#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries||Tirrea Billings

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries||Tirrea Billings

For this week of the #BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries, we had the opportunity to speak with Tirrea Billings, a filmmaker with a social justice niche and grad student from Michigan.

How long have you been in the industry and what made you want to go into this field?

I’ve been in this industry professionally for two years, however, my passion for film began in 2014 when I took a new media studies class my sophomore year of college. I declared the Film, Video, Media Studies major at Western Michigan University my junior year. Then, I became involved with media-related organizations on campus such as Young Broadcasters of Tomorrow and Bronco Productions. I also completed several internships during my undergrad career with organizations like the Public Media Network and ImageStream Creative Communications.

After graduating in December of 2016, I began freelancing in 2017 as a production assistant for companies like HGTV, TLC, ESPN3, and Rogan Productions. I also landed my first client, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, who hired me to do a promo video for their website. From there, I began getting consistent clientele mainly with companies and nonprofits rooted in social justice.

2017 paved the way and laid the foundation for the birth of my company, Reflct Media Group. Launched January of 2018, Reflct Media Group is a film and video production company that specializes in documentary-style storytelling in the areas of social justice, human rights, and the experiences of people of color. We ensure that people who are or have been marginalized have a platform to be heard, and we aim to be catalysts for change through film. Storytelling is our passion. Film is the medium.

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries

Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome in this industry? If so, how did you overcome that?

I don’t think I have a psychological fear of being exposed as a fraud, per se. However, I definitely struggle with always doubting my accomplishments. I’ve just always been extremely hard on myself and never satisfied. I always need to be doing more, being better, etc. I’ve struggled with this since the beginning of time. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about patting myself on the back, taking breaks and being proud of my journey, but it’s hard.

I also think I’d be a lot happier if I moved out of Michigan. But I don’t have a rich family that can pay my rent and bills while I “figure it out.” I don’t have a crutch or a support system I can lean on. So, I have to be strategic. Great things take time I guess, but I am proud of the foundation I’ve built here and the relationships that have manifested. I know that one day, I’ll be able to fulfill my big city dreams. In the meantime, one of my mentors, Mia Henry, told me that it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond. So, I’ve been focusing on building a platform and foundation that will eventually lead me into the direction I want to go to. “You have such a strong presence here in Kalamazoo. I think you shouldn’t be so hung up on not living in a big city right now. You’re young. You have time. Bigger cities mean more competition with more people who are better than you and who have been doing this longer than you have. Grow where you are planted, perfect your craft, and the opportunities will come to you. Why move if you can work hard here until eventually, people will be paying you to go to them.” So I have been taking her advice.

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries

What would you identify as your most successful moment up to this point in your career?

To this day, the most successful moment I’ve had in my career is winning an award for the first documentary-short I ever created. It’s called Painting Dreams: The Story of Johnson Simon. It’s about a former Western Michigan University student who is a painter with cerebral palsy. The film documents his experience of being a college student with a disability, and how he uses art to cope with his disability. It got an honorable mention at the 2016 BEA Festival of Media Arts. To have won an award on my first piece of work meant a lot to me, and it was the affirmation I needed to know that documentary filmmaking is “my thing.”

How would you describe your artistic style?

Artistically, I’m a very minimal planner. I go into a documentary project with an idea of what I want the end result to be, but I definitely leave enough room and creative space to allow a story to tell itself. I think there’s more authenticity that way. I kind of let the story be the director, and I’m just the one that puts it all together.

Do you have a film bucket list? If so, what are you still wanting to do?

There’s SO much on my film bucket list, both with my company and as a personal filmmaker. One day, I hope my company grows to scale to where we can be the next Kartemquin Films to not only tell amazing stories (WITH funding because I’m going broke paying for everything out of pocket!) but also offer development programming for filmmakers and become advocates for documentary film. I want to create a film that wins at Sundance. I want to work on a team with Ava DuVernay (or at least meet her…she’s my idol). I want to create documentary content for HBO or Netflix. And like, I’d even be satisfied to just be nominated for an Oscar. I wouldn’t even have to win!

What would you say to other Black female creatives wanting to break into the industry?

To other Black female creatives wanting to break into the industry, figure out what exactly you want for yourself and then get to work. Don’t wait for permission, and don’t be afraid to kick down your own doors of opportunity when no one will open them for you. Network, find your support system, and seek resources that will help you get to where you want to be. There’s no right way to do it or one best path to take. You have to figure out what’s best for you. Don’t compare your journey to others and remember that slow and steady wins the race.

It’s hard being Black AND being a woman in this industry. I’ve been stereotyped many times, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been denied jobs because of it. Everyone assumes that my partner is the CEO of our company because he’s a man. When he corrects them and tells them that it’s me, they’re shocked. But, confidence is key. Once you establish that you’re the HBIC in the room, you’ll gain the respect and the opportunities that you deserve. Wear your crown, don’t be afraid to communicate what you want, never settle, and be bold because that’s what it takes to make it in this industry.

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries

Why do you feel is it important to have our voices represented in this industry?

It’s important to have our voices represented in this industry because everyone deserves to see (positive) representation of themselves, especially in the media and film industry. Our views and perceptions of the world are shaped by what we see, hear, and experience. The media and film industry play a huge role in that. Too often, we’re left out of our own narratives and have no control of our self-image. However, with the rise of technology and social media, it’s easier now more than ever to create and be immersed in content that is representative of our unique, lived experiences. We still have a long way to go, but I think we’re heading in the right direction and are actively fighting a system that’s been predominately white for too long. By increasing our visibility and normalizing our stories, we’re able to celebrate us and more importantly, show our children that consume what they watch on TV that we can also be superheroes, doctors, writers, activists, chefs, authors, and regular human beings, and not just the underdeveloped and stereotyped characters that have saturated the industry for too long.

How can we find you? (website/social media handles)

I’m everywhere!

Twitter, IG, Facebook: @reflctmedia (company) & @tirreab (personal)

Vimeo: vimeo.com/reflctmedia

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/reflctmedia

Web: reflctmedia.com

Anything else you would like to share?

Being a creative is hard. I often want to give up and just work a regular 9-5. There are no days off as a creative, especially as a creative entrepreneur. I go to work, come home and then do more work for my company. I am also in graduate school. I am tired all. of. the. time. But when I think about even the possibility of manifesting my wildest dreams, the work is worth it. As I said before, slow and steady wins the race, don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s, connect with other creatives, and figure out what you want for yourself and go for it. No one is stopping you but you. Appreciate your journey and trust the process. I started off with a camera, a crappy tripod and a basic microphone. Now, I have a company! So, I’d like to think that I’m doing something right. 😉

If you haven’t had a chance to read up on the other talented women in the #BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries, get caught up on Brittney Janae’s story here and Joyce Fitzpatrick story here.

 

 

 

 

 

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries || Joyce Fitzpatrick

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries || Joyce Fitzpatrick

Kicking off week 2 of the #BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries, I talked to Joyce Fitzpatrick. Joyce is a triple threat within the industry – writer, director and producer housed in Los Angeles.

How long have you been in the industry and what made you want to go into this field?

I’ve been in the industry since 1991, which is a long time.  Being from the midwest, I watched a lot of tv and movies, read tons of books and learned to play lots of instruments.  There wasn’t much to do in Indianapolis, but I truly enjoyed my childhood and teenage years growing up there. I love old movies and watched a lot of “good” tv and “bad” tv. However, I noticed there wasn’t a lot of diversity on the three big networks at the time.  Cable was just starting and I felt that one race was consistently represented in every genre but not Blacks, Hispanics, Asians or indigenous people. You’d only see us in stereotypical roles and situations, i.e. living in poverty, or as slaves, killers, butlers or maids.

I wanted to see more diversity in all genres from the pioneer days, to suburbia, to outer space, but it didn’t exist, except on Star Trek..Lol. That motivated me to want to get into telling stories about black lives that reflected various experiences and genres. That’s why I went into the film and television industry. I wanted to speak from the experiences that I knew and learned about from my life and through family and friends. I know there are so many great stories out there and I can’t wait to see more and more of them from creatives of color.

Joyce on set.

Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome in this industry? If so, how did you overcome that?

I’ve worked for different entities with male bosses and they have often made me feel like I did not belong in the position I held.  Even though I worked very hard and often harder than my peers, and I’ve tolerated berating & condescending remarks, I stayed confident, strong and patient. To this day, I thank those individuals who tried to make me feel inadequate because they made me even more confident and stronger in my abilities than I ever thought I could be.  I’ve learned that when others try to make you feel less than, they are really feeling that way themselves and you shouldn’t let them intimidate you. That’s it!

What would you identify as your most successful moment up to this point in your career?

Wow….I’ve had a few successful moments in my career that I think about from time to time. I really can’t pinpoint just one moment, but there have been a few situations that I’ve felt blessed.  Having an audience see my work in a movie theater or on a television network was a great feeling. It feels good to know that your work has made it that far.

There is one memory that I always keep close to my heart.  It was the very first time I wrote a comedy sketch for a national television show titled, “The Newz” for UPN. This was a long time ago because UPN is now CW. Back then, I was flown out to Universal Studios to see my sketch performed live by the comedy ensemble from the show in front of a live audience.  If you google “The Cat From Hell” on the tv show the NEWZ you can watch it. It was a surreal experience and anyone reading this who is a television writer, you feel strange when a live audience is laughing at your jokes. I just stood on the sidelines near the stage and just watched the audiences responses. They laughed so much and I enjoyed it, but it felt really strange.  I think it was because this was the very first thing I EVER wrote and it made it on national television network. I can’t explain it, but that was one of my most memorable moments working in this business.

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries

How would you describe your artistic style?  

My artistic style when it comes to directing is about telling a good story with amazing backdrops and wardrobes, like in “Black Panther.”  Now, I do love old movies where the women are dressed to kill in amazing dresses and gowns with vivid colors aka technicolor like in the “old” days. But I also think there are amazingly talented DP’s out there who can see how to interpret my story in ways that I may not even imagine.  I also like bigger-than-life action which also involve dramatic and amazing back drops, like old sleepy towns, sweeping valley and beautiful country sides. At the end of the day, I just want to tell good, fun, scary or heartfelt stories that move people and make them think and if style plays a huge part in that, then great.

I’m not a big fan of romantic comedies, but I actually wrote one called  “African American in Paris” which was an award-winning screenplay, and it follows the “Walter Smitty” style of storytelling which involves great locations about Europe which help to tell the story.  

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries

Do you have a film bucket list? If so, what are you still wanting to do?

I would love to make some fun and memorable horror films and mysteries. Or even some fun comedies because I’m not too serious. I like to have fun, so if I could do lots of projects that make people scream, laugh and watch my films over and over again, I’m good.

What would you say to other Black female creatives wanting to break into the industry?

Get out and just get started.  It is such a great time in history to be black and female.  What I would like to see more of is women of color helping each other. I still see a lot of “crabs in the barrel” syndrome.  I’ve been at events, on sets with most of the stars you see today and I hate to say this, but I’ve gotten death stares from these people for no reason and particularly women.  It’s really sad. I’m not a stalker, but I see some of these actors on some of our most popular shows at film festivals, Hollywood functions, etc. and they just stare you down. Unless your Ava Duvernay or Oprah, they look at you like you shouldn’t be there, but the thing is you are, so why can’t we chat?

It’s crazy. I just keep my nose to the grindstone and keep letting my work speak for me. I also try to help other up and coming women of color in this industry, because we have all needed a helping hand at some point in our careers and why not help someone who you know is talented. Hey, if they’re more talented than you, don’t be jealous. Pull them in and maybe collaborate with them and create something wonderful!

#BlackFemaleFilmmakerSeries


Why do you feel is it important to have our voices represented in this industry?

The industry needs to reflect the dollars it takes from its consumers and most of those are people of color.  We have tolerated not seeing ourselves in Hollywood for far too long and I think the timing couldn’t be better, but people have to stay on it. It’s important that if you are going to start a fight, you have to finish it and it’s a long battle.  I loved “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians” and there needs to be more of that and I hope Hollywood is watching and listening to its consumers.

How can we find you? (website/social media handles)
Websites https://www.flatcat-productions.com/
                            https://www.thecolorofmedicine.com/
                            http://www.animalcontroltv.com/

Instagram: @fitzpatrickjoyce
Twitter:  @ProducerJoyce
Facebook pages 

Anything else you would like to share?

I think it’s great to share our experiences that include the good and the bad because this Hollywood life isn’t all “Glitz” and “Glamour.” It’s a business and a harsh one at that, and people need to know about it.  It will eat you up and spit you out if you aren’t grounded. I think the “Me too” movement is showing us that. But, it is still one of the most attractive careers out there. It has it’s attraction, but it can bite too.    

#BlackFemaleFilmmakersSeries || Brittney Janae

#BlackFemaleFilmmakersSeries || Brittney Janae

The month of March is Women’s History Month and to celebrate, I have chosen to highlight Black Female Filmmakers in the media industry. Unfortunately, we are still working to break down barriers within the industry to have our voices, craft, and artistry represented equally and equitably amongst our non-Black, non-female peers.

To kick off this series, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Brittney Janae, a Cali creative with midwestern roots on her journey in the industry thus far, and tips/tricks for other aspiring Black female filmmakers.

How long have you been in the industry and what made you want to go into this field?

I’ve been in the industry professionally for about 5 years. After I moved to LA and made my first check as an editor is when I could say, “I’m a professional.” I got into it because I loved it! I had been shooting photography and started developing a creative eye visually since college. I’ve always been a creative, but it was finding that “thing” that was for me. I fell in love with the camera once I saw how I could show life through my lens in a visually stunning way. And with video, it was like ‘oh photo is already amazing so now I can have those frames and memories and art last longer.’ I love it!

Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome in this industry? If so, how did you overcome that?

Of course! When I first started off I felt like I wasn’t good enough. Even when I had people telling me I was good, I always felt that I wasn’t because I didn’t go to school for this and I didn’t have the learned techniques. I thought being self taught could only get me so far. I would see other videos and photos and feel inadequate. That people would find out I was going on YouTube to learn! I also use to say I knew I could do it and just learn after. But I learned how to overcome by staying a student in my craft! I knew I had it in me but that comparison game was strong. Once I stop comparing my walk with others it helped me out a lot. I went through a lot of hardships when I moved to LA, which only confirmed that I was doing exactly what the Lord intended for me. So I believed in myself more! ” I continued to learn knowing that this is my purpose! I won’t be one of the greats but I would have fulfilled a purpose!

#blackfemalefilmmakersseries

What would you identify as your most successful moment up to this point in your career?

My most successful moment up to this point in my career was when I decided to go full freelance. It was liberating! It made me trust in myself more, grind more, and have more faith! I didn’t have that crutch to fall on. It was “Do you believe that God will prosper you on His own in what He’s called you to do?” It was scary, but when I look back, it was the best decision I ever made! It allowed me time to develop my gift and to identify what God was doing in my life and be able to wholeheartedly seek it!

How would you describe your artistic style?

My artistic style is very clean. I like focusing on the individual and the stories I tell rather than the effects. I love negative space. I just like for it to look clean but creative. My style is also very commercial. I’m not into music videos so it’s a mixture of film and commercial if that makes sense.

Do you have a film bucket list?

I want to make dope travel videos, I want to shoot at least 1 short film in my time and I would love to win an Emmy.

What would you say to other Black female creatives wanting to break into the industry?

Hmmm.. there is a lot to say but first to just develop their style. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Not to follow the trends but to learn what makes them unique. Find their niche and run with it! Also, not to compare themselves! Everyone had to start somewhere!

#blackfemalefilmmakersseries

Why do you feel is it important to have our voices represented in this industry?

I feel it’s important to have our voices represented because it’s real. You can’t tell stories without Black women. Black women have been creating forever! It’s in our blood so to tell stories without our perspective would be false representation of life! Without our creativity, life would be so bland. Don’t take everything about who we are and what we create but silence us at the same time. It’s time for Black women to speak for themselves whether it’s through film, art, or business.

How can we find you? (website/social media handles)

You can find me on Instagram at @Brittney.janae, and Facebook Brittney Janae and youtube www.youtube.com/brittneyjanae

Happy First-Gen College Student Day

Happy First-Gen College Student Day

Happy First Generation College Student Day. If you don’t know what today is, don’t feel bad. It is fairly new but very much important. On November 8, 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-Generation Student Success launched the very first, First-Gen College Celebration. While long overdue, I am excited that we are getting the celebratory recognition that we so much deserve. Far too often and for far too long, any and every piece of literature regarding First-Gen students lumps us in to a group of individuals that are all to vulnerable and susceptible to a myriad of distractions that could deter us from post-secondary education. Our stories are far greater, much richer, more complex and unique than the data. Here, I want to share my First-Gen story – I’ll try to keep it short 🙂

I graduated from high school in May of 2008. I would say I had a fairly easy high school education. I always strived for straight A’s, always involved in some after school activity and vying for leadership roles. I was the senior class Vice President, on prom court, and graduated with a 4.3 GPA. I never really had to try. I would do homework, listen to music, eat, watch tv, and text all at the same time. I was regarded as the student who didn’t need assistance which in hindsight, was the onset of many educational challenges I would have in the future. There is a huge misconception that high achieving students are often given preferential treatment by teachers and counselors, but that wasn’t my experience. I wasn’t given information about college reps visiting the school or scholarship opportunities. I had to research that on my own. I’m sure the preferential treatment was given to my white classmates considering I went to a predominately white school – but that’s another convo for another day.

I grew up middle class. Both of my parents had pretty decent jobs so we never really needed for anything and “access” (or what I would consider access) wasn’t an issue. It was awareness and information that set me behind the 8 ball. Granted, my parents valued education and supported me in my efforts to apply and enroll in college, but I had to take the lead and inform them of the little that I knew. I handled my business all throughout high school so they never questioned my efforts or double checked to see if anything I was doing was actually correct – they trusted me.

The FAFSA, I had to learn that on my own; best fit/match, I didn’t know the importance of that back then; tuition cost, I’ll just take out loans – I was just shooting and seeing what stuck (thank God for provision). I decided to go to the University of Missouri – Columbia (Mizzou) to feel like I was sort of far away, but close enough to get back home if needed. Little did I know, if I felt high school was a breeze, college was going to be the complete opposite.

2nd semester of my freshman year of college, I was pregnant with my baby girl. So now, not only am I a First-Gen college student but I am a student-parent with a whole new set of unique needs that more often than not, were never left unaddressed. At 5 months, I moved back home with my parents to get support in raising Addy while still taking classes at a local university. When my daughter was 15 months, I came back to Mizzou with my daughter on my hip. Freshman year by myself was challenging but it held no weight to parenting and going to school full-time.

My remaining years in undergrad consisted of financial aid appeals, gathering 343,943 pieces of documentation for my FAFSA since I was independent, food stamps, WIC, TANF, one-on-ones with professors, tutoring, on-campus jobs flexible with my schedule, daycare, bringing my kid to class, creating student groups to find other students with similar lifestyles to feel supported as a first-gen/student parent and the list goes on and on and on. This continued on to my graduate school experience as well, except this time I was GROWN grown. Didn’t make the challenges any less harsh (being a first-gen graduate student deserves its on post – not today)

First-Generation college students do not have monolithic experiences but our pride, drive, will, tenacity, relentless pursuit of completion, repeated episodes of imposter syndrome and an on-going desire to pour into other First-Gen students make our journeys that much more similar. We aren’t basket cases, we aren’t at-risk youth in need of a savior, we aren’t data-fillers and quota reachers. We deserve a quality education and to receive the same amount of nurturing support as your legacy/pay-tuition-out-of-pocket/75th-generation college students. We bring diversity to the classroom and workforce and are more apt to be of service to others because we know what it’s like to start from scratch and have to just “figure it out.”

If I were to define my college experience in one sentence, it would be “trial-and-error.” There was no road map laid out before me or a book full of advice from family members on how to navigate college because they didn’t know either. But this experience helped shaped so much of my life and I am forever grateful for this experience. Most importantly, my daughter will now have the opportunity as well as the access that I did not have. Even if she chooses not to pursue post-secondary education, she will be equipped to make an informed decision and won’t have to shoot and see what sticks.

*To read more about Addy and I’s experience at Mizzou, read here

Cheers to the First-Gens! Today is FOR US!

first-gen

5 Ways to Incorporate Reading into Your Busy Schedule

5 Ways to Incorporate Reading into Your Busy Schedule

“I wish I could read for leisure more but I am just too busy” –  said all of you. Ok, that’s an overgeneralized statement but I do see and hear that being said from many of you. One of the greatest lies ever told is that we simply don’t have enough time to (fill in the blank). It isn’t that we don’t have enough time; if we are honest with ourselves, we most likely don’t have enough discipline. I have that same issue and talk about it here, but I am proud to say that I have grown to be consistent over these past two weeks with a book in hand everyday. A few days prior to the new year, I made a commitment to read every single day from the books that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf. In fact, I am in the process of reading two books: I read 1-2 chapters of Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend every morning and I read 1-2 chapters of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond every night. These two books are of two totally different genres but both keep me equally engaged in the pages. I highly recommend both and will follow up with a book review for each once completed.

I am over halfway done with both books and I wanted to take the time in this post to share some tips that helped me get back to my favorite pastime.

  1. Do what I did above – make reading a part of your morning/nightly routine. If you want to start off slow, choose the time in which you have the most energy. I am everything but a morning person but the book I am reading (Boundaries) serves as a devotional to me which helps boost my day. I only read one chapter so I don’t get overwhelmed (unless that chapter sucked me in and I can’t stop reading. The book I read in the evening (Evicted) has longer chapters than Boundaries but is a highly engaging read and is relevant to what I am studying in my graduate studies program. It only takes me 30 minutes or less to get through one chapter per book.
  2. On your lunch break, leave your phone at your desk, in your locker, in your purse – anywhere but in your hand and take a book instead. You’d be surprised how much time we waste on the phone during the breaks we have allotted to us throughout the day. 30 minutes here to an hour there – you’d be done with a book in no time.
  3. We are the “continue to sit on the toilet even after we are done using it” generation. If you are going to just sit there, take the book with you. Try this out the first few times and I guarantee by the end of the week, you won’t even miss your phone.
  4. Scheduled any appointments for the upcoming week? Hair, dental, OBGYN – all good places to have a book handy. You already have to wait in the waiting room and then have to wait in the room before your doctor is ready to see you. Those few minutes slowly but surely add up so go ahead and knock some pages out.
  5. If you are so pressed to believe that you simply do not have the time to physically sit down and turn the pages of a book, try e-books. Download them and listen to them during your daily commute, while you exercise, while you are cooking, etc. It won’t feel as though you are interrupting your “most important” tasks throughout the day and you are killing two birds with one stone. Personally, I love the feel and smell of a good book and I need to see the words in order to paint a picture as I read.

See, five very doable ways to incorporate literature into (or back into) your schedule without hindering your fake ever-so-busy schedule. Try one, or several, of these tips for the next 7 days and keep me updated on your progress.
#ReadABook2K17

Uncle Obama: Not Just Because He’s Black, but Because He’s Black

Uncle Obama: Not Just Because He’s Black, but Because He’s Black

It is believed that people create their best work when stressed, depressed, grieving, or just plain ol’ hurt. Well, just like many others across this country (across the globe) I am in mourning. Uncle O and Tee Tee ‘Chelle leaving, y’all. They can’t pass go. They can’t collect $200. There will never be another and if there is, they won’t be quite like the first BLACK family.

I was still wet behind the ears when Uncle O took office. I had turned 18 four months prior to him being voted as the president-elect so with 2008 being my first time voting, I find it nothing short of a blessing to witness such a moment. Uncle O made a trip to Mizzou (my alma mater) a few days before voting day. The line to see him probably stretched all the way down 70 and I remember several people were pissed that a few friends and I cut the line. What can I say? Much like Sasha, I had class that morning and couldn’t catch this occasion until my work was complete.

obama

I had never seen anything like it. The atmosphere was pleasant. No, the atmosphere was LIT but we weren’t saying LIT in ‘08 but it fits the story so there have you.

 

obama

This man was free of smile lines, few sprinkles of grey on the top of his head, but still had that same wide smile that made his eyes disappear when he showed his teeth. I had never been engaged in “politics” prior to this election and honestly, I never really cared to. Witnessing his campaign and his election, being able to see him in person before he became President elect, seeing him and Tee Tee ‘Chelle balance parenthood in the public eye and salvaging any type of normalcy they could find was beyond admirable to me. It makes me yearn for it all the more knowing the type of person we got coming in behind him.

obama

“Politics” is a funny concept. The older I get, the more I realize it is something one can never get away from and has little control over how it is executed but much control over how one responds to it. When it came down to it, it HAS and WILL effect me whether I am 17 or 71 so why not try to engage and understand it. Uncle O poured Lawry’s onto the unseasoned plate of politics and made it easier (and more attractive) to digest. To say that he ran his presidency free of mistakes and issues would be extremely naive of me, however, his successes far outweigh the failures and on behalf of MOST Blacks (I won’t say all), I’ll tell you why….

For all the Black parents whoever told their Black child, “you can be whatever you want to be…EVEN the President of the United States” not knowing if they believed themselves when they said it but got to see it come to fruition with him- not just once but TWICE!

For all the Black women fawning at how much he loves his lady and his girls – how he broke stereotypes among stereotypes that Black men don’t love Black women and they leave their children behind to be raised by the ills of the world.

For all the Black people who went to apple itunes and blasted Let’s Stay Together by Al Green after he swooned us for a few seconds at Harlem’s Apollo Theater.

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For the 12,000 inmates (most of which happen to be Black and Brown) who received a grant under the Second Chance Pell Grant Program who are now able to pursue two & four year degrees!

For all the Black men who found solace and unity amongst one another through the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

For the many Blacks who now (for now) have health insurance coverage under the ACA.

For all the Black people who continue to push and persevere past opposition for the betterment of themselves and their families. Obama had to move past a petty a*s congress who actively chose not to stamp anything he introduced and he STILL kept it pushing.

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For all the Black people who have been letting the world know how truly racist this country is for YEARS and Obama’s administration helped exposed it. Maybe we can actually work towards progression now that we (THEY) have admitted that this country has a problem…but then there’s trump.

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For all the Black grannies who put a picture of Uncle O next to Jesus and MLK, and if they were really involved in politics – JFK.

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For the 1000+ individuals (many Black and Brown) who received pardons/commutations for a second chance at life.

For those who are super heavy into “facts” (but with the current president elect, I don’t know how….nvm), those are some facts for you. Some of which are measurable and others aren’t, but doesn’t make them any less valid.

The argument that our love for him is solely because he is Black is not accurate – it makes it all the more beautiful.


I didn’t have a Black professor until I got to graduate school in the Fall of 2015 – at the age of 25. I’ve had Black custodians, secretaries, librarians, bus drivers, lunch ladies, security guards, referees, coaches….you catch my drift? To walk in to class and see that Black lady with them long locs and her unapologetic style of teaching – I sat at attention EVERY DAMN DAY. The idea of what she had to go through to get to where she is, at one of the most prestigious private schools in the country lends itself enough compassion and empathy from me to her. I wanted to pay attention. I wanted to be engaged. I wanted to lead discussion and participate in each class session because if it took me 25 years (21 of which I was actually enrolled in school) to have a Black teacher, who the hell knows how long it would be before that happens again! I was committed to do my best not just because I wanted to get an A, but she made me want to learn.

Same with Uncle O. Politics is dry as hell to me, but he made me want to know more, made me want to understand, made me want to get involved, and made me care.


For all the butt-hurt people who to this day swear up and down that Uncle O did nothing for Blacks, the key is to understand that he is not the President of Blacks; he is the leader of the country surrounded by folks who get off on the very idea of seeing him fail and will sacrifice their firstborn to see him do it.

How engaged were you with your local elections? How many school board meetings did you attend? How many coats did you drop off to the homeless in the winter time? Did you take up a leadership position with your child’s PTO organization at school? Do you volunteer at all? What information did you give up about that unsolved murder you knew about?

If you are going to offer up some complaints, have some solutions to follow up with it.

What are you doing to help Black people? It’s a collective effort with AND without Uncle O.

I’m off my soap box.

We need to keep each other lifted in prayer. This mourning is real. Clearly, the sadness that 2016 brought asked for an extension. I don’t know about y’all but I got my incense lit, Butter Pecan ice cream stocked in the freezer for comfort, Bobby Womack cued up on the record player, and my book of Proverbs open.

In the ever-so-relevant words of Minister K Dot: “We gone be alright.”

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God Bless
*cues Please Don’t Go by Boyz 2 Men*