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Working Through Microaggressions Part 1

Having worked since I was age 16, I have dealt with my fair share of passive-aggressive and not-so-passive-aggressive actions and words towards me when it comes to being a Black male in predominately White spaces.

In my first job as a Summer worker for a local government organization, I experienced my first microaggression. At the time, the word wasn’t commonplace, and I didn’t realize what was happening. I had worked for the organization for two Summers at this point and had gained a great rapport with the staff (or so I thought). I remember the day the aggression attacked. It was a slow day at the office. I had been placed in charge of helping to create this coloring book for the organization since my artistic skills were known. I was doing some research for the book and ended up taking a typical internet spiral. Unfortunately, at that moment, one of my superiors (who happened to be White) caught me in the midst of it. Instead of just calling me out and admonishing for my actions, she decided to unleash her inner “Karen” on me fueled as hurtful words came flooding from her mouth. She then grabbed me from my chair and drug me to my supervisor. Then, she proceeded to tell him what happened and said to “do something with him [me].” My supervisor (also Black) talked to me and put me on a few menial tasks. Every time I think about that moment, I still think about that scared 17-year-old afraid for his future and his standing as “one of the good ones.”

man working using a laptop

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Fast forward to a 21-year-old college dropout wandering aimlessly trying to find himself. After battling through a year-long bout with depression, I finally found my footing as an adult by getting my first “real” job at my local hospital. To say that job shaped both good and bad work habits would be an understatement. Doing the same mundane tasks on a daily basis can wear on your soul. But the one thing I never really experience in plain sight was the harsh words and aggressive actions of my White co-workers and department heads. That was until one fateful day when our computer system decided to go down, and my department was forced to do everything manually. At this point, the new delivery system had only been in place for two or three months. So being the type-A personality I am, I took over and started handing out orders to our assembly line. In the midst of this, I still had my usual paper load to do before the night over. But we maintained a pace like a relay team at the state-wide track meet as I handed out orders while my co-workers went back and forth.

At one point, one of my superiors came in to see how things were going. We continued our conversation while I continued doing my work. I thought I was mastering the art of multi-tasking but apparently not. After having a day off, I came to work the next day and was informed of an unannounced meeting. Unbeknownst to me, I was in huge trouble for just doing my job while Black. Thank god for one of my co-workers having a conscience and telling me what the meeting was really about. Apparently, my superior decided to have a “Karen” moment and tell my area manager that I ignored her while trying to keep my department from going into further chaos. I went through all the emotions – confusion, anxiousness, shock, and anger – as I received this news. I was so blindsided as my supervisor (who happened to Black) seemed worried more about his job rather than protecting his employees. Eventually, the meeting was canceled due to management realizing it was silly and unnecessary. That day changed my perspective on my job as my hatred towards the place intensified. My relationship with my supervisor and department manager was never the same again.

toxic

The next “Karen” encounter occurred while working at an eatery known for its “clean eating.” Now for months, I had tolerated the broken promises and the toxic ghetto-soap-opera-of-the-week atmosphere without complaint. The entire time I worked there my school schedule was a problem. I tolerated it because I needed a stable part-time job while working towards my Master’s. The one thing that always bothered was my subpar inappropriate manager with a nasty disposition. On more than one occasion, she pulled me to the side and told me things no manager should ever tell an employee. But the final straw for me came on one of my class days. I had my schedule planned out where it finally didn’t interfere with my work. On this particular day, I had agreed to take a co-worker home, which was no problem since she lived across the street. As time inched closer and closer to my class starting, I decided to take some initiative by walking over to my manager so I could close my register and be on my way. Upon seeing me in her vision, she shoed me away as if I was one of her children. To top it off, she had a grimace on her face while sipping on the place’s diabetes-inducing lemonade. Like the previous episode, a flood of emotions washed over me as I walked away. I was flabbergasted, uneasy, and astonished by this woman’s callous behavior. As a result, a few weeks later, I announced I found another job. I had tolerated that place for long enough. 

As a Black man, you would think that your own wouldn’t go against you, but sometimes, the worst microaggressions come from your skin folk and other minorities. I worked for a major paint retailer for years, becoming the subject of many microaggressions and outbursts from those with privilege and many without. But a key moment changed not only my outlook on the workplace but how power dynamics can corrupt the powerless. At my final location as a humble employee, my entire time there was filled with unspoken tension and jealousy as the older Black assistant and the Latino manager seemed thrown off by my ambition and drive for things outside of the job. After one too many times of nonchalant, gaslighting behavior, I came into work one day in a bad mood. I decided to not speak to either one of them out of fear I would explode on the spot. Apparently, my disposition didn’t sit well with my manager. Instead of confronting me like an adult, he decided to recruit my assistant manager into some intimidation tact meant to shake me. I took every ounce of my being to not go off on both of them. I knew at that moment I had to make a change in my life. Within the next month, I got my position as a part-time professor, and haven’t looked back since.

All these episodes taught me how to guard my spirit and energy against those focused on with ill-intentions. Despite my standoffishness, I still have not let others’ prejudices taint me from seeing the light in most humans.

Tune in next week for more on my microaggression experiences as a freelancer, and continue to 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

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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.

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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.

architectural photography of brown and gray house

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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.

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

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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.

Toeing the Line

This week, I’m focusing on the line between being a follower and a leader.

I spent most of this week working on a spec script for screenwriting competitions. I’ve made some progress while feeling so behind as I worked to write the spec. While I’ve found the exercise to be motivating, in the same breath, I’ve been wanting to strike out on my own to get my content out there. I’ve contemplated many times, but it wasn’t until some family members told me I may be better to do my own thing rather than wait on the entertainment industry to come calling. I think my biggest fear has been failing without a safety net or having my work torn to pieces by internet trolls. But in the age of cancel culture, insta-fame, and disposable media, I feel now is the prefect time to take a risk.

stack of books about art on chair
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With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging on, I feel many independent contractors like myself as going to be more vital once people start getting use to the new “normal.” We’ll all have to make some adjustments, but the end goal will be worth it. I know if I keep grinding and practicing my craft my time will come. Just like last week, I feel like my time will come in my late 30s to early 40s like a lot of my favorite entertainers. Especially being black, it seems the industry never wants to give creators of color their time until they feel they’re “worthy” of their time and money. But also seeing creatives like Issa Rae and Donald Glover making content on their own terms has inspired me to start taking a risk with my own content.

While I battle between independence and the industry waiting game, I’m still pursuing more freelance work as I have a couple offers I’m considering. The ongoing pandemic has made the freelance landscape a little shaky, but I feel more and more working-from-home will become the new “norm” for businesses. I feel things will be on the up and up after everything is said and done.

beach blur clouds dawn
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As summer break continues on, I find myself trying to be a better professor as take an online course, which I’m actually taking seriously. Right now, the course is going well. Hopefully, taking this course will help me to better understand creating online courses for my student next Fall.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

Going for the Prize

I’m back this week with more insight into what’s been going on.

Last week, I didn’t do much writing outside of my freelance work. But this week, I’ve decided to write a spec script for some upcoming screenwriting contests. I would usually look for someone to give coverage, but with deadlines coming so soon, I’ll just have to take my chances. Eventually, I plan to put my original work on sites like the Blacklist to see what I need to work on. Hopefully, before the end of the year, I’ll be able to start looking for an agent to help me get out there. But that might be a while with COVID-19 still raging on. I know if I keep grinding and practicing my craft my time will come. Plus, some of my favorite actors, producers, and writers didn’t hit their stride until their late 30s to early 40s. As I said in the previous blog, it’s all about the marathon, not the sprint.

a vintage typewriter with corona update typed on white paper

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I’m still pursuing more freelance work as I find my niche in journalism and content creation. With some jobs on hold and others disappearing, it has been a scary few weeks as the gig economy faces new and unprecedented changes due to the ongoing pandemic. I’m hoping things will begin to pick up as everyone tries to return to normal (or a new normal). I feel something(s) are coming upon the horizon.

positive young ethnic couple using laptop and tablet while working in modern workspace

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As summer break continues, I find myself trying to be a better professor for my students come next Fall. I decided to take an online course, which I’m actually taking seriously. I know next month I’ll have to get my butt in gear as classes startup in August. I have so many ideas I just hope I have time for them all.

Watch this space for more on my writing journey.

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