Category Archives: Black Entertainment

Will Nicki Minaj’s 7 Year Winning Streak Break at this Year’s BET Awards?

In the past, the BET Awards have had predictable winners in the Best Female R&B/Pop Artist, Best Male R&B/Pop Artist, and Best Female Hip Hop Artist categories. This year’s nominations include some tough competition for past champions Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé, and Drake. Beyoncé is nominated for 7 awards including Best Female R&B/Pop Artist, Best Video, and Best Album. She’ll be competing against sister Solange who garnered 4 nominations for her unique and potent album, A Seat at the Table with accompany visuals to Cranes in the Sky. This year brings some stiff competition in the Male R&B/Pop category with both the Weeknd and Bruno Mars’ stellar year of chart topping singles. With a combination of viral memes and shout-outs, Rae Sremmurd’s, Black Beetles and Migos, Bad and Bougie are tough choices in the Best Collaboration category. The Best Male Hip Hop category has always included the biggest and best mainstream male rappers like J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake so it should be up in the air on who takes the award.

The most interesting category will be the Best Female Hip Hop Artist winner. Nicki Minaj has been the reigning champ for the past 7 years with last year being the first time she was not present at the awards. At one point, I felt the category should have been replaced with Best Hip Hop Artist and just include female and male rappers until a bigger pool of female M.C.s charted. This year, Minaj will be up against some talented rappers for the first time in years including Remy Ma, who most deemed the winner in their very public beef, newcomer Young M.A., legendary M.C. Missy Elliott and popular reality star, Cardi B. I’m thinking it’s between Minaj, Remy and Young M.A. Both Remy and Young M.A. had at least a couple of hits last year over Minaj but Nicki dropped at least 3 singles in March of 2017. Missy’s awaited comeback was a little underwhelming while Cardi B gained some surprising support for her music compared to other members of the Love & Hip Hop cast. With Remy Ma and Fat Joe’s hit, All the Way Up mixed in with her diss record, shETHER, I think Remy will finally break Nicki’s winning streak this year.

Below are the rest of the nominees including the Film, International and the Gospel/Inspirational categories. The awards will take place on 25 June at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles.

Best Female R&B/Pop Artist
BEYONCÉ
KEHLANI
MARY J. BLIGE
RIHANNA
SOLANGE

Best Male R&B/Pop Artist
BRUNO MARS
CHRIS BROWN
THE WEEKND
TREY SONGZ
USHER

Best Group
2 CHAINZ & LIL WAYNE
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST
FAT JOE & REMY MA
MIGOS
RAE SREMMURD

Best Collaboration
BEYONCÉ FT. KENDRICK LAMAR – FREEDOM
CHANCE THE RAPPER FT. 2 CHAINZ & LIL WAYNE – NO PROBLEM
CHRIS BROWN FT. GUCCI MANE & USHER – PARTY
DJ KHALED FT. BEYONCÉ & JAY Z – SHINING
MIGOS FT. LIL UZI VERT – BAD AND BOUJEE
RAE SREMMURD FT. GUCCI MANE – BLACK BEATLES

Best Male Hip-Hop Artist
BIG SEAN
CHANCE THE RAPPER
DRAKE
FUTURE
J. COLE
KENDRICK LAMAR

Best Female Hip-Hop Artist
CARDI B
MISSY ELLIOTT
NICKI MINAJ
REMY MA
YOUNG M.A.

Video of the Year
BEYONCÉ – SORRY
BIG SEAN – BOUNCE BACK
BRUNO MARS – 24K MAGIC
MIGOS FT. LIL UZI VERT – BAD AND BOUJEE
SOLANGE – CRANES IN THE SKY

Video Director of the Year
BENNY BOOM – KEHLANI “CRZY”
BRUNO MARS & JONATHAN LIA – BRUNO MARS “THAT’S WHAT I LIKE”
DIRECTOR X – ZAYN MALIK “LIKE I WOULD”
HYPE WILLIAMS – TYGA “GUCCI SNAKES FT. DESIIGNER”
KAHLIL JOSEPH & BEYONCÉ KNOWLES-CARTER – BEYONCÉ “SORRY”

Best New Artist
21 SAVAGE
CARDI B
CHANCE THE RAPPER
KHALID
YOUNG M.A.

Album of the Year
24K MAGIC – BRUNO MARS
4 YOUR EYEZ ONLY – J. COLE
A SEAT AT THE TABLE – SOLANGE
COLORING BOOK – CHANCE THE RAPPER
LEMONADE – BEYONCÉ

Dr. Bobby Jones Best Gospel/Inspirational Award
CECE WINANS – NEVER HAVE TO BE ALONE
FANTASIA FT. TYE TRIBBETT – I MADE IT
KIRK FRANKLIN FT. SARAH REEVES, TASHA COBBS & TAMELA MANN – MY WORLD NEEDS YOU
LECRAE – CAN’T STOP ME NOW (DESTINATION)
TAMELA MANN – GOD PROVIDES

Best Actress
GABRIELLE UNION
ISSA RAE
JANELLE MONÁE
TARAJI P. HENSON
VIOLA DAVIS

Best Actor
BRYSHERE Y. GRAY
DENZEL WASHINGTON
DONALD GLOVER
MAHERSHALA ALI
OMARI HARDWICK

YoungStars Award
ACE HUNTER
CALEB MCLAUGHLIN
JADEN SMITH
MARSAI MARTIN
YARA SHAHIDI

Best Movie
FENCES
GET OUT
HIDDEN FIGURES
MOONLIGHT
THE BIRTH OF A NATION

Sportswoman of the Year Award
GABBY DOUGLAS
SERENA WILLIAMS
SIMONE BILES
SKYLAR DIGGINS
VENUS WILLIAMS

Sportsman of the Year Award
CAM NEWTON
LEBRON JAMES
ODELL BECKHAM JR.
RUSSELL WESTBROOK
STEPHEN CURRY

Centric Award
FANTASIA – SLEEPING WITH THE ONE I LOVE
KEHLANI – DISTRACTION
MARY J. BLIGE – THICK OF IT
SOLANGE – CRANES IN THE SKY
SYD – ALL ABOUT ME
YUNA – CRUSH FT. USHER

Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Award
BEYONCÉ – SORRY
BRUNO MARS – 24K MAGIC
DRAKE – FAKE LOVE
MIGOS FT. LIL UZI VERT – BAD AND BOUJEE
RAE SREMMURD FT. GUCCI MANE – BLACK BEATLES
THE WEEKND FT. DAFT PUNK – STARBOY

Best International Act: Europe
BOOBA (France)
MHD (France)
CRAIG DAVID (UK)
EMELI SANDÉ (UK)
GIGGS (UK)
SKEPTA (UK)
STORMZY (UK)
WILEY (UK)

Best International Act: Africa
AKA (South Africa)
BABES WODUMO (South Africa)
DAVIDO (Nigeria)
NASTY C (South Africa)
STONEBWOY (Ghana)
TEKNO (Nigeria)
WIZKID (Nigeria)
MR EAZI (Nigeria)

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Dear White People Review: Episode 2

Chapter 2

We start off with some of the Winchester’s past racially insensitive parties including a “Cowboys and Injuns” party, a “Wetback Cinco de Mayo” party, and the current blackface party all thrown by the campus magazine, Pastiche. Before Lionel Higgins and the crew crash the party scene we rewind back to some of Lionel’s less fortunate moments in life. One, is his awkward experience with the barbershop. When he arrives at a white barbershop he’s met with stares and when he visits a black barbershop he’s met with intimidating characters including a guy who states, “ya’ll know I don’t cut fags”, in response to another gay man. The homophobic incidents continue with a high school Halloween party. The boys insult Lionel’s costume with homophobic phrases like the played out “pause” and tell him that his Geordi La Forge outfit is gay. I actually thought this was supposed to be some rival gay group that had it in for Lionel but then I realized they were supposed to be the straight guys bullying him. These type of phrases are still being used in everyday conversations. It says a lot about how ingrained homophobia is in our society and how insecure “straight” boys/men are with their sexuality.

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Lionel receives the, “Dear Black People” party invite and proceeds to let Reggie and the group know about the event. They lead an epic crash of the event and soon after Lionel writes his article entitled, “Ebony and Ivory: Total Disharmony”. The next day, the black students in Armstrong Parker seem to dig the article; Lionel is even invited to sit with Reggie’s crew. Instead Lionel sits with Troy and his two passive black friends. In response to Sam’s radio show, one states, “Do we have to listen to this race baiting dribble?” (really nigga?) I guess his short term memory blanked out the actual racist party the night before. Anyway, the two friends argue about their conservative ways including one having a “framed picture of Reagan” and the other having a photo of Stacey Dash which he replies is “Deon; nothing after Clueless matters!” Then, a table with what seems to be a group of gay students exchange glances with Lionel. This was a minor hole in the chapter; the interaction between Lionel and other black gay students would have been interesting. Troy assures Lionel that he will attract a lot of girls from the article and his two friends begin to throw around the same gay slurs Lionel heard when he was younger.

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Troy is heard getting it in in the next room. Lionel starts to put his headphones on but takes this opportunity to get it in in his own way. The lights dim, the walls fall and Troy is seen doing his thing; Lionel pictures Troy speaking straight to him but before he can finish his visualization, Troy concludes. Poor Lionel. The Winchester Independent group and the head journalist in charge, Silvio, are introduced. He tells Lionel that even though his story on the blackface party is front news it’s not hard news or well written. He also asks Lionel about his inclusion of intersectionalities with him being black and gay; this throws Lionel off. “Gay?” he says. Silvio advises Lionel to find his label and that he, himself identifies as a Mexican, Italian, gay, verse top, otter, pup. Similar to Lionel’s statement; I know what all of those words mean individually but not together. Silvio invites Lionel to a speakeasy that the theater kids are throwing. At the party, Lionel meets Connor and his friend with benefits, Becca. They invite him back to their place. Childish Gambino’s, “Red Bone”, plays in the background. “Stay Woke!” Lionel listen up! Connor talks about the white students’ inability to know and understand the country’s history with minstrel shows. “White people are the fucking worse”, Becca responds. Then some freaky shit pops off. I could tell by the nod from Connor that something was up. This scene demonstrates how some white people can acknowledge racism but still play a part in it i.e., fetishizing black bodies and touching black hair without permission. So things are getting steamy until Lionel exposes their little game. It’s revealed that Connor is using Becca to not look full on gay and Becca is not really into their freaky experiment that’s been going on for TWO years; she storms out without any underwear on and Connor reassures she’s off her meds.

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Lionel leaves to the newspaper office where Silvio reveals the blackface party invite had been sent by someone other than Pastiche. Lionel goes through the secret transcripts of interviews where he figures out Sam was the one behind the hacking. Lionel does not want to break the news but Silvio insists, “We can’t control what people do with the news we can only report it.” Messy. This is basically Lionel’s perspective of the blackface revelation. His conflicted feelings show that his career in journalism might be a little rocky down the road.

 

Lionel finally asks Troy to cut his rising fro. Troy asks about his hair setting which Lionel knows nothing about. I can relate because my barber never told me my setting, he just fades the back and the sides low so I have no idea what my settings are either. Lionel reveals that he is gay as Troy walks out of the room; Troy doesn’t hear Lionel. It seems Lionel will hush up about the reveal but he repeats himself and Troy exhales a little, says, “cool” and returns to Lionel’s hair. A slow motion scene of Troy cutting Lionel’s hair without a shirt on is a beautiful sight to Lionel and the viewers watching. Lionel now has new, up close, and personal visuals to do his private dirty deed which he does and afterward stares back at the audience. End scene!

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Overall:

I love how the topic of homophobia is explored within the black community and how it occurs at different levels. You had the black adult men in the barbershop, the black high school students, and the conservative black students who all used gay slurs like it was second nature. This, added with physical assault and neglect affect the LGBT community immensely. I’m wondering how Lionel’s journalism career will play out in the future. He has a level of integrity and ethics that seem to conflict with the position. His intersectionality does not only include his sexuality but his race as well. He’s showing that the lives of the black students are more important than a campus article. Like I stated earlier, the scene with Connor and Becca symbolizes the sexualization of the black body; later on we see the couple target another black victim. That scene also highlights another issue with men denying their sexuality as a whole. Troy’s acceptance of Lionel’s sexuality was great; I feel like there are many Troy’s out there. In the past decade or so there’s been a shift in acceptance of the LGBT community so Troy’s reaction is not so farfetched. That’s not to say that there aren’t still many instances of rejection and abuse towards the community in this day and age.

Dear White People Review: Episode 1

Film Synopsis

Dear White People was first released in 2014 as a film directed by Justin Simien. The story followed four black students as they attended a predominately white institute named Winchester University. Each character represented a different perspective on what it meant to be black in a majority white space and each handled racism differently in a post-Obama country. The protagonist, Sam White, was a bi-racial, pro-black, film major with a provocative campus radio show entitled, Dear White People. The films main plot was Sam’s pursuit to become president of the black student occupied dorm, Armstrong Parker, and her fight against the integration of the dorm. Troy was the son of the Dean and the golden boy of the campus. Coco, short for Colandrea, was a bougie student from the Southside of Chicago who aspired to be the next reality TV star and Lionel was the gay, nerdy, black journalist who was too black for the white students and too white for the black students. Between Sam’s task to save the dorm house and Lionel being caught in the middle of the drama, a blackface party ensues and shit hits the fan on the campus. It is revealed that the party invite was not sent out from the racist magazine group, Pastiche, but in actuality was set up by Sam.

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The Netflix series returns where the party left off. Sam, Lionel and some of their friends crash the party, while Troy arrives with the cops, and Coco shamely defends the students for being able to be black for one night.

Chapter 1

The episode opens with the blackface party and the crash that follows. The camera pans around the chaotic scene to land on our protagonist, Sam and her handy dandy vintage camera. Sam is a junior studying film and the host of the controversial radio show, Dear White People. Many students listen to the show including the group behind the racist satirical campus magazine, Pastiche. In response to the party, Sam opens up with what the student body is allowed to wear to a Halloween party and what not to wear which is simply, “me” as in black face. This was the scene that was used in the date announcement trailer along with photos of white students dressed in black face and stereotypical “black” attire. This simple request in a fictional series enraged people so much that the YouTube video currently has 57,361 up votes and 420,728 down votes! Unsurprising comments of, “What if there were a, Dear Black People?”, and “I’m unsubscribing from Netflix”, fill the page which is odd because I thought most of these sensitive white people unsubscribed when Luke Cage was released. There is more outrage from the title of the series and not the fact that college students AND adults are still doing black face every year, crazy right?

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Sam’s best friend Joelle is introduced. She is played by the lovely Ashley Blaine Featherson who I was introduced to on the web-series, Hello Cupid. In the film, she was more of a side character but in the series she gets a deserving boost; I guess. It would be nice to see more of her story in season 2. Joelle comes off as the contradicting comic relief. She’s “woke” but watching, “some white bitch from Texas”, on how to be waist thin and ass phat. Sam reassures her that she is fine and states “is white bitch her name?” She also describes the guilt of re-watching the Cosby Show sitcom following the accusations which Sam deems a conspiracy because “Cosby was in route to purchasing NBC”. Right. It’s clear they have a fun relationship even though their focus does not always align.

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Then we see Reggie (heart eye emoji). I liked his character from the movie. He was serious in his fight against racism but let Sam lead the efforts which can be seen as admirable or a tad bit immature. Soon after, Sam is seen having sex with who we assume is Reggie but it is actually Sam’s secret white bae, Gabe.  Gabe is a T.A. in one of Sam’s classes; he’s is a little more scraggly/hippie looking compared to the clean cut Gabe from the film. He doesn’t seem as much of a condescending asshole as the films character instead he comes off as a carefree kind of guy. After their session, Sam gets ready to leave for a Black Caucus meeting. Gabe wants to come with but we know how this goes; Sam cannot be seen with Gabe or it will diminish her pro-black persona.

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When Sam arrives to Armstrong Parker for the meeting she is greeted by Lionel Higgins, a writer for the student newspaper, Winchester Independent. She begins to describe the four different black student unions at Winchester University. This is similar to the scene in the film where Sam describes the different type of black students at the university, the oofta, nose job, and “keeping it 100”, black student. Out of the four groups, there’s Sam’s group, the Black Student Union; they’re a good medium between aggressive action and organization. The African American Student Union (AASU) who is said to not contribute anything and consists of Kelsea, a super bubbly and naïve student, and Cordell, the resident pastor. There’s the Black American Forum (BAF) consisting of mediocre slam poets who throw great parties; picture dashikis, ankh necklaces, and fist in the air; hashtag stay woke! The last group lead by Troy Fairbanks (who interrupts Sam’s introduction) is the Coalition of Racial Equality (CORE). Think future black leaders of America. This group also includes Coco which is short for Colandrea. Coco was her way of sounding less “urban” than Colandrea. I wonder what her middle name is.

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As they are discussing the blackface party and how to take action, Coco’s phone chimes. A sinister look appears across her face as she begins to tag others in the post. While Sam is talking about the incident, everyone starts to look at their phones in shock. Sam stops and looks at her phone to see a photo of her sitting on Gabe’s bed, clothed with the caption, “hate it when bae leaves”. Scandalous! My mouth dropped. This was so disrespectful and violating. After the meeting, Sam finds her friends and Coco chatting about the photo. She and Joelle have a discussion about her secret bae. Joelle is frustrated that her best friend didn’t tell her and that he is white. She reminds her of how they met in the comment section of her article entitled, “Don’t fall in love with your oppressor”. Through all of this, Joelle gives Sam a reassuring hug of forgiveness and acceptance.

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Joelle’s honesty about her feelings with Gabe’s race was realistic. Everyday black women who are in interracial relationships get side-eyes but black women who are super pro-black get the ultimate side eye (and so do men). It doesn’t make one unauthentic when they date interracially but it can be a tad disappointing especially when there’s men like Reggie who are ready to give someone like Sam the world. The heart wants what it wants; we shouldn’t force someone to be with someone they don’t want to be with.

Later, Sam talks to Gabe about the photo in which he apologizes for but also replies with, “I’m only a millennial on paper”, which is hilarious. Anyone in their late 20’s to mid-30’s can relate to this. Sam invites Gabe to a viewing party at Armstrong Parker. This is their first time being seen in public and specifically being seen at the black student occupied dorm. She questions his laid back attire, suggesting he wear some “jays”, in which he replies, “Are you trying to My Fair Lady me for your black friends?” I haven’t seen this movie but I understood the joke. In general the series has a ton of film and TV references that if you’re not up on you’ll miss the joke entirely. Gabe’s question is fair. Does Sam want him to be something’s he’s not? So, they go to the dorm where they’re met with some side-eyes and a little shade from Joelle. They watch a parody of the hit show Scandal which is entitled, Defamation. It is hilarious and even though I’ve never been to a public screening of a show, I feel this was a realistic depiction of how black students come together to watch what some consider quality TV and some consider garbage.

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After the show ends, the black face incident is brought up. Gabe puts his foot in his mouth with the classic white liberal response of, “I can’t believe this is happening in 2017” and “I’m just as pissed as you”. Reggie’s not having it; he responds with, “It’s like you and I attend two completely different schools”. Which is very true. Gabe can try to relate but he will never know what it feels like to be black in America even if he attended an HBCU it still wouldn’t be the same. Gabe questions whether Reggie will hit him which is entirely absurd. He and Sam leave the screening where Gabe argues that he was uncomfortable, Sam replies with “Welcome to my world”. Gabe acknowledges this but states that he would never make Sam feel uncomfortable with his friends. Meh, I can see how he could be disappointed but at the same time, he needed to hear what Reggie was saying. There is a problem at the school let alone the entire world when it comes to racism so instead of responding with tired phrases, he should have asked how he could help or support groups fighting against these issues.

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After the convo, Lionel pulls Sam aside to tell her that the newspaper has evidence that someone else other than the group behind Pastiche sent out the invite; basically giving her a chance to confess instead of allowing the paper to break the news. The next day Sam arrives at her radio station to find her slot replaced with a show entitled, “Dear Abigail”. She rushes in to bump Abigail off the air and give the white students a piece of her mind. She eloquently states why her radio show is not racist compared to the actual racism that is plaguing black American schools, neighborhoods, and well being. She also reveals that she was the one who sent the invite for the blackface party and that she “considered it a sociological experiment” that the students passed with flying colors. She ends it with an apology to her bae, Gabe.

Overall

The first episode was a great recap of where the film ended plus the aftermath of the party. Logan Browning, as Sam is ok to me. She doesn’t play as commanding as Tessa Thompson did in the film; she’s somewhat laid back. This could be because the film was shorter, the personalities had to play bigger so since Sam’s story is stretched out in the series, she’ll have to tone it down a bit. Lionel and Coco’s characters were also re-casted but I’ll talk about them in their individual chapters. The cinematography and dark neutral colors were great. The introduction of each chapter for the students was creative as well. I love the set design of Sam’s room and the clothing worked perfectly for each character especially the different BSU groups. The writing for the different BSU groups and the screening of Defamation represents the type of specifics that can only come from black writers. It’s so realistic and detailed; it adds an extra layer of believability to the show. All of the haters who have or had something to say about the title should watch the show and pay attention to the last scene. This scene perfectly sums up why Sam has her radio show and why we need a series entitled, Dear White People!

Joey Bada$$ Releases All-Amerikkan Badass

It’s here! All-Amerikkkan Badass from one of hip hops young lyric driven and passionate artist, Joey Badass. Joey teased us with his radio friendly single, Devastated back in May 2016 then he dropped, Land of the Free the beginning of this year. The visuals and lyrics for Land of the Free, the three k’s in Amerikkka, and the red, white, and blue bandana patterned cover art symbolizes Joey’s unapologetic stance on race and politics in America. He’s unafraid to speak on the ill-wills of this country and use his platform to speak the truth. The album should hit these dark but truthful issues with features from ScHoolboy Q, J. Cole, Chronixx, and more.

Check out the visuals for Land of the Free below and buy the album to support Joey!

SZA, Kaytranada, Soul II Soul, and more announced in the 2017 AfroPunk lineup

The 2017 lineup for AfroPunk has been released. The unique and unapologetic festival will be held on August 26th-27th in its annual location of Fort Greene’s Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York. So far, the fest will include SZA, Sampha, Willow Smith, Thundercat, Gary Clark Jr., Dizzee Rascal, and more along with veteran artist like Macy Gray and Soul II Soul. Rising producer and DJ, Kaytranada will have his own stage, “Kaytranada and Friends”, which will include performances from Sango, Nao, and Jrocc & Karriem Riggins.

The festivals theme for this year will be, “WE THE PEOPLE”, which includes the following words from the fest:

WE THE PEOPLE:

We, the people built this land. Our flesh and blood is present in its buildings, its roads and its bridges. Our souls are its spiritual cornerstone. Our culture is its foundation. Our being nourishes this land — as our ancestors’ beings nourished it before us — yet the land has not always reimbursed us. We, the people recognize the bullshit of the powerful. The injustices they committed in the past have never disappeared from view. The inequalities they perpetrate are there for all but the blind. The inadequacies they’ve paid forward to a future age are appearing over the horizon. Unless…

We, the people have a code:

  • No Sexism
  • No Racism
  • No Ableism
  • No Ageism
  • No Homophobia
  • No Fatphobia
  • No Transphobia

We, the people commit ourselves to uphold and fight for the rights enshrined in our code. Let us honour those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, and hold accountable those who curtail our liberties. Let us walk in the footsteps of warriors who came before us, and strive to create a society based on fundamental human rights. Let us rewrite the universal laws and educate the errant minds. We, the people have the will to heal the divisions that threaten to reduce our dreams to ashes. We believe in resurrecting the creative power of our diversity. We open our hearts and minds, and dance to the rhythm of a brand-new future. Together. Brave and compassionate. And beautiful. May the Goddess protect we, the people.

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Check out the rest of the lineup below and visit www.afropunkfest.com for more info:

AFROPUNK BROOKLYN LINEUP (MORE HEADLINERS TBA)

ST HERON STAGE

FEAT SPECIAL GUEST

SAMPHA

THUNDERCAT

SINKANE

KING

& more

 

KAYTRANADA & FRIENDS STAGE

KAYTRANADA

NAO

SANGO

J ROCC & KARRIEM RIGGINS (LIVE)

& more

GARY CLARK JR

MACY GRAY

MICHAEL KIWANUKA

SOUL II SOUL

SZA

WILLOW SMITH

DIZZEE RASCAL

LITTLE SIMZ

BLITZ THE AMBASSADOR

THE COOL KIDS

PRINCESS NOKIA

PROTOJE

LEIKELI47

THE COOL KIDS

THE SKINS

KEVIN ABSTRACT

SERPENTWITHFEET

SAM DEW

SHABAKA AND THE ANCESTORS

SON LITTLE

PURE DISGUST

QUIÑ

LOUDER THAN QUIET

& more

Neon Fade Burning Sands Review (SPOILERS)

My first movie review for 2017 and in general will be for the 2017 film, Burning Sands. This review contains spoilers.

Plot

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Burning Sands is the feature length directorial debut from Gerard McMurray and is distributed through Netflix. The film is about 5 young men who are experiencing, “Hell Week” the final week in the pledging process for a fictional black fraternity at an HBCU. The boys go through extreme and abusive hazing in their journey to become members of the prestigious fraternity. The protagonist, Zurich, is played by rising actor, Trevor Jackson. Zurich’s father had pledged in the past but later dropped before he could cross over so it seems that Zurich is fulfilling what his father could not finish. As the hazing process intensifies and starts to affect Zurich’s body, relationship, and school work, he starts to question the process and how bad he really wants it.

Now, I didn’t pledge nor did I have the desire to pledge so my knowledge of black Greek life is small. I’ve seen School Daze which was one of the first films, maybe even the first to bring black Greek life to the forefront in the 80’s and I like many others have heard stories about the extreme hazing and the mistreatment as well as the brotherhood/sisterhood and support for the community. I saw the trailer before watching the film so I knew this would be a dark film.

Visuals

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Pros:

I could tell the cinematography would be amazing from the trailer alone. The aerial shots of the campus and the bodies of water were smooth and gave a sense of the rural location. My favorite scenes in particular were the intro of the pledgees in the woods, the pool scene, and the entrance into hell night. The shot of the pledgees running to get in formation moved perfectly and set the mood for the film; the green and the black were very vivid. The water level cinematography in the pool scene matched the erratic feeling. The scene where the guys enter the barn for the hell night was intense as well. Again, I could feel it even in the trailer. The way the camera went from still to shaky as it followed behind the guys added that level of chaos that followed. A lot of the tracking shots from behind reminded me of the film, Moonlight. It placed the viewer right along the journey with the protagonist.

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Cons:

Some of the scenes were a tad bit dark specifically the party scene and the scene where the guys were confronted by the cops in the woods. I felt like it added a sense of realism but at the same time some of the actors got lost in the sauce with all that lovely melanated skin. During the party scene, I thought the tracking shot that followed Rotimi’s character right before the line dance (?) lingered for a little while.

Music/Sound

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Pros:

I was actually surprised at some of the copyrighted songs that were featured. I didn’t think the film was going to use current popular songs. Ju Ju on that Beat is my little guilty pleasure but the original beat, Knuck If You Buck, got me hyped. I can literally listen to that song every week and still love it. As I read on Twitter, that scene was a little unrealistic because most claimed the fraternities stroll to this song at any given moment. Then, my song Wicked came on! It’s not a party until some Future is played. From what I’m learning, the stroll to Down for My Niggaz, is also a common thing for fraternities. Rapper, Common also contributed an original song entitled, The Cross, which features Lianne La Havas. This came in at the credits after a very emotional moment and it was very fitting. As far as sound goes, the pool scene stood out to me. The thud of the water mixed in with the muddled voice-overs blended very well.

I have no cons about the music

Characters/ Acting/Writing (Toss up of Pros and Cons)

Burning Sands

All of the actors had great performances. Kudos to the line brothers for staying in those menacing characters. It takes a lot of vulnerability and patience to play these characters especially the pledgees. In a way, the actors had to go through the same hazing rituals as their characters did and what I heard in an interview, some of them were actually hit with some real blows.

I would like to personally thank the casting director for choosing the beautiful Trevante Rhodes and all his deliciousness for this film. I loved that his character was included because it gave a sense of normalcy that was missing from the other big brothers. He teetered between going along with the hazing tradition and stepping in when some things got out of hand. My only issue was the inconsistency of his authority. He seemed to stand his ground in the shower scene against Big Country but lost all authority in the paddling scene so that was a little confusing.

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Zurich

Burning-Sands

I think Trevor Jackson did very well as the protagonist. He was able to transition from his laid back demeanor to the fraternity sets in a snap. His delivery in the last shot perfectly captured the emotion of the tragic ending. Zurich’s lack of urgency and common sense was a bit much. I understand that he is young but he made a lot of stupid mistakes that he and his line had to ultimately pay for (they would have probably went through it anyway so idk). He didn’t have as much growth as I thought he would.

My biggest issue is the fact that Frank had actual growth that was missing from Zurich. In the beginning, he made it known that he didn’t have or want a brotherhood with the rest of his line brothers. As the film progressed, he changed and ultimately sacrificed his life for his brother which was devastating.

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The Line Brothers

I understand that the film is not going to dig too deep into all 5 of the line brother’s lives but I would have loved to see more from the Christian pledgee. He literally had around 5 lines. I thought the scene with Toya could have been a perfect moment to show the pressure of sex for his character. This could have highlighted another extreme action that many young men have to endure.

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The Women

The women in the film were just meh to me. The sorority girl, Angel, was very unnecessary; she seemed intrigued by Zurich but it went absolutely nowhere. Her little dance scene with him was awkward and she showed how delusional she was for thinking he wanted her. Alfred Woodard’s character, Professor Hughes, was ok. I liked that she showed support without beating him over the head but I felt something was missing. I would have liked to have seen a conversation between her and Dean Richardson as they seemed to have different views on pledging.

Zurich’s girlfriend, Rochon, was beyond annoying. I get it, you want to spend time with your man but it’s literally a week! It would have been nice if she worried more about the bruises on his stomach and why he was having difficulty breathing but her character took a cliché narrative. The only thing I could think of is that she was completely oblivious to what pledges have to go through. At one point, she asks, “What do they have you doing?” So, maybe she didn’t understand that he had to be attentive at any point of the day for his frat.

Jackson-and-Hakim

Now, Toya. Toya, Toya, girl. Right off the back, I was annoyed by her intro as the black girl popping gum with a slight attitude. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this but it’s getting old. At first she comes off as a thirsty groupie but her scene with Zurich showed she had some depth, I guess? I don’t really find using the word “noble” mind blowing but the scene was funny. My biggest issue with this scene is her nonchalant attitude about the sex with the whole line. I think it’s fine to be sexually free but the film ignores the mistreatment and more than likely rape that happens to women during this process. I understand that there are tons of women who are ready to do whatever for the attention of the frat but I feel the film could have explored the concept of women being pressured or forced into having sex with these men. Maybe the director didn’t want to add anymore negative images of the frat life or maybe he didn’t want to emulate that pivotal scene from School Daze.

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Other Issues

My main issue with the film was the overall goal of Zurich. From the look of the trailer, I thought throughout the process he was going to finally taking a stand to the harsh treatment of the hazing. At one point, Professor Hughes tells Zurich that he should lead his brother’s from the underground back to where his fraternity was meant to be. This line should have been introduced earlier and ultimately been the goal of Zurich. He grew to an extent by telling his line brothers that they were worth more and should change the future of the hazing tradition but it fell flat when he continued to hell night. This could possibly open a door for a sequel. Another note, I understand the concept of, “We come from Kings and Queens”, in the context of how people of African descent have been treated in America. We have to use different methods to uplift our people but at the same time with every King and Queen came thousands of workers, peasants, and even slaves so we might want to use a different method.

Another issue I had was understanding some of the fraternity language and actions. I didn’t understand what being on the yard meant. Maybe it’s just me. I didn’t know what GDI was until Angel broke it down. Also, the relationship with the big brothers outside of the college was confusing. At first, I thought they were members of their family who happened to pledge but then I realized these were mentors who were part of the fraternity.

Overall

The visuals, acting, and music of the film were great. The casting made sense. Some of the female characters needed more depth or should have been excluded altogether. The same goes for some of the big brother’s who put them through hell. The growth of the protagonist could have been fleshed out better. The ending was very emotional and brought a sense of realism to the film. I think that this film is very important in hopefully putting an end to the extreme hazing issues across all fraternities and organizations outside of college. Hopefully, no current pledges are getting it worst because of the film. I think Gerard McMurray and all involved made a great piece and I hope to see more from him if he’s still breathing after the backlash of the film.

My rating for this film: 7/10

10 Quotes from 10 Unapologetic Women in Honor of Women’s History Month 

Check out some of my favorite quotes from 10 unapologetic women of different ethnicities, professions, and generations!  Happy Women’s History Month.

 

Nina Simone

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To me, we are the most beautiful creatures in the world—black people. So, my job is to make them more curious about where they came from and their own identity and pride in that identity.

Angela Davis

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The roots of sexism and homophobia are found in the same economic and political institutions that serve as the foundation of racism in this country and, more often than not, the same extremist circles that inflict violence on people of color are responsible for the eruptions of violence inspired by sexist and homophobic biases. Our political activism must clearly manifest our understanding of these connections.

Jane Elliot

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We are still conditioning people in this country and, indeed, all over the globe to the myth of white superiority. We are constantly being told that we don’t have racism in this country anymore, but most of the people who are saying that are white. White people think it isn’t happening because it isn’t happening to them.

Linda Sarsour

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Women are intersectional human beings who live multi-issued lives, when we are protected, when we are respected, when we are able to thrive and given the same opportunities as our male counterparts, when we are given space to lead and rise — our nation will rise.

Cree Summer

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I don’t know a single black girl who’s carefree because it ain’t easy being a girl of color, period. God, I wish we were carefree. A lot of political things would have to dramatically change in this planet for a woman of color to be carefree. But I think what they mean by that is more of an aware black girl, a conscious black girl.

Issa Rae

Premiere Of HBO's "Insecure" - Arrivals

It’s a bit cliché, but you can’t go wrong by writing what you know. Even if you’re a horrible writer, your own knowledge and experience is unrivaled. Nobody knows what you know like you know what you know. The way you see things is pretty unique.

Reina Gossett

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Historical amnesia is starvation of the imagination; nostalgia is the imagination’s sugar rush, leaving depression and emptiness in its wake.  Breaking silences, telling our tales, is not enough. . . Historical responsibility has, after all, to do with action – where we place the weight of our existences on the line, cast our lot with others, move from an individual consciousness to a collective one.

Sojourner Truth

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Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

Winona LaDuke

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I wanted to get out of Ashland, and I thought it would be pretty cool to go to school in the East. So I asked my guidance counselor what Ivy League schools were. And I applied to Harvard, Yale and Dartmouth – that was it. My guidance counselor told me I wouldn’t get into an Ivy League school. So as my act of resistance, that’s all I applied to.

Betty White

Betty White - Interview

Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive! If you really wanna get tough, grow a vagina! Those things take a pounding!