For someone who taught creativity in an academic environment for more
20 years, I feel as if I have been reborn by immersing myself boldly
and excitedly in the creative process. It is exhilarating to craft a
comprehensive story as an editor through the many trailers I have
created to promote our film.
The film is being co-written by yours truly, along with director
Narcel Reedus. I am also sharing producer responsibilities with Angela
Washington. The mission of ODIJ is to create more than a movie; we want
to create a movement of absent fathers taking that first step to
reconnect with their children.
The subject of absent fathers is a universal theme, as we have seen
this topic discussed on Oprah’s OWN network with special shows featuring
both Oprah and Iyana Vanzant. But we do not have to look outside our
own community to know that the plague of absent father’s has become an
I, along with our director and co-producer, were on a radio show
promoting the film, and I shared this observation: We have always dealt
with the concept of alternative family structure within the
African-American community. But he problem we are seeing today is that
many of our young folks are growing up not only without a father but
with a pool of male authority figures to support them in their
Growing up, nearly all of my friends came from divorced homes. But
like me, their fathers were still very much a part of their lives. We
also had a plethora of other male figures from family, church and
As an educator, I have had to step in and become that father figure
to so many young people. I took on that role sometimes at great
emotional cost to myself because, quite frankly, the needs were just so
By making this film, we have an opportunity to send a clear affirming
message to not just fathers but to everyone involved that it is not too
late to step up and represent.
We must begin to redefine the notion of fatherhood. Mothers, no
matter how angry, should not hold their children hostage because a
father is not contributing what they feel they should financially. I do
not remember checks from my father, but I do remember Saturday outings,
fishing trips and basically time he spent with me.
I share all this to say that I have found something that makes me
want to get up every morning. I feel alive, creative and full of
My evolution has brought many revelations, including that I must ask
for help when I need it. That is why I am asking those that have
supported me in my creative journey to support me and this film. Please
join our Kick Starter campaign.
We have only a few days left to raise funds so that we can make this
affirming film that challenges historical images of black men and
I know many of you are members of churches, sororities, fraternities
or other organizations that have similar initiatives that mirror the
message of our film. Let us know how we can partner and support one
We often complain that there is not enough positive or affirming
programming to view, so here we have an opportunity to not only support
local filmmakers but invest and be a part of not only a film but a shift
in consciousness as it relates to storylines for African-Americans.
I would like to report a crime. I was physically assaulted.
The good news is that I can positively identify my attacker. The
assailant is a bald headed, light skinned African-American male about
6’1” who weighs about 175 pounds and goes by the street name Shaun T.
Yes, I am talking about the reigning prince of boot camp fitness, “Mr. Insanity” himself.
I have been committed to getting back in shape. I typically work out
at the gym and was getting decent results, but I needed something
I had heard of the physical fitness empire built by the behemoth
Shaun T, and I’ve marveled at this muscle man on television and wondered
if he would stand up to all the hype.
We started with one of his first cardio DVDs. Shaun T is in a gym
with an equally fit posse of participants with not an ounce of body fat
Historically when I work out, I am accustomed to doing a set and
resting a few minutes before I start the next exercise. Shaun T’s
Insanity workout flips the script and works you like a pack mule for
three minutes with only 30 seconds to recover before the Insanity starts
But before you get to the exercises, you have to survive the warm-up, or as I loving refer to it, the 10-minute cardiac arrest.
This warm-up session will truly let you know just how out of shape
you really are. I was just three minutes in when I slipped, fell and
almost drowned in a small wading pool of my own sweat.
This guy definitely knows what he is doing. He baits you during the
grueling cardio routines. You are sweating buckets, your joints ache and
the only thing louder than the background music is the sound of your
own labored breathing, but just when you are about to say “I quit,”
Shaun T whips off his shirt. So now that you are face to face with the
physical perfection that is Shaun T, you realize maybe, just maybe, that
you too can have a six pack like Shaun T instead of the 40 ounces of
Old E I carried around.
My love-hate relationship continued for more than two weeks. And like
anyone who has been assaulted, I wanted proof of the attack, so I
posted daily pictures of my grueling encounters. I noticed almost
immediately after posting to Facebook that other victims would come
forward to share similar stories of how Shaun T had whooped their big
butts into shape.
I had been indoctrinated into a bizarre, cult-like following of P90X,
Insanity, Asylum Shaun T followers I dubbed as Insaninites…lol. The
Insaninites have their own culture. Folks were coming forward offering
to be my coach, and alumni of the Insanity workout were all bragging
about the coveted Insanity “I Earned It” t-shirt, which you can only get
by submitting pre- and post-Insanity abuse pictures of yourself.
I have to admit that I began to look forward to my encounters with
Shaun T, so I decided to try his latest endeavor: Hip Hop Abs.
I went online after watching the infomercial more times than I can
count. Hip Hop Abs was on sale for $19.95, so basically for the price of
an eight-piece family meal at KFC, I could dance myself into a beach
body, bathing suit, summer, svelte physique.
My adventure online was eye opening and helped me appreciate how
Shaun T built and maintains his empire. Before I could purchase Hip Hop
Abs, I literally had to turn down about 15 other items. Shaun T was
trying to sell me vitamins, meal replacement shakes, recovery juice,
nutrition guides, workout charts, measuring tape and, I think, a
BeachBody enema kit to literally flush those pesky pounds away.
Almost 20 minutes later, I finally emerged with a confirmation number
for my Hip Hop Abs DVD. I also realized that the only thing more
grueling than Shaun T’s cardio workout might be his online sales
Will Smith is in the news, not for a blockbuster film but for his
views on parenting, and more specifically for his views on
African-Americans and their attitudes toward their children.
Power couple Will and Jada Smith have been known for their unorthodox
relationship, which now seems to spread to how they raise their
children. Will Smith claims that he and Jada do not subscribe to the
notion of children as property, which he says is a strong belief in the
black community, a notion he said dates back to slavery.
We’ve all heard the expression made popular by TV dad Bill Cosby: “I
brought you into this world and I’ll take you out.” The expression, to
me, is not so much about ownership but conveys a sense of deep
responsibility. If black folks learned anything from slavery, they
learned that they wanted more for the next generation.
“Dr. Smith” has a different approach: “My style of parenting is very
similar to that of my parents, minus the concept of ownership,” he told
HauteLiving.com. “I think that, specifically in African American
households, the idea coming out of slavery, there’s a concept of your
children being property and that was a major part that Jada and I
released with our kids. We respect our children the way we would respect
any other person.”
I believe Smith’s ideology is centered more in economic privilege
than in culture. This is also systemic of what happens when we try to
adopt a mainstream philosophy that may not work for marginalized
communities. We try to treat your children like any other person when
they are not like any other person; they are your children, and you are
responsible for them as an authority figure.
They are not your pals.
I have a theory. One of the reasons it seemed easier to raise
children back in the day was because our kids and families they
associated with shared similar values.
My nephews have friends who will walk in your house, not speak, go
into your refrigerator without asking permission or think they can stay
over without permission, then look at you crazy if you ask to speak to
When I was a kid, I would never walk into a friend’s house and not
speak to their family. Nor would I be allowed to be at their house past a
certain hour and not have them look at me and query, “What are you
doing here, and does your mother know where you are?”
What is frustrating is that you can be a good parent and instill all
the right values in your children, but now, in our efforts to maybe be
in the best neighborhoods and have our children attend certain schools,
we are no longer around folks who share the same value system, and our
kids want to bring that non-sense back home with them because they see
their friends getting away with all kind of shenanigans.
As someone who had a career of working with young people, especially
black youth, I have witnessed a decline in how young folks are being
parented. In our attempt to assimilate and attain more than our parents
and grandparents, we begin to cast off some of the values that made us
successful adults – values like basic manners, hard work and honoring
your family and elders.
In the HauteLiving.com interview, Will Smith said: “You would never
tell a full-grown adult to clean their room, so we don’t tell our kids
to clean their rooms. Actually, we tell our kids ‘you don’t have a room,
that’s our room and we are letting you borrow it.’ ”
Hey that sounds familiar, because my mom used to say the same thing.
I really believe Smith is debating semantics. However you tell the
Karate Kid to clean up his room is your business, but maybe the Fresh
Prince should be reminded that his family’s West Philly values made him
the A-list Hollywood star he is today, so maybe, just maybe, they were
doing something right.
I was talking to my nephew and his friend on Saturday and he
mentioned in passing that they were going to attend a few after-prom
parties that evening.
I was like, “You are not going to your prom?”
He was like, “No, I’m not feeling it.”
To which I immediately responded: “No one feels the prom; you go so you can have a story to share with folks when you are older.
So in the spirit of nostalgia, I would like to share my prom experience.
I was not looking forward to the prom. I did not have a girlfriend in
high school, so there was extra pressure in finding a date. Now don’t
get me wrong; I knew lots of girls and I was cute in a nerdy sort of
way, and I was part of the most popular clicks, but I was popular for
being funny, not for being dreamy…lol.
My backup plan was to ask my good friend, Yoshawner, but she was
asked by the hunky football player, Andre, which left me out in the
cold. Panic set in. It seemed the only person not spoken for was Pandra,
the girl with Coke bottle glasses who sat in the back of the bus and
laughed and talked to herself. Asking Pandra would be social suicide.
I decided to think out of the box. I was inspired that weekend during
my shift at McDonald’s. There was a real pretty girl; we will call her
Michelle. Michelle was a junior at another school, and although I knew
she thought I was nice, I also knew that she did not think of me as a
prom date. I saw Michelle go to the walk-in freezer at work, so I seized
I had practiced how I would ask Michelle, but I got nervous and just
blurted out, “Will you go to the prom with me?” to her backside as she
was reaching to get a box of fries. Michelle slowly turned around, and I
could tell she was looking for an excuse, so I sweetened the deal: “I
know you don’t like me like that, but it would just be like friends, and
I will work your shift for a weekend.” Yes I had whored myself for a
Prom night I picked up Michelle, and she looked beautiful. I think
her parents were more enamored with me than she was that evening, I
being a senior and already accepted to college and everything.
We got to the prom, which was held at a downtown hotel, and all my
friends were in attendance. I must say we turned some heads because no
one at school had ever seen me with a girl (for reasons we now
understand…lol) much less one so pretty.
My friends were determined to get all into our business and to make
sure Michelle was not a cousin. I sat there sweating, hoping Michelle
would not buckle under the scrutiny and share the ugly truth that this
date was predicated on me working her weekend shift of choice. Much to
my surprise, Michelle actually played me up to my friends, telling them I
was funny and crazy and that all the girls at work thought I was cute.
I was getting some major cool points.
The rest of the evening we danced, laughed and had a really good
time. When we left there was a freakish summer storm, so I asked if
Michelle would like to come by my house until it settled down. It was
late and we arrived and sat in our living room. I will not divulge the
more intimate details, but suffice it to say, I had my very first kiss
and was instantly smitten.
I dropped Michelle off later at her house and she kissed me on my
cheek again on her porch. I told her how much I appreciated her coming
to my prom and that I would work any shift she wanted. She gave me one
last gift and smiled and said that she enjoyed herself and to forget
about working her shift, and thus a prom story was born.
Because of these changes, I find myself simultaneously excited and
vulnerable in this new space. Historically, when I find myself in flux, I
will commune with God and seek his infinite wisdom. But due to the
severity of these conditions, I needed something extra, like a safe
church to land and feed my spirit.
I have shared that I grew up in the church, but at some point when
you are trying to reconcile both your sexuality and faith, there are
many religious environments that not only make this difficult but near
impossible. So like many folks in similar situations, I made the
somewhat traumatic decision to leave organized religion. And just so
that I am clear, I said organized religion, not God, for he has been my
I have attended mainstream LGBT churches, and while I applaud their
efforts, there was still something missing. When you grow up in a
Southern Baptist environment, there is a certain feeling you get from
worship service that cannot be replaced with simple ritual and rhetoric.
In short, I need to hear a choir with a fierce soloist, an organ, a
piano and folks who holler out their joy (speaking in tongues and laying
of hands optional), all so I can seriously get my praise on….lol.
But back to my Sunday service adventure.
Second service was scheduled to start at 12:30, but Shannise assured
me that folks would be on CP time and that it might not start until 1
p.m. It was a rainy morning, so CP time really pushed service to start
I was a bit nervous, I have to admit, but I immediately felt at ease
as we entered the sanctuary. Most folks were dressed casually, and
everyone had a pleasant and welcoming demeanor. I was also pleasantly
surprised to see so many gay and lesbian folks among the congregation.
Both choirs that morning showed up and showed out. As we approach
Mother’s Day, I have to confess that since I lost my mom, I have been a
little scared to enter a church because, as much as I felt I needed some
spiritual healing, I was afraid that the environment would unleash
emotions that, once tapped, would be impossible to stop. I did almost
lose it when the choir began to sing Tamela Mann’s “Take Me to The
King.” But instead of deep sorrow, I felt an overwhelming feeling of
Kee’s ministry is not only inspirational, it is affirming. The fact
that his church is among a community that the city would like to ignore
is more than admirable, but he also preaches financial autonomy and
leads by example. New Life Fellowship has been able to build and grow
not by traditional means and bank loans but by partnering with the
community and his congregation.
What I experienced on Sunday is what I believe a church and its
ideology should be about, and that is serving and supporting your fellow
man without judgment or condemnation. This was a church that welcomed
everyone, regardless of socio-economic background, education, pedigree
I have always been amazed by Christians who will quote scripture and
text to highlight your so-called sins, not remembering that we all fall
short of God’s grace, but offer very little in support. If you are so
righteous in your beliefs, would you not want to share them with others?
Even in this column I have been demonized because of my sexuality and
have had countless scripture quoted to me, but other than maybe one
reader, no one has ever invited me to join them for Sunday service to
What I experienced at New Life Fellowship was a reminder of what true
Christian values should be -- inclusion, support, love and God’s
infinite power and grace. Thank you for the message, the spiritual
healing and a renewed faith in organized religion.
I grew up in the 70's so Easter Sunday was much different than it is today. I am talking hand made outfits for Easter service. One year my mom thought it would be cute to make the entire family's Easter ensemble from the same material.
She and my siters sported Easter dresses with different styles but the same material and my father and I had coordinating vest. I know I have that picture somewhere or did I file it away under historically embarassing moments....lol. We look like an inner city black version of the Von Trapp family!
My grandparents would always send us easter paraphernalia. My sisters would each get an Easter basket while I got a gender appropriate Easter pail. I am not sure what the beach theme meant for boys at Easter but I was just happy to have something to haul around my Easter bounty.
We would spend the day before dying Easter eggs with Paas Easter egg dye, that I am sure was laced with lead as it had a tendency to stain anything on contact for several days.
You had to get up early on Sunday morning for Easter service. This is where the anxiety started for me because that meant you had to perform the dreaded Easter speech!
I remember one year in particular I was in a frantic state. I had been given an unusually long speech. We were waiting our turn and some kids were turning on the cute charm by smiling and recanting the "Lords Prayer" or like one girl Cookie who showed off by reciting what sounded like an entire chapter from Deutereonomy....lol.
My turn came and I grasp the mic with sweaty palms. My mouth was dry, I was sweating profusely, the room was closing in and I felt dizzy. I could tell the crowd could sense my fear as the requisite phrases reserved for children caught in church program head lights begin to rang out from the congregation.
"Take your time baby"
"Let the Lord use you"
These were the church equivalent of the sand man yanking you from the stage at the Apollo.
I could not remember my speech. I looked out across a sea of pastel colors and ornate Easter bonnets and hats and I was drawing a blank. When it seemed that I might just faint from embarrassment all I managed to shriek a simple "Jesus wept," into the microphone.
I know people were shaking their heads like "Was that the little Easley boy? I didn't know he was slow. Bless his heart."
I ran and hid in the fellowship hall until the program was over. My Mom found me a bit later and gave me comfort although I am sure she was embarrased that her son would be now known as the Easter speech simpleton....lol.
The morning ended like most Easter mornings with children in polyester outfits, scrounging in the church grass to find hard boiled Easter eggs hidden earlier that morning to be found hours later in the stifling Texas heat.
My Easter speech meltdown was forgotten as I scrambled with friends and relatives in an attempt to find the most eggs.
It is a miracle none of us died from food poisoning but that is how we rolled on an old school Easter Sunday!
You guys know that I am a product of an HBCU (Historically Black College or Univeristy) and I was an Assitant Professor at two other institutions so I am very familiar with the formal nature of the African-American community.
Black folks love to dress up for any occassion whether it be church, conference, birhtday or Piggly Wiggly store opening....lol
NABJ folks did not disappoint. There were more suits and folks dressed sharp as a tack that I swear I thought I was at a job fair or National Baptist Convention...lol
You know how we do.
The day started with a networking breakfast and panel discussion with founding memebers.
The next session was facilitated by Cash Michaels, an editor and chief reporter for "The Carolinian newspaper. Michaels spoke of and shared a video that documented The Wilmington 10 of a group of folks wrongly accused 40 years ago in a fire-bombing of a local grocery store.
The day progressed with further workshops dealing with Having a Plan B and one of my favorites dealing with technology and how journalist and media professionals will survive and thrive in the new digital age.
I really enjoyed that during the workshops they had a live Twitter feed with hashtag#nabjr3conf. It was good to see folks utilitizing technology and social media.
Lunch was a bit delayed but it was a wonderful spread. A big shout out to Dedrick Russell, Region 3 Director and his committee members that really organized an engaging event.
Mayor Foxx stopped by to welcome the NABJ conference participants and give an official proclamation from the mayors office. It is cool that after seeing the mayor at several events that he recognizes me now...lol.
The day was a wonderful opportunity to meet some very cool people...how you doing Davida J....lol.
But the man who shut it down that day was keynote speaker Byron Pitts, National Correspondent, CBS News and Contributing Correspondent, "60 Minutes." Brother Pitts gave such an inspirational speech where he shared his humble beginnings from growing up on the east side of Baltimore where his mom was a single mother and also an amazing support system for him.
I found we had much in common and was truly inspired. I think the brother has a little preacher in him because when he finished to a standing room of applause you almost felt like they should start the organ and choir and pass the plate for the building fund....smile.
The thing I was most impressed with is that NABJ is committed to expanding the definition of journalism and also how we communicate ideas as media professionals in the new digital age.
I’ve been working with a wonderfully talented group on a film
project. I’m acting as producer, and we shot all weekend at various
locations around Charlotte, the most unusual of which was Club Nikki’s
on Little Rock Road.
I’m no angel, and I’ve been in strip clubs before, but not during off
hours and behind the scenes. You may have heard of the Internet series
“Awkward Black Girl.” Well, I became the “Awkward Black Boy.”
Club Nikki is not quite your uptown crowd, so I was a bit nervous. We
checked out the dressing room, which had a wall of mirrors and was
littered with makeup, thongs, combs, jewelry, hair and other female
accouterments. We could not have staged it better.
The dancers begin to trickle in, and I began to feel even more
anxious. I guess I had worked myself up into a frenzied state thinking
that I would somehow witness a Lisa Raye circa “The Players Club”
inspired dressing room, stripper, banshee beat down.
I was so wrong. Almost all of the young women were pleasant and even a bit shy.
We were running behind schedule, so we had to switch dressing rooms
because the performers were starting to get into their outfits. Angela,
our female producer, asked if it would be OK for the men on our crew to
enter and remove equipment. Given my orientation, I can truthfully say I
saw more lady parts than I had in my entire adult life. lol
I was definitely more discombobulated about the experience than the
young ladies were, who seemed quite comfortable in their respective
skins. We needed to add some realness to our shot, so Angela asked if
any of the women would mind walking into our scene for a cameo. A
performer named Diamond agreed.
Diamond was an ebony, Amazon enchantress, what the old folks might
call “a tall drink of water.” She had to be 6’5” in heels and was built
like an Olympic athlete. Imagine Serena Williams in a bra and panties
and four inch heels.
I could not stop staring and was afraid she might catch me gawking
and kick my butt. But amazingly, despite Diamond’s intimidating stature,
her voice and energy were soft and feminine, which made her all the
Diamond nailed her walk-on scene, and for the rest of the shoot I
found myself in full ““Awkward Black Boy” mode. I spent the entire time
trying not to stare at the plethora of bosoms that seemed to be
everywhere. I almost had a full-on panic attack when Angela opened a
dressing room door to reveal a room full of women in various stages of
I almost stumbled over myself when I saw a table full of female
patrons watching one of the performers. I heard women went to strip
clubs, but seeing it up close was like seeing Bigfoot.
My favorite “Awkward Black Boy” moment came when I had to cross in
front of one of the performers. Not knowing the proper strip club
etiquette, I threw up one church finger and quickly crossed, hoping not
to have a beer bottle tossed at my head.
Even in my younger, cuter days, I did not have the guts to stand in
the buff on a stage, so I was intrigued by the performers and their mix
of vulnerability and self-confidence.
In between my various production tasks, I caught glimpses of Diamond
and could not suppress a big, goofy grin. The shoot was definitely a
surreal experience, and although I did not see anyone make it rain, I do
believe Diamond inspired my first female exotic dancer crush…smile.