On Wednesday night after watching American Horror Story: Freak Show, I tuned in to watch the latest of TV One’s Hollywood Divas episode, “Five Black Witches.” One of the opening scenes is the de facto leader of the group, Paula Jai Parker, presenting to producer Carl Craig the idea agreed upon in previous episode for a supernatural film about five black sisters who are witches who each would have their own special powers.
Parker acknowledged that there is no film she was familiar with that deals with the supernatural through the experience of the black community, although it can be argued that several exist (Beloved? Sankofa? Several independent films?), but Craig’s immediate reaction was an obvious aversion to the concept. He looked as if he was wondering what the hell Parker just give him. Although he did say this was cutting edge material, he felt that black audiences would have a difficult time embracing this type of story, that they will look at it as “demonic” (here we go).
Nappy Nation Media presents Ase, an African historical fantasy short film and TV series concept. Shot on location in Nigeria, it is “set in the ancient West African kingdom of Oyo, and is about three ordinary teens on a seemingly ordinary day who have a not-so-ordinary supernatural encounter with a dark and evil spirit known as Elemoso.
This short film is a brief introduction to the concept for a one-hour epic television series we are developing based on the same setting and primary characters. Artists from all over Nigeria and America united to bring this story to life, in celebration of the beauty, complexity, and history of African people.”
Take a look at the behind the scenes interview:
While watching the past two episodes of the spoken word series, Verses and Flow, on TV One, two poets stood out to me, Verb and Reggie Eldridge.
Verb spoke a critique of our current dependency on hi-tech technology and it reminded me of Louis C.K. rant on smartphones. It does make you think about how technology affects our thinking and affects us socially. Is it the technology’s fault or is it deeper, underlying issues and how were are using them in our cultures that are the problem? Maybe the social structures and codes of our cultures have not caught up with the advanced pace of technology? We do not know how to properly handle all this new technology coming at us at such a fast pace and so we haven’t taught those younger than us how to deal with it either? Instead going deeper, some of us stay on the spectacle of the superficial surface that the technology gives us. Maybe it feels easier that way because it hurts less. But listen to Verb’s spoken word pieces below and go to her youtube page for more videos; I like her autism poem, too.
Here are two web series, one set in New York, the other in South Africa:
Written and directed by Kia T. Barbee, Evolve: The Series is about a young teenage girl, Donia Reyes, who on her 16th birthday is developing supernatural powers (including “super strength, forcefield, enhanced senses, super agility, telekinetic and telepathic powers“) and her parents are forced to let her know about them earlier than expected. Although Donia doesn’t exactly want these powers, they are something she will have to learn to accept and balance with living a normal teenage life. As someone who grew up in New York, a series about a young black girl with superpowers living in the city excites me already. And it is time to have black girls in lead roles with supernatural abilities. Also, since I like symbolism, I wonder if the series’ logo has a specific meaning, looks like an ouroboros reference. The next episode, “Birthday,” in tomorrow at 7:45pm on their youtube page.
Here’s a post from Barbee about why she created the series.
The Silent City: A man tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic New York City.
Award-winning playwright and screenwriter Keith Josef Adkins is preparing to shoot a pilot for a new TV show called The Abandon, which will feature an all-black cast. Adkins, who was once a TV writer for the show Girlfriends, will be not only be a writer, but also a director and producer of the pilot.This is the description of the show:
“After a possible alien invasion, five black men discover they may be the last humans on Earth and quickly learn the importance of survival, loyalty and manhood…Friends from college, these five men will also discover why they are being hunted down by an alien species. And why the alien species may have a message that will disrupt the entire universe.”
Adkins says on his Indiegogo page, “The Abandon is inspired by my desire to see black and brown people work in the sci-fi genre. It is inspired by knowing so many black people who deeply love and respect the sci-fi genre and my interest in making them happy.” He continues, “We all love sci-fi. It gives us a chance to image worlds beyond this one. Some believe the only demographic for sci-fi is white males between 18 and 40. However, we all know hundreds and thousands of sci-fi lovers are black and brown.”
Already Adkins is facing resistance from big companies like NBC/Universal, so show support by reading about his experience on Alicia McCalla’s website and donate to the show’s pilot at the Indiegogo page.
In his “Threatdown” segment of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert uses a multidimensional explanation for why Black men in New York City are stopped and frisked so much (there are more stops done than the number of Black men actually living in the city). Another well done satire from Colbert.
For the first day of “Black History Month” (although Black history should be all day, everyday), I want to give a little background history of my return to speculative fiction. Looking back, I have always enjoyed speculative fiction, including science fiction, horror and fantasy. Growing up, I love fables, books and films about talking animals, shows like The Magic Schoolbus, Dr. Seuss books, and anything that “normal” people might consider weird. A few days ago, I found a book report that I did in junior high school on the science fiction novel, Silver Eyes. I remember reading and loving the “utopian society gone wrong” book, The Giver (I read it might be turned into a film soon), Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and “Tell Tale Heart,” Dicken’s “The Christmas Carol,” and the list goes on. My poetry even reflected my interest in speculative fiction. I wrote a poem about my menstrual cycle (I had painful cramps), called “Menarch and the Girl,” which was about an evil sorceress who put a curse on a girl to live and die each month (I was slightly morbid as a teenager, I am not that way now).
However, around the time I entered high school, I began to lose interest in it. I blame it on several reasons. My high school was so rigorous that I started to dislike reading for fun, even though I liked some of the books, such as the magic realist Haroun and the Sea of Stories. For some reason, I became obsessed with teenage pop stars (don’t ask) and shows, like Degrassi. Most of my time I gave to music and I think my love for speculative fiction seeped into there because I listened to artists like Missy Elliot, Kelis and N.E.R.D. Last, my family became “saved” and started going to church when I was around 11. I was told books that were about magic and witches (Harry Potter), anything that questioned Christianity (The Da Vinci Code) or anything that focused on too much science and not enough faith was not good to read or considered nonsense. So, I guess I could not reconcile the two and I dropped the former.
As I entered college, I had changed again. I went natural and began to grow my locs. Also, I started to lose my faith in Christianity (but shhh! don’t tell my parents that yet). In my sophomore year, I took a class on Black people and Mass media with Professor Arthur Lewin. His class, as well as a few others, taught me to think further outside the box and sparked my interest in Africana Studies. Later, I attended a class on the African Diaspora (one of the books we read was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye) and I began to study more about the Diasporic history. As I studied the history, I also studied the traditional spiritual systems and religions, which further diminished my belief in Western Christianity. Early last year, I started my blog, its name from a statement by the poet Aja Monet (at least I think) and my pseudonym a reflection of studying Egyptian mythology. My blog started as a way to give a historical context to culture, mainly the ignored or erased history of marginalized groups, and as a way to show off my quirkiness, specifically my non-mainstream music interests. Somehow, I stumbled upon Afrofuturism, which tied everything together for me, and as they say the rest is history.
“Last night was the vigil, and today the day, celebrated as that of Saint Lazarus, associated among practitioners of the Afro-Cuban tradition Lucumí with the orisha Babalú-Ayé, also called Asojano. He is summoned with many other names throughout West Africa and in houses of Brazilian Candomblé. As a deity, he ‘rules’ disease, chiefly dermatological and venereal, as well as epidemics, including those of smallpox and HIV/AIDS. One of the most famous pilgrimages in Cuba leads to his shrine in El Rincón, and every December 16th, devotees gather to beseech him in anticipation of his feast day, the 17th, for healing of the physical and social body.
Of course, Babalú’s name entered the pop culture lexicon not through dissemination of his rich mythology or recognition of his worshippers’ complex practices, but with Cuban musician Desi Arnaz on “I Love Lucy” in the 1950s. As Philip Sweeney writes,
The singer Miguelito Valdés, who brought the conga to New York in the 1940s, acquired the nickname “Mr Babalú” with his version of a song toBabalú-ayé written by Margarita Lecuona, before the young Desi Arnaz usurped his position and became even more successful with it. (This links to the book The Rough Guide to Cuban Music by Philip Sweeney)
Different transcriptions exist of the song; I translated the version below for a course, and offer it here, warts and all. I do so not only to dramatize the difference between what viewers thought he may have been saying and the actual religiously inflected lyrics, but also to bring attention to their racial and gendered dimensions—typical of the ‘Afrocubanismo,’ complete with dialect and stereotypes about Afro-Cuban physiognomy, that had been promoted by composers of European descent from the 1920s onward. I always wonder whether Desi told Lucy exactly what he was singing.
Estan empezando lo velorios/ The vigils are beginning
Y que le hacemo a Babalú./ And what we do for Babalú.
Dame diecisiete velas/ Give me 17 candles
‘Pa ponerlo en cruz./ To put them in a cross.
Y dame un cabo de tabaco, Mayenye/ Give me a plug of tobacco, Mayenye,
Y un jarrito de aguardiente,/ And a little jar of aguardiente [rum]
Y dame un poco de dinero, Mayenye,/ And give me a little money, Mayenye,
Pa’ que me de la suerte./ So that it gives me luck.
Yo quiere pedir/ I want to ask
Que mi negra me quiera/ That my black woman love me
Que tenga dinero/ And that she have money
Y que no se muera./ And she not die.
Ay! Yo le quiero pedir a Babalú/ Ay! I want to ask Babalú
Una negra bembona como tu/ For a thick-lipped black woman like you
Que no tenga otro negro/ That she not have another black [man]
Pa’ que no se fuera./ So that she won’t go away.
Here are two videos of dancers dancing to “Babalu-aye”
The Original 7ven, originally The Time, is back with their first single, “Trendin’.” Including members Morris Day, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jellybean Johnson, Monte Moir, Jesse Johnson and Jerome Benton, this group became popular in Prince’s film “Purple Rain.” Two of its members, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, became well-known producers for artists like Janet Jackson. Twenty-one years after their last album, they have returned with a new album Condensate.
While the song is somewhat of a novelty and a little corny, the group taking advantage of the popularity of twitter, the coolness they exude quickly trumps any of that. And with Morris Day’s ego (I say that in the best possible way) and the group’s signature funky style, the song fits them perfectly. It is 80s funk meeting the new millennium digital age. By the way, tomorrow on the Centric channel will be The Original 7ven’s takeover weekend starting at 10am!