2016 was a great year. I gave birth to my second son, I worked as the senior editor of Newcity (a Chicago-based arts magazine), I started an entertainment column at Forbes and I was the special managing editor of Ebony’s special commemorative Obama issue. The Obama issue came together in a beautiful way, and I’m grateful to all the celebs and politicians who responded to my call and came through with quotes and essays and photos. Magnifique!
Other editorial highlights include:
A fun chat with Joseph Sikora, star of Power, for Chicago magazine. Sikora, who is from Chicago, swears to me that he didn’t really throw up a pitchfork gang sign in a photo. Of course, after I wrote this article, plenty of people contacted me to say they still don’t believe him. Ah well. Power returns in the summer of 2017.
I wrote about one of Chicago magazine’s most influential Chicagoans, Tamar Manasseh, for this extra special issue celebrating the denizens of the Windy City. It’s not everyday that I get to be a featured writer for such a special issue.
By now you probably know that I am a contributor to Forbes, where I cover TV, film and music for the online portal of the business magazine. I’ve written seven stories so far, mostly about television, since TV is hot right now as the fall shows solidify their followings and their ratings. Tonight I live tweeted the Rocky Horror Picture Show reboot, which aired on Fox, and I enjoyed following along with other tweeters. Many were a bit pissed that the remake deviated from the original. But, I already knew what to expect.
Lou Adler, the executive producer of the original Rocky Horror and the EP of the reboot, told me that “what all the critics say is true.” He also said that the original Rocky wasn’t the best movie ever and was certainly “rough around the edges.” He expected it to be panned by many, but he also expected it to be well received.
To that end, the show was a trending topic Thursday night- even as the Al Smith Dinner trended and the NFL game aired on TV. In the end, Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was magnificent, and I predict that lots of gold and silver costumes will be on the streets this Halloween.
In other news, I’ve started a new website, southsideparenting.com, where I detail all the cool places to go and fun things to do with your kids on the South Side of Chicago. I created this site because I wish such a site had existed when my oldest was too young for school but old enough for field trips with his mommy. Rather than wait for someone else to figure out that the South Side is pretty damn cool, I decided to make my own site.
I’ll never forget my first job. I interviewed with The Miami Herald while attending the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention in Seattle, and Managing Editor Rick Hirsch talked to me about my reporterly hopes and dreams. I’m sure I said a bunch of stuff that made him inwardly chuckle, but he gave me a shot. By the Sunday of convention he had offered me a gig as a one year intern at the paper I came to affectionately call Ma Herald.
I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to get away from my parents and prove to everybody that my expensive Medill School of Journalism degree was well worth the cash. I was ready for my Pulitzer and prepared to be the black Lois Lane flying about South Florida.
And then I got down there, and my mom stayed with me for two weeks. And as she left, I sat on my brand new Rooms to Go bed and looked at my purple ROoms to Go couch, and I bawled my eyes out. My mommy was gone. I was in a strange place with a new, silver Altima, a ground-level apartment in a little known Broward County town and I didn’t know how to do my own hair in that humidity. I was a wreck! At least I knew how to string a sentence together. Except I didn’t.
Chicago is in the midst of a musical explosion and Jamila Woods is definitely one to watch as a new generation rises in the wake of Kanye West and Common. Perhaps Chance the Rapper led the charge, along with friends Vic Mensa and producers such as King Louie, but poet/singers such as Woods are pushing it to the next level.
I’ve literally been writing my tush off. Ever since Beyonce dropped “Lemonade” and the Purple One passed, the opportunities to produce stories examining their pop cultural influences have been many.
I tied the lack of diversity in most mainstream newsrooms into the discussion of who exactly should (or should not) be commenting upon Lemonade. And I stand by my column: more diversity is good for business, so businesses ought to be giving a plethora of people an opportunity to write or comment or report on a story involving Beyonce. Continue reading “From Prince to Lemonade: My Week in Pop Culture”
The soundtrack of my early life was pretty much curated by Doug Banks. The legendary radioman dominated Chicago airwaves in my formative years, and I’ll never forget getting dressed for school and listening to Doug and Bonnie. Oh. How they laughed and giggled and carried on. Pure joy in the am. I met Sinbad through the Doug Banks Show. I learned about Jodeci and got my news on Anita Hill and experienced some of my first political discussions by listening to Banks.
Back in the day, you could listen to Eddie and Jobo on B-96. And I liked them, but they could be oblivious to people of color at times. And other jocks were just assholes. Straight up. Banks played the music I liked and had a good spirit. You could tell just by listening.
After spending a day reading disheartening Facebook posts about insensitive family interactions and texting with friends who are desperately seeking respite from people hogging their newborn babies around the Christmas tree, I thought I’d put together this nifty list of what NOT to do around the holidays.
Christmas may be over, but Kwanzaa and New Years are still going strong. These things shouldn’t have to be said but apparently a bunch of people missed the memo on basic manners. The good news is that 2016 offers an opportunity to get it right!
I penned this piece on Hillary Clinton’s new(ish) director of African-American Outreach. Much has been made of whether or not each presidential candidate has a good rapport with communities of color – especially African American and Latino. Drake was very open about what needs to be done to court the black vote. Read the story, which appeared on NBC News, here. And feel free to comment on my FB page here.
Photo courtesy of NBC News and Clinton campaign.
Let the campaign coverage begin…. My latest… http://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/meet-ladavia-drane-clintons-director-african-american-outreach-n464631
I’ve recently had a lot of assignments that involve the craft of acting. The nitty gritty. The actual work that goes into helping you, the viewer, suspend belief for a half hour, an hour or three. I’ve also interviewed a lot of actors. A ton. Most of them. But it wasn’t until the last two years that I really got interested in exactly how they do what they do. I blame it on Vera J. Katz, a retired Howard University professor who specializes in directing and acting. (I’m also editing Katz’s memoir and instructional manual, so this whole experience has been an education.) Katz has tutored a number of actors out there on the scene, including Taraji P. Henson, who is Essence’s November cover star. That said, when I sat down and talked with Taraji, we had plenty more to talk about than for previous stories.
The continuum is pretty cool. We first chatted in 2009 for a joint cover with Taraji and Viola Davis for Ebony. Then I pitched a July 2011 cover featuring Tyrese and Taraji for the newly-created Sexy Singles cover that now runs annually in Ebony magazine. (I actually created the Sexy Singles franchise for Ebony while I was senior editor there.) So, for that second cover story, I spend time in Hollywood with Tyrese and Taraji – separately – so I could weave together their rags-to-riches stories that kicked off with everybody’s hood fav, Baby Boy.
Fast forward to 2014. Taraji is destroying TV as Cookie on Fox’s Empire. The show is a huge hit, so of course it makes sense for Taraji to cover Essence magazine. And, the shoot is in my hometown: Chicago. I loved that the editors decided to showcase the beauty of my city and some of the little known elements therein. The shoot was at a swanky helipad on the West Side. (The Real West Side, though the folks trying to rename it “west loop” and gentrify it are too new to Chicago to understand what they’re getting themselves into…)
Taraji surprised me with her discussion of the craft and of the various methods she has studied. People think that this stuff is easy, but it’s not. We talked a bit about “the moment before,” an acting term that means you have to visualize and believe in whatever just happened to your character before the scene begins. In term, if you do this right, your acting will be more believable, more like real life. And that’s what Taraji does.
You can read more about her “moment before,” why Lee Daniels stopped auditions after Taraji showed up and why she’s putting her career first in November’s Essence magazine.
A strange thing happens when you visit The Frunchroom. You learn all kinda stuff you never knew that you didn’t know.
Allow me to explain.
I’ve lived near Mother McCauley – a Catholic girls high school in Chicago – all my life and had no idea that MM was a feminist well before the word became a trendy word to embrace. I’ve lived near Hardboiled coffee for some time and had never quite managed to stop in, despite the fact that the signage is ultra cool, and I know the owner plays records all day long. I also learned that I’ve lived in a food dessert, and that income has little to do with access to good, whole, fresh foods when it comes to living in a black neighborhood. Then there was the guy from Bridgeport who bikes all the time, even to Rainbow Beach on the South Shore – a place that I love but have never, ever considered riding a bike to.
That was The Frunchroom, a place where a few fine folks gathered to read a story or two – most of it true. It’s a Chicago tradition, and I’m glad to have been a part of it. I read an essay about the ghetto gold of Evergreen Plaza and how I coveted that stuff. The Plaza of my youth is long gone, but the memories are fresh, and it seemed that everyone nodded in agreement when I brought up the now-closed movie theatre, the cookie shop, the Jesus store and the arcade that was in front of that Orange Julius. (Frunchroom is a Chicago thing, in case you were wondering. It’s all in how we pronounce it…)
My Frunchroom compadres were assembled by Scott Smith, aka “@ourmaninChicago” on Twitter. You should follow him. He’s a thinker and has a blog worth reading. (And I’m not saying that just because he invited me to read.) Who else was there? Natalie Moore, a WBEZ reporter and author who read a chapter from her upcoming book about contemporary segregation on the South Side; Dmitry Samarov, a writer and artist whose sketches adorn the walls of Hardboiled; Jen Sabella, a McCauley grad and the director of social media and engagement over at DNAinfo.com; and Chuck Sudo, the former Editor-in-Chief of Chicagoist and the before mentioned biker.
Beverly is on the far South Side. I stress FAR. Most people don’t even know that this is Chicago. And that’s a shame. But with the new Frunchroom series, the upcoming Beverly Art Walk and the revamped Beverly/Morgan Park Home Tour, I bet a lot of North Siders – and others – might come to see the far Southwest Side in a new light.
I’ll be posting that Evergreen Plaza essay soonish. Stay tuned for more.