The Gem that is HBO's Insecure by Nomalanga Mashava

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I will admit that I am one of those people who lives in my world or under a rock as some would say. I had never heard about Issa Rae or The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. My friend, the series guru, recommended Insecure to me. She said it was going to be a good watch. I took her advice because she is not usually wrong about these things. Well except Scandal but no one expected that to become the train wreck that it is.

When I watched the first episode of Insecure I was thoroughly impressed by everything. The clothes, the story, Issa and Molly’s wardrobe and the music. I actually watched the pilot twice because it was just that good. I have actually watched the season 1 too many times to count. It became my pick me up series when I was feeling sad.

I think what I appreciate about Insecure is that it showed life of modern young Black women. I related a lot to it. I related to being overlooked at work and the ignorance of white people. It’s shocking some of the things you are asked or experience. I completely understood the concept of code switching. I didn't know that was what it was called. I felt bad for Dada because I do think she got fired but at the same time Molly did warn her. I mean hell I was warned by my line manager who was also Black about how unpredictable my boss can be. I think some may take it as being offensive but at times it’s a good heads up.

I was also blown away when Molly ran into her friend and the concept of mental health and asking for help came into the conversation. As someone who has gone to therapy and have friends who suffer from mental illness I was in awe about the way they tackled this topic. An important topic to me and giving an insight that going to therapy can be a sign of growth and trying to figure yourself out. It’s unfortunate that the Black community looks at therapy as a source of weakness or don’t see how helpful it can be.

Another topic that I had actually never thought about was the whole Jared messing around with a guy when he was younger. I thought it was such an interesting topic and Molly could have handled it better. I also saw the double standards of it all. How come in society women can experiment but as soon as a man does the same he is automatically called gay! It was crazy because I had also made those statements. Personally, I would not feel comfortable with dating a guy that had experimented with another guy but maybe that is the way I have been socialized.  It was great that the writers brought this up and really made me think.

Insecure is a complex and nuanced show in showing the struggles and triumphs of being Black in America but it also shows us the complications of  modern dating , long term relationships and friendship among Black people. I think the relationship challenges are what got a lot of attention. The #LawrenceHive is alive and well. To be honest I am not mad at them and their anger is understandable. Issa and Molly’s behavior throughout the season was deeply selfish and they were terribly unlikable. They judged each other actions as friends tend to do. They were at times terrible to the men they dated. Molly treated Jared  terribly on multiple occasions . The way she blew him off for “guys on her level” was realistic and appalling. I must confess I have also done that but not as rude. Molly came off desperate at times and way too high maintenance. It was actually sad to see and infuriating at the same time.

Issa on the other hand is no better than Molly. Her relationship with Lawrence was stagnant and it really did suck that he forgot her birthday. It did not mean she should’ve half broken up with him, lost faith in him and the relationship, and the kicker, cheated on him especially after the Best Buy situation. I must admit the cheating situation was hilarious because Black men took it so badly. I read the tweets and men were livid. It was great to see how the writers’ flipped it. As I said the #LawrenceHive is alive and well. I commend the writers’ room for exploring this. What I found interesting about this reaction is again we see the double standards in society that men can cheat but if a women does it “Lord have mercy”. I had never actually thought about that. Additionally, women are supposed to put up with cheating because of that tired statement that men use to justify cheating is that is in our nature to cheat. Total nonsense and alternative facts.

Insecure is an amazing show that tackles race relations in society and the perils of relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed the first season. Everything came together well the direction, costumes, settings and music. The Insecure soundtrack was so bomb. I cannot even deal. I think what truly makes it a good show to me is how relatable it is especially at where I am in my life. Insecure is like a Black millennial handbook and I think that is pretty awesome to see. Representation matters so much on television. It is great that we are being blessed in seeing being Black in so many different ways with shows like Insecure, Greenleaf, Queen Sugar, Dear White People, Black-ish and many more.

I am excited to see what topics Issa and her team will tackle this season and what dope-ass music will be played in the show. I am also excited to getting to know the characters better and other characters getting more screen time and being fleshed out more. What I am really curious about what is single life going to be for Lawrence and Issa. Cannot wait for Sunday!!!

Emmy so boring by Phumuzile Mabasha

This year’s Emmy nominations are out and boy are they boring. We live in a time of Peak TV and there are over 400 shows currently on air. Obviously I did not expect every show to be nominated but a surprise or 2 would have been much appreciated.

2016 saw an amazing group of new television shows with people of color. This growth of diversity in TV was encouraging especially since the audience was introduced to new talent, on and off screen.  We welcomed the Greenleafs and Bordeleons on OWN’s Greenleaf and Queen Sugar respectively. We journeyed to Atlanta with Earn, Paper Boi and Darius (my favorite character in the show). We travelled to the West Coast at meet Issa Dee and all her drama.

2017 continued with the diversity with the second season of Netflix’s Master of None which gave us the critically acclaimed episode about Lena Waithe’s character coming out and explored more of the world of Azizi Ansari’s character.  Netflix continued this by bringing 2014 film Dear White People to screen, which tackled many issues experienced by Black people. Even with the loss of important characters, Jane the Virgin and How to Get Away with Murder were still in top form.  Underground came back for a second season but sadly was cancelled. Another notable turn was Sterling K. Brown take as Randall Pearson on NBC’s juggernaut This Is Us.  Tracee Ellis Ross came into herself as Rainbow Johnson in this past season of Black-ish. Oprah, who in my opinion is such a stellar actress gave an award worthy performance in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Hacks.

I must admit that I am quite disappointed with Thursday’s nominations as they seem extremely predictable, with nothing ground-breaking or exciting. I expected these nominations especially in the women’s categories. Do not get me wrong I thoroughly enjoyed Big Little Lies, The Feud and The Handmaid’s Tale. I will not knock Saturday Night Live hustle because they were hilarious this season.  As I said there was so much amazing TV and amazing stories across the board that I do wish the newcomers such as Queen Sugar, Greenleaf, 13 Reasons Why could have been shown some love. Even shows that ended this year such as the stellar Leftovers and HBO’s Girls could have received some love.

This year there were many people of color nominated. Not as historic as the previous years but representation was definitely there. I’m thrilled by this but these nominees were to be honest the usual suspects. I expect Viola Davis to be nominated because she is brilliant in How to Get Away with Murder but it would have been nice to see other leads from other shows be included such as Dawn-Lyen Gardner of Queen Sugar. I also would have loved to see Insecure get some love. There are some shows that are constantly overlooked and time and time again have stellar performances such as CW’s Jane the Virgin and Starz Power to name a few. 

The question I asked myself after yesterday’s nominations is am I asking too much from the Academy? Is it fair to want surprises and have other favorite shows and performance nominated if there are over 400 shows on TV.  I mean I can barely keep with what is on at the moment. I have my main shows and then if I hear buzz about the show I may watch it. It is crazy because most of the shows that I fell in love with I binged watch off season. Now that it hard because off season has some decent shows and there are so many shows on right now that I need to do a catch up. I also wondered to myself is the voters of the Academy exposed to the shows that have people of color in them not the usual suspects of Black-ish , How to Get Away with Murder, Orange is the New Black etc.

Even though the nominees are predictable, I will watch the Emmys because I want to see if Big Little Lies sweeps and if This Is Us takes the gold home because it such a beautiful show. I do wish that some fresh shows would have gotten some Emmy love but maybe next year. There are some amazing and groundbreaking shows on television and I’m enjoying what I’m seeing, but maybe it was naïve of me to think that Emmys will take notice. 

Finding my Strength by Nomalanga Mashava

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When I was a teenager, 16 to be exact, I was bullied. This particular person, who initially was my friend, bullied me in hindsight because she was jealous of me. She was jealous that I did better in school than she did. The funny thing she was better at art than me, but that’s neither here nor there. As time went on I became super frustrated and lashed out to her. It did not go well. She and her friends made a huge deal about it, and I was ostracized from my form and accused of being too sensitive. The being too sensitive” is literally the most dismissive thing someone can say but as a 16 year old it stuck with me. From that day on, I vowed to myself to never to cry in public or show emotion in public.

My mother is a very loving person but growing up she insisted on being strong and she was always ready to stand up for herself. I am the complete opposite of that and it took until my mid-20s to learn to stand up for myself. I felt that to be a strong Black woman showing emotion was a sign of weakness. I also grew up in a family where emotion was shown but not the way I would have I liked. When I became older, the emotions became more overt and that generational gap that I had with my mother and father fell. In retrospect, if I felt scared, sad or needed to cry I would always wait to find a bathroom or go home and do it there. I could not let the mask fall. I had to be okay and strong. I had to be in control. I kept hearing those words that I heard when I was 16 that I was too sensitive and to me it signified weakness.

In all honesty, that was the biggest load of trash I told myself that showing emotion is a sign of weakness. Firstly, showing emotion is not just crying or being sad. It can be positive like being happy, passionate or angry. The saying “being emotional” in society has a negative connotation because I think humans don’t know how to deal with their emotions and the emotions of others. Emotional maturity is something that’s needed in society.

Last year, when I was working at my previous job, I came across a girl who at 21 was very emotionally in tune. It was very refreshing that she would cry at the drop of a hat when it was appropriate. In some moments she would happy and passionate and was very open that she was a sensitive person. I was in awe of her self-awareness. For years, I had prided myself that I do not cry in public and my emotions are private. I believed that this was strength. I was in control but was I really strong and in control?! Why would I deny myself my vulnerability? Why would I deny myself such a human experience? I mean I am human, even though for years I wished I could be a robot. Yes, I really did. The irony, I was never really in control because the thing about emotions they will come back to catch when you at least expect it. I found myself crying at work twice. I found myself breaking down and crying over the demise of a situationship in spectacular fashion, in the middle of the street drunk. One of the worst instances is that when I graduated from University the first time. The day of my graduation, I found myself in tears while sitting pretty. The emotions poured through me and this is when it dawned on me that I may be suffering from depression.

All the years of trying to be strong and in control came crashing down because my mental health was in jeopardy and I could not cope. Therapy was a life saver because it allowed me to learn to express my emotions in a healthy way. It taught me that there is strength in fragility and feeling pain or happiness is human and I should not deny myself this. This realization led me to be more open with my friends, ask for support and learn to support them. It brought intimacy into my relationships with my friends, mother and particularly myself. My father recently passed away and if I had not gone through this journey of finding my strength through emotions and vulnerability, I would not have survived this painful part of life. I would not have known how to ask for help and confide to my mother and friends.

 

So the biggest lie that I have ever been told about my Black womanhood is that showing emotion is a sign of weakness. My truth is that I found so much strength in my emotions and vulnerability. Sometimes, as Black women we need to take that mask off. Superwoman needs a break here and there to heal, regroup and practice self-care. I hope society will encourage us more to take our masks off.

 

Sharing is caring: Powerful lessons we've learned from our guest bloggers (so far)

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On overcoming the culture of fear that has done so much damage to individuals and the community.

Living in fear is essentially living the lie that tells you to hope for much less and avoid taking chances because you don’t deserve them. At this point, I can’t afford fear because it’s presence in my path isn’t just a stumbling block - it’s a deep ditch that I’d never come back from if I fell in, so I’m choosing to step wisely.

-Violet Kadzura

 

On having the consciousness of being black, celebrating it and thriving in it

Even though the horrendous manifestation of racism can make being Black feel like a laborious burden to carry, we must unite in solidarity to end racial and social injustice; And rather than consume the lies of people who misconstruct our stories, we must continue to tell our own....The world needs to know that we are still standing; still black, still proud.

-Tresell Davis

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On the effect of hearing your parents say “I love you” when it comes to knowing your value

(Now that my sons have) reached the ages when I was crippled with such doubt about my importance, my value and worth, I see happiness, confidence and love radiating from my children. Now I see three words and all that they embody that I starved for as a child flow freely in my life as a woman, friend, and most importantly mother.

-Erica Hughes

 

On being called beautiful and why we all deserve it

I don’t like the fact that for many young black girls it has been a determining factor, in our black communities, whether you are given a chance or not. I don’t like that it has had so much power in who I am because I am more than my face and my physical body.

- Somikazi Tom

 

On overcoming other people’s opinions of our beauty and defining it for ourselves

The woman that I am is not defined by anyone’s standard of beauty. The woman that I am is one who is confident in her own skin, embraces her assets and flaws, and continues to live her life on her own terms.

-Torri Oats

 

On awakening our black pride by spitting out the lies society has told about us

To quote a Black man (Mr. Jesse Williams) who defines the awakening that I pray for our people to manifest, “What I’d like to see us do is to return to a space where it’s okay for folks to be proud and outwardly Black in public…” My Sistahs…don’t swallow the lies…YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!! 

- Dale Francis

On standing our ground by not staying in our lane

In life, there is a place and time to stay in your lane and I think as black women, we should not think we can do the bare minimum. Our self-worth, talents, and skills should be appreciated and we should stand up for ourselves and not stay in our lanes.

- Claire Bunbury

 

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On the power of representation on television

Scandal showcased the power of Black audiences and how much we needed characters that were not stereotypes, characters to aspire to.

 - Phumuzile Mabasha

On #Blackgirlmagic

I’m thinking differently. I used to be afraid of shining too brightly, or being who I am and celebrating me. But now we have #BlackGirlMagic and it’s doing something to us. Such a powerful movement, so necessary.

 

On being enough

I won’t let the countless lies I’m told about who I’m supposed to be, continue to shape who I am.I can’t look for validation from a world that rejects me but capitalizes on my essence. I won’t further internalize where I’m told I fall short or fail to measure up.I will revel in the beauty, boldness and brilliance wrapped up in my existence as a black woman.I am more than enough.

- Crissi Ponder

On dating and not settling

Let’s stop the lie of the status quo when it comes to who we must date based on what we have accomplished and what we have, and that doesn’t mean you have to settle either.

- Naomi K. Bonman

 

 

Animatic Introduction: A Journey to Wokeness

Animatic Introduction

Animatic

an·i·mat·ic

ˌanəˈmadik/

noun

noun: animatic; plural noun: animatics

            1      a preliminary version of a movie, produced by shooting successive sections of a storyboard and adding a soundtrack.

The No Lies Told Then (“NLTT”) team is always searching for ways to elevate this project from a blip to something bigger. How can we share pieces of the story a unique and exciting way? How can we facilitate a larger conversation about NLTT, supporting artists of color and the universal themes the film explores?

It was those questions the director and I were pondering during one of our “crazy idea” sessions. We knew a trailer was out of the question, so we gave ourselves permission to get really creative. Our brainstorming session ended with a vague promise to create something with colors and audio, and maybe a voiceover with lines from the script.

The next night, he called with a more concrete idea. It was a “picture this” moment: Central Park at the Alice in Wonderland statue, and the rabbit comes to life! It was captivating. As he conveyed his vision to me, I made mental notes; our “vague promise” morphed into the creation of an animated short. When we hung up, I got to work.

In effort to be economical, we searched for simplistic options like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oO2-f-CgK0M. Or possibly this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBk3ynRbtsw. Those don't look too difficult or expensive, right?

Wrong. Polite rejection after polite rejection forced us to dive deeper down the black hole known as the internet to find an animator to fit our budget. Giving up was not an option.

Eventually, I discovered a website with a community of freelance animators called Wooshii. You post your project description and budget, and people pitch their ideas to you. Easy.

We received a few pitches, one of which went in the direction of horror, but a submission from a UK-based company, Fudge Animation really stood out.

After they read the script, I was hoping they would say, “This is great! We can do so much with the story in the style you want.” You probably know where this is going. Our vision, they said, was too ambitious for our budget and timeline, but they had an suggestion — what about a hand-drawn animatic? They had us at “hand-drawn”.

It was a fascinating collaboration. They would sketch versions of characters and we offered our input. They’d go back to the drawing board and return with a new version. We became a well-oiled machine. 

Everything went smoothly on the animation front, but the mistake we’d made in the process was asking Fudge hire and direct the voice talent. Folks, if you hire the wrong voice talent, it can change the entire tone and meaning of your story. Fudge nailed the visuals and sound effects, but without the director to guide the voice work, it didn’t quite come together.

We were faced with a decision: leave the animatic as delivered, or work with our own sound engineer and voice talent. We chose the latter.

Once we hired local voice talent, the director instructed them record the script in several tones. I was rewriting on the fly. The engineer was offering suggestions. It was fun until we had to listen to the raw audio files and decide which version of a line best conveyed the tone we wanted to achieve. 

Somehow, and I guess this is a testament to the symbiotic relationship the director and I have developed, we managed to land on basically the same audio files. The sound engineer added all the effects and vocal choices to the audio and after a couple months, we’d made an animatic!

I share this story with you to give you an inside look at the creation of the animatic. There were at least ten people who worked on this project at various stages. All of us dedicated time and in one way or another, money, because we believe in the work.

We are proud to present to you an animatic introducing Sandra, our protagonist, as she arrives at the first stop on her journey to woke-ness.