Indestrucable: An examination of the male African American experience in modern film and media By Angie C, Brown Sugar
I’m a big consumer of media. Print media, tv, film, public radio, music alladat. So when I get several pieces back to back on a similar topic I can find myself deep in thought about that topic. The current one weighing on my heart and mind is how our black men have been treated in this country. You know, what life is like for THEM in this country. I can love and I can watch them and talk to them all I want but I felt like I was still missing part of the story. Cue “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” on PBS, the new film 12 Years A Slave, a new media exhibit QuestionBridge: Black Males, and lastly American Promise. I consumed all those pieces in late October and early November. I also spent many days this summer watching every moment of Trayvon’s murder trial. After the trial I found myself examining how this world perceives our brothers and needing answers about how they navigate life and how I can make it better.
If you found yourself looking for similar answers I suggest you checking out these four pieces if you can.
QuestionBridge: Black Males- I volunteer at the Harvey B Gantt Center for African American Art and Culture here in Charlotte. In late October we opened a new exhibit called Question Bridge. I watched the trailer and was smitten. QuestionBridge features brothers and was shot and conceived by brothers. If you’ve ever wondered what they think and how they feel then peep the trailer where you can be a fly on the wall to their brilliance, their frustration, and their passion. From the QB site -> “Question Bridge: Black Males is a transmedia art project that seeks to represent and redefine Black male identity in America. Through video mediated question and answer exchange, diverse members of this “demographic” bridge economic, political, geographic, and generational divisions. – See more at: http://questionbridge.com/#sthash.AA2j0KF8.dpuf “
Many Rivers to Cross- This 6 part documentary series by Dr. Henry Louis Gates airs Tuesday’s on PBS. Skip Gates explores the African American Journey from enslavement to the modern era by focusing on individual accomplishments. He highlights people whose stories have long gone unsung. I’ve watched every episode so far and am just so flippin proud of how our people have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds time and time again. He shares the story of a slave who mimics a ship’s captain to steer the sip to freedom and later goes on to be a politician! Incredible stories of US! Check your local PBS Station for air times plus each hour long segment is available online for the freeeeee http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/
12 Years A Slave- The film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o and was produced by Brad Pitt. 12 Years A Slave is based on the true story of Solomon Northup. Northup was a free man of means with a family living in upstate New York who was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act made this a common story but Solomon Northup’s return to freedom makes his story unique. I haven’t held back tears then straight BALLED during a movie ever! Powerful, heart wrenching truth. I was unable to move until the credits stopped rolling as i wiped and wiped tears and thought of the strength of our people. The film is still in theaters nationwide and is a must see. http://www.foxsearchlight.com/12yearsaslave/
American Promise: American Promise is a documentary about two African American families navigating the American educational landscape in New York City. The doc focuses on the parents’ choice to enroll the boys into the mostly white independent Dalton school in Manhattan. We watch the boys struggle with acceptance, perception, belonging, and just trying to make it through school and life. Eventually one of the boys leaves the prestigious school for a Brooklyn public school and we watch his life spiral out of control and then rise again like a phoenix. As an educator I watched how teachers, parents, and life itself can make or break these lives we interact with. American Promise is 2 hours of laughs, loss, and lessons. If you raise, love or teach a black boy then this would be worthwhile viewing for you.
So after seeing all of these pieces I’m struck by the strength and faith it takes to live and thrive in this world as a black man. It’s not easy, it’s never been easy, and I doubt if it ever will be easy. But I love the thread of resilience I see in the films and media pieces I highlighted in this article. They make me want to love a black man. They make me want to make art that showcases who they are and why we are blessed to have them in our world. They make me want to nurture the ones I have in my classroom even though at 12 & 13 yrs old they are ridiculous knuckleheads most of the time lol No seriously pray for me, middle school is TOUGH. But I never want to be that teacher that tears them down; I want them to leave my classroom better than they came in.
Brown Sugar is written by Angie C (Andrea Michele) for Fresh Radio. Email interview requests and event coverage requests to firstname.lastname@example.org
I moved to the Charlotte, NC aka The Queen City in May 2013. I haven’t fallen in love with a city this quickly eva! Charlotte has a perfect blend of abstract expression, urban grit and country charm. I gravitated to the Uptown section of the city but soon discovered the Southend and NODA areas as well. It was in NODA that I wandered into dupp&swat! First thing I saw were 90s HipHop CD cases lining the walls ! Then there was art hanging and accessories and clothes for sale from local designers! It was like art heaven exploded and dropped into this spot. When I spoke Davita aka Swat for this piece she told me the space is a glimpse into her mind! Well listen her mind is DOPE! Davita and her brother Dion aka Dupp run the business as it oozes with passion for music, arts and fashion To speak to either of the entrepreneurial siblings is to LOVE them. Each different but clearly cut from the same amazing cloth. My most recent show had our rehearsals in their space amongst the clothes, the art and the essence of hip hop. It was at that moment I knew the Brown Sugar readers needed to meet them and their space.
Brown Sugar- As always in homage to my column’s namesake “When did you fall in love with hip hop?”
Dupp&Swat - I fell in love with Hip Hop fairly late. My two older sisters were always looking at music videos, imitating Salt and Pepa. I would much rather be outside playing sports and riding the bike. I remember walking up the steps and hearing Eric B and Rakim blasting from the television, “make em make em make em clap to this”. Right then, it was a wrap!! Been listening, stealing, borrowing, buying, and supporting Hip Hop ever since.
Brown Sugar- That’s what’s up!!!
Brown Sugar – Your space is called “Dupp and Swat” How did you land on THAT name?
Dupp&Swat - Everyone always asks where the name come from. Pops deserves all the credit as he blessed us with the nicknames. We went through a handful of other names but nothing compared to dupp & swat.
BrownSugar-In the 4 months I’ve been in the QC Dupp & Swat has hosted rap ciphers, theatre rehearsals, wardrobe styling, art shows and more. IM SO HERE FOR THE VARIETY OF EXPRESSION!! What made you decide to use your studio the way you do and what , if any, is your favorite facet of your business?
Dupp&Swat - It is a creative space through and through. There are no boundaries when you are creating, so there are no boundaries at dupp & swat. It is a place where the overlooked, the misunderstood, the famous, the nobodies, and all the in-between can come represent Charlotte; whatever it is they do. Anything with music and art is easily a favorite.
BrownSugar-How is it running a business with family? Dupp&Swat -When we were growing up, we had to take turns washing and drying dishes, we had to take turns cleaning the house, helping with laundry, etc. It’s the same thing just on a larger scale. It’s just an extension of our family duties. The frustrations, the love, the care, and the success; at the end of the day, that is family looking at you on the other side of the table
BrownSugar-What advice would you give for those interested in starting an arts focused business?
Dupp&Swat -Don’t do it because it’s a fad, because it’s in, because you think you’ll get rich. Do it because you love it, because you breathe it, because 20 years from now, you will still be doing it no matter what facet or category the “art” you do fits into.
BrownSugar-What does the future of artistic expression look like here in Charlotte?
Dupp&Swat -Charlotte is blossoming into something that the larger cities will take note of. It’s untapped; it’s raw, and full of talent waiting to be showcased. It would be wise to get your ish together now because it’s going to blow! Charlotte is oozing with creativity.
BrownSugar-What can fans of Dupp and Swat expect for the remainder of 2013 and early 2014?
Dupp&Swat -Movement, movement, movement and more
movement. We have a lot in the works that the city will
embrace. New places, better events, and…. I better stop now,
can’t give too much away.
BrownSugar- Ha! No doubt guess they’ll have to come
through and see!
And that is exactly what I suggest you do, because as much as we try there’s no way to explain dupp&swat unless you EXPERIENCE it in person.
Brown Sugar is written by actress, artist, educator Angie C for Fresh Radio
Email abitofbrownsugar@gmail with story ideas, interview and event requests.
Truth to Power 101:A Brown Sugar interview w/ Jewel Gatling
My 1st voting experience was as a child of 6 or 7 years old in a Brooklyn voting booth, pushing the levers for my elderly grandmother. She was a Panamanian immigrant who became a naturalized citizen. My 1St time pulling the levers for my own vote was a budget vote for the Malverne school district. I walked across the street senior year on my lunch break and voted. I was 18 and had become a registered voter a few weeks prior. Those experiences with my grandmother and as a teen planted the seed that voting was important. It was impressed upon me that as a 1st generation West Indian African American female people had fought and died for my right to vote. I never lost that passion. However, it’s rare to find that passion for voting in others my age and younger. That is until I ran up on the Jewel Gatling, @the_bkc on twitter. This young woman was full of fervor for all things political, social and otherwise. She recently became the chair of the Suffolk arm of the Virginia Young Democrats. As we approach state and elections in a few weeks and next year’s midterm congressional elections, I wanted to talk with Ms. Gatling about so voting and politics. See our conversation below
Brown Sugar - 1st as always “When did you fall in love with hip hop?”
Jewel Gatling- In 1992 A Tribe Called Quest “Scenario” was repeatedly played on my walkman every day as I walked to W.E.Waters Junior High. However I didn’t fall head over heels in love with the culture of Hip Hop until 2years later, in 94 when Biggie dropped Juicy!! I don’t know what it was but I can clearly remember hearing the lyrics over my alarm clock radio and thinking “I GET IT”. From that moment I knew I was part of a culture that I totally understood and more importantly a culture that understood me.
Brown Sugar- Dope! Let’s discuss the scenario of voting. I shared my 1st voting experiences, what were yours?
Jewel Gatling- My mother would ALWAYS take me with her to vote. I can remember going as a kindergartener, strolling right on into the voting booth and would stand with her as she cast her vote. Afterwards we would go out to eat with my Grandparents. Voting was an event in my household, a day to be celebrated. I was taught at a very early age that voting was my duty as an American Citizen.
Brown Sugar- Can you share a personal voting story that sticks out to you with the readers?
Jewel Gatling- November 2012, Election Night. I’m in the ballroom of the Downtown Suffolk Hilton with the volunteers that for a 5 month+ period had become family. Constantly refreshing my browser I saw that the city of Suffolk was going to go for President Obama. We did it, WE DID THIS. Late nights, early mornings, numerous “stop calling me…CLICK” phone conversations were all justified by the re-elections of President Obama.
Brown Sugar- So you’re chair of the Suffolk Young Democrats. How did you become involved with the Suffolk branch of the Virginia Young Democrats?
Jewel Gatling- After volunteering with Organizing for America (OFA) we were encouraged to stay involved with our local political organizations. It was also during my OFA days that I realized, hey, I’m digging this stuff called politics and the whole “you can make a difference” is actually true…go figure!!! While attending my first Suffolk Democratic Committee meeting I connected with a former OFA volunteer, James McCollum who wanted to start the first chapter of the Young Democrats in Suffolk. He saw a need for young adults in our city to become active, enlightened and then encouraged to participate in local politics and civic action.
Brown Sugar- You talked about young people, why should millennials vote in local & state elections?
Jewel Gatling- I think I stole this from twitter, but it is the truth: “You may not be into politics, but politics are into you”. Student Loans, Interest Rates, Jobs, Working Wages, Equality, Healthcare, these aren’t just talking points for television pundits, but these are real life issues that affect young adults, whether you like it or not. I have a real problem with just allowing someone to making decisions that will impact my life without my voice being heard on the matter. When you fail to vote you do just that, you remain silent and that silence then becomes an all access pass for those who are suppose to represent you to do whatever they want, whether its beneficial to you or not. When you don’t vote, you are forfeiting your right to be heard; you invalidate your importance in decisions that are being made for you by others.
Brown Sugar- YESSSSS MAAM! I’m here for all of that. *okay goes back to being a professional*
Brown Sugar- What issues stand out to you in Virginia as well as in the rest of the nation?
Jewel Gatling- I’m concerned that the importance of the decision made by SCOTUS regarding the Voting Rights Act earlier this year has been lost in the shuffle of our day to day controversies. Days after SCOTUS told the minorities “you’re fine, you don’t need us anymore” states like TX, NC and VA made a mad dash to changing voting laws that would oppress the minority voter for no other means then unfairly controlling the outcome of elections. Congress must work together (ok I giggled while typing that) to come up with new verbiage that will protect the rights of minorities from those who go out of their way to deny our right to vote. Those laws are used to suppress the votes of minorities because THEY know our vote DOES matter!
Brown Sugar- Any aspirations to become an elected official?
Jewel Gatling- NO….next question LOL
Brown Sugar- Please note that after this interview Ms. Gatling was spotted on social media rocking a dope sweater about women being in politics. *Brown sugar side eye* We have posted the proof with this article and will refer to this interview WHEN she runs! lol
Brown Sugar- Also on social media Lupe Fiasco & other conscious folks have spoken out about not voting for a variety of reasons. Why shouldn’t we listen to them?
Jewel Gatling- I agree that there is a need for social and civic action beyond the voting booth. However, when I hear the “Lupes” of the world proclaim that voting is a waste or voting does not matter, I think to myself, they have no idea that they are helping the Oppressor. Lupe to me is a pawn, knowingly or not, used by those who wish to control the vote, control my community, and control my race. His rants are targeted to young people and that is really upsetting. You would think it was common knowledge that anything someone is willing to kill for must be important. People were killed because they wanted to vote. Let’s not forget that the Ku Klux Klan wasn’t started to just scare Blacks, it was started to scare Blacks away from VOTING. Lupe’s discouragement of the positive act of voting is both disappointing and hurtful especially to minorities who have been systematically disenfranchised for centuries.
Brown Sugar- Welp! And there you have it folks. Jewel Gatling speaks truth to power daily, on and off line. I’ve included her contact info below and I hope that her passionate words serve to inspire those of us in our 20s and 30s to GET INVOLVED.
If you want to get involved or get more info on Young Dems in your area here is Jewel Gatling’s Contact Info- Chair, Suffolk, Virginia Young Democrats
Twitter: @SuffolkYD Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/suffolkyoungdemocrats
General Voter Info – http://www.canivote.org/
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