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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Back for More…Again!

What’s up!? How’s it been? I know it’s been a while since I last updated this blog, but life happened! So here’s what has been going on.

2019 into 2020 was a whirlwind for me. As a writer, I had some amazing triumphs and disappointing moments. I am still working for CBR writing content for them on a daily basis. During my absence, I did manage to acquire two freelance jobs with HipHopDX and The Blast. While my time with both was short, I did appreciate getting to do work outside of comics and geek culture. I’m still on the hunt for more freelance work as I find my niche in journalism and content creation.

woman in front of her computer

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I have been entering screenwriting contests left and right – both as an exercise in moving forward and a way to get feedback on my work. Last year, I spoke on entering a contest held by Issa Rae. Well, I made it to the quarterfinals, but unfortunately, it didn’t pan out the way I wanted. But that’s okay as I have continued to enter contests as well as reaching out to industry people to get myself prepared for my screenwriting career. I just have to remember my pursuits are not in vain. and it’s all about the marathon, not the sprint.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, my work with PRESI has been on hold for a minute as the brand’s owner has been dealing with the effects of the pandemic. Just before the pandemic, we had spoken on retooling the blog to be more on-brand. For now, everything is on pause with things expected to pick up once the dust has settled.

As my writing career has continued to go through ebbs and flows, I found a bright spot before the new year. I became a professor at Kennesaw State University, teaching art history. It has been nice to have a stable job that really affects the lives of people from day-to-day. While the salary is great, the real reward has been the effect I’ve had on my students and vice versa. For the first time in my adult life, I feel fulfilled by my work (even with its good and bad days). There might be some more opportunities in the future at KSU (fingers crossed).

architectural photography of brown and gray house

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Now that I have a little more free (thanks COVID-19), I’ll try to dedicate more time to the blog so keep your eyes on this space.

Wow! I’m so glad to be back!

Write and Grind

Becoming your own boss can be a double-edged sword for anyone wanting to enter the freelance world. Creating your brand and business can be both rewarding and draining all at the same. Growing into the boss I want to be is a growing experience.

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Mixing passion with business has become a way of life for me. Even though, I still need a 9-to-5, working on my own accord is becoming a huge part of my life. I can make my own schedule and working within my skill set. But there’s a quite bit of hard work, time and effort I put running my own brand and business. Working for CBR and a fashion brand is a way for me to build my portfolio while fueling my passion.

Journalism and content writing will hopefully help in paying the bills. Writing for someone else helps to me to be of service. It is always my mission to create something that pushes an entity or company forward. With CBR, I get to let my inter-nerd show through writing about all things related to comic books and media. I’ve felt that way since writing for Paste. My other gig has’t taken shape yet so I would be able to talk about until the brand’s relaunch in a few weeks.

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Writing is my outlet for expressing myself. The topics I speak on in all my work are things I are accustomed to speaking on. While I’m fulfilled in my work, I hope to find time for my own personal work. Finding that time is on me, but for now, I have to be in work mode for a bit.

While visual art is my first love, writing has become my calling. And wherever the Lord sees fit to use it is where I will go.


Come back next week for more on my life as a creative.

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