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

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

09 July 2014

Thoughts While Waiting on the Train Platform: On Anxiety

I went to a club the other night, a rather strange occurrence for me. I've written before about how I don't do clubs. Trust me I've tried to like them. I've tried to get into the groove of things. I've put on the tight dresses with the heels, sipped on drinks and flirted with men. And I've even had really amazing nights with lifelong friends and beautiful people when the DJ was on point and I felt like id be timeless....forever young.  But for me that timeless feeling has been fleeting when it comes to my clubbing experiences. Mostly I've felt sweaty and gross. The drinks have been way too pricey and the DJ beyond wack and I ask myself why I've bothered to beat my face and place stilettos upon my feet, when really a late night milkshake on a rooftop with old friends laughing and watching the sun come up would have suited me just fine.

Which brings me back to the other night. As I walked to the club from the train (cab expenses can only be rationalized to a point) I felt anxious. An anxiety that bubbled up in my throat. I wanted to hide, to run away, to jump back on the uptown express, and crawl into my bed with my Kindle. But why? Where did this feeling of anxiousness come from? I've been aware on some level for quite a few years of my disdain for clubs. And yet, this was something else. Perhaps it was stepping outside of my comfort zone that had me feeling apprehensive. Or the rude bouncers that rule the overpriced clubs in the meatpacking district. (My main concern was trying not to snap my ankle as I teetered  along the cobblestones in my favorite shoes. (Because apparently sky high stilettos are a must in the  meatpacking district -_-)

Once I actually made it into the club I was immediately calm. I sat and chatted with beautiful brown people. ( It really is true that there is like a six degree separation, from every educated black person to another in this country) The DJ was a poor purchase as expected but that didn't stop us from having a jolly grand time. (We made sure to get there when it was free before they started charging a $40 cover.) As I sat there chatting and sipping, I realized two things.

1) I don't have to like clubs. That's not a requirement for being twenty-something. There are so many things that I'd rather be doing and it's completely ok to do them and forgo the anxieties and the groping and other foolishness surrounding the club experience. (I've even found a lovely website for peeps like me)

2) Facing the things that make me anxious, the things that make  me nervous or unsure are the best way to concur my fears. Its ok to determine that I'm not here for one thing or another, but I've decided to hold on to my opinions until I've actually tried doing the things I have anxiety about.

xoxoxox Chocolate Girl In the City xoxoxox

PS: Also when facing your fears just won't cut it. Sweat that shit out. (I quite enjoy a smooth run)

20 June 2014

Waiting On My Life to Begin?

Last Sunday, Prospect Park Dreamin'

I remember in high school I always believed that my "real" life would begin in college. I arrived at my university with bright dreams and grandiose assumptions and once I realized it wasn't all that I thought it would be I figured that my life would begin after college, once I found my footing in the real world. I delayed my entrance into the "real world" by attending graduate school (school was my hustle, I could be in school forever). My first forte into total adulthood was short-lived. I said yes to the first position that was offered to me and then quit it shortly thereafter. (You can read HERE to find out why.) It was after this fairly monumental decision that I realized all assumptions were incorrect. There I was quickly approaching my mid-twenties and still I was funemployed, waiting to begin my life. I normally think I'm more self-aware then this but clearly I was being asshole. A little over a month ago about I decided to start living my life. No I didn't have full time employment but I'm was doing OK freelancing. There's a few huge projects that I'm working on and just because I wasn't receiving a biweekly paycheck I had lots to be proud of. I started focusing on all that I had accomplished despite the obstacles thrown at me.

So I started saying YES to myself which was my resolution for 2014. (You can read that post HERE.) I had already put my mental health and personal well-being high up in my priorities by quitting my job and focusing on my talents and other real goals. Now all I had to do was do that in my social life.

It's so easy to say NO. Saying no means u can stay in your comfort zone. (For me that means in my apartment with my Kindle.) But imagine all of the incredible opportunities that would come your way by saying yes. Saying yes, has changed my outlook and my perspective. Am I ever gonna be the one that enjoys getting plastered and bar hopping until 4 in the morn? Probably not, I'm an old soul and I enjoy sleep way to much. But I also recognize some of the best days of my life have ended with the sun coming up.

So what have I gotten out of saying yes? I've gotten my life :) Just in this past month and a half or so I've gotten more opportunities then I've ever remember getting. My summer is going to be full of concerts and shows, traveling, brunches, park days, friends, family and so much more. This is all happening because I decided that this, RIGHT NOW is my LIFE. My real life, this is it. So for me there will be no more waiting around, no more hiding. I'm just gonna embrace things as they come. As much as I want to curl into myself and get lost in a book I certainly can't sit back and act like that's the best or even the healthiest thing do.

No I haven't achieved everything that I want to do at this point I haven't traveled abroad, read the Game of Thrones series ,or even had epic love but I'm certainly gonna relax a bit and embrace all the things I have done and say yes to every wonderful thing that I've achieved myself.

I read somewhere that the biggest disservice that this generation (my generation) is doing to itself is thinking that we have to have it all together in our twenties. We already put a crap load of pressure on ourselves and it becomes even more stifling when you have your parents and family hovering around your neck whilst you look at your friends and peers achieve greatness. But your know what? Your fan-fuckintastic. This is your life to live! U have to do things and make choices that are going to fulfill U and make you happy in the long run.

Start living because even if you didn't realize it, your "real" life has long since begun.

xoxoxo Chocolate Girl in the City xoxoxoxox