Monday, December 1, 2014

Diverse to whom?


Diverse to Whom?

Scroll to bottom for links to free ebook and chat details

For those who don't know I've self-published a funny, quirky, YA science fiction novel entitled Sins Of The Father that details the exploits of three black sisters with superpowers. And yes, it's considered diverse.  But diverse to whom and why? The book is definitely not diverse to me as the three protagonist are remarkably similar to my daughters. So who would consider it diverse? And why label it as such? The story is, in essence, the classic hero journey that is universal and relatable to everyone so why the tags? Well, the publishing industry for one would consider my book diverse.  And their word matters more than most. And they do this out of laziness and or ignorance by assuming any book that contains a 'black' protagonist is a black book and must be marketed as such. Most authors would consider this the soft racism of low expectations but is being labeled diverse a bad thing? Yes, and no.  When you identify a book as black, or gay, or, other you are doing two things; you are letting a segment of the populace know that there are stories and characters out there that they can identify with. Stories told from a POV that is largely ignored by publishing, TV, movies.  But you might also be limiting the reach and scope of that book.  Once you identify a book as other you lower the ceiling for it’s earning potential and limit its audience.  This is something that black movies struggle with. 
They realize the allure Morris Chestnut or Michael Ealy has to a specific demographic but they also don't want their movies to be pigeon holed as being “black”.   The Sony Hack spoke volumes of what movie executives thought about movies with a black lead and it was not flattering. But I am self-published so how do I stand out and make myself be seen? For starters, I am not ashamed to say that you will frequently see me tweeting my book out with the #diverse and #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtags. As a self-published author I have to leverage as many social media tools I can avail myself to and hashtags do provide visibility. But I also want as many people to read my books as read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  I'm not sure how realistic that is if they are labeled as black.  But I also realize that JK Rowling had her challenges as well. The woman is an industry now but she struggled financially and chose to use her initials on the book because it was assumed fantasy readers would not be as enthused to buy books from a female author.  Yes, the struggle is real and all around us.  But are my books really diverse? Shonda Rhimes may have stated best what diversity is or isn't. 

I really hate the word 'diversity.' It suggests something...other. As if it is something special, or rare. Diversity! As if there is something unusual about telling stories involving women and people of color and LGBTQ characters on TV. I have a different word: normalizing. I'm normalizing TV. I am making TV look like the world looks. Women, people of color, LGBTQ people equal way more than 50 percent of the population. Which means it ain't out of the ordinary?"

All this is true but how does it help me? I have books to sell in a landscape that gets more competitive everyday. So yes I'm going to keep using hashtags to bring visibility to myself and my books  because black, white or other,  if people don't know about them they can't read them. And whether we agree the diversity tag is a good thing or not we can agree that it would be nice if someone other than a straight white male was allowed to save the planet from an alien invasion or a mad dictator with a nuclear bomb.  Preferably someone who looks like my daughters...







Link  of Sins Of The Father: https://www.smashwords.com/cart/review/8925799
Coupon Code for free download: GH22N

Chat Schedule: Aug 9th 3pm CST
Hashtag: #BlerdBookClub
Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z_VYF0oHy0

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Diversity, Identity, and Self-Worth

Why do people make such a big deal about diversity? Why is it so important that a protagonist in a movie or novel be black?  What does it matter if there are no Native-American themed dramas on television? I would argue that there is a strong correlation between diverse content, identity, and self-worth. What I mean is that it is important...no, it is imperative for children of color to see and read about strong characters that they can identity with. Characters that give them a sense of identity, expand their dreams, and increase their self-worth. What do I have to bolster my argument?  How about a few images...
I can't think of an image more powerful than the first family on this night, Election Day 2008. Close your eyes and imagine this image through the eyes of a child of color. Keep your eyes closed and imagine the possibilities that same child of color is dreaming about after seeing this. It was an incredible moment and will be forever etched in my memory.

Space. The final frontier. My wife is an AKA and has, on occasion, reminded me, "We got sorors in outer space!" Can't argue with that. This picture expands the dreams of millions of young girls just as much as it creates a pathway to make those dreams a reality. What American is not proud of the accomplishments of Mae Jemison? Her journey to the stars was a historical achievement, but her journey to the hearts and minds of children is what their dreams are made of.


Is there another image that contains as much power, grace, and beauty as this one? Don't discourage children with your perceived limitations because YOU lack imagination. Challenge them. Thanks to Misty Copeland, how many girls want to be ballerinas today? I don't have an answer for that, but I bet it's more than before Ms. Copeland arrived on the scene. Ya' feel me?

And what about novels? If these images can have a positive affect, would not words be just as, if not more, powerful? And if novels are about expanding the dreams of our children, then let them dream of being heroes. But where are our heroes? Where is our black Harry Potter? Our Latina Katniss? If, like my wife says, "We got sorors in outer space!" then can we not have minority heroes between pages? Well, we can and we do but you won't find these books being produced by traditional publishing houses. You have to look at self-published titles for diverse books that mirror the real world. And if you want more than "Fund the change you want to see" stop demanding that authors like JK Rowling include more diverse characters in their works. It's not fair to Mrs. Rowling or conducive to the creative process. And if, like me, you believe diversity, identity and self-worth are related and matter then show the courage of your convictions and let us hear your voice. What say you?





Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Diversity Matters to Me


Why does Diversity matter to you? Oh, my bad. We should probably agree on what the term 'diversity' means first. The dictionary defines diversity as The state or fact being; diverse; different; unlikeness..., Uh yeah sure. You know what? I'm going go with my boy Buggin' Out from Do The Right Thing who immortalized the definition of diversity with one question: How come ya ain't got no brothas up on the wall?
That's it.  That's diversity. Now let us move forward. So again why does diversity matter to you? Tough question? OK, I'll start... Diversity matters to me because I'm inundated with images of other in TV and Film. Diversity matters to me because because my image, my story, my American Experience is important. It deserves to be heard, to be seen.  Diversity matters to me because my peers know nothing about me outside the office. Oh they know the caricatures because that is all they have been exposed to but they do not know me.  Which is sad because I know them, and have known them all my life. I'm familiar with their favorite movies, books, music. Not to say they are a monolithic group but I'm even familiar with the diversity within their universe.  But when I bring up my favorite movies, books, music they're surprised. They have never heard of the movie Cooley High or Paul Beatty's brilliant Tuff, and since Talib Kweil get's no radio play he is not even in their orbit.

Me? I'm not so surprised by this.  But more important than anything Diversity matters to me because of my daughters. They are intelligent, beautiful, athletic, funny, and... black. When was the last movie that represented that? I'll help you... Love And Basketball. And I'm mad.  I'm mad because I can't count the number of movies I've seen before I got to experience it.
That locker scene in Love and Basketball when the young ladies are talking about their futures, their love for basketball, their dreams, had never ever been seen on film. Ever. A group of woman having an honest discussion about their limited future prospects and it had nothing to do with men! That is one of my favorite scenes of all time. It is in a word poignant. And the world had to wait for Gina Bythewood to bring it to life. And you know what? Mrs. Bythewood latest film Beyond The Lights  promises more of the same.  That is to tell a story from a diverse perspective that can resonant with the public at large but have a special relationship with, as the dictionary would say a, different segment of the population. And I will be in line on opening night because Diversity matters to me.  But you never answered the question; Why does diversity matter to you?


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Black Speculative Fiction Month


In case you didn't know it's Black Speculative Fiction Month (#BSFM)! Yay! And if you want to find out more about Black Speculative Fiction check out our friends at Twin Ninja Book Reviews or Milton Davis over at the State of Black Science Fiction  And Milton is always looking for book releases, interviews, conventions, etc. so hit him up on facebook if you have ideas, suggestions, inquiries

As for me I've been reading the excellent web comic series A Softer Apocalypse written by Greg Stolze and drawn by Nick Butler of Turtle Dust Media  And if you
are into Black Speculative Fiction or want an example of Black Speculative Fiction you need to peep this joint now. And don't worry about paying for it because it's free. The comic is set in a not too distant future where everything that is wrong today has gotten dramatically worse. And it's not so much a post apocalyptic dystopian piece as a suburban horror story with climate change instead of vampires, and economic downturn instead of werewolves, and years of bio terror instead of ghost. But the coolest part? If you are desperate, driven, or crazy you can buy super-powers on the black market. But be careful because their is a 50-50 chance that the process to procure these powers can kill you! Greg's and Nick's links are below along with the link to the web comic. Check it out and let me know your thoughts.

Softer Apocalypse: Link

Nick's Links:
Download a copy of Nick's head trip here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/6606138/nickButlerHeadTrip.pdf

Greg's Links
Website: http://www.gregstolze.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GregStolze


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm Sick and Tired

I don't know what else to say so I'm going to quote famed Civil Rights Activist Fannie Lou Hamer, who coined the phrase "I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired."  The ignorance and insensitivity towards minorities and their respective cultures is a jarring example that there is still much work to do to realize the promise that is America. This great country has always been more of a mosaic than a melting pot. A beautiful mosaic that boast the pride of different ethnicity’s and cultures working in concert for that dream impassioned in Martin Luther's King speech.  But also a mosaic that pigeon holes, undermines, and erects barriers to some of the most colorful components of that mosaic. I'm not going to touch on Ferguson or Michael Brown because I don't think I can say anything as heartfelt or intelligent as Grey's Anatomy actor Jesse Williams Instead let me focus on the Entertainment Industry, and more specifically the Exodus movie, The Washington Redskins team name, and the New York Times article about Shonda Rhimes. 

The derivation of the term Redskin is muddled.  But no matter the origin, today
the name is at best culturally insensitive and at worst blatantly racist. But billionaire and team owner Daniel Snyder says it is a term of honor and respect. Interesting choice of words but for the sake of this post let us traffic in facts.  The dictionary defines Redskin as slang: Often disparaging and offensive. There is nothing honorable about that. But the Redskins name controversy is more about self-identity and power than anything else. Native Americans deserve the right to control their image, their identity, and how they choose to be represented. We cannot tell them what they should or should not find offensive or racist.  We have to cede that power and allow that if they themselves find a term racist or offensive then no matter our personal beliefs that term becomes by definition racist and offensive. Unless of course you are a billionaire and team owner.

Ridley Scott has come under fire for his peculiar casting choices in the upcoming movie Exodus. The issue is that white actors are playing all the lead roles while
actors of a darker hue have been relegated to playing slaves. What makes these casting choices controversial is that the movie takes place in Egypt which of course is in Africa.  If it were in Canada this might be a non-issue. But how do these "oversights" keep happening? How does casting whites as kings and blacks as slaves not raise any alarms? I mean it's 2014!  And what would happen if we tried the inverse? Would it be objectionable for Denzel Washington to play JFK? Or Morgan Freeman to play George Washington? I'm thinking someone in casting might object about the legitimacy of the movie if that happened. The ability of two men of color having the chops to play historic icons and presidents would be beside the point. That film would not get green lighted. Not so for Exodus.

"Angry Black Woman" If you have not read the article about Shonda Rhimes in which Alessandra Stanley referred to the famed director as such you have undoubtedly heard about it. But however popular that view is it is not entirely accurate. I'll paraphrase what Mrs. Stanley attempted to say and provide context so you may have a somewhat better understanding of the gist of the article.  And for lack of a better word let's call this journalism. Mrs. Stanley, in a very clumsy, clueless, and in-artful way was attempting to be complimentary of Shonda Rhimes by detailing how she was excelling in doing things her way in an industry dominated by white males.  The fact that Mrs. Rhimes will have three shows airing on the most coveted day and two head lined by women of color buttresses Mrs. Stanley's argument. Fair enough.  But here's, the thing; Mrs Stanley is a journalist.  Words are her medium.  She doesn't get to be in-artful, awkward, or clumsy.  If I ask my mechanic to write a piece on Shonda Rhimes HE gets to be in-artful.  Not so a famed journalist from the Paper of Record.  And the most maddening part of the article was the under handed slight she gave to the first lady by juxtaposing Shonda's success with Mrs. Obama's perceived failure. This article was so bad on so many levels one wonders how it made it through the editing process. But Alessandra is no different then most people in power when it comes to dealing with racial issues.  That is she is in-artful, clueless and awkward.

Having money is not everything not having it is. That's a Kayne West lyric and a fairly accurate metaphor of the disparate prisms in which whites and minorities view and experience race. Whites are involved in race while minorities are committed, and like the chicken and pig our rolls are decided at birth. Mr. Scott had tea with Christian Bale when he decided to cast him as Moses. Alessandra Stanley swears up and down that her hit piece on Mrs. Rhimes is actually complimentary if we can just get past the first 140 characters. Mr. Synder confidently speaks of Redskins being a term of honor and respect with no hint of sarcasm. The insular and myopic view of these three individuals are the rule not the exception. And their privileged arrogant responses when challenged are representative of the state of race relations in this country and one reason why I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired.


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Interview with Reggie R. Bythewood Director of Gun Hill


Reggie R. Bythewood has been in the game for a minute. His latest joint, Gun Hill, which aired on BET and can now be seen on Netflix, unleashes the incredible talent of Larenz Tate. Tate is pulling double duty in this well-crafted story that espouses the duality of human nature---a premise popularized by Jykell and Hyde and recently used in the BBC's Orphan Black.  But what Tate is able to do with this character, who fights for balance as the world shifts around him, is hint at redemption while being tethered to his troubled past. Watching Tate's facial expressions as he searches for clues about his brother and struggles with how that affects his reality is watching a true artist at work. It should come as no surprise that Bythewood could bring it at this level with a story that is as complex, nuanced, and intense as Gun Hill.  He cut his teeth on writing for the sitcom A Different World where he met his beautiful and equally talented wife. That's right, Mr. Bythewood is only part of the equation.  Gina Price-
Bythewood is also killing the game.  She launched with a blast writing and directing the instant classic Love & Basketball that features Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps, two charismatic stars that literally burnt up the screen.  Her next project, Beyond the Lights, which opens November 15, aims to raise the bar. The trailer teases a classic love story filled with passion and promise. It stars the handsome Nate Parker who has been dancing around super stardom for years but now is ready to bust and the classically trained and stunning Gugu Mbatha-Raw. In this latest interview, Mr. Bythewood discusses these projects and using a platform for a cause bigger than himself. He also talks about controlling distribution, the meaning behind how theater can change the world, and Larenz Tate's use of the 52 Blocks fighting style.  Please give it a listen because one way or another you will be hearing a lot more from Mr. Bythewood in the near future.

Links 
Reggie's Interview on Sound Cloud: Link
Gun Hill Trailer: Link
Larenz training 52 Blocks: Link
Beyond The Lights Trailer: Link
Reggie's IMDB Profile: Link
Gina's IMDB Profile: Link
Larenz's IMDB Profile: Link

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Interview with Yolonda Brinkley, Creator of Beyond Borders:Diversity in Cannes


Yolonda Brinkley is making waves. As the creator of Beyond Borders:Diversity in Cannes, a filmmmaker symposium and short film showcase taking place during the Cannes Film Festival, Yolonda is determined to enhance the visibility and opportunities of diverse projects in filming. Once a French Teacher for Teach for America, before working in corporate america, Yolonda is now a change agent in the entertainment industry.  The journey has not always been easy for Yolonda but her faith has never wavered. From her humbling experience on the film The Last Fall to doing PR for Hollywood stalwart Bill Duke, Yolonda takes everything in stride. Along the way Yolonda has cultivated relationships with an eclectic and resourceful group of individuals such as Doreen Spicer, Karimah Westbrook, and Janine Sherman Barrois to name a few.  But Yolonda's eyes are on the prize and she envisions working with industry trendsetters and multimedia icons like Ice Cube, Rashaad and Reinaldo Green, Lee Daniels, and Lisa Cortes.  You want to know who got next?  Keep your eyes on Yolonda Brinkley.


Voice Interview: Link
Diversity in Cannes Twitter: Link
Diversity in Cannes Website: Link
Diversity in Cannes Facebook: Link
Diversity in Cannes YouTube: Link
Yolonda's Reel: Link


Monday, August 11, 2014

Interview with Eric Dean Seaton Creator and Director of Legend Of The Mantamji

Comic book fans have never had it so good. Guardians Of The Galaxy is tearing it up at the box office.  Netflix is developing Marvel street level heroes series such as Luke Cage and DaredevilAgents of SHIELD has been renewed (or gotten a reprieve).  Green Arrow's success has led to the launch of the eagerly anticipated Flash series. In short, grab your popcorn because this should be nerd nirvana. But all that glitters isn't gold. There has been a shocking lack of diversity in all these endeavors sans Luke Cage. And it starts at the comic book level.  All the above are owned properties of DC or Marvel and all started out in print form.  But what about us?  What about properties and heroes that look like us?  Enter Eric Dean Seaton. An episodic director who has helmed over 34 shows, Mr. Seaton is launching a graphic novel titled Legend Of The Mantamaji.  This diverse graphic novel is centered around a person of color who must overcome internal issues before he can take on an ancient evil.  You want to start seeing heroes like us on the big screen?  It starts with supporting the work and talent of  people like Eric Dean Seaton at the print level. In the following interview, Mr. Seaton discusses his motivation for starting a graphic novel and how that compares to directing TV along with a host of other topics. Please give it a listen.

Voice Interview: Link
Twitter Account: Link
Website: Link
Legend of Mantamaji Website: Link
For Pre-Orders Amazon Link: Link


Monday, August 4, 2014

My Favorite Movies You never heard Of

On Aug 2nd BET aired the Independently produced film Middle Of Nowhere and I was able to experience my favorite film of 2012 again with a bunch of my twitter peeps. To me, the next best thing about enjoying a film or book is sharing that enjoyment with others whether it be online or in person. Unfortunately, this film was not widely released leaving me few opportunities to dialogue with others about how truly great this film is which in and of itself is troubling. Diversity in films benefits everyone. Diversity challenges viewers through unique POV's forcing them out their comfort zone. Diversity lets people appreciate characters and situations they never knew existed and in the process expands their world. And those of you who support the campaign #WeNeedMoreDiverse books please support organizations that are striving for diversity in films. Organizations like Diversity in Cannes that empowers film makers to thing outside the box.  AFFRM  which strives to put black-themed films in commercial theaters. And Reelsisters which celebrates women of color in film.  You can also tweet and share your favorite diverse films that were not widely distributed. Three of my favorites might be unknowns to most people. These three films are remarkable in casting, cinematography, and POV. If you already have seen them please share your thoughts or reply back with some of your favs. If not, do yourself the favor of getting familiar with these films, the actors, and directors because that is the first step in supporting diversified films.

Secrets and Lies
The characters in this tense melodrama are painfully real and deal with complex issues in a way that lends credence to their humanity and frailty. The skill with which these beautifully flawed characters are handled draws you in, engages you. This film was also my first introduction to the magnificent Marie Jean Baptist and the under appreciated Timothy Spall of Harry Potter fame.  And what makes this film even more impressive is that the majority of it was improvisational. A must see.

City Of God
If you are born in America no matter how disparate the conditions, you have a chance, a shot to better your life no matter how daunting the odds.  This fact was crystallized after watching The City Of God. Loosely based on real events the environment of hopelessness, violence and depravity is the primary protagonist as the bit characters fight for turf, drugs, guns and one for his creative soul. This stunning film also introduced the world to the beautiful Alice Braga.  I have never been more appreciative of the life I have and the opportunities provided me than after watching this film. But you be the judge.

I Will Follow
Had to watch this film twice to appreciate it. And I think my biggest issue was viewing Omari Hardwick and Salli Richardson as the talented individuals they are and not as the eye candy the are often promoted as.  But more than anything else this is a film of loss, of relationships, and of moving forward.  And as I watched it the 2nd and 3rd time I became even more appreciative of their nuanced performances, like the subtlety of the briefest facial expression. Also, there was no wasted dialogue in this film.  No throw away lines. Every uttered word had meaning be it a past hurt, a current challenge, or the promise of tomorrow. Don't know how I stumbled upon it but I'm glad I did and I'm happy to share it with you.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Type of Women I like

Let's cut to the chase, a post centered on "The Type Of Women I Like" is inherently sexist. To categorize, objectify, and compare women as if they were cars says more about the individuals doing the categorization then the women they seek to objectify.  But stay with me for a minute and let me share something with you. The other day my daughters had a tennis tournament and before I hustled them into the car I asked one of them why she was wearing her hair like she was.  Her hair could best be described as twists with a rubber band placed asymmetrically on one side.  She confidently stated, "Because I like it." For some reason that caught me off guard. I shrugged it off but as I drove to the tennis courts I kept thinking about what she said. "Because I like it." And I couldn't stop smiling.  What my daughter thought about her hair was immeasurably more important than what I thought about it. And as I watched her compete throughout the day her hairstyle grew on me. I now "liked" it. But I "liked" her attitude more. She didn't need me, her sisters, or anyone else to co-sign on something that she was already convinced of. She was not going to let someone dictate to her what was acceptable or beautiful and what wasn't. And as a parent I could not have been more proud. And I thought of women who I think are beautiful and their individual styles. Julianne Margulies whose controlled passion and quite confidence on The Good Wife is alluring. Jill Scott whose self pride and ebullient personality is infectious.  Christina Hendricks who flaunts her body and attitude with a SWAG that is admirable. Serena Williams who is built like an Amazon Warrior and has a competitive fire that has inspired a generation of girls and women. The regal and incomparable beauty of Lupita Nyong'o that is breathtaking. And you know what is especially enticing about these women?  They all have displayed an independence, a self-love, and a willingness to challenge long held beliefs of beauty that make them even more attractive. Also these women couldn't give two shakes about "The Type Of Women I Like", and you shouldn't either...



Thursday, July 24, 2014

Interview with Independent Filmmaker Dan Mirvish

Dan Mirvish is a man of many talents. He is a director, screenwriter, producer, political speech writer, and some would say political provocateur.  His most recent film Between Us starring Julia Stiles  and Taye Diggs, played in 23 festivals in 7 countries and got 50+ city theatrical release and is currently available on Showtime, Starz, and Netflix.  In this humorous interview Dan discusses the challenges of shooting independent films, the inspiration for Slamdance, the nuances of sound editing, and the motivation for creating Martin Eisenstadt among other topics.  Please give it a listen.

Voice Interview  - Link
His Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/dmirvish?fref=ts
His youtube - https://www.youtube.com/user/DanMirvish
Latest Movie - Between Us
NY Times article - Link
IMDB - Link
Martin Eisenstadt book - Link
Martin Eisenstadt youtube - Link
Martin Eisenstadt twitter - https://twitter.com/MartyEisenstadt



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are Blerds Black Enough?

I remember a discussion I had awhile back with my co-workers. I was the only person of color involved in the discussion and at one point one of my co-workers looked at me and said "But you are not really black though."  He said it as a back-handed compliment but everyone else including me froze. I let him know I wasn't happy with nor did I appreciate the comment.  He apologized profusely and stated he didn't mean anything by it.  But I knew intimately what he meant. I was not authentic. I wasn't really black or black enough. And it wasn't the first time I heard it. I grew up in a poor neighborhood and had always been bookish which was not a recipe for being cool or popular. On more than a few occasions I had been accused of trying to be white sometimes jokingly sometimes not just for reading books. My two closest friends growing up wanted to be football players and both did end up playing football in college. In a culture where athleticism is at times more valued than academics they were infinitely more cooler and popular than me. I didn't start getting props until I started boxing and wrestling in middle-school. I was above average at boxing but I excelled at wrestling. And now I had an identity that was separate and at odds with my bookish or nerdy identity. I was an athlete and more specific I was a wrestler. Wrestling and boxing are physically demanding sports and anyone who competes in them must be tough so by definition I couldn't be a nerd right? I struggled with this as I searched for a tag or identity that defined me completely.  Something that said yes I'm black, and I'm smart, and athletic, and I love books. But there were no labels that I was aware of that encapsulated all of that. So I became different things to different people at different times. Sometimes a nerd, sometimes an oreo, sometimes an academic, sometimes a jock. And despite my new found popularity due to my athletic achievements I was still teased at times which led to some fighting. I equipped my self fairly well in these fights (I had a quick right hand and a strong wrestling pedigree) but it bothered me that some of my peers still doubted my authenticity. That by some mythical cultural barometer of blackness I was less in their eyes. Now no-one escapes childhood with out some trauma and I don't want to paint the picture that I was a social outcast who struggled to connect.  I was far from that.  I was popular with a diverse group of friends and gave as good as I got in the teasing department. But I still struggled with my racial identity and wondered if I really was less black. It took me a few years before I realized, I could be smart, bookish, nerdy, popular, athletic and it did not take away from my blackness. I defined my identity. Those phony arbitrators defining blackness had no more license to do so then my grade school peers.  I could be nerdy, or rather blerdy and proud without sacrificing one iota of my cultural identity or racial pride. I still feel the same way today. And if anyone wants to challenge my authenticity or question if I'm black enough I still have a quick right hand.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Interview with Kimberlee Renee of @reelsistas on Women of Color in Film Part II

This is the second part of our interview with Kimberlee Renee

Voice Interview -  Link
Her website - www.reelsistas.com
Her podcast: Cinema in Noir - www.blogtalkradio.com/cinemainnoir
Her Twitter - @reelsistas
An organization advocating for women of color in film - http://www.reelsisters.com
Twitter account advocating for women of color in film and stage - https://twitter.com/BiatchPack
 Part II
Thelonious: Can you name  one or two women of color in the film industry that are listeners should be aware of?
Kimberly: Christine Swanson who produced and directed All About You, Tina Mabry,who did Mississippi Damned, Dee Rees who directed and wrote Pariah and of course Ava DuVernay who founded the firm AFFRM 
Did I Will Follow, Middle Of Nowhere and is currently working on Selma
Thelonious: And I am a big fan of Ava Duvernay as well and as fan of film and I remember the 1st time I saw Love Jones and I thought this was going to open up the door and sadly that didn't happen. Did you see a film with a primary person of color that you thought this is going to open up the floodgates but it didn't happen or maybe it did?
Kimberly: There are a lot of films out there that have been successful and every-time there is a black film being made it's suppose to be the the one we pin all our hopes on. When Red Tails, this was going to be the black film that opened it all up.  Last year we 12 Years A Slave and The Butler and they were going go be the films that opened it up and changed everything. I think the goal should be to have many films, vary diverse films. Last year was a very good year, we had rom-coms, we had political dramas, we had a lot people of color in film in various roles, and I think that is the goal, to have varied images and not just one. And we can't pin all of our hopes on one film or one film-maker it has to be a collective
Thelonious: That brings up a good point.  Me as a fan and as a ticket buyer I believe we do have a tendency to pin all of our hopes on one film or one star and when it doesn't immediately happen after that I think there is a collective frustration so your point of diversifying our interest so it's not all romance coms is valid.  Marvel is doing alot of good things so getting some black super-heroes will provide some diversity and Ava Duvarnay is working on Selma and diversification always works. And I agree we need to get away from pinning all our hopes on one film or one project because it's not fair to the film-maker and it leads to unrealistic expectations and it's not fair to the audience.
Kimberly: There are a lot of film-makers who make bad movies or movies that are not well received but if black film maker does it, it's marked as the end of their career or the end of black film and it's proof that black people don't pay to see black films and it's not that deep it's not like that at all.  When Adam Sandler makes a movie that flops he is given an opportunity to make another film
Thelonious: that's a good point because from a box office standpoint you can be a white actor and have multiple losses like for example Johnny Depp.  I can't remember the last time Johnny had a perceived success at the box office but he still commands leading man which I think is in the neighborhood of $20 million. I know a lot of black actors would die for that.  There seems to be higher bar for people of color to clear and they seem to need a longer record of success to get more access.
Kimberly: Right Denzel can command $20 million and Will Smith but they are the only two
Thelonios: Right. It's Will Smith and Denzel Washington but after that you have a bunch of others. Fine actors but it doesn't seem like the people who write checks have a lot of confidence they can open up movies.
Kimberly: Exactly
Thelonious: Going forward what is your long term vision, goals, for your organization?  Do you any type of metrics that you would like to hit or establish something you can we knock this off as a success and move on to the next hurdle or is it more a daily grind just take it as it comes?
Kimberly:  For me it's a daily grind just take it as it comes. I want to expand the blog to feature more women behind the camera as well as in front. I want to inspire people and maybe feature more women who aspire to working behind the scenes and in front of the camera and maybe connect them to people who can make that happen.  That's for the blog. As far as Cinema In Noir I learned so much from my two co-host over the last two years doing this show and I would like to continue to learn and continue to be a voice for women of color in film.
Thelonious: Before we close would you like to give our listeners any links that they can find you at?
Kimberly: http://www.reelsistas.com/ the Blog is Cinema In Noir and I'm on twitter and facebook.
Thelonious: Thanks joining us today Renee. I would like to do a follow up meeting maybe in six months to see what type of progress we have made. Maybe we can have some other people join us as well.  I know Selma i going to be out by then and there are a couple other movies queued up that I would love to get your take on.
Kimberly:Sounds great

Monday, July 21, 2014

Interview with Deron Bennett of ANDWORLD Design

Curious about diversity in Comics? Deron Bennett provides insight in this as well as other topics in this informative interview


Voice Interview -  Link
ANDWORLD Design Website - www.andworlddesign.com
His Twitter - https://twitter.com/deronbennett
His Facebook - www.facebook.com/quixotecomic
His Tumbler - deronbennett.tumblr.com 
Purchase Deron's comics here - Link 
Did Lettering for Legend of Mantamji - Link

Thelonious: Hey, everyone! Thanks for joining Thelonious Legend blogspot. Today we have a special guest. We have Deron Bennett of ANDWorld Design. Deron could you tell us a little bit about what you do for AndWorld Design? 
Deron: Basically it's a lettering studio that I run. I perform various letterings that we use for different comic book companies, including DC, Boom, Slash, Archie and a couple independents as well. Lettering, for those of you that don't know, is where printing of any of the script text, dialogue, sound effects and things of that nature that go into a comic book. Essentially without a letterer you would not be able to read comics. So that's my job and responsibility there. I also do design work as well, creating logos and advertisements for the company. 
Thelonious: I guess it would be safe to say you have a creative background?
Deron: Yes. Originally I went to school at Savannah College of Art Design. Initially, I was trying to get into the business as a pencil-er. But I fell in love with lettering, early on in my career, got into font design and all the creative processes going into lettering. I also have taught graphic design, because they're so similar. The mediums are so similar. Essentially when you’re lettering its sort of thinking from a graphic design standpoint. All the sound effects and stuff have the same similarities that you’re trying to get across when you're doing graphic design. All the conventions you use in comics as well. It's a creative medium I've got my background in, but I also do graphic design as well and website design, clothing. Due to what I've done in comics.
Thelonious: Why did you choose the medium of comics to display your talents?
Deron: Growing up I've always loved drawing. That was my big thing. Everybody was like "Oh you're gonna be an artist, you're gonna be this, you're gonna be that." I wanted to do animation, initially and be the next Walt Disney. After a while, when I was in middle school. I got into writing a lot. I wanted to write. Seeing a medium that combined the two so well and so perfectly. Where I can tell a story through my illustrations. It just dawned on me that this is where I wanted to be. This is what I wanted to do. And I've been loving it ever since. 
Thelonious: You're a comic book fan?
Deron: Yes
Thelonious: Who was the first hero that you identified with that every week and every month you needed change to go to the store and buy that comic book?
Deron: Milestone comics was my first passion for actual comic books. Before that I was really into Calvin and Hobbes. comic strips and things. I would read Heathcliff, and all those newspaper comics. I liked the funnies. That sort of transitioned when somebody brought to my attention Milestone comics. Picking up Static, picking up Hardware and all the rest of the titles. Icon. I had a whole run of each of the titles. 
Thelonious: I had the whole run too. And for those of you who know Milestone comics was the spinoff of the DC comic. Basically it was based out of North Dakota, which was a city. You just had this rich rich characters. From this universe. For whatever reason it never quite took off. And the most popular character was Static Shock. Milestone, unfortunately was discontinued. But if you don't know about Milestone, you should do some research on it. I think you'll be pleased. The characters were great! They were three dimensional, diverse. You had gay characters, you had black characters and Asian characters. A lot of the subject matter that you see today Milestone was way ahead of the time. Just thought I'd throw that in there. So now what current projects are you working on that we should be aware of? 
Deron: Right now I am working on a couple of different books that I'm lettering, I'm doing a Flash Broadcast with Boom and Archie. I am also doing Thomas Elsop, and that's a great supernatural thriller that's also from Boom Comics. I'm doing a few DC projects. I do a lot of their digital work. I do He-Man and the masses of the universe. So I'm involved in a few different things that I've been working on. Amazon has their imprint, their Amazon publishing 
imprint. Jet City that they've just started and I do a lot of work with them. We've put out recently and a couple of things from George RR Martin. And a lot of different things that are coming up. A lot of smaller publishers that are doing bigger things. And I'm really excited to be apart of it. I've also finished up my own comic that I've put out there. You know, just me doing the whole thing from start to finish. As far as producing it I've hired an artist Dan Mora, who just signed on with me to do text re-publishing.  Paul Little to do the coloring and Arty Randolph to do the cover for that issue. An amazing team I got to work with and that got to bring my story to life. It's out on Comixology right now. I'm doing it digitally, and there are also prints available through my website and through the Facebook site. 
Thelonious: We're actually gonna post all your links. So all you comic book fans, and especially for all you Games of Thrones fans. Anybody who's associated with the Game of Thrones please go to the links after the interview and show Mr. Bennett some love. We need to have his vision out there. We talk about diversity in comic book characters and diversity in film and diversity in literature. This is your chance to play a part. Wool was basically a self-published series of short stories. Wasn't it Mr.Venice? 
Deron: Wool was actually a written novel by turned into a graphic novel by Hugh Howey. I'm not sure if it was part of an anthology. I know the comic was done by a single creative team. So it wasn't a multiple creative team process there. But it's the terrific story that people should be getting into because it's a lot of thought provoking things going along in there that really resonate. 
Thelonious: Right, and if you're a fan of dystopian literature and if you're a self-published writer, Hugh Howey is somebody you need to be familiar with. He basically published all his stuff on his own and put it out for free. He just did a whole paradigm shift on how to sell and market. Totally different from some New York Publishing Houses. And if you're with him, I think that's a big plus and again I urge anyone to check out Hugh Howey, to check out Mr. Bennett and find what projects they're associated in, because Hugh Howy pretty much defined self publishing for the next decade and It's just so exciting you're associated with them. 
Deron: Thank you, thank you. Yes, that's definitely something people should be checking out because it changed the way, we can go about self-publishing. Printing out our own works. It's really a fun way of coming about things. I'm glad you're giving him that credit, because it's definitely something to check out. 
Thelonious: And this has been a special week for comic book fans. Especially for women and minorities. Actually I would say for everybody, because anytime you introduce diversity it's a benefit for everybody. But unfortunately there has been some negativity associated with the changing of the Hammer, if you will from a man to a woman. And also the changing of Captain America being now Sam Wilson, who was formerly the Falcon. What are you're feelings about that, that you would like to share with the listeners?
Deron: Whenever there's a big change I think people sort of react.People want to fight change at any point and in any kind of a industry. Change can be something that people are against, initially. Because with change we introduce new characters who people can come to love and want to follow these characters in their own way. People who are rebelling against this change of Thor, being a woman. I understand where they're coming from, to the women who just want a new female character or other male counterparts, saying just can we get a new character. But it's been done before. Thor's been changed before. Thor's been a frog. I mean, it's really crazy the backlash against this form of fiction. Basically, you can do anything in a comic and why turn your head when something good and positive can come out of it. 
Thelonious: This whole discussion reminds me of what happened on Fox News, a few months back, where somebody said that Santa Clause was black, and Fox News actually had a panel arguing for the record Santa Clause is white. And I was like for the record Santa Clause is fiction. 
Deron: Yes, exactly. People outrage against the craziest things. They hold on to these fictional characters like they're real. Sometimes you just have to let go a little bit. It's a fun medium, that's why I got into it. The creativity, all the great things that come out of it. You know just to have fun with it. Enjoy new characters with new story lines. We've been enjoying the old Thor for years. We've been enjoying the old Cap for years. Let's see what happens with this new run.
Thelonious: And nothing stays the same. 
Duran: Right
Thelonious: And I think a lot of the push back is that they're more than characters. They're symbols right. So, Captain America is blonde hair blue eyes all American. You know honor. A lot of people that identify with him, you take that away from them and they rail against it.
Deron: Yes
Thelonious: And some of the anger and confusion might be justified. But as far as criticism and the hate that I've been hearing and seeing. I think that goes against everything comic books are about.. 
Deron: Yes, comic books should embrace diversity and I think that it's something people have been asking for, but once it happens people kind of start to panic.  You know "What's going on? They're changing!" Well you ask for diversity. So let's see some.
Thelonious: Here's my issue with it. It's that I think it's an easy out for Marvel. I think there's a rich catalog of characters they could draw from. Whether it's the Wasp, coming from the female side. Or whether it's Luke Cage. Now I wasn't a big fan of Luke Cage back in the 70's because he was a character who was basically a caricature. But in the last decade or so they've really made his character three dimensional. I know Netflix is doing a collection of heroes and Luke Cage is one of them. So when I see a lot of people celebrating and jumping on the bandwagon, and I get it because I'm enthusiastic as well. Because Captain America and Thor, they're icons and symbols and they pretty much defined Marvel Universe for more than a couple of generations. But also there's a part of me, the Milestone part, that wants to see characters written by a diverse cast, a diverse group. grow from Inception whether it's spider-man being bit to where he is now and see that audience grow with it. So there's a microwave solution of the changing of the hammer, and there's the solution of what Milestone did. Start new characters from scratch, build them and then build an audience with them. Which I don't know if that's a good example, because Milestone is no longer here. But I guess that would be my only argument. 
Deron: Yeah
Thelonious: Any thing that brings diversity I'm for. So I don't want to rain on any one's parade And there are a lot of characters that people might identify with if Marvel spent more resources or even DC for that matter.
Deron: Yes. Indeed I think that you definitely hit the nail on the head with looking at characters like Luke Cage, and we should be seeing more of that. These characters should be getting they're own spotlight. I know that a lot of people are pointing out the Storm is getting her own series and things of that nature. 
Thelonious: Storm has been one of my favorite characters for a long time. 
Deron: Yes and I think fans have been waiting for this sort of thing. It's really up to the companies to start pushing these things. I think that's sort of the problem with Milestone, they were a little a head of there time and didn't get the big push behind the DC imprint as necessary. I don't know, I was a young guy back then. I couldn't tell you the ins and outs of the business behind the scene. But you know if you told people back then about the books, nobody knew about them. But they knew about Superman.
Thelonious: Yeah, there was a lot going on and they did a crossover with DC. I was a big fan of Icon, BloodSyndicate, Hardware, Static and all the titles, I got all of them. I think that if it happened again today, where the production cost is down, the distribution cost is down. There's social media to reach more fans. I think it'd be viable today. 
Deron: Oh yeah
Thelonious: But I'm glad it happened. I think we're all better for it, I mean it found you. And it made me a fan of comics. I'm glad it happened and I'd like to see it happen again. Whether it does or doesn't, that's not for me to say. But any time you broaden the spectrum and fan base, I think it's a good thing.
Deron: Yeah, that's definitely positive. It is definitely the way things should go. Expand not only the audience, but also spread appreciation and understanding of different cultures and the people behind them. 
Thelonious: For our listeners, where can they find you at today? 
Deron: I am frequently on twitter  and also on Facebook I have a page setup. That would www.facebook.com/codthecomic. We can have that available on the website, for people to follow. I am readily available on social media. Twitter is the way you can find me, interacting with the community, letting people know my thoughts. Definitely reach out to me, I'd be glad to engage. 
Thelonious: What we are going to do is provide everyone with you're links. We are going to get those from you. What I'd like to do is start up a twitter conversation in a couple of weeks. You could drive the conversation. If you have any other people who are doing diverse comic books, and they wanna be involved I'd think it'd be great. It's an especially exciting time right now for comic book fans. I'd think it'd help to generate interest for you and what you're doing. Also, to give people food for thought, as far as what's been going on before. So they can appreciate what's happening now. 
Deron: Yes. That sounds great.
Thelonious: Yeah, I'd like to do that in a couple of weeks. So what I'd ask you to do, is to get like 2 or 3 guys, you know get those twitter followers. And we'll announce it on all of our blogs. We'll just have a comic book diversity chat. And we'll come up with a hashtag.
Deron: Right
Thelonious: That's not much specialty but we'll come up with the hashtag and talk diversity in comic books. You and your crew can help drive the discussion. I'd just like to participate as a fan.
Deron: Yeah
Thelonious: Any thing I can do to drive that. Just let me know I'll be happy to coordinate it. 
Deron: That sounds really good. I'll be glad to help out
Thelonious: Thank you Mr. Bennett I know you're busy, I've been trying to get you all week and I'm glad we waited, because we had a lot to discuss. Again, I'd like to work with you on driving some type of twitter chat about diversity in comics. If you could get some guys to help out twitter followings. Everyone's that listening, I will be having all of Mr. Bennett's information on my blog, and I'll tweet it out.
Deron: Sounds great! Thanks for having me.
Thelonious: I'm glad we hooked up. This was exciting for me. This was like talking to a basketball player. To talk to someone who does what you admire.Thanks for allowing to have this discussion with you.  
Deron: Thanks, again! I appreciate it. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Interview with Kimberlee Renee of @reelsistas on Women of Color in Film

What is the state of women of Color in film? Listen to this informative interview with Kimberly Renee as we discuss this and other topics: Link 
You can also find all about Kimberly and her organizations via the below links.

Voice Interview -  Link
Her website - www.reelsistas.com
Her podcast: Cinema in Noir - www.blogtalkradio.com/cinemainnoir
Her Twitter - @reelsistas
An organization advocating for women of color in film - http://www.reelsisters.com
Twitter account advocating for women of color in film and stage - https://twitter.com/BiatchPack
Part I
Thelonious: Thank you for joining Thelonious Legend blogspot.  Today we hosting Kimberly Renee of Reelsistas and Co-host of @CinemaInNoir.  Mrs. Renee for our listeners who are not familiar with reelsistas or @CinemaInNoir can you provide some background?
Kimberly: Yes and thank your for having me.  reelsistas is a website that I started that is a celebration of women of color in film and television both in front and behind the camera. From there I met my co-host of @CinemaNoir which is a podcast on blogtalk radio and we talk about film from a black female perspective.
Thelonious: That's great. What lead you down this path? Were you just always just a lover of movies? Or was there moment of inspiration... a catalyst that lead you down this path?
Kimberly: I've always been a huge fan of film and television. And I love to read, and other art forms like the written word. And once I was in Barns and Nobles looking through biographies and I noticed how many there were of Marilyn Monroe and I didn't see any of the legendary black actresses that I like such as Dororthy Dandgrige, Lena Horne. I felt like there was a void there for people who wanted to celebrate these wonderful actresses of color that we have so I started the blog and I've done it online for about six or seven years now.
Thelonious: So your primary mission to bring more visibility to women of color in front and behind the camera?
Kimberly: yes that' all I want to do
Thelonious: Currently in the literature world there was or is a hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks that went Viral because there was a lack of diversity for children of color or rather there were no books with main characters of colors.  Is there anything like that on the film side?  And if not how would you institute or start it?
Kimberly: A while back there was a hashtag #hirethesewomen that was trying to bring awareness to women who write and direct but weren't being heard or seen on the big screen. Other than that I blog about it, write it, and about tweet about it. I think it's very important to have representation of women color and all women in general. Women buy a lot of movies tickets and I don't think we are fairly represented in the films we are seeing.
Thelonious: Is there a scenario where we can vote with our dollars to support women of color in front and behind the camera?
Kimberly: There are a lot of organizations that try to do that. Hire these women hashtag bitchpack which is an organization that tries to champion women of color in film women in film, and they champion women in film reelsisters.org they've always been a champion of black women in film.
Thelonious: What are the challenges you notice unique to women of color as they attempt to break in Film TV industry.
Kimberly: There are a lot women of color who are independent film makers and have to go through the process of making it on their own and are doing great work out there. But as far studio producing films by women of color or featuring women of color there t0o few and they are far in between. The biggest problem we have is representation meaning getting studios to recognize that there is power in women of color being on the big screen or behind the camera
Thelonious:  And somone who has leveraged that power quite well has been Tyler Perry.  Do you find that Tyler Perry's success in film has helped or hindered other independent film makers are trying to do?
Kimberly: His success has been great for him and he has made a lot of money and he has put a lot of black actresses on the screen, but I feel he has very specific vision of how he sees black women but not there is an array that needs to shown but I feel there needs to be more diversity women of color so that there is not monolithic image of black women that sometimes you get with his work.
Thelonious: Can you name  one or two women of color in the film industry that are listeners should be aware?
Kimberly: Christine Swanson who produced and directed All About You, Tina Mabry,who did Mississippi Damned, Dee Rees who directed and wrote Pariah and of course Ava DuVernay who founded the firm AFFRM

End of Part I