Thursday, December 25, 2014

Millions March NYC

About a week and a half ago, I had the opportunity to film some of the protests taking place in New York City following the deaths of unarmed men Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of law enforcement. It was a powerful experience and one that will stay with me for a long time.

Thousands of people of various races and nationalities came out to protest the deaths of not just Mike Brown and Eric Garner, but the litany of people of color whom throughout the years have been killed by police. I was honestly surprised by the number of white people I saw out at Washington Square Park for this march as it shows that it's not just black folks who are fed up with this mess. I'll be including more videos of interviews and other happenings at the protest in the coming days.

TLC - Sleigh Ride (1992)

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Black Digital Media Members Speak on Diversity and More in New Emerging Platforms

Saw this last week and thought it is an interesting view from some media professionals on where they feel the future of media is going -- specifically regarding people of color. The event was put on by the National Black Programming Consortium and featured a panel of experienced media professionals.

One of the things that struck me was not only the continued development of television as a venue for telling stories (as opposed to feature films) but how ideas and stories that can fit into a series platform instead of a just one time two hour special, are seen as much more valuable. If you have some time, definitely check it out.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: Sony Pisses Off Wrong Dictatorship

It's been a no good, terrible, horrible, very bad week for Sony Pictures Entertainment. From being hacked last month and having numerous memos and internal documents leaked, to cancelling press for their film, "The Interview," to shutting the movie down altogether, it has indeed been a week to forget. Oh and there were those rather crude comments about President Obama and some movies he might like.

As amusing as this fodder might be, it's worth noting that a major Hollywood film is not coming out because of serious threats made against it and its parent company -- Sony. This sets somewhat of a dangerous precedent as it has been argued what happens if someone else makes a movie that pisses people off? Is that film also going to be pulled from theaters? George Clooney gave a very interesting take on the matter.

The United States has implicated North Korea in the hacking scandal but the real question is what happens now? Sony is poised to lose millions of dollars in advertising and production already spent on "The Interview," and they're not getting those funds back. That's a serious hit for any studio. Let's see how this one plays out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chris Rock on Working in Hollywood

With the release of his latest film, "Top Five," last week, Chris Rock has been on the press junket giving interviews and publicity in support of his movie. Rock was recently interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter and gave some candid quotes on his experiences as a black man working within Hollywood. The whole article is definitely worth a read. Below is a quote Rock gave on what exactly it means to cross over.

"If someone's people don't love them, that's a problem. No one crosses over without a base. But if we're just going to be honest and count dollars and seats and not look at skin color, Kevin Hart is the biggest comedian in the world. If Kevin Hart is playing 40,000 seats a night and Jon Stewart is playing 3,000, the fact that Jon Stewart's 3,000 are white means Kevin has to cross over? That makes no sense. If anybody needs to cross over, it's the guy who's selling 3,000 seats."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Black Out Black Friday

Can't say that I was surprised about the no indictment decision regarding Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown last August. What has surprised me however, is the response across America (and even in places like Toronto, Canada) to this case and the number of people who felt compelled to march, protest and simply just make their voices known.

What followed in the immediate aftermath of the decision was protests that at points descended into property damage in the form of fires and some looting. But it is important to remember that this was just a small sect of people. Many more marched peacefully not just in Ferguson, but in New York, D.C., Boston, Oakland, and Los Angeles just to name a few.

Protesters blocked highways, flooded Times Square, marched to the White House, and also made their presence known on a day when consumption is usually king -- Black Friday. The hashtag #blackoutblackfriday was re-tweeted by many and led to people doing lay ins in malls in and around Ferguson as a symbolic way of laying their lives on the line for the cause. This is a movement that will not go quietly into the night.

With any movement that gains steam and hence increases in the amount of eyes and ears paying attention, you best believe that there is an art component not far behind. Whether it be photos, music, or in this case of this post, video, the arts have always helped us hold a mirror up to society to see just what's really going on. The same has happened in the aftermath of this case. Check out the video below directed by Terence Nance. Powerful stuff.

Blackstreet - Joy (1995)

Really couldn't appreciate this song as a child in the mid-90s, but I sure do now.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Believing in Barrow: Football on the Fringe

Inspiring look at the Barrow football team from Barrow, Alaska and the challenges they face to play a game they love.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ABC's Risk on Blackish Appears to be Paying Off

When I first heard about the premise of the show "Blackish," I had a lukewarm feeling. It wasn't that the show would be featuring a black family, or that it was airing on a channel that I admittedly did not watch often, but that race would be such a central part of the show.

For as much some in 2014 like to pretend that we are a post-racial society, film and media would not indicate as much. Black writers, directors and producers are still an underrepresented entity behind the lens, just as black actors and actresses are in front of it. Many TV shows and programs might deal with race and ethnicity in subtle and nuanced ways, but never really head on. "Blackish" was staking new ground on that territory.

After watching the first episode a bout a week before it's network premiere, I was a member of the wait-and-see camp. In the 4 following episodes, I think the series has really come into its own.

Where I think the show excels is not only bringing a humorous tilt to things such as mastering the head nod, but also resolutions to problems seen through the perspective of the protagonist Andre (played by Anthony Anderson). Last week's episode about spanking was pretty funny as was the previous episode where Andre tries to find some black friends for his unpopular son. Definitely like Tracee Ellis-Ross as Rainbow and Lawrence Fishburne practically steals the show as the cantankerous old man "Pops." I'll definitely be tuning in for the rest of the season.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ms. Badu's Social Experiment

Erykah Badu is a well known musical artist who has toured around the world and recently went to New York to see how much money she would earn signing on the street. It did not go well.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Janet Jackson - We Go Deep (1998)

I remember hearing about a year ago that Janet Jackson had retired from music. Really hope this isn't the case.

Friday, September 26, 2014

3 Years in the Game

I must admit, I'm somewhat surprised that 3 years later this blog is still standing. I still remember my first post and wondering just where exactly I was going with this thing. I still have questions at times, but my focus has always been to provide articles and material that hopefully educates, enlightens and at least on occasion, entertains you, the readers.

A lot has changed since September of 2011. In the three years since we've seen the rise of filmmakers like Issa Rae who used her webseries "Awkward Black Girl" as a platform into other ventures including a still yet to be released TV show on HBO. Lupita Nyong'o has gone from aspiring actress to an Oscar winner and household name. On the production side, Shonda Rhimes' television empire has only continued to grow as she now has THREE shows airing on primetime this season.

Of course not all has been positive. Outside of the industries there have been the continued killings of unarmed black men by police at a rate there's have left me at times wondering what I would do in such situations. People of color still continue to often be left out in ad campaigns and major motion pictures as leading men and women. Despite all that, we still rise.

I just want to say once again THANK YOU to all of you who read this blog and even more, share it with others. I don't have ads on this site because it's not about clicks, but connectivity to an audience that often feels neglected and forgotten about. Let's continue to keep getting educated together. Peace.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When Being Unarmed Isn't Enough: Black Folks Still Being Denied Humanity

Photo courtesy of

More than 40 days and restless nights have passed since Mike Brown was shot and killed on August 9th. That followed the death of John Crawford, who was shot in a department store aisle while holding a toy gun. Then there was the incident of a police officer in Oklahoma City allegedly targeting at least 8 black women and sexually assaulting them in the process. Folks, I'm getting tired of this. What we have continually seen is that when it comes to the split second decision of firing a gun -- and ultimately changing the life of the victim and the shooter -- blacks in this country are still seen as criminals first, people second.

This lack of humanity has been seen time and time again. Whether it's a choke hold caught on camera, or a mentally ill man being shot in Los Angeles, a grandmother being punched on the side of the highway like some MMA fighter, or the woman dragged naked from her home in Brooklyn when cops showed up to the wrong door, 'protect and serve' has never seemed to mean so little.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Union Square Protest

This young actress speaks from her heart with this passionate speech at the Mike Brown Rally last Thursday in Union Square.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

When There's No More to Tell: The End of NPR's Tell Me More

This one hurts me a lot. Tell Me More, a radio show hosted by Michel Martin and broadcast on NPR, had its mic permanently turned off last Friday, August 1st.

Tell Me More was unique in that not only was it a show that centered around the stories and experiences of people of color, but it was hosted by a black woman. Because of this, the show was more keen on topics of particular interests to people that are often ignored or forgotten about by mainstream audiences. Sadly, this unique outlet was lost to something all too common within the radio industry these days: budget cuts.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Real Classy Tribute to Derek Jeter

What I love about this ad is that there is no dialogue, no grand special effects or grand proclamations. We see one of New York's most revered athletes shown getting respect from a host of people (even opposing players) for all that he has achieved over the years. The fact that the gratitude is expressed by the simplest of gestures -- a hat-tip -- makes this ad all the more rewarding.

Well done, Nike.

Monday, August 4, 2014

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong: The N.W.A. Casting Controversy

A few weeks ago it got real heated real fast when the casting call sheet for the upcoming N.W.A. film became public. People were mad. I'm sure calls were made. Hell, the original casting notice was even taken down. But was it really as shocking as it was made out to be?

Here was the original casting notice:

SAG OR NON UNION CASTING NOTICE FOR FEMALES-ALL ETHNICITIES- from the late 80's. Shoots on "Straight Outta Compton". Shoot date TBD. We are pulling photos for the director of featured extras. VERY IMPORTANT – You MUST live in the Los Angeles area (Orange County is fine too) to work on this show. DO NOT SUBMIT if you live out of the area. Nobody is going to be flying into LA to do extra work on this show - and don't tell me you are willing to fly in.
A GIRLS: These are the hottest of the hottest. Models. MUST have real hair - no extensions, very classy looking, great bodies. You can be black, white, asian, hispanic, mid eastern, or mixed race too. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: A GIRLS
B GIRLS: These are fine girls, long natural hair, really nice bodies. Small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned. Beyonce is a prototype here. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: B GIRLS
C GIRLS: These are African American girls, medium to light skinned with a weave. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: C GIRLS
D GIRLS: These are African American girls. Poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin tone. Character types. Age 18-30. Please email a current color photo, your name, Union status, height/weight, age, city in which you live and phone number to: subject line should read: D GIRLS

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Keeping Kids Out of Hot Cars

Considering the recent high profile deaths of kids in cars, the video this father does is worth checking out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Changing Face of Corporate Commercials

Last month during the NBA Finals, I happened to view two commercials back-to-back that featured quite the stark views of black folks in their ads. The first ad is from Verizon.

I was honestly a little surprised when I saw this. A commercial full of black folks in an ad for a phone company of all things? This was indeed different. Below is the commercial that came up immediately following the Verizon ad.

Maybe it's me, but dude seems awfully happy to be in the kitchen making some chicken. I'm just saying.

I look at these ads and on one hand while I'm happy to see a a prime-time commercial featuring black folks as the primary characters, I'm still dismayed that in 2014 we got brothers talking bout "it saddens their heart that some people will never know the pleasure of tasting chicken that's hand breaded twice." Really though?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Learning With Others: The Importance of Blogging While Brown

A few weeks ago I was in Harlem attending the Blogging While Brown conference for the first time and learned quite a bit. The most striking being that so many people are no longer waiting on "traditional media" to tell their stories, but instead, are using new platforms to tell their own.

Telling stories and differing perspectives have been going on for as long as humans have been able to communicate. With the ever evolving landscape of technology, blogs have been at the forefront for enabling communities (particularly those of color) that have either been ignored or forgotten about by mainstream society, to make sure their voices/brands are noticed. It is because of this, that I felt compelled to attend Blogging While Brown.

It truly was a great experience. I was fortunate enough to meet a number of bloggers who are writing about everything from hair care, to health and fitness, to career services, and media. It certainly was inspiring to see so many other bloggers of color who were making their stories and voices known throughout this space we here call the internet.

Fostering relationships in any profession is key, especially among bloggers. I myself made a few connections with people and the conference overall made me think about just what I want for FilmSwag and ways to continue to grow. I certainly would recommend the conference for bloggers of color and hope to attend next year as well. For more info, you can check out the website here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

To Be Articulate

Powerful poem by Jamila Lyiscott on language, race and conext.

Happy Independence Day Weekend Folks

Here's the trailer for the 1996 movie "Independence Day" that launched Will Smith as a bankable Hollywood star.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Thriller - Michael Jackson (1982)

This is to me, without question, the greatest music video of all time. Can't believe it's already been 5 years. R.I.P. Mike.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

When Love Defeated Virginia

1964 is often seen as a watershed mark in American history. It was the year of the Freedom Summer. It also marked the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which ultimately was the sledgehammer that crumbled the wall of legalized segregation. But it was a case three years following the Civil Rights Act that literally tugged at America's heartstrings.

The case was known as Loving v. Virginia. It centered around an interracial couple made up of Richard Loving (who was a white male) and his wife, Mildred Loving (who was of African American and Native American descent). Under the laws in Virginia at the time, their union violated miscegenation laws that prohibited marriage between whites and blacks. As a matter of fact, when the Lovings were married, their wedding was in a D.C. church, since their union was deemed illegal in their home state of Virginia.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Remembering Ruby Dee

Last week, the world lost not just an actress, but an activist, pioneer and a woman who had left a legacy spanning 50+ years across the arts. Her name, was Ruby Dee.

Ruby Dee began her acting career not on the screen, but the stage. In 1959 she appeared in the play, "A Raisin In The Sun," opposite a young Sidney Poitier. She and Poitier would reprise their roles two years later for the film version of the play.

At the time of her death, Ruby Dee had more than 100 film credits to her name. It wasn't just her passion for acting that she was known for, but also speaking out for civil rights, especially as it related to people of color in America. This culminated in her reading a poem at the 1963 March On Washington.

Ruby Dee was also known for her marriage to fellow actor, Ossie Davis. The two appeared together in Spike Lee's 1989 film, "Do The Right Thing." R.I.P. Ruby Dee.

Will Smith - Just The Two Of Us (1997)

Happy Father's Day everyone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

20 Years Later Shawshank is Still Cashing In

20 years in, "The Shawshank Redemption" isn't just a great film, but one of the few that still generates generous returns for all involved.

I saw this article on MSN detailing just how 'Shawshank' continues to make money and how some of the actors still get recognized for their roles all these years later.

The article goes on to explain how a film like "Shawshank" is a goldmine for film libraries who license movies to television networks. "Shawshank" might be viewed as the rising tide that lifts all boats when it's packaged with other less desirable films, but yet can still bring back a decent return for the studio. The film has made more than $100 million since its 1994 theatrical release.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Return of Reading Rainbow?

After an eight year hiatus, "Reading Rainbow" appears to be returning.

LeVar Burton was determined to bring the show back and he went to the site Kickstarter to help raise the necessary funds for production. Burton and his crew sought to raise a cool $1 million and did so -- in just 11 hours.

"Reading Rainbow" premiered in 1983 and used the medium of television to stress to children the importance of reading. The show didn't just portray reading as some bland activity only to be done in relation to school work, but also emphasized the power of imagination and just how much one could ascertain from reading consistently.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Remembering Maya Angelou


She was a poet, an author, a dancer, a newspaper editor, a college professor and an American icon. Maya Angelou passed away last week and she leaves us as one of the most accomplished writers and titans of literature of her time.

Her book, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, was an autobiographical feature that touched the heart of millions. In addition to her literary works, Maya Angelou also left behind a film legacy. According to her biography website, she appeared in Alex Haley's "Roots" in 1977 and John Singleton's "Poetic Justice" in 1993. She directed her first feature film "Down In The Delta" in 1996. Dr. Angelou will certainly be missed.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Trailer for James Brown Bio Pic "Get On Up"

This will be in theaters August 1st and stars Chadwick Boseman who played Jackie Robinson in 2013's "42."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Simple Justice 60 Years Later

In a unanimous decision on May 17th, 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was illegal. With that one ruling, the walls of segregation in America began to crack, and about 10 years later, crumble.

Brown v. Board launched the career of Thurgood Marshall and for the first time ever made it a requirement that minority students have access to the same books and facilities as white students. You better believe there was resistance. There were threats against black students who went on to integrate Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas, and those students became known as the Little Rock Nine. In 1960 there was the story of a 6-year-old girl who was subject to vicious taunts and threats from adults while being the only student in the classroom for nearly a year as she desegregated the New Orleans school district. Her name, was Ruby Bridges.

These days schools are still very much segregated here in the United States. A recent study just came out that said New York City has the most segregated public school system in the country. 60 years later, there is still work to be done.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Looking Back at Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter

Boxer and activist Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter passed away last month, and thanks to a memorable film, his story will continue to live on.

Carter spent his formative years being raised in Paterson, New Jersey, and getting into his fair share of trouble. He was an up and coming boxer whose life took a turn for the worst when he along with his friend John Artis, were charged with three murders both denied they committed. Both were found guilty. Carter would serve 19 years in prison before being freed in 1985.

14 years later, Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter's story gained new-found recognition with the release of the film "The Hurricane." Carter was portrayed brilliantly by Denzel Washington. Here's the trailer below.

Denzel Washington on Influence

The real story, the universal story, is that we all stand on a pair of shoulders. We are, all of us, the sum of our influences. We've all been taken by the hand and led to a better, more purposeful place.

                                                                         - Denzel Washington, A Hand To Guide Me, 2006

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Crazy Eyes

Watch Eddie Griffin in 'The New Guy' teach DJ Qualls the skill of Crazy Eyes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Remembering Rwanda 20 Years Later

There are some things in life that no matter how much time passes, they simply cannot be forgotten for the pain is still too much to bear. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide is one of those things.

What began in April 1994, 20 years later still seems inconceivable. More than 800,000 men, women, and children were killed in a period lasting about 100 days. The stories are almost as unbelievable as the numbers. Husbands murdered their wives. Former co-workers attacking each other. Hundreds of people barricaded themselves in a church hoping and praying the militia would not be able to break through. Sadly, they were wrong. People recall entrusting their neighbors to look after their families, only to find out some of the very people they trusted to watch over their loved ones were responsible for their deaths.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Can't Forget New Jersey

Two years ago today, in a packed Prudential Center in downtown Newark, the Nets said goodbye to New Jersey.

The New Jersey Nets played 35 years in the Garden State, in three different arenas, and to mostly sleepy crowds and little back page exposure. They had more losing seasons than winning ones and always seemed to fall off just as things were looking up. Being a Nets fan during the New Jersey years was often times anything but fruitful.

Drazen Petrovic
This was the franchise that went from winning the ABA championship with Dr. J as the league's most marketable star, to entering the NBA a year later with no Dr. and playing at Rutgers' athletic facility while their stadium was being built. There would be more bad news over the years: bad draft picks, washouts, trade demands, guys who didn't care and the way too early death of Drazen Petrovic.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Using Art to Put A Dent in Street Harassment

"Hey ma, just come over here right quick."

"Hello sweetie you got a sec?"

"Dem clothes look real good on you. You got a man?"

These are just some of the things said to women on street corners across America every single day. Many women might continue walking and ignore the verbal slings, but artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh decided to take a different path.

The Brooklyn resident, who herself has admitted to being street harassed, speaks to various women about their experiences with street harassment, and with their approval, draws their portraits and puts their faces up in differing locations as a way to bring attention to the issue. I think Tatyana's project emphasizes that these taunts are going after women who possess feelings and emotions just like everyone else. And through this project, they're not only making their voices heard, but sending a message.

Stop Telling Women To Smile from Dean Peterson on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Nas - The World is Yours (1994)

"The World Is Yours" is a single off of rapper Nas' 'Illmatic' album that was released on April 19th, 1994. Considered one of the finest hip-hop debut albums of its time, 'Illmatic' is still a gem 20 years later. Nas recently released a documentary about the making and story behind 'Illmatic' which premiered at the Tribecca Film Festival this week. Whose world is this?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Happy Jackie Robinson Day

On this day 67 years ago, Jackie Robinson made his major league debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers and ushered in a watershed moment in American history. As the first black men to play in the big leagues, Jackie Robinson experienced insults and a racial animosity that no American athlete before -- or since-- has gone through. Today Major League Baseball commemorated the man who carried a burden in which we all rest upon.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

I would have loved to been there to hear this conversation.

At a time when the debate over using offensive Native American caricatures is raging around teams like the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, we don't often hear from Native Americans themselves on these issues in a national context. Which brings me to the image above.

I saw this photo a few weeks back on Twitter and found it interesting for a number of reasons. For starters, hear is this white guy clearly with red coloring on his face and a shirt that says, 'Fear the Chief.' He is confronted by a Native American man who looks none to happy with the man's caricature of his people. And lastly, this being 2014, there is a crowd of people in the background capturing this on their cell phones. Thoughts?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Sit Down With Cube

A few months back Grantland's Jalen Rose sat down with Ice Cube and talked to him about his films, legacy, and what's in store next for the the former L.A. kid.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Eric Maynor Beats Duke

Late March is the time of college basketball's annual March Madness, as the country becomes enthralled with upsets and bracket busters. In 2007 upstart VCU upended Duke in a classic game where Eric Maynor hit the deciding basket. Take a look below.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sarah Jones Will Not Be Forgotten

Every year the Oscars host their In Memoriam section which showcases a montage of all the people within the film industry who've passed within the last year. Though she wasn't featured in that section, the fact that The Academy did not forget about Sarah Jones is a testament to the many people who made sure it was important that she was remembered.

Sarah Jones was a 27-year-old second camera assistant who was killed by an oncoming train while filming on the tracks for a movie entitled "Midnight Rider." Several other crew members were injured but she was the only fatality. Questions were raised as to whether producers of the film had the necessary permits to even be filming on the tracks. Considering what happened, I highly doubt it.

Sarah Jones' death brings up a complex issue of crew safety on set and wanting to prove yourself in the film industry. As a person starting out in the film industry, you are eager to prove yourself, even many times at the cost of your own safety, with the belief that your team would never put you in any immediate danger. Unfortunately for Sarah, her producers were more worried about shooting a scene (while ignoring the necessary rules and regulations in the process) than ensuring the safety of the crew. Now they have to explain to her family why their daughter is gone.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spreading Awareness at Harvard

Earlier this month I came across a project at Harvard University called the "I, Too, Am Harvard," campaign. Using a series of photos, each participant holds up a whiteboard with some message detailing a particular phrase or question they've been asked as a student of color at Harvard. The people involved make it known just how much ignorance they routinely deal with in school from their peers. This project really is bringing awareness to what many students at Harvard (and I'm sure at other predominately white institutions) have had to put up with on a consistent basis. The project has been so successful that students of color at Oxford University have made a similar montage of messages as well. Take a look below.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Terry Crews on Giving It Your All

"You've gotta go. And when it's time to go, go. And I took that whole thing into entertainment, where you don't know when your next opportunity is going to come. You can't say I'm gonna be here forever. Because there are guys who've said that. And they're not here anymore. You just gotta go. When you get your shot, you give it everything you have."

                                                                   - Terry Crews

From FastCompany

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Where Does Lupita Go From Here?

"No matter where you're from, your dreams are valid."

On Sunday night my Twitter timeline was flooded with positive emotions and well wishing on behalf of Lupita Nyong'o who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Patsey in "12 Years A Slave." It wasn't the only award "12 Years" would win on the night however, as the film also won for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Lupita has come a long way in just a few short months. If you had asked anyone just last summer about who Lupita Nyong'o was, most people would probably give you a quizzical response. But then "12 Years A Slave" began premiering -- and winning -- at various film festivals picking up momentum into its eventual theatrical release in October. The film's director, Steve McQueen, and star, Chiwetel Ejiofor, weren't exactly household names prior to "12 Years A Slave," but they had worked on other projects in the past. "12 Years A Slave" introduced Lupita Nyong'o to world and the Oscars were just the crescendo to her months long coming out party.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Friday, February 21, 2014

When Shirley Temple Met Bojangles

from the

America lost perhaps its most famous child star in cinematic history when Shirley Temple Black passed away last week. Shirley Temple rose to fame in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression and entertained audiences with her charm and smile. But it was her relationship with Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson that was unique to not only Hollywood, but America at that time as well.

Bill Robinson, better known by his stage name of 'Bojangles,' was a well known tap dancer in the early 20th Century. He played before white and black audiences alike, while making a living literally on his feet. When he first began working with Shirley Temple, 'Bojangles' was already in his 50s and had been a legendary tap dancer at that point. The pairing between 'Bojangles' and Shirley Temple would not be without its critics however.

Though 'Bojangles' and Shirley Temple shined well together on the big screen, their roles were anything but equal. 'Bojangles' -- true to the form of how Hollywood viewed blacks at the time -- often got stuck playing Shirley Temple's butler. His singing and dancing may invoke some unkind parallels to the stereotypical roles another famous black actor at the time, Stepin' Fetchit, had to play, but it's worth remembering that these guys were at least getting work. In 2001, Gregory Hines would go on to portray 'Bojangles' in a movie by the same name. Below is the famous stairwell dance scene between Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson and Shirley Temple.  R.I.P. to both.

Friday, February 14, 2014

One Man Goes The Distance To Prove His Love

This being Valentine's Day, here's a video that shows one man's dedication to his woman. Donald is very much in love with Taewoo, and is set on walking across a bed of hot coals to prove just how much he loves her. The clip is from the South African TV show All You Need Is Love.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm Not Laurence Fishburne! I'm The Other Black Guy. Sam Jackson Makes Sure Local TV Reporter Knows Who He Is

In a hilarious interview where a local KTLA reporter mistakes Samuel L. Jackson for Laurence Fishburne, Sam Jackson makes sure to set the man straight.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

James Earl Jones On Overcoming Obstacles

"I feel no flattery when people speak of my voice. I'm simply grateful that I found a way to work around my impairment. Once a stutterer, always a stutterer. If I get any credit for the way I sound, I accept it in the name of those of us who are impaired."

                                                                                     - James Earl Jones, 1993


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Remembering Komla Dumor

It's not often that the passing of a journalist elicits mourning among people across two continents, but the reaction to Komla Dumor's death speaks to the impact he had not just in the news industry, but on the people he covered as well.


Komla Dumor passed away last month due to a heart attack. At the time of his death he had been the Africa business reporter for BBC Television in London, where he had worked since moving from Ghana in 2006. It was in Ghana that Komla won the 2003 Journalist of the Year Award.

Vanity Fair's Hollywood Cover

Courtesy: Vanity Fair & US Magazine

Saturday, February 1, 2014

She's Back! Little Girl in Cheerios Ad Returns for Super Bowl

Cheerios is back with an ad that follows up the controversial commercial released last year that featured an interracial family. I wrote about the controversy last year. This ad features the same actors and gives a subtle nudge to the critics. The simplest stories can have the most powerful messages. Bravo, General Mills.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Richard's Rant Heard Roun' The World

Richard Sherman sure was hyped following the NFC Championship Game last weekend. The post rant fallout hasn't been nearly as fun however.

In the last couple of years the loquacious cornerback, Sherman, has gained a bit of a reputation for getting in to people's faces and not being afraid to make a point. He did it to Tom Brady. He did it to offensive tackle Trent Williams and received a parting shot by way of a right hook. Neither of these two previous episodes received the attention of Sherman's latest post game faux pas.

Here's the video for those who might have missed it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

When A Role Overtakes an Actor

If anyone ever wondered whether certain roles can wear on an actor, they can look no further than this clip featuring actor Michael K. Williams.

In a recent appearance on the Arsenio Hall Show, Williams, who had a small part in the film "12 Years A Slave," speaks on a particularly emotional scene that was not shown in theaters. In it, Williams describes being dragged on a slave ship, and after reenacting the painful event a few times, how he breaks down screaming and crying. Take a look.

I witnessed a similar event while on a film set a few years ago.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Remembering Juanita Moore

Photo by the AP
In 1960 Juanita Moore would become only the third African American to earn an Academy Award nomination. That would be the highlight of her career.

Juanita Moore was born in Mississippi in 1914 and passed away on January 1st of this year. She worked her way up from nightclub dancer, to background actress, to earning an Academy Award nomination for her role in the 1959 film "Imitation of Life."

Following the nomination, work was not necessarily any easier to come by. Moore remarked that she actually got more jobs before the Oscar nomination because now casting directors couldn't see her taking on any more maid/servant roles. It was an uncomfortable plight similar to what Dorothy Dandridge experienced.

In the years after her Oscar nod, Juanita Moore would continue to work in television and on Broadway. She was 99-years-old.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Harry Belafonte on Race & Cinema

This is from a speech made by the legendary artist Harry Belafonte at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards last week.

"... The power of cinema is an uncontainable thing and it's truly remarkable, in its capacity for emotional evolution. When I was first watching the world of cinema, there was a film that stunned the world, with all its aspects and art form. They did a lot, at that time. The film was done by D.W. Griffith, and it was called The Birth of a Nation, and it talked about America's story, its identity, and its place in the universe of nations. And that film depicted the struggles of this country with passion and power and great human abuse. Its depiction of black people was carried with great cruelty. And the power of cinema styled this nation, after the release of the film, to riot and to pillage and to burn and to murder black citizens. The power of film.
At the age of five, in 1932, I had the great thrill of going to the cinema. It was a great relief for those of us who were born into poverty, a way we tried to get away from the misery. One of the films they made for us, the first film I saw, was Tarzan of the Apes. [Ed note: The movie is called Tarzan the Ape Man.] In that film, [we] looked to see the human beauty of Johnny Weissmuller swinging through the trees, jump off, and there spring to life, while the rest were depicted as grossly subhuman, who were ignorant, who did not know their way around the elements, living in forests with wild animals. Not until Johnny Weissmuller stepped into a scene did we know who we were, according to cinema.
Throughout the rest of my life ... on my birth certificate, it said "colored." Not long after that, I became "Negro." Not too long after that, I became "black." Most recently, I am now "African-American." I spent the better part of almost a century just in search of, seeking, "Who am I? What am I? What am I to be called? What do I say? Who do I appeal to? Who should I be cautious of?" In this life, when we walk into the world of cinema, we use the instrument that is our ability to try to give another impression of who and what we were as a people, and what we meant to this great nation called America. I'm glad that Sidney Poitier should step into this space right after the Second World War, and new images of what we are as people, certainly as men.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Happy Birthday Zora Neale Hurston

I first heard about Zora Neale Hurston while taking an African American literature class back in college, and since that time have grown only more enamored with her work. Hurston was born in 1891 and spent much of her early years living in Eatonville, Florida, before departing for New York where she would become one of the more well known figures of the Harlem Renaissance Movement. Below is a short video biography of Hurston and an audio clip of Hurston's life narrated by Vanessa Williams.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Solomon Northup's Descendants Speak On His Legacy

By now, most people have probably heard of Solomon Northup due to the release of the film "12 Years A Slave" last October. Well, on January 3, 1853, Solomon gained his freedom. Now more then 160 years later, we get to see Solomon's diverse descendants speak on their very famous relative.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Remembering James Avery

James Avery, the actor best known for his role as 'Uncle Phil' in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, passed away on New Years Eve. He was 68-years-old.

Mr. Avery had been an actor for some time before The Fresh Prince, but it was in the role of 'Uncle Phil' that he became known throughout living rooms across America. Below is one of his more memorable scenes with Will Smith. R.I.P James Avery.