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

By L.G. Parker


“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.”


“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.”


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.”


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.

‘Polyglot’ Web Series Shows Diversity of Young Creatives of Color in Berlin


 Polyglot is a newly released scripted web series which focuses on the diverse scene of multi-ethnic, multi-identified creatives of color in Berlin.

Created by filmmaker Amelia Umuhire, the show gives an in-depth look at young people of color navigating emerging spaces in Germany. The first episode introduces viewers to Babiche Papaya, a rapper and poet played by Umuhire’s sister, Amanda Mukasonga. The sisters speak four languages – German, English, French and Kinyarwanda –  and were born in Rwanda. They are quintessential polyglots.

Umuhire told NRP Berlin that, “Every language has its own sphere. Those worlds, they just add up to each other, they don’t take away the spaces.” She also explained that “”There is this one image of Germany, like you have white people speaking German, if you look at the TV landscape for example. Black people only appear as nurses, or cooks. You don’t get to know people, this big part of Germany and Berlin, because they are kind of marginalized in media.” These are the images Umuhire seeks to challenge in this “true to life” web series. While the show focuses on creative life, it also investigates how the intersections of race, gender, and place of origin color daily life in Berlin.

Follow Polyglot on Facebook and Instagram and watch the first two episodes below.

Photo Credit: YouTube

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.

6 Afrofuturism Films You Need to See

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By L.G. Parker


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

insert boy

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.



Dope: The 21st Century Hood Comedy


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.

President Obama Escorts Trans Woman of Color Out of LGBTQ Event

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At the annual White House reception honoring LGBT Pride Month, President Obama was confronted by a trans woman of color who interrupted him during his speech. Rather than empower her voice, respect her concerns, or even give her the time of day, the President gave one of his harsher responses to hecklers and had her removed from the gathering. His actions seem at odds with what he claimed the event was about and failed to uplift LGBTQ person’s who are frequently excluded from mainstream social and political circles.

Jennicet Gutierrez, the trans woman and immigration activist who interrupted Obama, yelled from the audience, “President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention.” She continued, “I am tired of the violence we’re facing.” After getting President Obama’s attention, she repeated herself, “release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations.”

At that point, President Obama became visibly frustrated. He was not checking for Gutierrez’ interruptions but how he handled her was incredibly disappointing.

As seen in the video, Obama became quite annoyed with Gutierrez, moreso than he has historically. He said, “you know what? No, no, no, no.” He continued, “Listen. You’re in my house.” At this point, Vice President Joe Biden started to chuckle as the crowd cheered the President on.

“It’s not respectful when you get invited to- ” President Obama said while frowning. “You’re not going to get a good response from me by interrupting me like this,” he warned as the crowd started booing Gutierrez.

As Gutierrez continued speaking, the crowd became agitated in support of the President. Onlookers were “shushing” her.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Obama continued, as the Vice President put both hands over his face. “Shame on you, you shouldn’t be doing this.”

The crowd began to chant, “O-bam-a!, O-bam-a!”

The President threatened to have her escorted out unless she quieted down. When she continued demanding, “no more deportations,” President Obama forced her out of the space amidst cheers from others in attendance. After Gutierrez left, the President joked about her being in his house eating and drinking his food but he never seemed to consider the fact that he silenced and erased this trans woman of color who likely had little access to him otherwise.

Gutierrez penned her own response to yesterday’s events at the Washington Blaze. She clearly articulated her reasons for interrupting the President.

“I was fortunate to be invited to the White House to listen to President Obama’s speech recognizing the LGBTQ community and the progress being made. But while he spoke of ‘trans women of color being targeted,’ his administration holds LGBTQ and trans immigrants in detention. I spoke out because our issues and struggles can no longer be ignored.”

She also explained why President Obama’s reaction was so harmful to trans folks, especially those being held in detention centers for deportation.

“It is heartbreaking to see how raising these issues were received by the president and by those in attendance. In the tradition of how Pride started, I interrupted his speech because it is time for our issues and struggles to be heard. I stood for what is right.”

Overall, President Obama’s response too Gutierrez reflects a continued inability to properly empower and elevate voices of LGBTQ folks and trans women of color. His failure to understand how his actions undermined his proposed goals mean that even allies have work to do in addressing these marginalized communities.

Gutierrez summed it up best when she said, “Instead of silencing our voices, President Obama can also stand and do the right thing for our immigrant LGBTQ community.”


Photo Credit: YouTube


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.

Racist Flags, President Obama’s N-Word, and White Race Confusion


During my first quarter of grad school, I read some powerful words about the interaction between antiracism and antiracialism. These words resonated with me mainly because I frequently saw many White Americans struggling with how these two, very different ideologies work in modern society.

In his book, The Threat of Race, David Theo Goldberg wrote “there are crucial moments when the necessity and complexity of this connection are lost sight of, and antiracism reduces primarily, principally, or completely to antiracial commitment, to antiracialism. At these moments, the end of racism is confused with no more than being against race, the end of race substituting…for the commitment to  – the struggle for – ending racism.” In essence, many people confuse being against racism (and seeking to end it) with being against anything which is construed as “racial.” Hence, the new wave of “colorblindness” in the United States. This week’s flurry of confederate flag (spelled with a lower case intentionally) rebuffing, and President Obama n-word pearl clutching perfectly depicts the core differences between antiracism and antiracialism.

To begin, President Obama made very poignant remarks about racism when he appeared on the “WTF” podcast with Mark Maron on Monday.

He said, “The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, that casts a long shadow. And, that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We are not cured of it. ” President Obama continued, “Racism. We are not cured of it. And, it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened two to three hundred years prior.”

His point – that just because racism is implicit and hidden from public eye doesn’t mean it is gone – was completely missed by many conservative Whites who just couldn’t get past the fact that he said the word “nigger.” Some were so frustrated that he would use a word they aren’t allowed to use in public that they embodied precisely what he was saying in the first place.

Because the n-word is racial and scary to many Whites, they would prefer it never be said rather than address the core logics and historical underpinnings which birthed the ideological support for its use over the past three centuries. This, was President Obama’s key point. Sadly, many Whites have completely missed it because their committment to ending the concept of race preempts their desire to squelch the terrors of institutional racism in America.


Photo: Twitter/Marc Lamont Hill

Articulated clearly in Marc Lamont Hill’s tweet (above), not using the word “nigger” doesn’t erase the sentiments which created it. Nor does this performative action of speech control and respectability ensure that the violence against Black Americans because of the word will end (obviously). Racists can still think about the word. Believe the core concepts of the word. Act on the exclusionary and “othering” tenets of the word. Or, even use substitutes for the word. Therefore, saying it or not saying it isn’t an act of antiracism. It is an act of antiracialism.

A similar phenomenon of White confusion happened this week with regards to the confederate flag waving in South Carolina. After the massacre at Emanuel AME Church last Wednesday, many liberals and activists have called for the removal of confederate flag merchandise, paraphernalia, and symbols across the country. While some vendors, like Wal-Mart, eBay, Amazon, and Sears have agreed to stop selling these violent products, the flag still waves in many capitols and state properties in the South. But, many Whites have latched onto this fight to remove the flag (given its prominence in terrorist Dylann Roof’s life prior to murdering nine Black Americans last week). Many see this as a major victory in ending racism in America. Sadly, they’re confused about this too.

Photo: AJC.com

Photo: AJC.com

Yes, the flags should come down. Frankly, they should have come down a long long LONG time ago. But, that’s besides the point. The White people who think this change will formally end any form of racism in this country are, again, mistaken. The confederate flag is a symbol of racism just like the nazi flag. It being a symbol of “pride and heritage” in some southern states is a daily reminder to Black Americans of the revelry many Whites still have in a culture committed to their eradication. This was what the confederate states were all about. And, they were unapologetic about it. Sadly though, removing it, like banning the n-word from public discourse, won’t change the sentiments that drive the sales of confederate flag merchandise or inspire racist White folks to hang the symbol in their front yards. People will continue to be racist. Taking away their mascot won’t destroy the sport.

Some may critique my argument noting that this White “confusion” is also a form of racism. I don’t disagree. I just think there is more to it than that. The fact that racism in the United States has maintained, transformed, and cloaked itself so convincingly in antiracialism is worth discussing separately from racism en masse.

While White folks are doing victory laps about their exclusion of the n-word from their vocabularies and protests of the confederate flag, Black Americans are still fighting against injustice at the ballot box, on street corners, in classrooms, in the workplace, and just about everywhere else in the United States. The ability to not see race, to fight against race as a thing in and of itself, is a form of racism. It doesn’t end racism. It covers it up until the next generation finds an interesting way to make it seem like something else.

Until we understand and acknowledge the core differences between antiracialism and antiracism, we will literally never develop a way to justice and equality. So, for that reason alone, I think this conversation is worth having.


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.