14 September 2014

Black Like Me: On the 2014 Primetime Fall Television Line-Up

Growing up, I wasn't allowed to watch television on the weekdays.(My dad was African, reading was king.) Throughout elementary school I would sit on the school bus and listen to my friends go on and about what had occurred on any given show. (Did I mention we didn't have cable?......It was a pitiful existence.) I’d heard about the various cable shows of course but, I only had access to the basic networks and only on Friday evenings and Saturdays, if we were home.  
 

On the weekends, I was as thirsty as possible. Parched for some screen-time I often raced down the stairs  to beat my sister to the tv. I watched a ton of shows those blissful Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons of my childhood. After all, Black faces were aplenty. (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Family Matters, The Cosby Show, A Different World, Martin, Living Single, Hangin’ With Mister Cooper, The Steve Harvey Show, The Jamie Foxx Show, Good Times, etc.)



And as I got older, I got into more current shows like Moesha, Sister Sister, One on One, Half & Half, The Parkers, The Bernie Mac Show, Everybody Hates Chris, Girlfriends and The Game (pre-BET).



I watched a lot of other things too. However, I gravitated towards these particular shows because of the familiarity of the brown faces that appeared on screen. They looked like my family, like my Mama and them.  As Black people, we are not a homogenous group but there are moments, certain particularities that remain timeless and relatable.




As I moved into high school and then through college, Blackness had nearly vanished completely from both the big and small screens. Tyler Perry of course kept actors on the big screen, while period pieces and bio-pics, always found room for Black faces. (And yet as we all know, being restrained in these particular roles suffocates the black actor.)



Television however, was in even worse shape.  As I struggled with girlhood and then when puberty. I was desperate to find girls who looked like me. There was Breanna (Kyla Pratt) from One on One, Moesha (Brandy) and Vanessa (Camille Winbush) The Bernie Mac Show. However, those girls were just a bit older, a bit more refined, just a tad out of my reach.  We had Raven to go along with Lizzie McGuire, but was that enough? Not when you’re bombarded with images that are the antithesis of who you are.



I was constantly digging through the archives, working backwards to find old images of Angela Bassett or Erika Alexander. Their images weren’t always readily available; I had to be purposeful in seeking them out. It was as if we’d once again reverted to the 1960’s when everyone in a Black household went running to the television when someone Black was on screen.



Shonda Rhimes and ABC changed that first with Grey’s Anatomy (2005-) and then when she got us all together by delivering queen Olivia Pope in Scandal (2012-) And finally it seems other networks begin to follow suit.  Though it was a very short run, Megan Goode starred on NBC’s Deception (2013), and things have seems to go from there. As a television lover, I’m super excited about some of the things coming out.



I have argued with many about Black images on screen, Many people take issue with Olivia Pope’s position as a mistress, they feel that because she is one of the only Black women on screen she should be prefect (ala Claire Huxtable). However, I argue that the perfect image argument is even more tiresome then being called “chocolate” as I walk down the street.



But here’s what’s coming up in fall television.




MONDAY:



8PM EST Fox’s Gotham

This new series is a prequel to Batman. I’m not really super into the superhero world unless the man character is fine but Jada Pinkett is on TV again and that in itself is worth the look.




9PM EST Fox’s Sleepy Hollow.

Nichole Beharie is stunning; I’ve seen it for her since I was first introduced to her in Shame (2011). Though I ‘m obsessed with Buffy The Vampire Slaver and The Vampire Diaries, Sleepy Hallow isn’t necessarily my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I watched nearly half of the first season and its very well done but I guess being “grownish” I need something a tad sexier. Definitely worth the watch though.




WEDNESDAY



8PM EST NBC’s The Mysteries of Laura.  

Now this doesn’t exactly fall in line because Laz Alonzo plays Deb Messing sidekick in the show. But I shall excuse it because I live for Deb (if you haven’t seen Will & Grace then just give up on life now.) and hell I’ll watch Laz for an hour. I’m not mad at all.




9PM EST Fox's Red Band Society
Based off a memoir, the story surronds a group of kids who bond during their stay at an LA hospital. Octavia Spencer stars as one of the nurses at the hospital. The story line feels a bit cheesy to me if I'm going to be honest, however Octavia can be great as long as shes not relegated to the role of "sassy" Black helper. We've seen The Help already.

 

9:30PM EST ABC’s Blackish

 Now, though I’m excited about this theoretically because I live for Tracee Ellis, I’m not really sure about this show. Maybe its because I feel away about Anthony Anderson, but I think the themes surrounding the show are definitely worth discussing. I’ll give it a look for sure. 




THURSDAY



8PM EST ABC’S Grey’s Anatomy

 The first of Queen Shonda’s Thursday night shows. Now I haven’t watched the show since Loretta Divine was still the Chief’s wife. I lived for it in high school but it just got to be too much for me.  Anyways’ the show is a multicultural spread . Plus there’s Jesse Williams so…yeah.




9PM EST ABC’s Scandal

Ms. Olivia Pope! When I first stumbled across this series fairly early on I knew it was something special. The fashion, the storyline, Kerry Washington herself, it was and still is all of the things. Don’t get me wrong, last season was a hot boiling mess but I’ll just chalk it up to Kerry being preggers and the writers trying to wrap things up in an eighteen-episode season. Anyway I’m still hype about it come back. (Also thank God they got rid of Columbus Short’s ridiculous ass.)






10PM EST ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder

Ya’ll Auntie Viola has her own show. She slays in general (I just saw her in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby and she was the best part of that entire fiasco of a film.) I don’t know much about the series other than it looks amaze and Dean Thomas from Harry Potter is on it but that enough to draw me to the tv.



I would say that overall, the current fall line up is not looking too shabby. It's looking much better than last year that’s for sure. I will say this however, as Viola Davis said recently, this marginalization of Black people on screen has got to stop. We shouldn't have to go seek out premiere networks like HBO, Showtime and Starz to see images. They should be ever present ever available, just as we are in real life. Images reinforce the fact that we are real, that we are human and that our existence is just as relevant and just as valuable as others.   



xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxox
Will you be watching?

02 September 2014

“You Did Right By Yourself, Ain’t No Other Way To Live.”




“You did right by yourself, ain’t no other way to live.” Chadwick Boseman as James Brown

The summer my mom died I lost about thirty pounds. It’s been four years and I remember that summer as if it happened yesterday. It’s strange because I can’t remember what happened last week. And yet, those memories will forever be permeated on my brain.

It was the summer Kanye’s “ My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” dropped.  I was obsessed with being an ultra girlie girl and I wore copious amounts of weave and makeup. But the thing I remember most was the smells.  The smell of the cancer ward on the top floor of Northwestern Memorial hospital, the smell of the wind coming off of Lake Michigan as my best friend and I sped down Lake Shore Drive. We were desperately trying to hold on to the innocence of being]young and free, right on the cusp of adulthood. And still, though unsaid we recognized that we would never be innocent again. That summer marked the end of my childhood. As the summer trudged forward I slept less and less, my once tight fitting clothes hung off of me, and I painted my mother’s nails for the last time trying desperately to come to terms with her impending death. After twenty years those were to be my final days with her.

And even today, right now as I write this I can still smell the cancer ward. It's as if the disease seeped in to the walls and the floors of that building. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever smelled before, not like the maternity ward or even the nursing home I visited as a child. It was because of that smell that I didn’t eat. Every time I looked at food I was reminded, and I was disgusted and heartbroken, my stomach churned. So I drank coffee and alcohol, and stayed out all night,and worked and sat with my mother.

Even that summer, I was able cope, to press forward, to deal, despite what was happening around me. Perhaps I’ve worn myself down or maybe my nerves are just shot from the stress and overuse of the past few years. I recently found myself in a situation where my stomach was once again in knots, the constant stress and anxiety was literally eating away at me. I began questioning myself and my capabilities. (I’ll admit I’ve only ever truly been a disaster at a few things in my life fractions, physics, geometry and calculus. Everything else I pretty much get after a few tries.) The constant throbbing in my stomach and my perpetual anxiety wasn’t allowing me to think clearly. I started buying into the things that were said to me and about me.

And then after a particularly trying day a good friend called me up and we chatted for awhile and she expressed to me that she had been in a very similar situation and it took just that conversation to make me snap out of this reverie that had been consuming me. 

#blessed & grateful

I’ve realized that people will try and tell you how to live or what choices to make, but at the end of the day you have to do what's best for you. You can’t let other people’s anger and dissatisfaction with their lives affect you because it will take root into your soul. Quite frankly, it’s none of your black ass business nor is it your place to become the vessel onto which they spew their negativity.

Happiness is everything to me, the joy that I find in a day is what keeps me pressing forward. Those memories, those images and that smell will always be with me, but I’m less easily haunted when I’m living in the light.







04 August 2014

Bonds, Deceptions & Dreams: An Overview of Starz's 8-Episode Freshman Series 'Power'



Who are we? Is there a difference between who we truly are at the core of our beings and the image that we present to the world? Or are these various versions of ourselves simply illusions?

The Starz Network original series Power, from creator Courtney Kemp Agboh explores all of these issues.  The series surrounds the life of James “Ghost” St. Patrick as he attempts to leave the street life behind him in search of a legitimate enterprise. Ghost is fractured, literally split between two different worlds. He straddles the line between his new “legitimate” nightclub Truth where he presents himself as James, and the street empire that he’s operated for years under the pseudonym Ghost.

At first reflection the character seems to operate in the very same vein as The Wire’s Stinger Bell (you’ll see some familiar faces from The Wire throughout the season.). And yet, the characters aren’t the same, not by a long shot.  Unlike Stringer, Ghost has become very skilled at hiding who he is, almost to a fault. He desperately yearns to be James, the man who made it big in New York City. He wants a legacy that he can show off to the world, something that he can be handed down to his children. He’s exhausted, motivated by fear. He realizes that there is only a matter of time before he’s either locked up or killed and he has children to consider. Unable to reconcile that image with himself, he seeks asylum within the walls of legitimacy, or more literally within Truth.

Continue reading at Shadow And Act

xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxoxo

03 August 2014

Film Review: Get On Up


*****SPOILER ALERT ******
I want to say that the most epic biopic that I've ever seen aside from Malcolm X (which despite its brilliance had its issues) was Taylor Hackford's Ray staring Jamie Foxx. The Best Actor award was well deserved and since then I've compared every single biopic of black people to Foxx's performance.

Despite the fact that I'm obsessed with history, I feel a way about biopics especially because it seems like one of the ways for Black people to be seen in film. is Hollywood only comfortable if we're stuck in the past? Hopefully we are ushering in a new era of cinema but, I'm over seeing us as slaves, sharecroppers, maids and even iconic but troubled public figures.

Though I feel like I have a good handle of what's going on in Black Cinema, I hadn't heard of Chadwick Boseman until the press circuit for 42 started. Obviously, I went to see it (as I do most things having to do with black film and TV) and I thought it was a well done film. Chadwick was really good as Jackie Robinson. The film was a bit fluffy, but so are most biopics and I didn't think much else of it, or him for that matter

That changed when photos from this project leaked. Boseman, hair fully conked and dressed as the Godfather of Soul. To say I was apprehensive was putting it lightly. To get down James Brown's mannerisms and the intricacies of his character seemed literally impossible. I was certain that the film would be a complete train wreck.

And it would have been, had it not been for Bosemen pulling of the performance of a lifetime.

I'll admit, I enjoyed The Help for what it was. Octavia Butler, Viola Davis, Emma Stone and Jessica Chastain are incredible actresses and Tate Taylor stayed within him realm as a director, perhaps the book provided the guidelines that he needed.

With Get On Up, Taylor took a lot of risks and unfortunately they didn't really work. To begin with the coloring was overly saturated, pulling the audience out of the time period and right back into the 21st century. Where Ray was gray and muted, sucking you further and further into the story, Get On Up was way too flashy where it didn't need to be.

The flashbacks were also exhausting and extremely clumsy. The story cut back and forth dropping the audience down without giving us any real guidance into which point of Brown's life we were being shown. Only cheesy title cards and Brown's clothing choices helped ground us in space and time. This really did a disservice for younger generations, yes, we all know James Brown's music but perhaps not a chronological discography.

  There were also many unanswered questions in the film, I'm not sure if things were cut for the purpose of time or if the editor was just not in sync with the rest of the project. At one point there was mention of Brown's son Teddy having some highly contagious disease and then it was never mentioned again. We never get a complete understanding of how he met either of his wives. His tax issues came up out of the blue and the entire story was very disjointed. (Perhaps there were holes because Brown's family wasn't comfortable airing all of his dirty laundry.)

In spite all of this, the performances alone made it well worth my $14. I've stood for Nelsan Ellis since I first got hooked on True Blood my freshman year of undergrad.  He's an exceptional actor who deserves so many more roles. He was fantastic as Bobby Byrd.  Also, ya'll needed to find Brandon Smith (he plays Little Richard) and give him a full leading role in Little Richard's biopic. The man was EPIC.  And finally, as I've mentioned Chadwick Boseman should be so proud of his performance. And quite frankly, I wouldn't be mad if I saw him portray another ten iconic Black men.

Overall, the film was certainly worth seeing, though perhaps I'm one of the few who felt that way. The film barely grossed $14 million which is kind of sad making it number three at the box office this weekend.



xoxoxoxox Chocolate Girl In the City xoxoxoxoxoxox


28 July 2014

The Time I Saw The Queen


"She had no right to approach me and my life like that with those vocals" ~ Kid Fury

New Orleans is hot. No, not like summer time Chi or no air conditioning in your apartment hot, it's a whole other type of moist heat. I imagine it's what standing  inside of a butt hole feels like. You can hardly even breathe. And yet, if you ever get the opportunity it's definitely somewhere that you ought to go. Bestie and I had spoken of going for awhile. Originally, sister and I were suppose to go in January, but father winter, being the evil man that he is thwarted out plans.

But alas things aren't so cruel. Fate stepped in when Bey + Jay announced they would bless us with their "On the Run" tour. Instead of bestie coming to NYC and venturing out to Jersey, or me returning to the Chi on a regular ass Thursday night, we decided to make an adventure out of it and bless NOLA with our presence.  I left work early last Friday eve and sat in a cab as it crawled towards the airport. (And good thing i decided not to be cheap because I barely made my flight....this is becoming a habit of mine.)

The flight in itself was a sordid tale. A large group of drunken girls stumbled upon the plane headed to NOLA for a bachelorette weekend. They delighted in yelling across the aisle at one another and reciting lines for Bridesmaids at anyone who had the misfortune of hearing.  I also had the good luck of sitting next to a woman who was terrified to fly. Having battled with that fear myself I was sympathetic but then i just really wanted to read my filthy book and not look at any more pictures from her daughter's wedding.

Upon my arrival in Nawlins' I hung out in the airport playing on my tablet as I waited for Bestie to get in. After embracing (dramatically as we do_, we checked into our delightful hotel (the Doubletree of course because there is cookies which I proceeded to have at least five of over the course of the weekend), and ventured out into the night for some delicious and fattening nourishment.

We stumbled upon a hole in the wall and and i politely scarfed up this gem.

Shrimp Po'Boy




NOLA had already wiggled her way into my heart...and belly.

The next day it was overcast but we ventured out anyway, walking around the French quarter for hours and hours. We stopped for lunch and guzzled down large alcoholic slushies. Then we proceed to do one of my most favorite activities, people watch.
I don't know how many of these i had....but it was alot.


The people alone were enough to occupy our attention. I'm always baffled by the fact that people come out on the street looking any type of way. It was so amusing. As we strolled and sipped we spotted an extremely large man with a shirt that said king on the front, when he turned around it read, "Together 20". Intrigued of course, we decided to stop and lean against a wall whilst sipping our drinks (because public alcohol consumption is a thing) to await his queen.  And see her we did. Soon enough she came barreling down the street in a matching grey t-shirt that said "Queen" on the font. We waited with baited breath, beside ourselves with glee until she blessed our lives with the back of her shirt. It read..... (drumroll please) "Since 13". Now if you are slow like I can sometimes be, I will spell it out for you. As a pair, their shirts read... "Together since 2013". Already mildly intoxicated I began to shake with laughter, howling and holding on to the side of the wall. Perhaps I seem like an asshole but it was so absurd I was in utter disbelief. (And girl you would have laughed too!) They had the black nerve to not only be grown and dressing alike, but also to try and stunt like their relationship was really on. Ma'am... Sir, you do realize its only 2014. But back to the trip.

That New Orleans heat wears down on you. After too may beignets, fried oysters and an abundance of cheese, we spent late Saturday evening frolicking in our hotel room. It was quite a thrill though, because the ballroom was on the 16th floor of the hotel (we were on the 14th) and we got to listen to an entire wedding reception.)  Also, The French Quarter ain't no place you want to end up alone or even with one of your girlfriends on a Saturday night. I saw some things that I can never unsee and I was nearly accosted by a gentlemen as we left Deanies Seafood Restaurant.

Sunday Morning we awoke to a monsoon. We stumbled downstairs in search of some coffee for my caffeine addicted body and because we were not going to be rained on, we went in search of the infamous 16th floor ballroom. We stumbled upon African church service being held there....that was oddly terrifying.  Once the rain finally slowed, we pathetically put on foolish looking rain ponchos and we ventured back towards the French Quarter in search of ever more butter, fat and grease. And find it we did at Oceana Grill. (I could never live down south...there is only so much will power a greedy girl can have). Full and sleepy, we knew that we needed time to prepare our spirits for the reason that we were in NOLA in the first place....The real Queen.


Bestie chose a hotel that was in waking distance of the Superdome and what a fantastic choice she made. While everyone was stuck in horrendous traffic, we strolled or happy butts right up into the dome and were in our floor seats yb 8PM.  Concert didn't start until 9:30 but I was not mad. I'm telling you it was worth every penny...every moment agonizing about what to wear. It was worth me nearly cussing out this incompetent woman who worked at the venue who had no idea what she was talking about, as well as the man I wanted to punch in the face for smoking reefer right in my face. Sir, what you do with your life is your black ass choice but what you won't ever do is ruin my experience smh It was way too crowded for all that.

 This was my first "real" concert experience. As you may know I'm much more of a film person so concerts don't really intrigue me. But this one was something that I was not ever going to miss.

Anyways here are so highlights.
video 

video video



The next day we woke up late (it was Monday), and tried to saunter about getting treats to take home with us. The sun was out and beaming down on us...therefore our saunter was short lived.  NOLA was a treat though and I'm so glad I got a chance to go.

If you can every now and then treat yourself to a long weekend. Even if it isn't far go somewhere that you've never been before and do some ish you've never done before. For me it reenforces the fact that the sky is the limit.

xoxoxoxox Chocolate Girl In the City xoxoxoxo

18 July 2014

School Was My Hustle Part II: Work Flow




"The things that you are passionate about aren't random, they're your calling."

Read "School Was My Hustle Part I: Grad School & The Job Hunt" HERE

Shit ain't like it use to be. Or at least it's definitely not how I expected it would be. All my life I had it drilled into my head that once you got a good education you would get a good job. To me good job equals nice clothes, traveling and brunchin'. More education meant a better salary. All I will say is that the past 6 months or so definitely taught me a lot about how ish was really gonna be.
Y'all already know about my first "adult" job. I shan't rehash that foolery.

What happened in the three and a half months before I got the new position that I'm currently in is what's most interesting. For the first couple of months of job hunting I was super optimistic about my prospects. (Ya girl can snag an interview. I probably did about 8 in-person and 5 over the phone.) And yet, despite the fact that I think I'm a really good interviewer and a damn good candidate I landed only 1 job. It's hard out here for a chick. As I got more and more frustrated with the outside world and my lack of employment, I decided to focus on what I was most passionate about, the "work" that I'd do, have done and will do for free.

When I was writing and watching  and reviewing , those were the days when I felt most at peace. My freedom allowed me the ability to travel, to spend time with my family and to experience new things. Despite all of that, there were days when I felt ashamed of my funemployment. I think that in the climate of my generation's competitiveness, its easy to feel like you're behind your peers, that you're somehow slacking not quite keeping up with the flow of things. I would ride the train in the middle of the day headed to a film screening or to run errands. Were people judging me for my "leisurely" life. (In retrospect I realize how foolish this sounds.) But these assumed judgements were the least of my worries.



Money. Money was my major concern. Savings eventually run dry my student loans kick in at the
end of this month and NYC is not a cheap place to live. Hell it's not even a cheap place to breathe.

I wanted to give up so many times. I rationalized that perhaps NYC wasn't where I was supposed to end up. But other times I thought F that! I got two degrees in five and a half years from damn good schools never missing a beat despite the chaos of my personal life.

Luckily I didn't give up on myself because the universe wasn't ready to give up on me. In a span of one week I had  four different interviews and I was offered a really good position at a really good company. Was it exactly what I expected when exactly I expected it? No. But then again life rarely ever is.  I'm still working towards my passions I definitely have an end game but until then I'm enjoying the work flow.

A fully employed Chocolate Girl in the City  xoxoxoxox

PS: I'm at the airport on my way to see the queen more on that later ;)

13 July 2014

Birthday Post: 24th Year


1st Birthday pictures;  delightful ensemble


Me & My Makers

Growing up, my mother went all out for our birthdays. Much like Christmas, birthdays in our home were an extravaganza. You opened the door to your bedroom in the morning and you could look down at your feet and see and array of gifts. Rushing down the steps to the kitchen you could expect the entire counter to be covered with gifts, pictures and birthday memorabilia. My mother always showed us (and told us) that we were loved and that she was thankful that we were alive. Daddy would always top off the day with a delicious wad of cash. (African Dad style.) Though we are two years apart in age, sister and I have birthdays that are ten days apart. When we were younger, mama would throw us a huge joint bday BBQ at our house, there was tons of food, family, games and fun. (Along with two separate and elaborately decorated sheet cakes.) As we got older, we started doing separate things (American Girl Place, Six Flags, Chuckie Cheese, Haunted Trails, lunches, dinners, movies, shopping etc.) July must have been a foolish and exhausted month for my mama but, she never let on that it was.
1997  7th Birthday


The summer I turned 16, I was away at Yale University for a summer program. It was the first time id ever been away from my family. When we discussed me attending the program, my mom was nervous about me not having the Sweet 16 that she thought I expected. I was unbothered i could taste the freedom. I was having the time of my little black life. The morning of my sixteen birthday, my roommates and friends surprised me with decorations  and gifts. Later on, I was lounging about the courtyard when I looked up to see a man dressed as a clown with an array if balloons and a delicious ass cake. Only my mother could pull of something so elaborate from half a country away. It was the perfect end to one of the best summer of my life. The last birthday that I spent with my mom was the summer I turned 20. We celebrated in her hospital room.... Less than a month later she was gone.

Sweet 16......um apparently I thought I was cute

This is the cake that the man stalked me to give me. It was SOOOOOO GOOOD. Yes I'm greedy and I still remember


My following two birthdays were lovely and eventful. Daddy, sister and I made the best of our situation and my family and friends were always on call to celebrate.

Last year tho.. Last year was not good.  I was over everyone and everything. My dad had passed the previous February, I'd recently ended a relationship and it was just all bad. I spent most of the day alone. I went to BK to a friends place who was gracious enough to try and cheer me up by baking a delicious cobbler but the night turned shitty very quickly when George Zimmerman went acquitted. I went home and went to bed. Thankful to be done with the dreadful day. Clearly those were signs that I was mildly depressed and didn't really even realize it.

Despite all of that nonsense my twenty-third year was good to me. I can whine about trivial things that occurred that don't matter much now anyway, over all tho I have no complaints. I woke up this morn with a smile on my face :) got some work done, had brunch and ventured off to spend my birthday coupons. 'Twas glorious". (I'm also preparing my spirit to see queen Bey next weekend.)  My moto has always been "turn down" so I'm presently chillin in my apartment and watching a PBS doc on "Freedom Summer".

Birthdays definitely aren't what they use to be... But then again I suppose that's the nature of growing up. I will say one thing tho, I'm so happy and grateful to be here and to be doing well.

From a now one year older
Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxox