‘Passing’ Is the New Comic That You Have to Read

By L.G. Parker

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“Passing is about the effects of integration and gentrification,” explains co-creator Danielle Belton, “and the kinds of people and friendships that come out of it.”

Featuring two twenty-something white sisters – Kelly and Unique – who were adopted and raised by a black family, Passing shows their life in gentrified Harlem, New York as they live with their friend Deidre Daniels, who is black. Unlike Kelly and Unique, Deidre is “over” blackness, having been raised by black nationalist parents who are akin to Angela Davis and Cornel West.

Let’s be clear, though. Kelly and Unique, the creators say, “would give Rachel Dolezal major side eyes and run her to the nearest psychiatrist.” Unlike Dolezal, “Kelly and Unique both realize they’re white. And it’s something they can’t hide; they don’t masquerade the fact that they’re not black.”

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“Living in the DMV area,” Callahan says, “[Belton and I] have come across white women like Kelly and Unique and we always wondered how did they get to become so engrossed into black culture. So we figured a way of showing that was to have them be adopted by a black family.”

“Also, transracial adoption has always fascinated me,” Belton continued, “in that while race is a social construct, it’s one we all have to deal with the fall-out from, and [transracially adopted] kids don’t get a choice because they’re either born into or raised by a family of a different race than their own.”

Throughout the comic, Kelly and Unique clash over how they navigate their identities as white women who were raised in black culture. “Kelly becomes more open to explore being white,” Belton says, “while her sister sees that as a betrayal to the people who raised them.”

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Prior to creating the comic, Passing was of major interest to a premier talent agency in Los Angeles, California after Belton and Callahan spent months developing scripts.

“The only way America would produce an honest show on black people,” the duo joked at Passing’s inception, “is if it starred two white women.”

“The agency that was interested in it told us it was too smart for television,” Callahan says “which was sort of a slap in the face after we spent a whole summer crafting episodes.”

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With a new strip being posted monthly on the Passing website, Belton says the team is “likely to animate [the comic] down the line as that technology becomes cheaper,” but they’re unlikely to return to developing it as a web series since the comic strip form enables them “to be as funny or political as we want, without having to answer to anyone.”

Follow Passing on Twitter and Facebook for updates on Kelly, Unique, and Deidre.

L.G. Parker is a poet and writer living in Richmond, VA. She is a Callaloo fellow and regular contributor to Elixher Magazine, Blavity, and the Black Youth Project.

6 Afrofuturism Films You Need to See

By L.G. Parker

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Afrofuturism has been described as, “the intersection between black culture, technology, liberation and the imagination, with some mysticism thrown in, too. It can be expressed through film; it can be expressed through art, literature and music. It’s a way of bridging the future and the past and essentially helping to reimagine the experience of people of color.” The termed was coined by Mary Dery in his essay, Black to the Future and encompasses artists from Sun Ra to Janelle Monae. The following films hold true to the Afrofuturist aesthetic.

 

1. An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Director Terence Nance stars in this 2012 film in which he plays the role of a character who was stood up by a beautiful woman and then makes a film about her beauty and his pondering about the nature of feelings and specific moments and shows it to her. Debuted at this 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the highly celebrated film is available online.

2. Pumzi

Kenyan science-fiction writer and director Wanuri Kahiu’s 2009 short-film film establishes a post-apocalyptic world void of water, thereby absent of life aboveground. Kahiu’s film follows a scientist’s exploration of the germinating seeds beyond Nairobi culture. It was screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival as a part of the New African Cinema program.

3. Robots of Brixton

Brixton has become the home of London’s robot workforce in this film by Kibwe Taveres.

4. Afronauts

On July 16, 1969, America prepares to launch Apollo 11. Frances Bodomo’s 2014 short film depicts what was happening thousands of miles away, where the Zambia Space Academy hopes to beat America to the moon. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

5. New Siren

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Wangechi Mutu’s 2014 short film infuses pornographic imagery, science, and ancient traditions to depict what true beauty, which she defines as being “complicated, like a flame that is both dangerous and interesting.” One of the leading figures in contemporary African art, Mutu’s film responds to and engages with both the policing of female bodies and demonization of Africa.

6. Crumbs

Described by its creators as a post apocalyptic surreal love story in Ethiopia, the sixty-nine minute film made its world premier at the 2009 International Film Festival in Rotterdam

 

Photo: Afronauts

 

 

I’m Not Okay

By Lauren Ash

Lauren Ash

I’m not okay.

Lately, I’ve been forced to face or examine some of life’s most pressing challenges: a parent with a life-threatening disease; the intensification of my persistent struggle with forgiving someone who has asked for my forgiveness, but who remains too difficult for me to love (my excuse for unforgiveness); and my own darkness pressed up against the Light. In all these circumstances, I am presented with choices. To go with the flow or to resist. I’ve found that in telling Life “no” or “later,” she continues to move on while laughing or rolling her eyes at me.

At age 27, I’m at that juncture where I feel it is quite easy to remain the same person, for better or for worse. The alternative is to grow rapidly into someone else, someone better, intensifying the beautiful, helpful qualifies about myself and what I offer the world, and weakening that which I no longer need to carry and that which is not useful for anyone, especially not myself. As I approach my return of Saturn, I reflect on the past year. How I’ve come to know myself – my patterns, my desires, my abilities – more than ever before. Thanks to mirrors, including my therapist, and close friends and family, who do the hard, yet appreciated work of reflecting me back to me. And thanks to Life, quite simply, as well as myself for the numerous moments when I’ve made those difficult, sometimes brave choices to opt for the road less traveled.

So, this is why I’m not okay. I’m uncomfortable. In transition. And for the first time in my life I’m okay with not being okay. I’m uncertain, at times, of what’s around the corner. But here’s the thing: I know when I choose to turn that corner only beauty awaits. It’s my own progress, growth, greatness that I’m afraid of. My stubbornness to be comfortable with how things have always been and to hide in the shadows of the comfortable struggle or complacency. We all go through this. And here’s what I’ve learned during this period which too shall pass:

Take deep breaths. The world will be okay if you hide out for a little bit. Step back. Say no. Say hell no. We all need to breathe, so if you’re going through it be honest about it and take some time to yourself. This might be a day, a week, or a month. Honor your need to recharge and reflect.

Be honest with yourself–and with those who care for you. “How are you” should be greeted with an honest answer. Not with everyone, because not everyone needs to be invited into your personal life. But your close friends and family who care for you should know, so they can support you, listen to you, and encourage you. Avoid the temptation to feel as if you are a burden on their time or energy–you aren’t.

Know that small leaps are still leaps. Whenever we test the unknown in faith — in small or large ways — trusting that we will grow from the experience, we do indeed grow. I’ve personally experienced how all of my needs are met when I take risks to love, forgive, and release something that doesn’t serve me, if I simply move with authenticity, trust the process, and avoid holding back in fear. In the past year, I’ve witnessed the power of faith to manifest all that I desire for my life. As you begin to do this, as well, know that faith is met with challenges to encourage you to believe in what you’re after even more.

Overall, practice self-love. Don’t internalize your struggles or pains. Your struggles and pains and challenges are not you. Be kind to yourself during challenging times of transition and trust that you will rise above.

Lauren Ash is a wellness curator, yoga instructor and writer. Primarily, she is the Founder and Creative Director of Black Girl In Om, a community and an online publication that promotes holistic wellness and inner beauty for women of color and encourages self-care and self-love for communities of color. She has contributed to Afropunk and Greenroom Magazine. Currently based in Chicago, she is most passionate about building community with creatives of color, cultivating wellness with women of color, and manifesting the visions she has for her life and supporting the visions of those she is blessed to be surrounded by.

 

Photo Credit: Oriana Koren

5 Black Queer Poets You Need on Your Bookshelf

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By L.G. Parker

For black and queer persons alike, much of the realities of our lives are considered “made up” by those who don’t and won’t understand us. Black, queer poets have access to new ways of approaching language as a result of this reality. As self proclaimed black lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde said in her famous essay “Poetry Is Not A Luxury,” poetry  “forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”

These writers have used language to move American Letters, the public imaginary, and all who are touched by their work toward a tangible action unlike anything that came before them. You need them on your bookshelf.

 

 1. R. Erica Doyle – proxy (Belladonna Press, 2013)

Proxy is an unrequited love story in prose poems, where the landscape of the beloved body becomes the windows of New York City, the deserts of North Africa, and the mangroves of the Caribbean. PROXY is a conversation with the calculus, plotting and space against the infinite capacities of desire.

2. Bettina Judd – Patient. (Black Lawrence Press, 2014)

Patient. explores black women’s trauma in medical settings by greeting and conversing with the ghosts of Anarcha Westcott, Betsey Harris, Lucy Zimmerman, Joice Heth, Saartjie Baartman, and Henrietta Lacks.

 3. L. Lamar Wilson –  Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series, 2013)

Wilson’s debut collection is rich with the spiritual traditions of his Southern home. Each poem beautifully assaults and inserts the reader intro an urgent conversation about racism, homophobia, and being differently abled.

 4. Rickey Laurentiis – Boy with Thorn (Pitt Poetry Series, 2015)

In a landscape at once the brutal American South as it is the brutal mind, Boy with Thorn interrogates the genesis of all poetic creation—the imagination itself, questioning what role it plays in both our fascinations with and repulsion from a national history of racial and sexual violence. The personal and political crash into one language here, gothic as it is supple, meditating on visual art and myth, to desire, the practice of lynching and Hurricane Katrina. Always at its center, though, is the poet himself—confessing a double song of pleasure and inevitable pain.

5. Danez Smith – [insert] boy (Yes Yes Books, 2014)

Smith delivers, through a series of elegies for the black boy that is you, your brother, and cousins n’nem, a collection of poems that insist on and explore desire, the body, and how to say hallelujah anyhow.

L.G. Parker is a poet and writer living in Richmond, VA. She is a Callaloo fellow and regular contributor to Elixher Magazine, Blavity, and the Black Youth Project.

 

 

Activist Bree Newsome Takes Down Confederate Flag

This morning, activist Bree Newsome scaled the flagpole in front of the South Carolina Statehouse and removed the Confederate flag.

“We removed the flag today because we can’t wait any longer. We can’t continue like this another day. It’s time for a new chapter where we are sincere about dismantling white supremacy and building toward true racial justice and equality,” Newsome said in a statement.

You can donate to Bree’s bail fund here.

Photo: Bree Newsome/Twitter

 

Dope: The 21st Century Hood Comedy

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By Jayy Dodd

It may seem like White kids have had a closed market on teen comedies that combine relatable angst, beautiful love interests, and witty dialogue, but Dope (2015) was just like nah. Director Rick Famuyiwa, of The Wood and Brown Sugar fame, used his upbringing in Inglewood, CA (my hometown, what what 310) to locate this coming of age tale of Malcolm and his friends senior year of college. Dope follows Malcolm, Diggy and Jib, three Black hipsters navigating their suburban LA neighborhood often misrepresented as hopeless. After comically getting linked up with some gangsters, Malcolm and the squad have to, in the words of the prophet Future, move that dope.

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However, Dope is more than just another heartfelt, slapstick, teen comedy. The star power on screen aside, the film is unapologetically Black in a time when Blackness and Black kids are under attack. From the aesthetic, to the music, Dope presents Black millennials as possible and nuanced and important. Each character was given depth and development; so little felt cliché. Even the clearly comedic bit parts were clever and well played.

While, Shameik Moore, who plays Malcolm is undoubtedly a star, his best friend, played by Kiersey Clemons, was a true joy to watch. Diggy, the Black masc-presenting lesbian, was never just regulated as one of the boys. Her friend defended her endlessly and supported her clapbacks throughout the film. The film even addressed the respectability politics of many Black churches, as a fruitless effort that Diggy just breezed through.

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Like all favs, this film too has be complicated and of course the one white character had to show his ass. During their dope moving scheme, the squad enlists the support of a stoner-hacker played by Workaholics’ Blake Anderson. For whatever reason (whiteness), his character is compelled to say “nigga”. Despite all the other things he offers the squad, he keeps coming back to it, even having a conversation with another white dude in the film about it. Obviously it was comical (Diggy literally whooped him upside the head twice in the movie for it), it’s annoying when Black art has to allow that sort of space. Still, Dope carried on and not even annoying white boys could bring it down.

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In the canon of Friday, Don’t Be A Menace, and Boyz in the Hood, Dope is a love letter to Black Los Angeles. The film encapsulates the urgency for Black artists to speak on Black life in our languages and icons. Black kids need to see themselves as inherently worth the space to self-express, they need to claim their worlds as real and relevant. Dope is more than just visibility, it is humor and heart and arguably the next great hood movie.

Jayy Dodd is a writer and performance artist based in Boston, originally from Los Angeles. After recently graduating Tufts University, Jay has organized vigils and protests locally for Black Lives Matter: Boston. When not in the streets, Jay has contributed to Huffington Post and is currently a contributing writer for VSNotebook.com, based in London. Jay Dodd is active on social media celebrating Blackness, interrogating masculinity, and complicating queerness. His poetic and performance work speaks to queer Black masculinity and afrofuturism.

The #GoHomeDeray Hashtag Proves Hate For Black Activism Runs Deep

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Following the massacre of nine Black congregants at the historic Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina last Wednesday, public displays of support have come from a range of individuals. Diverse groups of people from the area and other states have looked on at Charleston during this difficult time with a common sense of empathy and disgust for the actions by killer and White Supremacist, Dylann Root (21). But, even amidst an almost unified response to the Emanuel AME Church massacre, Twitter trolls conjured up a hashtag called “#GoHomeDeray.” Its purpose was simply to target, silence, and exclude social justice activist, writer, and speaker, DeRay McKesson, from continuing the very important work of supporting the families affected by Roof’s killing spree in Charleston last week.

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Like McKesson, I was surprised to see that the hashtag was trending. It was an especially egregious display of White Supremacy because the folks on Twitter championing the tag were insinuating that McKesson’s presence in Charleston would somehow worsen the issues facing that city. Since many Whites see protesting as inherently criminal and violent (sometimes even more so than actual violence against actual Black people), they were concerned that McKesson might “agitate” racial tensions in Charleston. They were, in essence, conflating the massacre that happened just a few days earlier, with the very important work  of advocating, giving voice to, and working with a community which has been ravaged by unprovoked, targetted violence.

Many Twitter users expressed concern over the use of this hashtag noting that it was yet another display of racial hatred and disregard for the nine lives which were lost last week.

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Some Twitter users expressed thanks and appreciation for McKesson, aware that the #GoHomeDeray hashtag was unfairly diminishing the work he has been doing since we first saw him in Ferguson, MO last year following the murder of Michael Brown.
PiaGlenn6 Reagan10 VWG9McKesson was also interviewed about his thoughts on the hashtag.

When asked about his presence in Charleston, McKesson said, “I wouldn’t be here if those nine people had not been killed.” He went on, “Racism is alive and well in places like South Carolina, and in towns across America. So I’m here in solidarity like many other people who’ve come to express their sympathy for the victims, and to figure out how we fight systems of oppression that continue to kill people.”

And, it is important that he continue to empower these communities through his work and activism. That predominantly White trolls on Twitter have sought to stifle that says that he, and those of us who also engage in this work, have quite a bit more to do.

Photo Credit: DeRay McKesson/Facebook/Twitter

 

Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.