10.4.17

Fun fact. I love legal pads. Interestingly enough, I’ve long since been obsessed with the allure of them. Not sure if it stems from wanting to be a lawyer for so much of my life, or just wanting to feel important; either way, I never really pass on the opportunity to write. I’m the exact same way with post it notes. I used to write my journal entries at work on post its, in between calls, down to the call center. Now I’m using legal pads. The big ones are mildly intimidating, I much prefer the smaller pages, but any legal pad will do.

Some where along my start this morning I felt convicted, for sure as I sat in the back of the uber on my route to work. There inside me felt this massive weight of conviction, guilt that I am not working hard enough, doing enough to propel myself forward. Don’t you just love|hate when those moments creep their way into your consciousness? I swear. Yet, with as much as I’ve been able to accomplish in LA thus far I’m left knowing that there is so much more to be done, because the fact of the matter is I am only actually providing a small application of work|effort on my end, and that doesn’t please me. It does not serve me well.

This is Why I Rock

Since its inception really, Black Girls Rock has been a pretty big deal. In 2006, Beverly Bond launched an organization for empowerment with a mission to uplift and actually mentor young Black women, by celebrating great Black women. What she has accomplished is so much bigger, and ceiling shattering, than just that.

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One of the most fascinating aspects of Black women is the fact that there is this shared sisterhood of likeness. Black women have found increased ways to bond over communal experiences, similar trials and tribulation, and overall and unwavering will to overcome and succumb to greatness. It is beautiful to see how one Black woman can link herself, her voice to another, especially in media and that camaraderie has served as a platform to usher more Black women into the room, seated at the table.

Conversely, there is not a similar sentiment for Black men in media. Interestingly enough, I don’t think its a conversation thats been had, but there is no voice to celebrate Black men, particularly, and there absolutely is no bond of brotherhood.  I think its unfortunate. I mean don’t get me wrong, there are so many great Black men that I follow and consider myself a student to; Toure, Jesse Williams, Michael Arceneaux, Barack Obama, Will Smith, Marc Lamont Hill, Stephen Curry, John Legend and the list goes on and on, and on.

There appears to be a common disconnect when it comes to black men relating to one another, openly, and I think it all is rooted in the idea, facade, and/or appearance of masculinity. So much of our culture is rooted in defining a sense of hyper masculinity. Think about it, the images projected in media and reality alike all come down to a black man being a “no good” or gay. That’s the spectrum and it is those same ideas that not only limit the ways in which others view us, but the ways in which we view ourselves. Ultimately we lack in challenging those beliefs.

Prime example. Two black men go into a restroom. There are three urinals and one is occupied. Instead of standing next to another man, one of the gentlemen will elect to wait or use the toilet facility, but why? It’s all about masculinity. It is as if there is something so deep inside of us that makes us follow a stringent guideline. One that gives a head nod in passing each other in public, or deepening our voice to speak to another black man we don’t know, or even averting our eyes to one another, so as to not have to speak at all. This happens more often than not for me because in most encounters I am the polar opposite, the complete antithesis to what “manhood” looks like.

prince-lianne-la-havas-clouds-mp3-mainLately I’ve taken more notice to the whole idea of finding a formula that allows Black men to come together and celebrate each other. The untimely passing of Prince reveals much. Here is a man who broke every standard and narrative of Black manhood. He did so diligently, he owned every ounce of who he was as an artist and a Black man. From what appeared to be the fluidity of his sexuality to his religion, he was most conscious of his presentation of himself,  and he managed to do so with the respect of Black men. Moreover, the African American community.

Yet, Prince remained an anomaly of sorts. A rare occurrence of acceptance that so many people will never willingly acknowledge. Still, examine the relationship of Prince and Michael Jackson, one would expect that these two “otherlings” (when it comes to what is perceived to be Black manhood in America), to be the very best of friends. However, there is no record of friendship between the two, even with all that they seemingly appeared to have in common.

Black men have difficulty accepting each other. I deeply believe that there is a craving, and a space available for us to shape the thoughts and experiences of Black boys in this country through the lens of media and entertainment. Black men are brilliant, intelligent, solution oriented, problem solving, handsome, compassionate, resilient, protective,  genuine, and unique. I am a Black man. This is why I rock. Because I stand on the backs of my ancestors, because I believe in the oneness of the human experience, and because I readily accept the challenge to reshape the standard of our Black identity, as well as the plight of community instead of angst in each other.

TOP 5.

The entertainment and news cycles come and go so quickly these days. Believe me, I know how hard it can be to keep current with all the going ons around us. I get it, there are times when you’re on social media and your one goal is to get caught up, so you have no choice but to quickly scroll through everything, giving no regard to some of the many posts of substance we see, on a daily basis. Heres a look at the top five stories that garnered my attention this week.

THE FRIEND ZONE

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@friendzonepod

Every Wednesday Dustin, HeyFranHey and Assante take a look at exploring mental hygiene, because who wants a musty mind? I’ve been subscribed to the show on iTunes for awhile now and in many ways I’ve come to enjoy it more than most of the podcasts I’ve listened to. I do feel that each host offers something particular and succinct that when put together, has the potential to bring about greatness. It’s still a new show and they are  finding their format and balance, but its cool! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with everything that is said and sometimes I take issue with the commentary and some things feel contradictory, but that’s life! I love that they are committed to not only promoting wellness, but practicing it themselves. I can absolutely appreciate a show as bold, funny, and endearing as this. Take some time and listen to the show. You guys have all my support.

OFF-BOOK THEATRE PODCAST

 

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Drew Shade, Farah Lopez, Donja Love

Early last week my friend Drew Shade, from Broadway Black, got all of us slam announcing a podcast was coming, and he did it within 24 hours. I am completely here for his show Off-Book Theatre Podcast on soundcloud. I loved every minute of it! I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible; however, I’ve followed Drew and Broadway Black from the very beginning! His inception so clearly connects to so many of my dreams and if I was in NY I have no doubt we’d be working together. He is a blueprint of sorts to maneuvering through this business, steady handedly, with your own dream still attached, and he’s building a community that will support it. Off-Book is a fresh & new theatre podcast that is made with black theatre artists’ interests & issues in mind. Hosted by a theatre journalist, an actress, & a playwright  Drew Shade, Farah Lopez, & Donja Love. I look forward to next weeks episode.

BRANDY.

I love Brandy. Her vocal ability, her tenacity, her relentless will to succeed, the list really goes on and on. Too often people forget that she was Beyonce before there was a Beyonce, the “it” girl of the 90’s, but I digress. This week she made her return to television with her new sitcom #ZoeEverAfter. I won’t lie, I tuned in and out of the debut on BET. The show needs work, but it’s new and I hope everyone is willing to give it a chance. The show, a romantic comedy about a woman dealing with divorce and life, is purported to feel like Moesha grew up, but instead its a lot more like Chardonnay. I do feel like she gave us a reward for watching with the release of her track, Beggin’ and Pleadin’. Just singing like its nobodies business. If you haven’t already, you can listen to the record here.

FANTASIA.

Simply put, there is no denying the talent of Fantasia Barrino. She has overcome enormous obstacle and difficulty and has been able to do so with her gift completely intact.  She is a beast and should you need proof you can check out just about any live performance or tribute she has been tapped to do in the past ten years. Its hard to believe she won “the idol” in 2004, but she’s back and with the release of her single No Time for It, she lets us all know, clearly, that she’s not interested in our opining. Believe me when I say I get it, I want Fantasia to win, all over again; however, (comma) I don’t like the record, at all. Its a pop, radio friendly record and I won’t spend too much more time listening to it. I don’t think it does anything for her, but I’ll look forward to whats forth coming.

MONIQUE PRESSLEY

The Bill Cosby saga continues. Let me be clear, my new found obsession with Attorney Pressley is in no way an indication of my feelings towards Bill or the case against him. I appreciate her prowess. Her ability to speak poignantly to the public and her commitment to her belief. She is a Black woman on television dragging reporters and journalists left and right in her defense of a Black man and I think that’s to be respected. Heralded even, it’s not something we see everyday, if ever at all.

Well, that’s five guys! It looks like I spent my week with music, entertainment, and a little bit of news, but to be fair I did my fair share of reading as well. That being said, I’ll present an honorable mention. My friend Darnell Lamont Walker wrote a piece on rape culture, Rape is Rape: Calling  Things by Their Proper Name, and I most certainly hope you’ll read it. Bigger than Bill Cosby and Miss Presley’s defense of him is the culture we live in and a society that makes little effort to protect victims of rape and so many injustices.

Be my guest and read, listen, and comment on the things I’ve shared with you today. I’m interested in your thoughts and opinions and as always, don’t forget to share with me all that you have going on. You can find me anywhere at KEITH_ANDRE and email me here.

It’s Sunday y’all.

Into the Woods You’ll Find No Faces of Color

movie posterSomewhere along the way it became apparent that Musical Theater was not as colorful as I believed it to be, black and white, no longer a suspension of one’s very own disbelief. Not unlike many, once introduced to the world of theater, musical theater, instantly, I became enamored with it. Even as a student at a performing arts high school, I was introduced to so many musicals. I can remember learning Carousel and watching Singing in the Rain, falling in love with the power that is Tennessee Williams, yet no real consciousness of the factor of race. Or that an industry would determine cast based on color. In fact, the biggest lesson I learned in high school was that the competition would be steep, sure there would be favorites, but never did I see race as a factor in gaining visibility. That realization came mildly, years later, in college I learned the world of Black Theater. We got the chance to visit Broadway and see Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, the black version, starring Phylicia Rashad and James Earl Jones. Here, race was noticeable but it wasn’t a determinant in attaining greatness.

I did not identify race with the world of theater performance. I didn’t enlist it in examining talent or success. I knew that talent had no creed no color. For years, before I could even define blind casting, I thought, that, simply, was how the world works. Actually it is becoming interesting to evaluate because my feelings of race and access, having written and opined on a lack of opportunity for artists of colors in movies, never seemed to correlate in reference to Theater.

I can remember the first time I heard the fantastic blend of story, Into the Woods. I watched it on Netflix and fell flat on my face in love with the musical. I could have died when I saw that Phylicia Rashad had been understudy for Bernadette Peters in the 1988 Broadway version of the production. Furthermore, my best friend took me to see the production in central park. Talk about an experience. Still, the relation of race didn’t impede the way I thought about theater. Certainly a great deal of naivety may lay laced in that statement, but it is indeed my truth. I knew that artists of color were missing on stage, but there was a disconnect. Just like the world of theater, a willingness to suspend ones disbelief.

Last year, it was Arts In Color, one of the first to break the news that Into the Woods would be the next musical transfixed for feature film this Christmas. I was just as excited then as I am now. Only then there was hope, always even, that there would surely be a place on film for at least a few faces of color. Don’t get me wrong, Meryl Streep definitely helps to soften the blow but my Christmas wish, would be to see some extraordinary diversity in the film.