Posted in On the Desk...

On the Desk…

“Thank you Ms. Cicely Tyson!!”

With the recent passing of the legendary Cicely Tyson on January 28th, I remember the moment I got the news…my heart stopped and for several moments I lost all breath in my body. I did not want to believe that Earth had lost a legend, and the ancestors gained a new angel!

Television and film will never be the same without Ms. Tyson!! Her mark on Hollywood is unforgettable. She not only entertained but educated. Ms. Tyson’s resume is so vast and diverse, she could embody any role and nail it, all while achieving numerous accolades! I can vividly remember watching her in Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder, Roots (1977), Own Network’s Cherish the Day, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), The Proud Family, Idlewild (2006), Netflix series House of Cards and so so so much more! With each role she left an indelible imprint.

Considering she never had a dull moment, it warmed my heart to know that she received her flowers while she was still alive. So often the awards, honorary moments, medals and come after an icon passes, but in the case of Ms. Tyson she got to see it, live it and enjoy it!!

Coming from humble beginnings, Ms. Tyson blazed a trail and did not stop until her last breath (almost literally). At 96 years young, to me, Ms. Tyson was immortal!! Her beauty, her voice, those striking eyes, her style…she was simply flawless!!

As we continue to celebrate Ms. Tyson’s life and legacy, I look forward to learning more about her in her own words as I read her 2021 memoir, “Just As I Am”.

So yes Ms. Tyson “you’ve done your best” and some….and for that I say Thank You!!

~Dr. G

Posted in A Professor's Thoughts...

A Professor’s Thoughts…

“First Week of Class…”

So I just finished my first week of class for the Spring 2021 semester here at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, and let me just say I am looking forward to an exciting semester!

This semester I get the pleasure of teaching one of my favorite classes, Black Sites and Sights: Blackness in Popular Culture. I have taught this course on multiple occasions and every semester it’s like uncovering a new treasure. The students always bring a ton of energy and not only do they learn things, push their thinking, and transform their thoughts; but, I also am able to reap some rewards.

One of things that I do to start out the semester is have the students complete a “Course Survey”. Included in this survey is a list of questions which include their top films/movies, favorite songs and artists, and one topic they would like to discuss this semester. As it relates to the songs and artists, I typically create a Course Playlist on Spotify. And let me tell you that compiling that playlist is like getting a new lesson in music. Now some of the artists I am familiar with not necessarily a fan of, some are even on one of my own personal playlists (i.e. Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Mary J. Blige, SZA, Jazmine Sullivan, J. Cole, D’Angelo, The Internet, and more) and then there are others who I am not as familiar with (i.e. Joji, M-83, Earthgang, Koi Childs, among others). Every semester that I teach this course I learn new artists and/or songs, and realize that my taste in music always adds a new flavor. Creating this playlist offers me an opportunity to look through my student’s eyes and ears, while at the same time understand what they vibe to through their AirPods.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

That’s just the beginning, because once the class really gets going the fireworks really go off. Once I gather the student’s preliminary information, then we dive in and start with the theorization of popular culture and its relationship to Blackness. This first week we covered everything from Audre Lorde’s “The Master’s Tools Cannot Dismantle the Master’s House,” bell hooks-“Loving Blackness as Political Resistance”, Stuart Hall’s-“What is This ‘Black’ in Black Popular Culture?”, and Angela Nelson’s-“The Repertoire of Black Popular Culture”. To no surprise my student’s were all in!! This was a good sign and great start to the semester!

Needless to say, this semester much like my personal and professional journey is a ride I am excited to be on! I very much look forward to what is ahead, and I am sure you will hear more stories as the semester progresses, so stay tuned!

Cheers to a new semester!!

~Dr. G

Posted in Conversations with Beloved & Kindred

Conversations with Beloved & Kindred-Episode 2

As always you know I got you covered if you missed last night’s episode of “Conversations with Beloved and Kindred” check it out below:

Our second conversation discusses the Netflix film See You Yesterday!! This episode tackled everything from representation within the diaspora, high school science fairs, time travel, the importance of family, and so much more!!

Next month, we will continue our conversation and discussion of the Lovecraft Country series with Episode 3: “Holy Ghost” and Episode 4: “A History of Violence” !! And trust me you do not want to miss it!!

Posted in On The Radar

On The Radar-New Trailer Drop

Inspired by Colson Whiteheads’s 2016 novel, “The Underground Railroad” has been adapted into a live action television series by writer/director/showrunner Barry Jenkins for Amazon Prime Video. As noted by Jenkins,

“It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way. Preserving the sweep and grandeur of a story like this requires bold, innovative thinking, and in Amazon, we’ve found a partner whose reverence for storytelling and freeness of form is wholly in line with our vision.”

So I remember hearing about this film back in Summer 2020, and I was very much intrigued. Ever since the WGN series Underground was not renewed, I always hoped that the story of the Underground Railroad would get picked up and/or given another platform for it to be highlighted. There have been various showings about this amazing movement in a few mainstream and independent (Underground Railroad: The William Still Story [2012]; Race to Freedom: The Underground Railroad [1994]; Harriet [2019]; The North Star [2016]; Woman called Moses [1978]; Freedom [2014]). So it very refreshing to see a modern, compelling take on this early to mid-19th century network of secret routes and safe houses.

Check out the trailers below that help set-up the series!

“In Aeternum”

Now what you will find captivating about “In Aeternum” is that it plays in reverse. According to Jenkins (via Twitter), “They say history is written by the victors, so… let’s run it back” (for a more detailed response see here).  

“Randall. Cora Randall”
“Speak upon the ashes”
“Preamble”

The Underground Railroad is set to stream later this year!!

**Sidenote: Let me also say Amazon Prime Video has been on a roll with their original television shows and movies….Sylvie’s Love [2020], One Night in a Miami [2020], The Wilds [2020], Flack [2021], Bosch [2015], The Boys [2019], just to name a few!

Posted in On The Radar

On The Radar

A Mess(Age) In A Bottle…Supporting a Fellow Sista!!

Soooo I’m in my local Target (one of many lol) getting my annual #BlackHistoryMonthGear at Target and what do I see as soon as I walk in… Mess In A Bottle !! I’ve been following this sista, Kalilah Wright, on her blog and Instagram since the beginning!! Just super excited about this brand and even more siked to see it in a store like Target. And I appreciate the fact that we are seeing more #BlackOwnedBusinesses in accessible places. I just think about my mom and some of her friends who may not necessarily shop online, but will be in a Target in a heartbeat!! Just having a place where you can drive or take the bus and grab a few items is truly ideal!

Plus, I am all about supporting fashion movements especially when there is a powerful message!

And I cannot forget that the inventory was perfectly placed, you will not miss it…Trust Me!!…Great store placement!!

And I cannot forget that the inventory was perfectly placed, you will not miss it…Trust Me!!…Great store placement!!

Look forward to spending more coins on #MessInABottle and following her success!!

~Dr. G

Posted in On The Radar

On The Radar

A Celebration of Black Joy and Black Life…”A Beautiful Resistance”!!

Illustration by Paula Champagne (paulachampagne.com)

As we usher in a new administration and a new year, for Black folks in particular, it is important that we celebrate the wins, begin to heal from past traumas, acknowledge and fight the injustices but also not let them define us. As someone who teaches and engages with what is going on in society and the world (historically and culturally), it is important that we magnify our truths and avoid being pushed to the margins. A Beautiful Resistance does just that in a way that allows Black people and other people of color to tell their stories via a popular social media vehicle…Instagram!

Launched in November 2020, A Beautiful Resistance is a digital episodic series sponsored by The Boston Globe and led by cultural columnist Jeneé Osterheldt. Described as a series that “amplifies the truths of Black folk and other people of color living as their fullest selves in a region, in a country, set up to keep them from doing just that. Their joy is a form of resistance.”

We are more than police brutality and suffering. We can acknowledge injustice without being defined that way. Blackness is not a burden. Here, we tell our stories and our struggles, too, through the lens of love. We amplify the truths of Black folk and other people of color living as their fullest selves in a region, in a country, set up to keep them from doing just that. Their joy is a form of resistance. 

Watching many of these episodes is actually very encouraging and therapeutic! To watch the various stories being told, achievements recognized, and gain exposure to numerous Black creatives is quite timely and much needed.

To take a brief look at some of folks who are highlighted check out the trailer below:

When it is all said and done how do you use joy as resistance?

~Dr. G

Posted in On the Desk...

One the Desk

To Be Young Gifted and Black: Finding Black Excellence in “The Hill We Climb”

Sweet Baby Jesus!! Today (and yesterday) we witnessed #BlackExcellence and #Herstory in multiple ways, from the swearing in of Madame Vice President Kamala V. Harris, to the inspiring benediction by Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman, to the full display of Black fashion (Pyer Moss, Christopher John Rogers, Sergio Hudson), to the powerful and poignant National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman !! My cup runneth over and I was filled with pure joy and happiness.

However, one moment in particular that stood out for me was witnessing 22-year old Amanda Gorman recite her poem The Hill We Climb on the Capitol steps this morning! Gorman’s poem was more than just words on a paper, but a call to the past, a moment to reflect, a call to action, and a space to inspire. Glowing and shining like the North Star, Gorman stunned audiences with her long yellow coat and crisp white shirt, with a ruby red headband atop her braids … listening to her reminded me of watching Maya Angelou share her poem On the Pulse of Morning at President Bill Clinton’s 1992 inauguration.

Now we assert: How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

Gorman’s words, poise, and presentation inspired me as a fellow Black woman and it is my hope and prayer that her action and representation inspires not only young girls, but women of all ages to make their voices heard!

National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman delivering her poem “The Hill We Climb”
during the Biden-Harris Inauguration on January 20th, 2021

Everything about this occasion reads dignified, graceful, and refreshing! She had such a natural flow…literally and physically! Gorman’s eloquent moment in so many ways channeled the legacies of Shirley Chisholm, Maya Angelou, Ella Baker, Toni Morrison, and Fannie Lou Hamer!! The foundations they established laid the groundwork for a young Black woman like Amanda Gorman. Ahhhh they would be so proud! The acknowledgement of this moment is essential and should not be forgotten, if anything we should continue to see more moments like this one!

Let me tell you the ancestors are truly smiling today!!

For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it, If only we’re brave enough to be it.

To see the full video and transcript, please see here!

~Dr. G.

Posted in On The Radar

On The Radar

The one great thing about scrolling through my Apple News app on my phone is finding jewels and nuggets regarding exciting new projects that showcase voices often not heard. And today was one of the many days where I scrolled up on an upcoming collaborative multi-faceted art project When We Gather.

When We Gather is a 3-minute art film meant to inspire, celebrate, and reflect on the momentous occasion of celebrating the history making inauguration of the first African American and South Asian Vice President Kamala Harris. Directed by Codie Elaine Oliver (Black Love-OWN Network) with performances by acclaimed artists María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Okwui Okpokwasili, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Dell Marie Hamilton, Jana Harper, Lisa E. Harris and Samita Sinha.

Envisioned by Campos-Pons, she notes, “When We Gather offers an empowering moment to heal and unite the country through creative energy.” As she brought the artists together, their performance provides something of an awakening. “The circle shows us how we can remain connected even while we are separated due to this pandemic or due to the state of the nation. All of these factors have informed the collaborative choreography and spoken word of this global collective experience.”

Narrated by award-winning actress Alfre Woodard, the film highlights literary and choreographed dance movements from various backgrounds and traditions as it pays homage to Black women heroines. Now as a result of the pandemic, the performances were woven together from three different cities/locations (Brooklyn, Nashville, and Houston).

Before it launches on January 27th (7 pm/ET), starting today viewers can check out the interactive platform When We Gather, which shares behind-the-scenes stories of Black women heroines from the past, present, and future.

After hearing Vice President Kamala Harris, during her nomination acceptance, call forth the memory of her mother Shyamala Gopalan Harris, while also invoking a moment that acknowledges generations of all women creates a moment of unity and empowerment!! In essence, magic in the making!! When We Gather accepts the call from Harris to celebrate all “mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, girls; cis and trans and serves as a “collective answer to her invitation.”

Streaming of the film will be available free until February 15th, 2021.

Such a shining a moment that I look forward to watching!!

~Dr. G.

Women represented in the “When We Gather” film-Photo by Tommy Oliver

Posted in A Professor's Thoughts...

A Professor’s Thoughts

Remembering “A Day On Not a Day Off”…

A little over 22 years ago, I remember giving an acceptance speech for receiving one of the Annual MLK Jr. “Living the Dream” Scholarships in my hometown of Champaign, IL. This was award given to senior high school students within Champaign County who were nominated by local teachers, pastors, and/or community leaders. I remember getting the news that I was selected and was filled joy and pride! Receiving this award was significant and carried a tremendous honor. In addition to receiving the honor, each recipient received a copy of the 1991 book “A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.” and was given the task of preparing a mini acceptance speech that spoke to the theme of Dr. King’s “Living the Dream”. Preparing this speech was not necessarily the easiest thing to do, as I wanted to make sure I did justice to Dr. King’s memory. But, when I sat down to write it out I just told myself be honest with your words and speak from the mind and heart. And as I would recite my words, there would be a plethora of thoughts and emotions running through my mind. A few thoughts included, “wow this is such an exciting honor,” … “even though I am young, I know I can bring about change,” … “I too have a dream,” … “this is just the beginning,” … At 17-years old and college-bound my journey was already shifting into gear!!

So as I reflect on another year and another MLK Birthday Celebration, I think back to all the many moments in which I have given my time and service to making sure this day was not simply just a day off from school or work. For pretty much all my life, I participated in some sort of service activity, panel discussion, workshop, or attended a special event. It just came natural that on the third Monday in January I would be doing my part to keep the dream and legacy of Dr. King alive and well! Nowadays, I make sure to keep that tradition going not just on the one day in January, but throughout the year. As a professor, regardless of the course I teach Dr. King’s memory is discussed. Whether it’s his “I Have a Dream” speech, or “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon, his interesting comparison and relationship with Malcolm X, his contributions to the civil rights movement, or the fact that there is a street (gotta factor in the specific neighborhood) named after him in just about every state in the United States. I will be honest ever since I first learned about him in my pre-K class, I make it my business to gain a new piece of knowledge about Dr. King. He was more than just the “I Have a Dream” speech guy…He was flawed, courageous, charismatic, bold, and simply a human being! At such a young age he was already engulfed in the movement! Knowing that he was the same age I am today (39) when his life was taken, reminds me of all the work he did and would have continued to do!! Which means while there is still breath and life in my body, I still have time and will continue to do my part to make an impact!

“The time is always right to do what is right.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When it is all said and done, it will be forever be ingrained that this holiday is not just simply a day off, but a day on to reflect, take action, and do something great!!

~Dr. G.