At 27, I made the declaration that I am an artist.
With very little to guide me other than outdated stereotypes and much discouragement form my family, I began trotting down the path that is desperation and a need for constant attention.
There was no handbook nor mentor to guide me.
I only had the will to work and the belief that anything was possible.
I was very unaware of the big machine that devours anything in its path and that there will be several obstacle both internally and externally that would have to be navigated if I wanted a career in the arts/creativity.
When I speak of no longer lusting for movie stardom, I am making reference to being in a world that needs, rewards and loves those that are white, young and straight.
As much as we all try to pretend or believe that the movies and Hollywood are places where imaginations and creativity soar, anyone with a brain can see that to be a part of this machine is to be young, white and straight.
Recently I’ve noticed a trend: romanticizing slavery and sentimentalizing anything that has to do with Civil Rights.
I must confess that I had been lulled into being happy with so many beautiful black faces and talented folks working. What I was distracted from noticing like most moviegoers was the narrative that was being shared and who was in control of the sharing.
Much of what is forced upon me has very little to do with me.
Many times I am so mezmerized by the visual that I forget to question things like point of view, intention and clear, decolonized interpretation.
Toni Morrison states: That as soon as a character of color is introduced in a story, imagination stops.
Films and TV often trot out characters and story lines that forecast the performance long before they open their mouths to speak.
Fifteen years ago, I was unaware that the performing field was not open and fair to anyone willing to work hard, pay dues and get good at their craft.
With a growing frustration with what I was being cast in, I began writing my own material.
After creating an array of interesting characters : an abused child, a ninety year old man, a love starved twenty something and a Nazi Landlord, I was still not thrust into the public eye in any sort of meaningful way and Hollywood didn’t come a calling.
I was told to stay in my lane that in order to make it I would have to allow myself to be a type (put into a box/creative straightjacket) until “they” knew what I could do and then “they ” would let me out and allow me to play in other areas.
When I made this discovery, I was angry and undeterred.
I was gonna show them all and prove that as a gay, black thinking man there is a place for me in the public eye.
My major beef is that not only do I have much to offer the world but there are countless others that do as well.
Who will tell our stories?
Who will start with a new narrative and allow blacks, gays, women of color access to the center?
I will no longer watch brutalization of beautiful, powerful black folks and chime in with what a wonderful movie or story it was.
In a recent review of Hollywood’s obsession with slave stories, a young brilliant black man pointed out that Oscars are given to whites for acting and blacks for subject matter.
I want to see Viola Davis as the star of a film and be sexy, smart, powerful, cunning and breathtaking (rocking her natural hair).
I don’t want “real stories”. I want tales of what could be.
I want imaginations that open up when a black, latino, gay person enters.
I want writers, myself included, to demand more of everyone around them.
I want Kasi Lemmons, Julie Dash, Kimberly Pierce and Lee Daniels to continue to create and devise all manner of stealthily creating characters that are interesting not because they’re comedic, tragically doomed or will be put to death because they see and think differently.
Where is my black audience who wants to keep things authentic and interesting as opposed to real?
We will no longer allow ourselves to be entertained by violent images that involve slaughtering, disrespecting or dismissing black bodies.
We will fight to bring back characters like Precious Ramowste and her small band of comrades who rely on their minds and companionship and trust in each other to solve life’s problems.
We will fight to see stories told powerfully and quietly that invite the sacred in and offer solace from a world gone mad. I can’t wait for this change. What are you willing to do to see this happen?