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Writing and Changing… and Changing and Writing

As a writer, sometimes, your goals can evolve based on your needs. While my core goals are still the focus, some of the immediate ones are being met in new and unexpected ways.

Lately, I’ve turned my attention from script writing to journalism and copywriting. Within the past few weeks, I began doing marketing and advertising copy for the blogging service Content Cucumber. So far, the experience has gone pretty well. I actually enjoy the work I’m doing as it allows me to do my favorite thing as a writer – tell a story. Through the agency, I have a steady stream of clients coming weekly. It’s nice to use my writing talents to improve someone’s company outreach rather than create content for click-bait. I might have another gig in the wings (fingers crossed for that one).

I’m still working with CBR for now. I hope to continue my journalistic journey as I pursue more positions. I want to tackle more pressing contemporary issues across various arenas at some point. I’m still waiting to hear about my status with one or two clients, but I know it’ll be awhile given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Within the next few weeks, I plan to pick up my screenwriting again. I’m still waiting on some feedback from one or two beta readers. Hopefully, by the time November arrives, I’ll be in the process of rewriting for the umpteenth time. While I want to focus on my first two projects, I hope to start revising and rewriting my action-adventure screenplay by the end of the year. Along with screenwriting, I plan on finally writing a personal piece I’ve been thinking for a while.

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

On the school front, my classes are barreling towards our first test. I’m still working out the kinks when it comes to teaching online. The effects of COVID-19 has impacted my students as well as fellow faculty in this early stage. Things may return to normal next semester, but given the trouble many college campuses are having, it might be stretch, to say the least.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Consuming the Culture Part Deux

In the U.S., August has been designated as National Black Business Month. 2020 has been a mixed year for many small businesses as it began with an increase in new business before social unrest and COVID-19 set in.

Many businesses in the U.S. have had to shift their models, or even worse, shutter their doors. This revelation is even worse for Black-owned establishments and businesses as they are twice as likely to close permanently compared to their White counterparts.

So to offset the imbalance, I decided to highlight some well-known and up-and-coming Black-owned businesses.

Beauty and Fashion

The Folklore – shopthefolklore.com

A sustainable New York-based online store and showroom catering to the African diaspora specializing in clothing, accessories and housewares. The store allows consumers to support well-known and up-and-coming Black brands from across the world.

UjuuMedia – www.ujuumedia.com

The fashion brand functions as part blog- part online marketplace for emerging Black designers. The brand uses its influence not only to market and highlight designers across the African diaspora but the overall culture.

Safashe – www.instagram.com/safashe

A Virginia-based independent fashion brand specializing in high-fashion and dress design for a variety of clients. Its founder Sasha Williams is notable amongst the fashion world for creating Richmond Runway, which highlights up-and-coming Black designers.

Honey Pot – thehoneypot.co

An Atlanta-based health and wellness brand catering towards the African diaspora and feminine hygiene care. Creator and founder Bea Dixon created the company to help other Black women naturally deal with feminine issues.

Juvia’s Place – www.juviasplace.com

A Los Angeles-based beauty and makeup company catering to women of different shades and tones. The brand has built its recognition for drawing upon the colors and formulas influenced by African culture.

Scotch Porter – https://www.scotchporter.com/

A men’s skincare brand catering to men of all ethnicities with all-natural skincare and grooming products. The emerging brand has become a go-to grooming brand for Black men.

Finances

One United Bank – www.oneunited.com

This Boston-based financial institution is one of the few Black-owned banks still operating in the United States. The bank has advocated for financial literacy amongst the African-American community.

Industrial Bank – www.industrial-bank.com

As one of the oldest banks in the United States, the Washington, D.C.-based financial institution caters to the African American community – banking and lending. The Congressional Black Caucus has backed the bank when it comes to promoting ethical lending practices to Blacks.

Awoye Capital – www.awoyecapital.com

This New York-based financial advising firm urging financial investment in the Black community. The firm has built its reputation for creating financial plans tailored to each client.

Food

Michele Food Inc. – michelefoods.com

An Illinois-based food company specializing in gourmet syrups. The product started as a family recipe passed down through founder Michele Hoskin’s family from her great-great-great-grandmother.

Slutty Vegan – sluttyveganatl.com

An Atlanta-based restaurant chain and food truck specializing in vegan fast-casual. The vegan food chain is best known for its take on the famous Impossible Burger.

This is It BBQ and Seafood – thisisitbbq.com

An Atlanta-based all-you-can-eat restaurant chain specializing in barbeque and seafood. Along with barbeque and seafood, it offers veggie options for practicing vegans.

CamiCakes – www.camicakes.com

An Atlanta-based franchised bakery chain offering a variety of confectionary treats. The bakery is best known for its specialty-flavored gourmet cupcakes.

Atlanta Breakfast Club – atlantabreakfastclub.com

This Atlanta staple serves up brunch at a reasonable price. Besides the traditional breakfast offerings, it offers breakfast and lunch alternatives with a Southern twist.

Media

Blavity – blavityinc.com

A multimedia online company caters to showing and acknowledging Black Millennials. The company has its hands in everything from news media to tech to travel with an appeal to the African diaspora.

Atlanta Blackstar – atlantablackstar.com

This Atlanta-based media company focuses on narrative aimed at Black America. Within the last year, the publication set its sights on entering the video sector.

UrbanOne – urban1.com

Founded in 1979 as Radio One, the multimedia conglomerate has been the premier outlet for Black media in the U.S. The media giant has expanded into television, advertising, and the digital space within the last decade.

kweliTV – www.kweli.tv

A streaming platform dedicated to highlighting and uplifting content created by those of the African diaspora worldwide. The streamer is currently available through Amazon Fire, AppleTV, Chromecast, and many more.

D’Art Shtajio – dartshtajio.com

Founded in 2016 by brothers Arthell and Darnell Isom, the Tokyo-based animation studio focuses on bringing much-needed diversity into anime. The studio has been on fire lately due to its collaborations with music artists Sturgill Simpson and The Weeknd.

Books

Eso Won Books – www.esowonbookstore.com

Based in Los Angeles, this Black-owned bookstore deals with a book selection specializing in African American history. The store spotlights both independent and well-known Black authors.

For Keeps Books – www.forkeepsbooks.com

The online bookstore offers classic and rare Black literature for bibliophiles. The online store showcases work from Alice Walker, Margaret Mead, Toni Morrison and many more Black writing luminaries.

Tech

Shine – join.shinetext.com

Created by Marah Lidey and Naomi Hirabayashi, the tech app specializes in aiding BIPOC with dealing with anxiety and stress to connect with mental health experts. The app taps into the underserved and marginalized members of society.

Dollaride – www.dollaride.com

Created by Sulaiman “Su” Sanni, the mobile app aides underserved communities in finding affordable rides in the New York area. The app helps users to get around the city with their Dollar vans.

Hopefully, these examples of Black excellence show what the African diaspora can achieve when left it our own devices.

Watch this space as I return to document my writing journey.

Focusing and Refocusing

Rewriting brings about something many writers never speak on – focusing or re-focusing your work to deal with issues from the writing process.

Getting a clear focus is something I’ve been contemplating. For Losing Valarie, the revising and editing process has brought forth issues dealing with the continuity and a defined plot. The plot has always been secondary to my characters, but now, I see the two go hand-in-hand to make for the best story. Continuity has become another issue for me as I try to keep my story from verging from its original course. The latest revision requires me to fine-tune some key elements while adding some more contemporary elements for my teenage characters. This comes after getting some much-needed feedback. I’m still seeking more outside advice to make things better.

crop artist with new sketchpad in park
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Along with Losing Valarie, I received some much-needed feedback on Brothas from a fellow writer. It was nice to hear from a mother’s perspective as the show deals with two little boys. My script revisions deal with addressing some areas of continuity and plot. At the core of the series, I deal with a loving family. Making the parents a bigger part of the story is something I’m working on. Again like Losing Valarie, I’m still seeking feedback on the story.

I’m still in the process of working on my unknown pilot. I want to do one or two more pass-throughs before I feel it is ready for feedback. With that said, it really is all about grinding it out to I get it right.

busy young african american man with dreadlocks working on laptop in street cafe
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

I’m still working on getting more freelance work as some of my clients begin to get back on their feet.

With the start of school days away, I’m in the deal of setting up for the Fall semester as plans continue to evolve and change during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite looking forward to teaching on campus, I’m preparing to teach my students online. From my perspective, I feel the school year will be vastly different from last year. I can feel the landscape shifting on so many levels.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

The Art of Re-writing

As a screenwriter, many times I’ve been told that the real write begins with the rewriting and revising process.

Rewriting can sometimes be daunting for me as I begin the process of reworking and revising these works I’ve spent years on. For Losing Valarie, the revising and editing process has been going on for years as I constantly come back to it to see if there are any new approaches or ideas I can apply. Going from an hour-long live-action drama to a half-hour animated dramedy has been a gift and a curse for me. In this latest revision, I have been trying to interject some more humor while ramping up the intensity given these are teenage characters. I have re-written and re-written this work so many times at this point I need to start reaching out to outside sources for some real feedback.

crop artist with new sketchpad in park

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Much like Losing Valarie, Brothas has been a labor of love for years as I try to translate scenarios from my own experience into a more streamlined kid-friendly series. I have continued to be insular with my work as I fine-tune my work. Again like Losing Valarie, I am at the point where I want some outsiders to see my work.

While those two may be ready for others to read, I’m still working on my unknown pilot. I want to do one or two more pass-throughs before I feel it is ready. With so much, it really is all about grinding it out to I get it right.

busy young african american man with dreadlocks working on laptop in street cafe

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Aside from forging my own path, screenwriting competitions are still in my front view. Even though, there is some trepidation as many require an entry fee. I have to decide whether I need to pay my bills or enter this contest. Hopefully, these next round of entries will yield some results.

I’m still working on getting more freelance work as some of my clients begin to get back on their feet.

While I continue to focus on writing, I’ll be concentrating on my professor’s job as I prepare for next Fall semester as we deal with this ongoing pandemic. I prepare to teach my students online instead of in the classroom.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Pushing the Narrative

As the world faces some difficult choices in an age of social and societal changes, writing is now more important than ever 

As I mentioned last week, I now have an outlet to make my creative dreams come true as a content creator through Patreon. I’ve been stockpiling scripts for some years now I plan to finally do something with them. Making animated content for the marginalized and underserved is all about the long game for me. I love to experiment with genres such as children’s programming, action-adventure, slice-of-life, and teen dramedy, just to name a few. As a Black screenwriter, I want people across multiple generations to be able to enjoy the medium for decades to come.

crop artist with new sketchpad in park

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

As seen on my website, my two main projects – Brothas and Losing Valarie – have been in the works for years. They both came from a need that wasn’t being met. The teen dramedy Losing Valarie has festered in my mind for years under different names and concepts before becoming an Election-meets-Mean Girls-meets-Scandal hybrid – with a Black female lead, of course. Brothas was born from the void left by shows like The Backyardigans and Little Bill. As a children’s show, the series is inspired by my own life as it follows two Black brothers and their family living an average life filled with imaginative adventures.

I still have one or two more projects I want to write pilots for by the end of the year. One revisits a Disney-esque story from my undergrad studies while the other is an action-adventure series centered on two brothers (see a theme here) as they take up crimefighting to find their missing parents. Along with animation, there’s also a live-action musical series I have played around in my head (it may stay live-action or turn into adult animation?). Only time will tell with that one.

busy young african american man with dreadlocks working on laptop in street cafe

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Aside from forging my own path, I’m still entering screenwriting competitions as a way to get my work out there. I’ve worked on my spec script a little more to help smooth out dialogue issues and timing. Hopefully, these next round of entries will yield some results.

While I continue to focus on writing, I make some necessary adjustments to my course for this coming Fall semester. Within the next week or so, I’ll be concentrating on creating the best course for my students as we deal with this ongoing pandemic.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Using My Words for Change

I’m a firm believer in being the change you want to see. You can’t complain if you don’t have a solution to the problem, and for me, my solution is using my words.

When I say “using my words,” I mean putting pen to pad (or in most cases, fingers to keyboard) to create the change I want to see. For many years, I have written about the lack of representation on film and television (especially in animation). As I mentioned in a previous post, I am moving forward to forge my own path as a content creator. I have scripts, designs, story bibles, and so much more ready to go, and I’m tired of waiting. So I decided to create a Patreon page to help me fund my work. I want to be able to recruit other creators of color (especially Black ones) to help make animated content for the marginalized and underserved. In order to do that, I need funds to help me fund my projects and pay people properly, and that’s where Patreon comes into play. 

With the masses clamoring for film and television that represents them, I think about the little boy in South Carolina who only saw sprinkles of himself here and there when it came to animated shows. I’ve had certain ideas floating around my head for years with some of those can be seen on this website (check my “Multimedia Art” menu for more). I want to do comedies, dramas, action-adventure, mystery, sci-fi and so much more. I feel animation is the best medium for that with Hollywood turning to it in the face of COVID-19. For me, this is the perfect time to strike.

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

While I seek independence for my creativity, I am looking for other opportunities as a writer to highlight my talents. I am tweaking the spec script I wrote a month ago in preparation for an upcoming writing fellowship as well as some other writing competitions. Letting it rest for a while has really given me some clarity into what works and what doesn’t. Giving my work some time to breathe usually helps me and it in the long run. Every script helps me to hone my craft as a writer just like this blog.

My personal writing is still coming together while my professional writing is starting to pick up again. The pandemic put a stop to my freelance work for a while, but I’m now getting some offers. I have some clients starting to reach out again. Some new opportunities didn’t pan out, but I’m still grinding to expand my client base.

architectural photography of brown and gray house

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

While I continue to focus on writing, I am getting ready for the next school year as I prepare to teach two classes in August. COVID-19 had caused some necessary adjustments to make the campus safe for students, faculty, and staff. So my syllabus and coursework will have to reflect that. Within the next week or so, I will concentrate on creating the best course for the Fall semester.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Writing Against the Microaggressions

As a Black creative (or Black person in general), I have dealt with my fair of doubt not only from myself but from others who may or may not know how their words and thinking have affected my creativity.

Over the years, I have taken certain slings and arrows for wanting to be an artist. I remember being in high school and speaking with my art teacher about wanting to be a cartoonist. I was told that there was no money in it, and I needed to think about something more practical. That moment whether I realized it or not affected my self-esteem as a creative.

auditorium benches chairs class

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Fast forward to my college years where the matter came up again. Going to art school for undergraduate and graduate was a gift and a curse for me. While I found the work and comradery prepared me for the industry, some of the faculty weren’t exactly the biggest cheerleaders (but I love constructive criticism). The one thing that always stuck out was the underlying but subtle racism that went unchecked.

The worst of this subtle (really not so subtle) racism happened as I pursued my Master’s degree.  I remember switching from animation to writing after feeling that some faculty were pushing me out from that major due to the look more than the quality of my work. While I admit I was a little rusty in my animation skills, I did feel a little animosity from some faculty (many I had cross paths with in my undergrad studies). I remember being asked my reasoning for pursuing my Master’s and being told I should be going to graduate school for the right reasons. I wonder if I were another persuasion would I have been told that. On top of the fact that I was one of four or five Black males in the program at the time.

It seemed the microaggressions got a little worse when I became a Writing major as the only Black male in the program. While I cherished and loved the chair of my department, the two white male professors were very so-so to me. One suffered from white guilt and was always trying to equate his experience with those of Black (eye roll). With this particular professor, I found myself more than once as the subject of his microaggressions. I was once told that I needed to choose between screenwriting and fiction writing after I turned in a hybrid-like work. He seemed more insulted that I tried expressing myself as a writer rather than fitting in a box. There were two or three more occasions where I had to almost defend myself as a screenwriter. He even kept the same energy when it came to my graduate review and thesis defense. 

The other professor I only had one class with, but every time I spoke with or saw him the energy was friendly yet weird. Whenever we did talk, it was not really substantive but leaned more towards sarcastic, witty remarks. Everything seemed okay with him until my graduate review where he commented that one of my pieces felt more vindictive than telling an actual story. But that piece, in particular, was based on my experience working in food services. And of course, “white guilt” (who mentioned that was one of my strong pieces) chimed in and agreed with him. I love it when people who haven’t lived your life question your experience and culture.

man wearing black crew neck t shirt using black headphones reading book while sitting

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

It really hasn’t stopped as I’ve become a freelancer (or working a regular 9-to-5 job), but that’s another story for another day.  

But while the world is filled with chaos, I will get back on my writing grind in the next week as I prepare to enter some more screenwriting competition. I also have some surprises coming at the end of the week as it pertains to my creative life.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

 

 

Consuming the Culture

Last week was a little heavy os I decided this week I wanted to highlight the many exciting and poignant (and sometimes, tragic) content based on the Black experience.

This post was inspired by Facebook user Crystal Marie

For those who love big-screen visuals and great storytelling that touch on real-life issues, here’s a list of films to watch:

Destin Daniel Cretton’s Just Mercy (starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx) – inspired by Bryan Stevenson’s memoir

Ava DuVernay’s Selma (starring David Oyelowo) – based on Dr. Martin Luther King’s trek from Selma to Montgomery

Ava DuVernay-produced documentary 13th – an examination of mass incarceration of Black Americans in the U.S.  

Raoul Peck-directed documentary I Am Not Your Negro – based on the words and thoughts of writer James Baldwin

Denzel Washington’s The Great Debaters – based on the Wiley College debate team’s victory over USC

Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures – based on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly

Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing – a hot Summer day in New York culminates in a tragic end fueled by racial tensions

Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (starring Denzel Washington) – based on The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (starring Michael B. Jordan) – based on the tragic shooting of Oscar Grant

Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight – based on a play by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney

Dee Rees’ Pariah – a young Black woman comes to grip with her sexuality

Stefan Bristol’s See You Yesterday – a young girl travels back in time to save her slain brother

GeorgeTillman Jr’s The Hate You (starring Amandla Stenberg) – based on the book of the same name by Angie Thomas

Jordan Peele’s Get Out (starring Daniel Kaluuya) – a psychological examination of racism in the U.S.

Disney’s Zootopia – an animated examination of classism and racism through the world of animals

 

For those looking for great visual and realistic storytelling on a weekly basis, here’s a list of television series to watch:

Ava DuVernay-produced miniseries When They See Us – based on the 1989 Central Park jogger case

The landmark miniseries Roots (1977 and 2016 versions) – the original is a classic while the new version taps into today’s issues

Cheo Hodari Coker-based Netflix series Luke Cage – based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name

Salim Akil-developed CW series Black Lightning – based on the DC Comics series of the same name

Milestone Media-created Warner Bros. animated series Static Shock – based on the Milestone Media/DC Comics series Static

April Blair-created CW series All American – inspired by the life of former professional football player Spencer Paysinger

Issa Rae-created HBO series Insecure – a comedic yet realistic portrayal of the Black female experience in the U.S.

Donald Glover-created FX series Atlanta – inspired by the career and life of multi-tainer Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino)

ABC sitcom Black-ish – an exploration of the middle-class Black family experience in suburban America

 

For those look for Black authors and writers to read during these times, here’s a list of books and essays to read:

15 Essential Books By Black Authors – Black Writers to Read Now

25 Amazing Books by African-American Writers You Need to Read | Mental Floss

25 Books by Black Authors – Black Writers You Need to Know

Essays and works of journalism by Black authors on racism to read – Business Insider

For any Black writers (especially male), here is a great visual article on Black male writers of our times by The New York Times.

 

Hopefully, these examples of meaningful content by Black creators can help towards creating more understanding of what Black America has gone through since the days of slavery.

Watch this space as I return to document my writing journey.

Writing in the Age of #BlackLivesMatter

As the world continues to deal with much chaos, I’ll be speaking on writing in a time of social and civil unrest. 

I’ve spent the past week contemplating my role as a writer with some much racial and civil unrest going on. Seeing people who look like me being gunned down has made me question quite a lot in my life. More and more I see my writing as a tool for change when it comes to making the U.S. see what’s going on with black and brown people. While I try to create pieces that are uplifting and stereotype-shifting, I also have to use my voice to highlight the harsh realities many Black people have experienced not only in the U.S. but worldwide. This movement (not moment) has caused me to push even harder to get my work out there for people to see. 

photo of man writing on notebook

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Seeing all this death and upheaval has opened the world’s eyes to the double standards that many face daily due to the color of their skin. There’s one set for minorities (specifically Blacks) that places them on par with a caged animal (see the Declaration of Independence) were things our white counterparts can do is looked at with suspicion and fear when others do it. For whites (who may or may not acknowledge their privilege), no one bats an eye when they do normal everyday things (i.e. barbequing, sleeping, jogging, bird-watching, etc.).

But the biggest double standard comes from our treatment by police. While George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are not the first to be gunned down for no reason, the tension between the Black community and the police has been brewing since the days of slavery (when they hunted down rnaway slaves). With each killing and acquittal, the tension grew more and more until people had enough (and the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t help matters either). It seems as soon as everyone was released from quarantine, all hell broke loose where polie brutality against the average Black men and women became normalized again in the U.S. I’m tired. You’re tired. We’re all tired. 

I think more and more social commentary will have to become a part of my work as more and more people start raising their voices. These exact events are why I always center my work around Black people and presenting a different view from the stereotypical fare. There’s a fire in me now that will not be extinguished. I must push on for the future generation coming up.

photo of man wearing black crew neck t shirt

Photo by Nicholas Swatz on Pexels.com

With that said, I know it can make you feel helpless and hopeless. And if protesting isn’t your calling, here is a way for you to help in creating social change. Click the link to donate any way you see fit to Black Lives Matter.

Say their names. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Tony McDade.

Writing Towards a Goal

Like many writers, I have goals when it comes to writing. But right now, the goal isn’t about the present but molding and sharpening for the future.

Just like last week, I spent most of this week working on a spec script for screenwriting competitions. I had a real breakthrough writing the second act, which lead me into the third act. While I did enter it into a couple of competitions, I still need to tweak it before some other contests come up in June and July. Right now, there seems to be some rough areas with the dialogue and length of the script (especially for a half-hour comedy). For me, this spec script just isn’t about the contests but perfecting my craft as a screenwriter and content creator. Every script for me is an exercise in honing my skills as a writer.

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Entering screenwriting competitions hasn’t been my only plan as I move forward with creating my own path as a content creator. I’ve started looking into alternative means to not only create but to build the future I want for myself as well as others. Making animated content for the marginalized and underserved is the long game for me so that people across multiple generations can enjoy the medium. I plan on starting a Patreon in the near future to start building the next generation of animation.

Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

While writing is my passion and career, I am still focused on becoming a better professor for my students. With the online course ending, I have a better understanding of hoe to make my students’ experience better for the next school year. Now, I can concentrate on creating the best course for my students next Fall.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

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