This past weekend Doxygen Media attended the A3C Conference in Atlanta and got a chance to sit in on a live taping of “On One” With Angela Rye. Rye, an NPR political analyst and CNN contributor, has recently been dubbed “The Sophisticated Ratchet”. She is a lawyer and the CEO of IMPACT Strategies, an advocacy firm (http://impactstrategies.global) whose mission is primarily focused on bridging the confusion gap when it comes to implementing public policy and how real change happens in our government. However, she’s also known to not hesitate to shut down a Trump surrogate with a quick “boy bye!”
Rye’s special guest for the podcast was Lil Rel. Lil Rel gained overnight success for his roll of Rod, the seemingly only woke character in Jordan Peele’s hit, “Get Out.” Rye and Rel jumped right into the conversation discussing the film’s metaphorical use of “the sunken place”. Rye immediately cast people, such as gospel singer Tina Campbell, who recently publicized her support of Donald Trump, as stuck in “the sunken place.” However, Rel corrected her impression. He first stated that there is a versatility in the meaning of “the sunken place.” While Campbell’s actions may show her seeming to be stuck, “the sunken place” has a lot more to do with our mental and emotional vulnerability. Rel points out that the main character, Chris, was able to get sucked in by the mother’s use of his repressed childhood trauma in losing his own mother. An issue he never got help from assisted in pulling him down to a place that he could not escape. As a result, like Lakeith Stanfield’s character, his actions are no longer entirely his own. But “the sunken place” itself has a lot more to do with the damage of our mental states which can be the reflection of actual individualized drama, but it could also be the mental and psychological trauma caused by the day to day living of the marginalized people who have to forever exist on the fringe. Somehow, as a culture, we both struggle to assimilate into the mainstream society, while maintain the things that make us distinctly different. This is especially troublesome when it’s not just social society, but moving into the dominant corporate entertainment entities and businesses that control what we see and hear on our TVs, movie screens, computer screens, radios, cell phones, tablets, and so on.
It correlates to Jay-Z’s “Moonlight” video that went super viral in the hood a few months back. Jay addresses our Black obsession with “La La Land”, which is not only the name of the movie who’s false win conflicted with Moonlight’s real one, but is also the nickname for the Hollywood machine. On the track, he pays tribute to the Black music legends that were abused by the corporates of the music industry such as Lauryn Hill and Prince. For the video, however, we see a Black version of the sitcom ‘Friends’ in a re-enactment scene from one of the show’s most memorable moments. Jerrod Carmichael’s character plays Ross. However, after a conversation with Hannibal Burress, Carmichael is forced to consider the role he is playing and how it reflects true or false to his own community and own sense of self. This rings all too real for the thousands of non-white actors and actresses who know that their career choice comes with a big racial connotation. As a community, we consistently see our culture being misrepresented by the media and there is seemingly not much we can do to infiltrate those images.
However, with the increasing awareness and publicity of racial discontent and injustice our community, the hands of Hollywood creative are being forced to acknowledge these realities, making room for “Get Out”, “Insecure”, “Atlanta.” All shows that push awareness, racial consciousness, and new conversations not just in Black communities, but also in White ones. In fact, Lil Rel even announced that he has a show that has just been bought and is currently on the way. He spoke from a seat of excitement, “No one ever wanted to buy anything I was ever selling.” He says it seems like the new generation is teaching the older folks in Hollywood how it should be done and many will continue to benefit from these types of business partnerships.
Needless to say powerful content has also been coming to the surface but the struggle to uplift our Black community through storytelling is still being cut short. Earlier this year we saw the removal of two television shows that did not hesitate to be gritty and truthful in dealing with real historical and current issues. WGN’s Underground was cancelled due to network ownership changes. The producer of the show, singer John Legend, tweeted out to tell fans the ugly truth about the cancellation of the show from the channel, stating that strategically it did not fit with the direction they were headed. Fans of the show reacted with #staywoke hashtags. The Carmichael Show, known for uncomfortable truths presented in ways that were both humorous and introspective, was also cancel. Rye asked Rel, considering he had been a regular on the show, if NBC execs were aware that they were missing all the money earned with shows like Power, Black-ish and films like Girls Trip. She could not understand why it was taken off the air, to which Rel replied, “It’s really about whose running the network, the President, he doesn’t really get comedy.”
Rel and Rye also touched on were the state of criminal justice here in America. While thousands (if not millions) sit in jail for petty marijuana possession, it is being legalized all across this country. Rye points out that on the same corner in Seattle, where she’s from, where she knows people still in jail for selling weed, there is now a dispensary. Most notable for Rel was the sheer number of people who are stuck in jail, simply because they cannot afford bail. Guilty or not, the prisons are packed with people who cannot afford support, assistance, or legal counsel to remove them from a situation they may never have been in. He talked about the ways in which we tend to focus son deeply on how badly Chicago has suddenly gotten, not that Obama hails from there, but things were just as bad when he was growing up. He’s seen no notable changes, except for the publicity. There are so many people on the ground in Chicago trying to make things better, but are fighting an uphill battle against criminal injustice. Rel let us know that he is in the process of starting up a foundation that will help fight criminal injustice, especially for those who are sitting in a jail cell, missing work, damaging their own lives, simply because they cannot afford bail.
Among jokes and humor, Rel and Rye ended the podcast by speaking on the history of every successful culture rooted in support of its own. This means prioritizing the services of your people over those of others. While it by no means encourages a boycott of brands not made by people from your particular culture, it does mean to take ourselves seriously. More often than not, we hear people equate “buying black” with inadequate goods. We belittle ourselves and our own products and decide not to support them. Bad service or bad goods are based entirely on the individual(s) or are serving. It is not a reflection on the whole community. And it is that bias that the mainstream not only has against us but has managed to instill in us as well. It’s time that we do better. And it’s time that we encourage and support our own.
– Tahyira Savanna & Simone Hawthorne