Today was the perfect day for some much needed R&R (reading and relaxation) time. So after watching a few episodes of Bob’s Burger on Netflix, I decided to disconnect and tackle the books that I had gotten in a recent book haul on Amazon. I finished the final chapter of the mystery book that took me a month to read and decided that I would dive into some of the great works Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I read Half of a Yellow Sun a few years ago and hadn’t had the opportunity to read any of her work since so I was excited when I got my hands on a copy of “We Should All Be Feminist” that was originally adapted from one of her famous TEDTalks.
So I found me an awesome sun spot in my room, made me a huge cup of warm chai and prepared to have my life handed to me. Although, I do wish it were a longer read, her words did pack a powerful punch and it was really interesting to see how “feminism” showed itself in so many different ways culturally whether in America or in Nigeria. So in between sips of chai, I found myself with a bulk of yellow stickies making notes and sticking them in between the pages I wanted to read over and over again. Here are six times I got my life, snapped my fingers and let out a “yaaaaasssss” as I read along. Had I been at her TEDTalk, I’d have probably been that one black woman doing that.
“We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likeable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons. All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, in order to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.”
“But by far the worst thing we do to males–by making them feel they have to be hard–is that we leave them with very fragile egos. The harder a man feels compelled to be, the weaker his ego is. And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.”
“A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all–it had not even occurred to me to be worried, because a man who would be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.”
“We use the word respect for something a woman shows a man, but not often for something a man shows a woman. Both men and women will say ‘I did it for peace in my marriage.’ When men say it, it is usually about something they should not be doing anyway. Something they say to their friends in a fondly exasperated way, something that ultimately proves to them their masculinity–‘Oh, my wife said I can’t go to the club every night, so now, for peace in my marriage, I go only on weekends.’ When women say ‘I did it for peace in my marriage,’ it is usually because they have given up a job, a career goal, a dream. We teach females that in relationships, compromise is what a woman is more likely to do.”
“Some people ask why the word ‘feminist?’ Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that? Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general– but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem that should acknowledge that.”
“Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth is diminished if they are not ‘naturally’ in charge as men.”
If you didn’t get your life after reading those quotes, or if you weren’t prompted to get your own copy then I don’t know what else to tell you, but it sparked something in me. She made it a point to make feminism a universal cause. We should literally all be feminist just as we should all read this book!
Next Up: “Americanah”
2AM is for the poets. The lovers and the writers. The visionaries and the photographer. The painters and the over-thinkers…and Bea Freeman, a college dropout, out of work artist and dreamer sitting at a round-table in her living room taking shots of Malort.
Set in the windy city of Chicago, “You’re So Talented,” doesn’t ooze black girl magic, there is no superwoman-esque protagonist, there’s just Bea Freeman dancing to the beat of her own drum. The web series follows Bea, played by Sam Bailey, a recently out of work Chicago artist, as she navigates her twenties and all of its inevitable dramas while figuring out her next move. In the first season we get an introduction to who Bea Freeman really is. We see that she’s an aspiring actress who’s easily discouraged as she puts her feet to the pavement looking for work after a gig unexpectedly fell through. We see that she’s just looking for love but she ain’t beat for the male shenanigans as she owns her sexual power. We see a black girl rising to womanhood as she tries to define her art in her own voice. Bea Freeman has proven to be the next big spokeswoman for the carefree alternative black girl since Issa Rae as she tries to find her niche within the independent art industry where everyone’s trying to make it from the small town comedian, to the lazy painter and stoner local band guitarist.
Now in it’s second season, You’re So Talented has been honored by the Tribeca Film Festival as part of their New Online Work Program and has been nominated for a Gotham Award in the Breakthrough Series – Short Form category. In a sit down with creator and actress Sam Bailey we get a deeper glimpse into the character of Bea Freeman plus more.
Who is the inspiration behind Bea Freeman’s character?
Bea is a combination of myself and a lot of my friends. We’re all artists in our twenties, trying to figure out how to stay sane in this world and Bea has a little bit of all of us in her.
Being the show’s creator and the main character, would you say that there is more nonfiction in You’re So Talented than fiction?
It’s probably equal parts fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes I’m writing from direct experiences, sometimes I’m writing from experiences I’ve witnessed people in my life go through. My background in writing has always been more autobiographical though, so I think that comes through in You’re So Talented.
Why do you feel her life is one that is relatable to hundreds of black girl millennials?
I don’t know if it’s relatable to hundreds…maybe three. No, I’m kidding. I think it’s relatable to black millennials because it is an AUTHENTIC story about a black millennial. Period. She’s not perfect, she’s not horrible, she’s just a young person trying to navigate a world that’s difficult sometimes. I think a lot of us fall into the middle area and it’s rare to see portrayals of people of color who are just mediocre, right? Often, we see caricatures of ourselves: empty cardboard cutouts of black people and all we should aspire to be instead of real human beings dealing with the pitfalls of just trying to be a decent person.
For most web series with a black female protagonist we look for those “superwoman” qualities, but it seems Bea’s life is one big ball of trial and error. There is so much authenticity in Bea’s character. How important was it for you to portray Bea’s character as she was?
My mother died when I was 18 and my older sisters were grown/living their own lives by that time. I didn’t have any representations of what it was like to be a young black woman navigating her early twenties, especially as an artist. I wasn’t going to become a lawyer or a doctor–there was no Olivia Pope in my future. I got through my early twenties by straight up trial and error and long conversations with friends over malort shots at night. When I decided to write this series I wanted to show a girl who didn’t have it all together and in no way had all the answers. And I needed that girl to be black because I knew there was a void for that kind of representation. Awkward Black Girl was the only thing I had came across that was close to that and it gave me so much license to go out and add to the narrative of what black women (and people of color, in general) could be.
Bea and her sister are total opposites, but we often get glimpses of who her sister really is. Bea isn’t afraid to succeed and fail, she’s not afraid to admit she’s lost, whereas her sister although cut from the same cloth appears to try hard to fit a particular image. Was this contrast intentional? What are your thoughts on it from a black woman standpoint?
The contrast was definitely intentional. I knew the minute I was going to write a sister character that I wanted LaNisa Frederick to play her because she has a naturally strong yet vulnerable demeanor. Her character is intense in ways that Bea is not and vice versa. I wanted to show that black women are unique individuals-even when we come from the same place. I have two older sisters and each of us are living very different lives-no one is more authentic than the other, we’re just different. I wanted to add to the representations of black women and I think having them be complete foils to each other was a successful way to do it.
Although they are such an odd couple I believe that Bea and Rob could work. Do I foresee a potential relationship development between them?
Mayhaps…mayhaps! I think Bea and Rob are in totally different places right now but they each have something the other wants. For Bea, she thinks Rob has this stability and sense of “having it all figured out”. Rob thinks Bea is courageous and exciting. It makes for really hot sex…you have to watch to see if it makes for a good relationship.
Can we look forward to a season 3?
You’re So Talented is much more of a drama then it is a comedy. It definitely has comedy elements to it but because it’s not slapstick or “snackable”, I think it’s hard to have it continue to live in such a short format. As of right now, I haven’t made any decisions but it’s definitely something on my mind.
You’re 1/2 of a collective “Our Names Are Sam,” that helped to create “You’re So Talented” can you tell me more about the collective and what your aim is and why?
Sam Lee is my creative partner and we came together when she signed on to help produce and provide original music for the series. Our partnership was a natural evolution from working together because we had the same views when it comes to creating content. Sam says that she always aims to work with “women, queer folks, people of color and very gentle men” and I’ve come to adopt that philosophy as well. We want to tell stories that allow people from marginalized communities to be seen as just that-people. Growing up not seeing representations of yourself is a really lonely experience and we’re trying to combat that the best way we know how-by being our own storytellers.
As a creative I know this question is annoying, but are there any other projects we can look forward to?
Not annoying at all! Our Names Are Sam have a handful of projects on the docket: we’re producing a dance narrative with VAM Magazine featuring Chicago performance artist Po’ Chop next month as well as a new web series called ‘Brown Girls’ this summer which I’m really stoked about. We’re also in post-production for a short film we shot in Ghana last year with plans to shoot a feature in 2017. So…lots of stuff. 🙂
With the season finale set to release on April 14th at midnight be sure to catch up on the antics of Bea and her friends here.
I’ve been absent from the blogsphere for a while since I’ve decided to go back to school and pick up a new profession (teaching) and during that time I saw it as an opportunity to really give back to an audience I’m truly passionate about: adolescent girls of color. I wanted to create a brand and organization that would allow them to fully understand that they are in complete control of the direction of their lives. As women, we are often told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and where to do it so much that there are times when we stop and wonder if anything we are doing is because we genuinely want to do it. So on January 28, 2017 I launched Curate Your Life, a girl’s empowerment and enrichment organization that focuses on sisterhood, leadership, social justice, wellness, and media literacy for teen girls of color, but the idea was birthed in June 2016 and there were a number of lessons learned along the way.
Community is SO Important
I knew that this wasn’t something that I could do on my own and be effective at the same time, so I built a community of professional women and organizations who would see and understand my vision. The day of the launch, I didn’t realize I would be doing so much running around and improvising when things were absent, but the community that I built was there every single step of the way. I just asked them to show up and facilitate workshops, but they’ve become family with every “You got this Deja.” or “I’m proud of you Deja” or “Tell me where I can help Deja.” Even my mother came and catered the event with my grandmother. I say all of that to say, you are as strong as the tribe you build and God blessed me with an amazing one. Continue reading “What I Learned Hosting My First Girl’s Empowerment Summit”