with her presence in the White House.  And I love the dress, I wanna know where I can find a copy…after I get these arms in shape.

Image result for Barack and michelle obama portraits

 

So what’s all the rah-rah about Ms. Sherald’s rendition? Did she create a Picasso-when-he-was-crazy version?  It is what it is, and Mrs. O know what she was signing up for when she signed her up.  On the flip side, I don’t agree with the comments that people need to study the artists or go experience art before they comment.  That defeats the purpose of viewing art.  Art is everywhere and is subject to interpretation base on your personal views.  So this may not be an exact likeness in the exact colors that many were expecting, but I don’t agree that you need to study other portraits to have an opinion about this one.  Everyone should take a few deep breaths and keep it moving.  You know POTUS and FLOTUS did.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Artist Kehinde Wiley, and Amy Sherald attend their official portrait unveiling of former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

How awesome is it though that two Black artists were asked to create indelible permanent portraits of two of the most important figures in our immediate history, the first Black President and First Lady of these United States?  Really, how amazing and special and excellent is all this blackness that just happened?  During Black History Black Panther Black Panther History Month?  C’mon now.  Let’s celebrate this peak blackness that just happened, during the reign of he-who-shall-not-be-named.  And couldn’t didn’t find time to make an appearance in support of – which is probably for the best; you just know he would have found a way to make it about him.  It would have just messed up a historic moment, and now that I’ve typed two sentences too many about B-I-C, let’s bring it back to the reason for this post.  The best POTUS and FLOTUS in my lifetime hired two Black artists to render their portraits for the Smithsonian and the results speak for themselves.

Image result for Barack and michelle obama portraits

 

Get into it!  Your thoughts?

Wakanda Forever – What Black Panther Means to Me

I STAN for Black Panther!  I was only supposed to see the movie twice but what ha’ happened was:

  1. I got my advance ticket for premiere night, Thursday Feb. 15.  It’s going to be a late night date night w/ hubby to celebrate Valentine’s Day (cause who wants to deal with crowds and overpriced everything on Feb 14), plus it’s a great way to bring our royal best as we see royalty on the screen.  Oh yeah, you know I have all my outfits ready!

 Me and the crew will be like this image from the Twitterverse: https://twitter.com/ronkelawal/status/873498246617993216/photo/1

2) My sorority – the BEST sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. is hosting Red Carpet events across the country, our chapter is going on Saturday Feb. 17.  I had about 10 people who wanted to go and I tried to get group tickets but Sorors are quick and I barely got my one ticket.

3) So then our group  decided to go on Sunday Feb 18; we’re going to Studio Movie Grill so it’s another date night for those who are going with their boos/baes/significant others.

4) My oldest son can’t join us cause he will be out of town on a college tour (also with my Sorority, special shoutout to the ladies of Stone Mountain-Lithonia Alumnae Chapter and chaperones who will be with our children touring HBCU’s this weekend).  Anyway, I promised to take him to see the movie when he gets back.

5) After all of that, Fox Theatre sent out a request for ushers for the special private Atlanta screening on Feb 7, and I was NOT going to miss that.  So that’s how I am going to see Black Panther 5 (yes five) times in 10 days.  Ya think I mind?  See my first sentence – I STAN for Black Panther!

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My brother got me interested in comic books years ago and I easily identified my favorites – Storm from the X-Men and Black Panther.  Besides Storm’s long white hair, she was like me – brown skinned, of African descent, navigating her way with her powers and her new group of people.  Ok, so maybe just the brown skinned part applied to me, but that was more than enough.  Black Panther was a mythical warrior king whose county was totally amazing, and a symbol of what we were and could be again – independent, spiritual, familial, brilliant, strong, advanced, and united.  I wanted to visit Wakanda.  Heck, I want to visit it now.   So yes, as a comic book fan who has been faithfully attending the Marvel movies (Iron Man, Avengers, Thor, etc.), I was ecstatic to hear that T’Challa would make an appearance in Avengers Civil War, in advance of starring in his own movie.  The buildup has been exhilarating – I mean, have you SEEEN those previews??  This movie speaks to me, the little girl who was told often about her hair, her nose, and her skin color; and the woman who still hears the comments – but now I have the tools and the sass to answer back smartly; it speaks to my children who see that young Black men are and can be an infinite number of things that have nothing to do with the traditional stereotypes assigned to Black Men – it is the movie we need to experience regularly to know that we were, are, and will be #KingsandQueens.

On Wednesday Feb. 7, I was lucky enough to snag a spot as an usher at the Fox Theatre for the Atlanta premiere of the movie.  This was for ATLiens who worked on the movie in some capacity – actor, stuntperson, crew, publicity – you name it, if they worked on it then they and their family members were invited.  So ushers have usher uniforms but you know I asked if we could wear African-themed attire (“or if we have to stick with the uniforms, what about a headwrap or scarf?”), to which I was told “That’s a lovely idea, but we have to stick with the uniforms”.  But ya girl was determined to rep Wakanda somehow, someway.  I wore earrings and a necklace that looks like it could be from the Motherland (I think); and my jacket as a I walked into the theater was definitely African themed.  Luckily, I was able to snag a couple of pics before we had to lock our phones away.

It’s too bad that they wouldn’t allow us to take pictures – which I am sure was an attempt to block bootleggers.  Lemme tell you, the FASHIONS I saw that night; whoo, I got my entire African ancestral life!  The ladies AND the gentlemen came in their colors and patterns and swag, swag, swag.  The tops, and shirts, and pants and skirts, and dresses, and hats, and headwraps, and kufis, and geles, and coats, and canes – maaan, I tell you, it was a feast for my eyes. kind of like the World Premier pictures:

Black Panther himself, Chadwick Boseman, arrives at the premiere.  Lupita Nyong’o stole the show at the “Black Panther” premiere. Danai Gurira hit the carpet in style. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ actress Tessa Thompson shares a moment with ‘Black Panther’ director Ryan Coogler on the purple carpet.

 

 

Image result for black panther premiere outfitsImage result for black panther premiere outfitsImage result for black panther red carpet premiereImage result for black panther premiere outfits

I was almost good with just the visuals of the people arriving for the event.  Almost…

You know the movie was the main attraction.  But first we had to hear from the big whigs associated with the movie- from those who helped to bring parts of the filming to GA, to a couple of Marvel executives, and juuust when we started to fidget (I mean, turn on the projector already amirite?)… Samuel Jackson came out and talked about his connection with Atlanta and his first foray into acting.  And he said that Black Panther, at the time, had a 100% score on Rotten Apples.  Mr. Jackson might have had little sleep or too much sippy sippy, cause even my parents know about Rotten Tomatoes.  And at long last, the movie.

What can I say?   It was amazing, and exciting, and action packed, and funny, and breathtaking.  The costumes and hair were to-die-for, I mean if nothing else this movie needs to win the Oscar for costumers alone.  The vibrant colors, and pieces, and symbolism as it related to each tribe; I could watch the movie two more times and still find more to say just about the costumes. The story line stuck closely to the origin of Black Panther, but under the pen of Ryan Coogler the characters were fleshed out more fully than other superhero movies.  You got a deep sense of the history, familial relationships, moral obligations, and conflict over sharing technology and making global contributions while keeping the insularity of the country.

The men in the movie are principled, conflicted, complex, fierce, protective warriors.   T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman is a king who cares deeply for his people, yet he is the moral center who recognizes that the country must adapt somewhat and change with the times.  Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, is driven by his strong sense of “fairness” and vengeance; he is the best superhero/comic book villain since Heath Ledger’s rendition of the Joker.  Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Winston Duke and Sterling K. Brown round out the cast of Black Men who did the most with their roles.

I can’t say enough about the women in this movie!  Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurriri, and Leitita Wright are well cast, playing roles that are strong, fierce, feminine, brilliant, funny, complex, loving and supportive – as sisterhood that is rarely seen in cinema with our women of color.  They all had natural hairstyles throughout the moves and I LOVED it, especially the Wakanda Knots, which I want to become the next hair trend.  The characters of Ramonda, Nakia, Okoye and Shuri are relatable and recognizable; we have all been each of them at some point.  I want my superhero name to be Shurakiakoye.  I think Shuri is my favorite, and not just because Leitita Wright is from my parental country of Guyana.  She lights up the screen in every scene and I hope all of these women have their own spinoff set of movies (multiple, plural) very soon.

And to have these stars grace so many magazine covers at once?  Slow Clap, people, slow clap:

  <p>Black Panther Cover (Clone) - Chadwick, Daniel, Forest, Michael</p> Black Panther Cover (Clone) - Danai, Lupita, Angela, LetitiaLupita Nyong’o covers Allure’s March issue 309014

Yes, I know this is a movie.  Yes, I know the character was created by two white men.  Yes, I know that Marvel and Disney are owned and run by white people.  Yet, I will support the juggernaut that is Black Panther because of the script that was written by a Black Man, the cast that is mostly Black, the costumes, hair and makeup that were created, managed and implemented by Black Women, and the movie itself which was directed by a Black Man.  Extra props to Ryan Coogler, who is the Black Man of which I speak who co-wrote the script and directed the movie.  He continues to shine with his directorial choices, from Fruitvale Station to Creed and now Black Panther.  He and Taika Waititi (director of Thor: Ragnarok), show that Marvel can entrust the franchise to diverse hands, in front of and behind the camera.  I know we still have a long way to go; I know that we need more Black producers and Executive Producers and Distributors, and Studio Movie Heads, and of the roles and positions that will greenlight movies from script to screen.  I also noted a few seconds in the movie where I gave it a major side eye as it felt as if, once again, we needed the help of a white savior to make it through – but it was very brief and, in the grand scheme of things, inconsequential.  But it does speak to the larger point of Wakanda, we can create, implement, greenlight, cast, direct and star in movies that are empowering and powerful and thought provoking, all on our own.  Black Panther is one giant step in that direction.  Next up, I am looking forward to seeing one of my childhood favorite books come to life in the theater, A Wrinkle in Time, directed by Ava Duvernay.  It comes out March 9 and I am ready!  But in the meantime… Black Panther…Step into the Spotlight!

 

#BlackPanther

#KingsandQueens

#WakandaForever

#StepintotheSpotlight

A Question of Faith

Faith is still a fairly new concept for me.  For 21 years now I have considered myself a Christian.  Unlike most black Americans I did not grow up in the church or follow any particular faith at all.  There were many reasons for that, not the least of which is I simply did not believe what I couldn’t see.  Part of what led me to finally accept the Lord was looking back at my life and realizing how blessed I was when things could have gone awry.  While I have been dutiful in praying, going to church and trying to live a life that the Lord would approve of, I have fallen short many times and have had my faith tested in many ways.  The latest example being the last two weeks.

My wife had a health scare which could have shaken us to the core.  She had a condition which, when she read up on it, was very symptomatic of cancer.  We prayed on it every day and reminded ourselves that it could be any number of things but one can’t help but fear the worst.  As much as I tell myself, and have been told by others, that God doesn’t make mistakes, we shouldn’t question him and that he knows what he’s doing, you can’t help what you feel.  I found myself angry at God, questioning the fairness of it all, trying to be as supportive as I could of my wife while trying to hold it together myself.  Like many others we claimed that 2018 would be a year of prosperity and breakthroughs but how could that be if the worst case scenario were true?  Our sons are still teenagers and they need their mother.  My wife should not spend the best years of her life undergoing surgeries and treatments which are not even guaranteed 100% success.  Yet we’re still supposed to be thankful and full of praise.

In spite of my feelings I did the only thing I could do, stay in prayer.  After all, we didn’t know what the condition was for a fact and even if worst came to worst it was early enough to treat it and beat it.  I spent more time praying in the spirit not just for my wife’s health but for emotional and spiritual health for us all.  There would be no reason for the Lord to help us if we curse and reject him now, especially for something that hadn’t even been confirmed.  Perhaps this was just a test, perhaps it was Satan messing with us, and Satan certainly will.  Perhaps we were merely being impatient and overly anxious.  Whatever it was, could anyone really blame us?

Then we got the news.  It wasn’t cancer!  It was a viral condition which, over time, will run it’s course, not ideal but way better than having cancer.  Instead of fear, anxiety and uncertainty we now feel relief and absolute gratitude.  If anyone asks, “Won’t He do it?” the answer is an absolute yes!

What is the takeaway from this?  Number one, prayer works!  You have to not just say the words but to believe that they are at least being heard.  Number two, you can’t lose faith or disconnect ourselves from our problem solver.  I’ve also come to accept that fear, uncertainty and even occasional anger at God are sometimes okay.  We are still human and we are still entitled to our emotions.  The key is channeling those emotions the right way.  Instead of lashing out at God, I simply prayed harder not just for healing for my wife but for emotional and spiritual strength for both of us.  When Job had everything taken from him, his family, his wealth and his health, he was bitter against God for allowing his life to fall apart but when his wife told him to curse God and die, he would do no such thing.  He knew that God was the one who gave him everything that he lost in the first place.  His reward for his faith was being blessed with everything he lost in greater abundance.  What the Lord eventually has in store for us remains to be seen but we already claim the good things he has to offer.  As long as Satan exists we know that there will likely be temptations, trials and tribulations but that’s why we continue to pray for understanding how to deal with it.  What proof do we need that what we pray for and claim will come to fruition?  We need nothing more than the numerous blessings we’ve been bestowed with over the last several decades.  The question will no longer be “Won’t he do it?” but to merely state “He did it!”

 

Another New Year’s Resolution? Not exactly the same thing

It’s another NewYear, usually the time we reflect on everything that happened the previous year and do these things called resolutions.  We know the usual, I”m going to lose weight, I’m going to save more money and this and that.  The thing is that very few of us see them through or give a serious effort in the first place.  My wife and I taught the lesson in children’s church at our church this past Sunday and while we hope the kids learned a valuable lesson, we certainly did.  Part of the reason why I stopped doing resolutions many years ago is that I wouldn’t see the results I wanted, or they weren’t happening fast enough.  Much of it was impatience, much was simply laziness but there’s one thing me or my wife, who I’m sure would agree, have been failing to do and that is putting God first.

 

One of the lessons we taught in children’s church used a poster and Pop Tarts as a metaphor.  We asked the little Biblical scholars what had to be done to produce a warm Pop Tart.  Some answered unwrap the Pop Tarts, others said to put them in the toaster, others said to pull the handle down, and all were right.  the correct answer though was to plug the toaster in.  Even when you do everything else, unless there is a power source, nothing will happen.  We came to understand that it’s the same thing in life.  Resolving to lose weight, to save money, to accomplish a certain goal or whatever else you can think of to improve yourself, you have to believe in something bigger than yourself to really see it through and this year, we intend to do just that.  Before going to work today, I said my prayers as I usually do but I also made it a point to spend time with God before starting my day and work and it certainly set the right tone for my day.  It’s only January 2nd but I am more than confident that progress is coming for all of 2018.

2017 was a trying year for all of us but especially for me.  I lost my beloved Grandma in January of last year (I blogged about it) and I lost my uncle who was the patriarch of our family just last month. The year as a whole has been a roller coaster ride and as blessed and thankful that I am, I’d rather not go through another year like that.While it would not have prevented my grandmother and uncle’s passings, putting God first in every other aspect of my life would have made it much more tolerable overall.  It certainly would have made a difference in my finances and my relationships with my wife and sons.  many do not believe in the power of prayer but I can honestly say that it has worked for me when I’ve exercised it consistently and faithfully.

So I only have one resolution for 2018 and that is to stay plugged in with God and his word. I’m looking forward to the next 11 months already! Happy New Year family, Let’s all enjoy the ride!

Goodbye Grandma- for now

On January 23rd, 2017,  ago my beloved grandmother, Grandma to me, Granny to others, Grandma Becca to her great grandchildren, was laid to rest.  She passed away at the age of 96, a long life by any standards.  Needless to say, her passing left my heart heavy and leaves a void that only a grandmother can fill.  It would be a disservice to her, however, to simply talk about what a good woman she was but I have to acknowledge what a strong black woman she was and how she fit the very definition in my eyes.

Grandma was born in rural South Carolina in 1920 and only made it to the 3rd  grade before she had to drop out of school and help support her family as many black people did in those days.  The rest of what she learned was taught to her by the white lady she used to work for.  She joined her church at the age of 12 and was an active member ever since.  She got married at 16, had her first child at 18 and had six more since then, all of whom have grown up to be good productive individuals who raised good productive children themselves.  At the age of 49, she opened and ran a local store for 16 years, doing farming along with it.  Along the way, she lost two husbands but never her faith in God.  The things that too many parents put up with children now would never be tolerated by her and her children and grandchildren were all better for it.  The legacy that she left is unmeasurable.

Would I suggest that being like Grandma would get us as a people where we need to be?  Not necessarily.  A lot of things that were done in my grandmothers time were out of necessity and we are past many of the barriers she had to face.  Our children no longer have to drop out of school to go to work and many would agree that starting a family at the age of 18 is too early in these times.  However, many examples she set were timeless.  She always believed in marriage before childbirth, the value of prayer and hard work.  Grandma knew the value of a good education, not having had the opportunity to further hers, so she always encouraged her children and grandchildren to further theirs.  She could have used every excuse at her disposal to not be a good mother or a productive individual but that wasn’t her.

Grandma was a classic disciplinarian, did not spare the rod but everything she did was out of love and not wanting to see her grandchildren going in the wrong direction.  Thankfully me, my sisters and cousins were all raised to respect our elders, authority and to be good citizens but even if we didn’t get that at home, we sure got it from Grandma.  We make sure to instill it in our children and even the grandchildren that some of us have now.  We will miss her very much but will always be grateful for everything she has done for us and for the precious memories.  Goodbye Grandma.  I’ll see you on the other side.

Black America, we may be bent but we can’t break

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To suggest that war has been declared on Black-America may sound hyperbolic but it’s not without reason.  It’s been a month since that night on November 8, 2016, when the unthinkable happened.  The racist, narcissistic, misogynist juvenile twitter happy buffoon known as Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.  How in God’s name could a country that elected Barack Obama, our first ever black President, twice possibly do this?  Like many other Americans, especially black, I wasn’t simply dejected, I was sad, angry and in a total funk for the next several days.  For the last eight years the level of hatred against Black-America was cringeworthy.  In the days since Trump’s election, it has really intensified.  Even with all that, I took some comfort in knowing that Trump only won because of the electoral college and if the Presidential election were based on popular votes only, he would have lost significantly.  It wouldn’t change the election results but it did mean that bigotry and the white supremacy which some now try to call “alt-right” wouldn’t prevail as easily.

Until

December 5, 2016.  The jury in the case of Michael Slager, a white North Charleston South Carolina police officer charged with murdering Walter Scott, a black man who was running away from him after a traffic stop that escalated, by shooting him in the back.  Slager then placed a tazer next to Scott and claimed that Scott tried to attack him.  Thankfully a bystander recorded the shooting and the planting of the tazer so it seemed to be an open and shut case.  Not so.  At least one juror, in spite of everything, could not get himself to convict this man of anything at all and a mistrial was declared.  Slager will be re-tried so some would argue that justice hasn’t been denied, only deferred, but I’m not so optimistic.  The jury was already stacked in Slager’s favor, one being black and all the others being white, in a city that is predominantly black, and I’m not confident that the next jury will not have at least one member who simply refuses to hold one of their own accountable when it comes to killing black people.  It was 11/9/16 all over again for me.

I had “the talk” with my sons yet again, about racism, about the importance of voting, about how to deal with the police and about how we in Black-America are still feared, hated and viewed as less than by many in this society.  I’m tired of having to do this but I have to for their survival.  It’s time we all had “the talk” among ourselves not only about Trump’s election and police brutality but about where we go from here.  I don’t have a definitive answer to that and probably never will but thing is for certain and that is that if we don’t value ourselves, no one will.  How do we show self value?

First of all, Black-America, register to vote.  Many of are registered and do come out on election day but too many of us don’t.  Yes voter ID laws enacted in those states that have them are there to suppress black voting but that just means we have to put in the work.  The next major election occurs in 2018, halfway through Trump’s “administration” and that is a long time to put in the work in obtaining a state sponsored ID.  Get it and get your behind to the polls with no excuses.

 

Also let’s reevaluate your values.  Many of us claim to be poor but will buy our children the latest Jordans before paying the rent or utilities.  Does that make sense?  Not to the mentally stable.  The money you save by living within your means can be put toward saving and investing in things that mean something.  While the economy has improved remarkably over the last eight years, it sitll isn’t where it needs to be and don’t expect any imporvements under the Trump “administration,” especially as it pertains to Black-America.  That is why saving, investing, living within our means and becoming more financially savvy is really going to be important.

 

Black health matters too.  Republican lawmakers are already salivating at repealing the Affordable Care Act and even if it stays, health care isn’t getting any cheaper.  What’s the best way to combat health care costs?  By having must less of a demand for it.  It doesn’t matter if a pharmaceutical company jacks their prices up 200% if the product isn’t being bought does it?  We’ve been told for decades not that we have got to get more regular exercise in our routine and develop better eating habits.  Yes it’s okay to have that tasty fried greasy stuff once in a while but it should be at a minimum and in moderation.  If we can decrease high blood pressure (the thorn in my own side), diabetes, heart disease and kidney problems by the sligtest percentage, someone who gets rich off of it will feel it.

 

And let’s show some more self respect everybody. I would love to see much less of the N word and the B word.  Anything that you would slap anyone of any other race for letting out of their mouth should not come out of yours.  The same goes for what you would not want anyone calling your mother or sister.  When a recording artist is on take having se with underage girls, he is to be condemned, not defended.  When an up and coming  singer beats up his girlfriend in public he is to be condemned, not defended. It would be nice to turn that reality trash off of the TV once in a while too. Black images matter just as much as black lives.

Simplistic you may say but don’t tell me that it isn’t significant.  I don’t have the magic answer but not trying will not be an option between not and 2020.  I don’t know what’s in store for the next four years but I don’t think it’s anything that we can’t get through.  If we can survive slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow , we can survive a Trump presidency.  I suggest a lot of retrospection and value reevaluation in the meantime though.

 

#blacklivesmatter

#notmypresident