Posts filed under film

OUT IN THE NIGHT: Gender Identity, Homophobia, Racial Profiling, Fighting Back

PBS Premiere: June 22, 2015

Check local listings »

Online: June 23, 2015 – July 23, 2015

Synopsis

In 2006, under the neon lights of a gay-friendly neighborhood in New York City, a group of African-American lesbians were violently threatened by a man on the street. The women fought back and were later charged with gang assault and attempted murder. The tabloids quickly dubbed them a gang of "Killer Lesbians" and a "Wolf Pack." Three pleaded guilty to avoid a trial, but the remaining four — Renata, Patreese, Venice and Terrain — maintained their innocence. The award-winning Out in the Night examines the sensational case and the women's uphill battle, revealing the role that race, gender identity and sexuality play in our criminal justice system. A co-production of ITVS. A co-presentation with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC).

The film touches on issues of gender identity, homophobia, street harassment, self-defense, racial profiling and intersectionality. 


Posted on June 17, 2015 and filed under Identity, Homophobia, LGBT, race, sexuality, art, film.

Amma Asante: Seeing Myself In Belle - Exclusive Interview (Part 2)

Belle Movie Director opens up about the connection of the film to her personal life, her bi-cultural identity, and why art is a power resource for inspiring positive social change in the world in exclusive interview with 50 Shades of Black Co-Director Ross Oscar Knight. www.50shadesofblack.com

Posted on January 5, 2015 and filed under art, education, film, history, Identity, personal stories, press, race.

50 Shades of Black: Viola Davis Discusses Breaking Through as a Dark Skinned Leading Lady in New ABC Show

 Viola Davis, who stars in “How to Get Away With Murder,” which debuts on Sept. 25 on ABC.  GRAEME MITCHELL FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Viola Davis, who stars in “How to Get Away With Murder,” which debuts on Sept. 25 on ABC.

GRAEME MITCHELL FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

In a recent New York Times article Viola Davis kept it all the way real as she discussed the liberation she feels in having a lead role as a sexy, smart, and complex character in Shonda Rhimes' newest TV show "How to Get Away With Murder".

“How to Get Away With Murder,” which includes Shonda Rhimes among its executive producers, will be shown on Thursday nights after Rhimes’s two hit series, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” a generous lead-in that the network hopes will result in an instant hit. But that will depend, in part, on whether viewers embrace Davis — “a woman of color, of a certain age and a certain hue,” as she says — in her new capacity. “I don’t see anyone on TV like me in a role like this. And you can’t even mention Halle Berry or Kerry Washington,” she told me, referring to two African-American stars with notably lighter skin.
— Amy Wallace, New York Times

Read this complete article to hear Davis discuss Hollywood's reasoning for not casting more black lead actors, the ability of Shonda Rhimes to weave multicultural dimensions into her shows without creating caricatures, and the impact of Taraji P. Henson, Denzel Washington, and how wearing her hair in an afro was like "stepping into myself" for the first time.

COMPLETE ARTICLE

Posted on September 23, 2014 and filed under Body Image, film, Identity, personal stories, race, skin tone.

WHAT IS GOOD HAIR? In Our Heads About Our Hair Post Film Discussion

 50 Shades of Black post film discussion of the movie "In Our Heads About Our Hair" with founder of Loc Livin and African Pride Hair Care Brand Manager at Pan African Film Festival in Atlanta GA with Ross Oscar Knight

50 Shades of Black post film discussion of the movie "In Our Heads About Our Hair" with founder of Loc Livin and African Pride Hair Care Brand Manager at Pan African Film Festival in Atlanta GA with Ross Oscar Knight

"In Our Heads About Our Hair" examines issues Black women confront regarding hair and self-esteem. Despite a current natural-hair trend in some urban areas, many Black women say conforming to mainstream beauty standards makes it easier to find mates and corporate employment. The film encourages viewers to celebrate their natural beauty, but offers differing opinions (and wisdom) from women who have chosen otherwise, while delving into underlying historical and social factors. Women of all ages, opinions, and, of course, hairstyles get In Our Heads About Our Hair. Included are interviews with: Melba Tolliver, the nation's first Black network TV news anchor; Farah Jasmine Griffin, historian and Columbia University professor, environmental activist Majora Carter, Dr. Marc Lamont Hill (host of Our World with Black Enterprise), author and activist Asha Bandele, celebrity makeup artist Roxanna Floyd, TV personality Abiola Abrams and many others. The film also features informal discussions... Written by Maitefa Angaza.

50 Shades of Black hosts the Opening Day of the Film Festival with film introductions, post film discussions, and exclusive interviews with Danny Glover and Amma Asante, director of BELLE, the highest grossing independent film of the year.

50 Shades of Black is committed to using the power of art and personal stories to explore the complex relationship between skin tone and sexuality in the formation of self-identity. Through collaborations with visual artists, scholars, and the general public, this project hopes to offer a deeper & more nuanced understanding what diversity means. It is in the recognition of this diversity that 50 Shades of Black acknowledges the historical ways in which race and gender have been constructed and the role that and skin tone and sexuality play in shaping the way we engage the world, how we perceive beauty, and our own self-worth.

RELATED STORIES

Jazz Is An Art Form that Mirrors the Complexity of Black Identity

Pan African Film Festival Atlanta | Afro-Native Ancestry and Healing Touch Interview

Posted on August 17, 2014 and filed under community, film, Identity.

Jazz Is An Art Form that Mirrors the Complexity of Black Identity

Film producer, writer, and cellist Okorie Johnson reflects on the award winning independent film Titus & its themes of black identity, jazz music, the movie's cinematography/photography.  

Johnson was joined by Jazz WCLK personality RivaBlue for a post film conversation led by 50 Shades of Black creator Carlton Mackey on the 2014 Opening Day of the Pan African Film Festival.

Loosely based on the life and death of unsung jazz hero Clarence C Sharpe, ‘Titus’ is the story of an alto saxophonist whose prodigious gifts go largely unnoticed.  The film contains amazing artistic cinematic qualities and an original score by jazz giant Archie Schepp. Directed by Charlie Cattrall.

Posted on August 12, 2014 and filed under art, film, Identity, music.

Pan African Film Festival Atlanta | Afro-Native Ancestry and Healing Touch Interview

 Photo by Carlton Mackey

Photo by Carlton Mackey

50 Shades of Black hosts the Opening Day screenings of the 2014 Pan African Film Festival in Atlanta, GA.  After a screening of "From Above", we sat down with Yvonne Rosegarden to discuss her African American and American Indian ancestry and how the film relates to her work of transforming lives through the healing power of positive touch.  

"From Above" is an award-winning Shakespearean love story between African American and American Indian main characters so in love with one another that they are entangled beyond life itself starring Danny Glover.

50 Shades of BLACK Stirs Up Magical Energy At The Pan-African Film Festival

 Director of Till Infinity with Aishah Rashied Hyman of Spread Love and Carlton Mackey of 50 Shades of Black 

Director of Till Infinity with Aishah Rashied Hyman of Spread Love and Carlton Mackey of 50 Shades of Black 

The Pan-African film festival has been a staple in the Atlanta scene for nearly two decades now, drawing countless fans of independent black films each year to local theaters as a part of the larger National Black Arts Festival. But this year, for the first time in 15 years, PAFF ventured out on its own and started out its inaugural year as a standalone film festival with a bang, bringing in critically acclaimed films like the African and Native American love story "From Above," starring Danny Glover, as well as the hip-hop documentary "Til Infinity: The Souls of Mischief," about hip-hop group Souls of Mischief's landmark 1993 album 93 Till Infinity.

 50 Shades of Black information table outside two main screens of Pan-African Film Festival at Plaza Theater

50 Shades of Black information table outside two main screens of Pan-African Film Festival at Plaza Theater

Of course, no film festival happens without community partners and this year PAFF welcomed 50 Shades of BLACK as a community partner and invited them to host the opening day of the festival. And the opening day was nothing short of remarkable as hundreds of Atlantans flooded the Plaza Theater in Midtown Atlanta to see what PAFF had to bring to town this year.

And what they had to bring was an amazing set of films for fans to enjoy. Charlie Cattrall's award-winning "Titus," about a troubled and displaced black Jazz player and his relationship with his estranged daughter, burrowed deep into the mind with it's moody, haunting and beautifully shot black-and-white scenes and stunning Jazz score, while Hemamset Angaza's documentary "In Our Heads About Our Hair" literally took viewers into the minds and scalps of others as it explored the notion of "good" versus "bad" hair in the African American community.

 Yvonne Rosegarden of African American and American Indian ancestry sits down with 50 Shades of Black to discuss "From Above" starring Danny Glover.

Yvonne Rosegarden of African American and American Indian ancestry sits down with 50 Shades of Black to discuss "From Above" starring Danny Glover.

The festival also packed indie film heavy hitters, like "From Above," a Romeo & Juliet-syle love story starring Glover as an African American man named William retelling his sordid love story with a Native American woman, Venus, from the mythical lightning tribe. As 50 Shades of BLACK creator Carlton Mackey explained, seeing tales like "From Above" from director Norry Niven showcased a whole new range of stories about people of color.

"You might see all kinds of love stories, but it's rare in Hollywood that you see major motion picture of a love story between an African American and a Native American," said Mackey.

But it wasn't just the films that made the festival experience enriching. Undoubtedly, the heart of the film festival was the films themselves, but the life blood of the festival was certainly the fans and the Q&A discussions, hosted by Mackey and 50 Shades of BLACK co-director Ross Oscar Knight, that happened after each film.

 Ross Oscar Knight post film discussion of "In our Heads About our Hair" with brand manager of African Pride Hair Care Camila Crews and "Loc Livin" founder Eleasha Sledge.

Ross Oscar Knight post film discussion of "In our Heads About our Hair" with brand manager of African Pride Hair Care Camila Crews and "Loc Livin" founder Eleasha Sledge.

And if the fans were the life blood of the festival, then certainly the veins and arteries were the theater hallways as filmgoers hustled through them, mixing and mingling with each other as they carried the messages and conversations from the films and the Q&As into their own circles.

Just standing and watching the crowds, you could see filmgoers breathing continued life from the films and their Q&As into these much-needed community conversations that covered everything from expressions of black art and music, interracial love, the black communities grossly overlooked roots with the Native American community, as well as our issues with our own hair roots and our struggle to embrace all hairstyles, whether it be natural or not. 

"I think the films provided a catalyst for specific conversations to be had. I think the table itself and our presence lended, on some level, a conversation around issues surrounding black identity. Whenever we left out of a particular screening, that generic conversation took a particular shape and people walking up and down the halls were able to witness conversations formed by the films.

Certainly though, a highlight of the festival was not only the conversations between the fans, but also the conversation between Glover and the audience who attended the screening of his second film of the day, the critically-acclaimed "Supremacy," which tells the real-life story of a cop-killing white supremacist and his unstable "girlfriend" as they take a black family hostage just hours after he kills a black cop after his prison release. The film also stars Lela Rochon, Derek Luke and Evan Ross.

While chatting with fans about the racially-charged drama and it's surprising themes of redemption and finding the humanity in even the most hateful of people, Glover discussed film festivals such as PAFF and the responsibility of black actors and filmmakers to tell stories that not only uplift our community, but spark transformative dialogue amongst all people.

 Carlton Mackey in exclusive interview with festival founder and leading actor Danny Glover.

Carlton Mackey in exclusive interview with festival founder and leading actor Danny Glover.

"For us to talk about whatever we say about what black artists should do or should not not, I'm not into any kind of asessment in determining that. I know that the bottom line is how do we discover the kind of relationship, the transformative relationships that are necessary for us to survive as human beings? How does art play a role in that?" Glover asked. "Those are the kinds of things I think about in terms of art, whether it's black, whether it's green, whether it's yellow or whatever it is."

If art can be that transformative, then certainly PAFF has been a hotbed for change, or at least the place to take the seeds of transformation. 

 50 Shades of Black Co-Directors Ross Oscar Knight and Carlton Mackey with Belle director Amma Asante.

50 Shades of Black Co-Directors Ross Oscar Knight and Carlton Mackey with Belle director Amma Asante.

And for those looking to get a taste of PAFF and those great community conversations, the festival is still ongoing and concludes on Sunday, August 10, with a special presentation of the highly-acclaimed British drama, Belle, which tells the real-life story of Dido Elizabeth Bele, the biracial daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral, as well as a pre-screening reception with director Amma Asante and lead actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

And fans who can't make the film can still get their PAFF fix because 50 Shades of BLACK will be  posting exclusive interviews with Danny Glover and Amma Asante in the coming days.

For more information on the Pan-African Film Festival check out there official site www.paff.org.

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, storyteller and blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

RELATED STORIES:

Black Indian Ancestry and Healing Touch -  Post Film Interview

Jazz Is An Art Form that Mirrors the Complexity of Black Identity - Post Film Interview

WHAT IS GOOD HAIR? In Our Heads About Our Hair  - Post Film Discussion

 

 

50 Shades of Black Hosts Opening Day of Pan African Film Festival - Atlanta

It gives us great pleasure to announce that we will be hosting the Opening Day screenings of the Pan African Film Festival on August 7, 2014 at the Historic Plaza Theater in Atlanta, GA.

As hosts, 50 Shades of Black will introduce each of the day’s screenings, lead engaging Q&A discussions after each film, and will be present with other sponsors and actor Danny Glover at the red carpet screening of “Supremacy”.  Throughout the weekend, 50 Shades of Black will also be conducting exclusive interviews with some of the festival’s biggest stars.

Beginning with the very first film “From Above”, a Shakespearean tragic love story between African and Native American main characters,  to the final film of the day Elza, [a visually beautiful tale that confronts the issue of “colorism” in Guadeloupe (and in most colonized societies), where internal race prejudices often hinge on light skin versus dark skin; “bad” hair versus “good” hair] each of the Opening Day hosted films connect directly with the mission of 50 Shades of Black and highlight the work we are doing with some of our key partners across the country such as I Love Ancestry, National Congress of Black American Indians, Jazz WCLK, and Locs Revolution.

Screening 12:15pm - William Ward (Danny Glover) dives under the gloomy waters of his memory to recall the love story of his life with Venus, a girl belonging to the Lighting Clan, a peculiar Native American family living in Arkansas with a strange communion with electricity.

  Thanks to the introduction from our partners at   I Love Ancestry  , Yvonne Rosegarden will be joining   50 Shades of BLACK   tomorrow for a post film conversation of "FROM ABOVE" at the   Pan African Film & Arts Festival   (Atlanta) [Screening at 12:1  5pm]  "I am really looking forward to viewing and participating on a panel to discuss this film that spotlights the seldom discussed relationships between Americans of Native and African descent---AND spreading a LOVE VIBRATION with 5-count hugs at the same time! See you there--please share!" -Yvonne Rosegarden

Thanks to the introduction from our partners at I Love Ancestry, Yvonne Rosegarden will be joining 50 Shades of BLACK tomorrow for a post film conversation of "FROM ABOVE" at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (Atlanta) [Screening at 12:15pm]

"I am really looking forward to viewing and participating on a panel to discuss this film that spotlights the seldom discussed relationships between Americans of Native and African descent---AND spreading a LOVE VIBRATION with 5-count hugs at the same time! See you there--please share!" -Yvonne Rosegarden


It is PAFF’s goal to present and showcase the broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help destroy negative stereotypes. We believe film and art can lead to better understanding and foster communication between peoples of diverse cultures, races, and lifestyles, while at the same time serve as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times.

Directly in line with the festival’s mission, 50 Shades of Black is the multimedia platform for exploring the complex relationship between race, skin tone, sexuality, and the role each play in the formation of identity. 50 Shades of Black, its creator Carlton Mackey, and its team has collaborated with visual artists, scholars, and the general public to also cultivate a deeper understanding of what diversity truly means with particular focus on the spectrum of manifestations of and understandings of "blackness".


Screening at 2:50pm - A documentary that examines with candor and humor Black women's issues regarding hair and self-esteem, and advocates for the acceptance of all hairstyle choices.  


Screening at 4:50pm - Titus is the story of a virtuoso African-American jazz musician whose damaged soul has brought him to the status of a nobody. Living in London, far from home, he’s wasting away, estranged from his one true love, his vintage alto sax. All hope looks lost until a visitor arrives, Jessica, the daughter he abandoned as a baby. Over the course of a day and night together, old demons are laid to rest and new ones are stirred, and for one last time the future is back in Titus’ hands. The poetic and soulful story of one man’s final shot at redemption – when all he’s ever known is hell.

  Rivablue will be joining 50 Shades of Black tomorrow for post film conversation of Titus as she reflects on the film and the global influence of Jazz.  Rivablue can be heard on   www.wclk.com   mon-fri 7pm-10pm. 

Rivablue will be joining 50 Shades of Black tomorrow for post film conversation of Titus as she reflects on the film and the global influence of Jazz.  Rivablue can be heard on www.wclk.com mon-fri 7pm-10pm. 


A young Parisian woman of Caribbean descent returns to her native island of Guadeloupe looking for the father she has never known. This visually beautiful tale confronts the issue of “colorism” in Guadeloupe (and in most colonized societies), where internal race prejudices often hinge on light skin versus dark skin; “bad” hair versus “good” hair. 

Screening 10:10pm

JOIN US OPENING DAY!  PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE HERE

or at the Box Office Window - Plaza Theater 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave N // Atlanta, GA 30306 // 404.873.1939

 

50 Shades of Black is a signature project of the BEAUTIFUL IN EVERY SHADE ™ Campaign.

 

Posted on August 2, 2014 and filed under africa, art, film, press, race, religion and culture, sexuality, skin tone.

JUNE ARTIST PROFILE - Sarah Silberfeld: Artist, Actress, Advocate

 Featured Artist: Sarah Silberfeld | Photo by Jeffrey Galvezo Sales |  Makeup by: Alan Milroy Clothing by: Melanie Vagenheim

Featured Artist: Sarah Silberfeld | Photo by Jeffrey Galvezo Sales | Makeup by: Alan Milroy Clothing by: Melanie Vagenheim

With her captivating looks and her charming French accent, Sarah Silberfeld is an up and coming force to watch out for. Born and raised in Paris, France, her roots trace back to Mali where she is a descendant of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire.

Though Sarah began her acting career at the age of 11, she has been immersed in the arts since she was a small child; growing up as a professional ballerina. She is multi-talented as an actress, musician, dancer, and model. The impressive list of talents she has acquired doesn't simply suggest natural giftedness.  In actuality, it proves how ambitious this up and comer is.

  Photo from *Me There by Lia Saïdi.

Photo from *Me There by Lia Saïdi.

Although only 19 years old she has already starred in an award-winning short film, Me There opposite actor Mabö Kouyaté who just finished performing in John Malkovitch's play adaptation of “Les Liaisons Dangereuses”. The film tells the story of first love in the streets of Paris. 

Sarah recently played the lead role in Rahmatou Keïta's film Jin’naariya!, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last month. The film was deeply personal for Sarah as it required her to speak Songhoy (the national language of Niger), her native tongue.

 Silberfeld in Jin'aariya Directed by Rahmatou Keita

Silberfeld in Jin'aariya Directed by Rahmatou Keita

The reason this is such significance is because there are very few movies made in the country's original language.  Titles and languages often change in order draw the largest audience.  Seeing that the script to Golden Ring/Jin'aariya was still in the original language and that it placed emphasis on Songhoy and its culture was not only an honor for this amazing young actress, but it shows versatility in the characters she can portray. 

 Roxane Awa Silla-Depardieu, Piper de Palma, Ali Aroyan, Sarah Silberfeld in Ride or Die

Roxane Awa Silla-Depardieu, Piper de Palma, Ali Aroyan, Sarah Silberfeld in Ride or Die

Sarah is starring in Ride or Die, which is being considered for production and Sarah is being considered for a lead role, alongside co-stars Roxanne Depardieu and Piper De Palma. The edgy film tells the story of a group of Los Angeles teens and their relationship with prescription drugs.

Sarah's dream is to continue working as an actress, working on independent material surrounding multi-ethnic stories. She hopes to raise awareness about issues that are often left out of mainstream cinema and create a dialogue about the complicated issues of our 21st century society. Her passion for theater and her love for the art of storytelling will undoubtedly lead her to bigger and better things yet to come.

Posted on June 3, 2014 and filed under africa, art, film.

Finding Myself in Belle: a review by a biracial woman in America

  This film is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle.

This film is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle.

“I don’t know that I find myself anywhere.”

Thus responds Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) in the movie Belle when asked if she finds herself in a book she is reading.

As a biracial woman, I could almost say the same today. I don’t see myself as the subject of many books or movies—which is why 50 Shades of Black is so refreshing, and why I was excited to see Belle in theaters last week.

It tells the true story of a girl born to an enslaved African woman and a white aristocrat in 18th century England. After her mother dies and her father sets out to sea, she is raised lovingly by her father’s uncle and aunt in high society.

The story situates itself around the infamous Zong case brought before Belle’s adoptive great-uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), chief justice in Britain’s supreme court. In the case, merchants sued an insurer for monetary compensation for the 143 slaves they purposefully drowned at sea.

  Painting attributed to Hohann Zoffany of Dido Belle with her cousin  Elizabeth

Painting attributed to Hohann Zoffany of Dido Belle with her cousin Elizabeth

Belle learns of the Zong massacre through her love-interest, an aspiring lawyer named John Davinier (Sam Reid). She shares his convictions about the injustice in treating human beings as property. Together, they attempt to cut away at Lord Mansfield’s inclination to protect the institution of slavery (and his reputation).

This is a story about a woman whose unique position and background created opportunity for the moral advancement of a nation. She seized the opportunity with courage and grace. In that sense I connected strongly with the movie and Belle’s character. Being placed, by God or by chance, at the intersection between divided worlds creates a tremendous opportunity to reexamine unspoken and written rules that dictate the status quo, into which we do not neatly fit.

We are the enigmas that breathe humanity into the people whom hatred, ignorance and bitterness abstract. That is what is captured so well in this movie. Belle’s white family is forced to see black in full human form, with all her intelligence, beauty and virtue. They cannot deny her, as they have already loved her as their own child. What proceeds from this buildup of cognitive dissonance is Lord Manfield’s uplifting and cathartic speech on the immorality of the Zong massacre and the sense that Belle is truly an equal.

That being said, I left the movie wanting more depth and less melodrama.

In one scene Belle desperately rubs her skin, as if trying to remove the color. This was too brief a snapshot of the tumult she must have experienced in coming to terms with the complexity of her identity. Confronting people with the “problem” her existence poses to their beliefs is a scary place to be as a young woman. I expected more attention to the difficult process of developing that sense of self.

That process for me has involved surmounting innumerable seeds of self-doubt planted by subtle gestures and overt comments of “you don’t belong.” My attempts to claim a place in either the white or black communities constantly meet resistance even in the 21st century. It is a back-and-forth dance of asserting myself and retreating in rejection. My parents were open to discussing the issue, yet it is still difficult to navigate. I can only imagine it must’ve been much more difficult in Belle’s conservative upbringing.

It was also difficult to believe Belle was so incensed about equality, yet demonstrated little interest in her black heritage, or developing a connection with the few black people she had contact with. As she grows up, Belle—along with the audience, is sheltered from the harsh realities of the time. Only one other black character enters the screen and Belle’s interaction with her is limited.

 Danielle is a writer and special contributor to 50 Shades of Black.  Her contribution, "Papa Am I Black?" was featured in  50 Shades of Black Vol 1

Danielle is a writer and special contributor to 50 Shades of Black.  Her contribution, "Papa Am I Black?" was featured in 50 Shades of Black Vol 1

I was disappointed in the predictable and safe delivery of an infinitely complex story. I understand it is too much to ask of a single work of art, and the first of its kind, to tell all aspects of the experience of living between color lines. There is but so much you can explore when taking on historical fiction. At least, it’s a start. I am hopeful more will come in varied forms, and that soon other Belle’s and I will find ourselves more often reflected in the world around us.

—Danielle B. Douez

Emory University Grad
BA
 Psychology 2013,
Freelance Writer & 50 Shades of Black Contributor

Posted on May 22, 2014 and filed under art, blog, family, film, history, personal stories, race, skin tone.

We don't look the same, but our Great (x3) Grandfather was Solomon Northup of 12 years a slave

12 years a slave family collage.jpg

My great (x3) grandfather was Solomon Northup. His life was depicted in 12 Years a Slave , last night's Oscar winner for Best  Picture.

50 Shades of Black explores sexuality and skin tone in the formation of identity.

  23, 5th great-grandson. The recent college grad has received many queries about Northup’s story and is thankful “people are interested in [my] family’s history.”

23, 5th great-grandson. The recent college grad has received many queries about Northup’s story and is thankful “people are interested in [my] family’s history.”

  46, 4th great-granddaughter. “I’m proud I came from that bloodline,” says the real estate agent who read   Twelve Years a Slave   when she was in the military. “I’m glad his story was told.”

46, 4th great-granddaughter. “I’m proud I came from that bloodline,” says the real estate agent who read Twelve Years a Slave when she was in the military. “I’m glad his story was told.”

  4, 5th great-granddaughter, daughter of   Justin Gilliam.

4, 5th great-granddaughter, daughter of Justin Gilliam.

 Kyle Farr  27, 4th great-grandson

Kyle Farr

27, 4th great-grandson

 Allan Scotty Cooper  63, retired, 3rd great-grandson

Allan Scotty Cooper

63, retired, 3rd great-grandson

"Bearing the gifts that the ancestors gave, I am the hope and the dream of a slave" -Maya Angelou

See More of Northup's descendents at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/gallery/12-years-a-slave-portraits-683439

Atlanta Fans Pack The 'Dear Dad' Premiere Film Screening

 Patrick Saunders/The GA Voice

Patrick Saunders/The GA Voice

The "Dear Dad: Letters From SGL Men" premiere screening was everything we expected and more as Atlanta fans poured into the Emory Center For Ethics on Wednesday night to watch the film with creator Chase Simmons and 50 Shades of BLACK creator Carlton Mackey.

Over the course of an hour and a half, more than 100 audience members crowded into a lecture hall and watched as the eight black gay Atlanta men poured their hearts, minds and tears into confessional interviews and, of course, deeply personal letters to their fathers about their relationships and how it strengthened them, hurt them and ultimately shaped them as adult men.

Throughout the film, the audience could be heard laughing and whispering with intrigue and emotion at the storis playing out on the screen, sharing in the intimate, comical and sometimes heartwrenching moments of film until the very last credit rolled.

But the real magic happened during the following Q&A, which featured cast members Gee Session-Smalls, Kevin Dwayne Nelson, Chris Barker, Marcus J.W. Borders, Jon Diggs and myself, Nicholas Harbor. The cast shared both sweet and bitter updates on the state of their relationships with their fathers, such as Nelson and Smalls, who discussed making peace with their journeys now that their fathers have passed on. Barker and Simmons also opened up to the crowd about continuing to work to better their strained relationships with their fathers.

Many of the men in the audience personally related to the cast's stories and offered up their own struggles to change and strengthen their relationships with their parents. But if a tangible example of hope was needed, it certainly seemed to come forth when the fathers of both Borders and myself stood up and announced themselves to the crowd as they showed their support for their sons and shared some poignant, comical and touching words for the crowd.

By the end of it all, little else could be seen other than smiles sailing across the room as the cast, their families and audience members all mingled and bonded over what could only be described as a night where we not only celebrated eight brave men who decided to come out, but a tribe of people who decided to come together in unity and love.

If you couldn't make it to the premiere, don't fret too much. Simmons announced that "Dear Dad" is being submitted to film festivals, and there are plans in the works for future screenings in Atlanta, Tennessee and other states.

And if you want to see a bit of Wednesday night's magic, check out photos from the screening courtesy of Patrick Saunders of The GA Voice below. 

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, Storyteller and Blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

FREDI WASHINGTON: Why Pass for White? I'm Black...and Proud.

Fredi Washington.jpg

BRIDGING THE GAP: Celebrating Fredi Washington (1903 – 1994) in partnership I LOVE ANCESTRY

You see I’m a mighty proud gal and I can’t for the life of me, find any valid reason why anyone should lie about their origin or anything else for that matter. Frankly, I do not ascribe to the stupid theory of white supremacy and to try to hide the fact that I am a Negro for economic or any other reasons, if I do I would be agreeing to be a Negro makes me inferior and that I have swallowed whole hog all of the propaganda dished out by our fascist-minded white citizens.

I am an American citizen and by God, we all have inalienable rights and whenever and wherever those rights are tampered with, there is nothing left to do but fight...and I fight. How many people do you think there are in this country who do not have mixed blood, there’s very few if any, what makes us who we are are our culture and experience. No matter how white I look, on the inside I feel black. There are many whites who are mixed blood, but still go by white, why such a big deal if I go as Negro, because people can’t believe that I am proud to be a Negro and not white. To prove I don’t buy white superiority I chose to be a Negro.
— --Fredi Washington (1903 – 1994)


Fredi Washington was an accomplished Black American dramatic film actress, one of the first to gain recognition for her work in film and on stage.

She was active during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance (1920s-1930s). She is best known for her role as Peola in the 1934 version of the film Imitation of Life, in which she plays a young mulatto woman.

Throughout her life, Washington was often asked if she ever wanted to "pass" for white. This was a question almost unique to United States society after the American Civil War and Reconstruction. 

It classified people by hypo-descent, that is, mixed-race people were classified as belonging to the race of lower social status, in this case, Black, regardless of appearance and ancestry. Other multiracial countries tended to recognize a wider variety of classes. Washington answered conclusively, "no."

"I don't want to pass because I can't stand insincerities and shams. I am just as much Negro as any of the others identified with the race." --Fredi Washington (Fay M. Jackson, The Pittsburgh Courier (1911-1950), Pittsburgh, Pa.: Apr 14, 1934)

"I have never tried to pass for white and never had any desire, I am proud of my race." In 'Imitation of Life', I was showing how a girl might feel under the circumstances but I am not showing how I felt." --Fredi Washington (The Chicago Defender (National edition) (1921-1967). Chicago, Ill.: Jan 19, 1935)

Washington was fearlessly outspoken about racism faced by Black Americans. She worked closely with Walter White, then president of the NAACP, to address pressing issues facing black people in America.

Her experiences in the film industry and theatre led her to become a civil rights activist. Together with Noble Sissle, W.C. Handy and Dick Campbell, in 1937 Washington was a founding member with Alan Corelli of the Negro Actors Guild of America (NAG) in New York.

She served as executive secretary, and worked for better opportunities for Black-American actors. She also was active with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and worked to secure better hotel accommodations for Black actors, who were often discriminated against while touring. She promoted less stereotyping and discrimination in roles for black actors.

In 1953, Washington was a film casting consultant for Carmen Jones, which starred Dorothy Dandridge, another pioneering Black-American actress.

Washington died of a stroke, the last of several, on June 28, 1994 in Stamford, Connecticut at the age of 90. According to her sister, Isabel, Fredi never had children.

At her death, Washington was survived by her sisters Isabel Washington, Rosebud Smith of Jamaica, Queens; and Gertrude Penna of Orlando, FL; and a brother, Floyd Washington of Hempstead, New York.


BRIDGING THE GAP: Contemporary Realities, Our Ancestral Past, & Our Liberated Future

This is the fifth of a weekly series of posts curated by I Love Ancestry on 50 Shades of BLACK featuring stories of ancestors that contributed to the struggle for freedom.

50 Shades of Black will also be curating a weekly series of stories on I Love Ancestry featuring contemporary stories of people like YOU from around the world.

We personally invite you to join us on this journey of discovery and healing.

Share your stories, find your voice, speak your truths.

Each week we will feature a story of a historical figure & one of YOUR stories about your ancestors, your heritage, and/or your coming to understand and celebrate your OWN identity.

Would you like your story featured?

Share it now at http://www.50shadesofblack.com/share-stories

[UPDATE] 'Dear Dad' Letters from Same Gender Loving Sons Screening At Emory University

*****EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER*****

Hello:
Due to the current weather crisis in Atlanta, today's Dear Dad Screening at Emory University has been postponed. Emory University will actually be closed today. We will let you all know the moment we've set a new date. We hope everyone is safe and warm. Thank you for the support and we look forward to hosting this event soon! 

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After a successful launch of the “Dear Dad” film last year, the film’s creator, Chase Simmons, and 50 Shades of BLACKs own, Carlton Mackey, have teamed up to facilitate a public screening for the film at Emory University.

For those who haven’t watched the film yet – and you should. No, really. Why haven’t you watched it yet? What’s wrong with you?! – “Dear Dad: Letters From SGL Sons” is an aptly titled documentary about eight same gender loving men from the Atlanta area who have allowed cameras into their world as they explore their relationships with their fathers, whether good or bad, and confront those feelings head on as they write their fathers "Dear Dad" letters. Through these letters, the eight men, including myself, discuss the ways in which their relationship has shaped them and, if possible, where they want that relationship to go from here. 

Sounds utterly, completely and undeniably interesting right? Of course it does!

So, if you haven’t seen the film already - or even if you have - and you live in the Atlanta area, come by Emory University on Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. and watch the film with Chase, Carlton and myself as well as the rest of the cast. Afterwards, you can chat with us and ask us all the questions you want – but don’t get crazy – as the cast sits down for a Q&A session with the audience.

Trust me when I say it’s going to be an amazing experience and there may even be Oprah/Iyanla, Fix My Life tearjerker moments, and who doesn’t love those?!?

See you there and check out the trailer as well as our interview segment from HuffPost Live below.

Nicholas Harbor

Freelance Journalist, Storyteller and Blogger for 50 Shades of BLACK

www.nicholasharbor.com

www.facebook.com/NicholasHarborOfficial

www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Harbor

Posted on January 26, 2014 and filed under film, Identity, Homophobia, LGBT, Masculinity, personal stories, race, sexuality.

The Loving Story: Screening and Discussion with creators of 50 Shades of Black at Emory University

 Photo by Villet Grey

Photo by Villet Grey

The Center for Community Partnerships (CFCP) and the Ethics & Arts Program are hosting a film screening & discussion of The Loving Story on January 20, 2014 from9:30 to noon at the Emory 

Center for Ethics, Room 102. 

Discussion led by Carlton and Kari Mackey.  Carlton is the director of the Ethics & the Arts Program at Emory University and the Creator of 50 Shades of Black.  His wife Kari is the Assistant Project Coordinator of the Access to Information Project at the Carter Center. 

Event will also include a presentation by Dr. Pellom McDaniels on the Robert Langmuir Collection of more than 12,000 photographs depicting African American life from the early 19th century to the mid-20th century. 

 

Audience will include local high school students and parents from CFCP’s Graduation Generation initiative.

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12 Years A Slave Kenyan Actress Lupita Nyong’o WOWS on cover of Dazed and Confused Magazine

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WOW...the magazine title may sum it all up for us.

Just off the red carpet of the golden globes where she put everyone else to shame, Lupita unveils her first UK Magazine cover.  Inside she discusses the making of Steve McQueen’s uncompromising film and how she aims to shatter stereotypes of women in Hollywood.

On newsstands Feb 16.

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Lupita Nyong'o wears clothes and accessories all by Prada

Photography by Sharif Hamza, Styling by Robbie Spencer

---

50 Shades of Black

Sexuality & Skin Tone in the Formation of identity

 

 

Posted on January 14, 2014 and filed under africa, art, film, skin tone.

The 'Dear Dad,' Cast Talks Relationships Between Black Gay Men & Their Fathers on 'HuffPost Live'

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+Since its inception, the Dear Dad documentary, which explores the relationships between black gay men and their fathers. has taken its cast to places in our lives that we’ve never known or dreamed. But last week the film took us all the way to HuffPost Live for an amazing panel discussion with host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin about the lives and experiences of black gay men and how bettering our relationships with our fathers can better our entire community. 

n the interview, Dear Dad creator Chase Simmons explained how his relationship with black men overall was shaped by his relationship with his father, which ultimately helped to inspire his groundbreaking film.

“There was always a certain level of discomfort [with other black men]. I didn’t feel very connected a lot of times. I sort of felt “othered” and a little ostracized so that kind of stems from not feeling really close to him [my father] growing up a lot. And I think that just manifested and rolled as I became an adult,” Chase explained.

“I know that my relationship with my father not only shaped who I am, but also my relationships with men; Romantic relationships with other gay men and also with straight men as well,” added Yoli Akili, author of Dear Universe: Letters of Affirmation & Empowerment For All of Us. “I really see that those early relationships really influence how we understand intimacy, how we are able to connect to vulnerability. Until we kind of do that emotional healing work with our fathers or at least address our relationships with our fathers, our primary caregivers, it’s really difficult to be in love with other men or be in relationships with other men.

Akili explains that part of the difficulty that gay men have in bonding with their fathers and other men comes from our the black community’s strict gender roles and the homophobia that plagues religion, especially Christianity, which is a cornerstone of the black community.

"Masculinity in America is very rigid itself," added Yolo Akili. "When you are African-American, because of the history of slavery and the history of race in this country, that is even more rigid. So when you come out as a queer person, there’s a way in which, historically, that is not connected to ‘blackness’ or 'black masculinity.’”

And as internet blogger Kevin Dwayne Nelson explains, cultural stigmas surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has historically been connected to the LGBT community, still influence the way that the black community views black gay men.

“I actually grew up in church, and I still am very much involved in church. Growing up, it was harder. It was being a black person but also I was born in the late ‘80s and so that’s when the AIDS stigma was really starting to push,” said Nelson. “I actually had an uncle who died from AIDS and I got to see at a young age how my family reacted to that. And not to step on anybody’s toes but they kind of rejected him. And I noticed that it was heavier in the black community because they didn’t understand it and they didn’t want to understand it. And then also in church there’s just this whole mentality that you just kind of ex-communicate it and move on.”

For Simmons, those issues are just of things he wants to tackle with the film. But on an even more personal level, he says that he simply wants to help not only himself, but other gay men to heal their psychological wounds and to heal their relationships with their fathers.

“I feel like it’s difficult to have emotional and difficult conversations when you’re not used to it and you’re not taught to do that growing up,” Simmons explained. “We had a lot of things going on in my household when I was growing up so there weren’t a lot of conversations, there wasn’t a lot of emotions exchanged. So as an adult, you just sort of end up doing the same thing and once you get to a point where you’re like, ‘something’s not right or I just don’t feel connected.’ Then you have to start doing the work and it’s really hard and it’s really uncomfortable,”

“I thought the main reason to make this film was to encourage people to heal or try to heal, and to reach out and to take that leap and attempt to try,” said Simmons.

All of the men certainly hit the nail on the head with all of their points and as a fellow cast member I’m proud of their message and hope that their words reached the black gay men who need a voice and an image to relate to. Hopefully, this film and all of our life stories can help other black gay men to, as Chase said, do the life work in dealing with our past, learning to be honest about our thoughts and feelings, despite society’s strict gender rules about men and emotions, and ultimately learning how to be vulnerable and better communicate with the men in our lives.

Watch the HuffPost Live interview here and watch Dear Dad below. 

Posted on October 28, 2013 and filed under activism, community, film, sexuality, race.

Pretty for a Dark Skinned Girl: Revisited

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It's been about a year ago now since we first released this 50 Shades of Black original production called Pretty for a Dark Skinned Girl.  

So much has happened since that time.  We've released our free ebook on the iTunes Bookstore, we've published and released our coffee table book, Dark Girls premiered on OWN, and one of our dearest/distinguished supporters ( and the person who penned the opening chapter of our coffee table book) Dr. Yaba Blay announced the launch of her newest effort called Pretty. Period. on her new press BLACKprint.

Today we revisit it. ..and celebrate all of these efforts to build, affirm, grow, critically engage.

Posted on August 7, 2013 and filed under art, film, music, skin tone.

Atlanta Music Video by Fahamu Pecou up for Prize at Black Film Festival

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You may recall our earlier post  ATLANTA HIP-HOP MUSIC VIDEO FEATURING BLACK MEN AND THEIR SONS...WHAT? where 50 Shades of Black creator, Carlton Mackey and son were featured alongside other Atlanta fathers and sons for a video shoot by 50 Shades of Black featured Artist Fahamu Pecou.  

Well that video, "HEIR CONDITIONING", has been nominated for the Juried Prize at the Second Annual BlackStar Film Festival this weekend in Philly.

Congrats to Fahamu, the video director Roni Nicole and DP Maurice Evans.

Check out the Video after the Break and more about the Black Star Film Festival

 

Posted on July 31, 2013 and filed under art, family, film, music.

50 Shades of Black feat. in Music Video by Fahamu Pecou ft/ stic.man and Okorie Johnson

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You may recall from my earlier post with a photo series about the filming of an Atlanta Hip Hop Music Video featuring Fathers and their sons.  Well...the music video is here!

What more could I ask for for Father's Day? So blessed to know these men, to be transformed by their witness, and to be invited with my son to take part in a revolutionary act. The more I meditate on it, the more it is making sense that Fahamu Pecou and Jamila Crawford are on the cover or our upcoming book...and that Okorie Johnson, the brother playing the cello is featured inside its pages. I salute you both, all the men featured in the video, Roni Nicole and Maurice Evans for bringing it to life and Kari Mackey for making me a father in the first place. WATCH!