DOPE: My Experience

Dope (2015) Poster

I could do a movie review but there are people better experienced at it and would probably run circles around me.  Instead I’m going to talk about how I felt because this movie definitely made me feel something.  The entire experience involved in watching this movie made me feel something.  So I can talk about that and I can be confident that it’ll be both universal and simultaneously unique to me.  It’s the only thing that I think will allow me to do right by both the movie and my experience.

So I live in San Diego and while a diverse city, it can feel a bit lonely to be black here.  At least, in the part of town I live in it can.  I know there are black people, but I just haven’t found them yet.  Still, living in the wack part of town I stay in (I blame my roommate *side eye*) it can be a bit disheartening and you start to believe there really aren’t many of your own here in San Diego.  My obvious thought going into this advanced screening was that I would probably be one of ten people there and I’d be one of three black people.

I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.  Walking up to the theater I see this long line and all the people are holding folded up white pieces of paper.  I’m holding a white piece of paper…and I can feel my heart racing.  Are all these people here for this movie?  I get happy and then I panic because I was going to be pissed if I couldn’t get in.  Luck was on my side because there was plenty room so I slid into line.  I see young, I see old.  I see white…and hot damn I saw black.  A lot of black.

Pumped now, nobody could tell me nothing as they start letting us in.  I walk in and there’s a DJ.  A DJ playing hip-hop.  And not just hip-hop but 90s hip-hop.  People are dancing and just having a good time.  Even though I’m in the movie theater alone, I can’t help but to feel like its family.  It’s the feeling I’ve been missing for a minute and it feels good to have it back.   There’s a small introduction and the movie gets rolling.

The main characters are three friends; Malcolm, Dig and Jib.  They are the truest of friends that would go to hell and back for the other.  In my opinion, these three are right up there in the classic friendships of cinema and I hope they become a fixture as an example of friendship for years to come.  Dig and Jib are the kind of friends I wish I would have had in high school.  They stick with Malcolm through every single situation he faces in the movie, yet they never felt like sidekicks.  They were beautiful individuals full of life.

What I admired most about every single character in this movie is that they lived their truths.  They lived it unapologetically and without fear.  They owned every aspect of themselves even in the face of ridicule and shame.  As a society, people laugh at the nerds, the geeks and those who just don’t fit in while at the same time shouting for the rooftops to just “be yourself”.  It’s a hypocritical contradiction evidenced in every Facebook post that makes fun of an overweight person for loving food, that accuses people who love cartoons of being children, that shames the marginalized for embracing who they are.  I know this hypocrisy because I have faced it.

I know what it’s like to be that black kid who loves comics, mythology, science fiction, and fantasy novels.  For those interests I often find myself being told that stuff was for “white people”.  Then there were my interests in cartoons for which I’ve been called “immature”.  I remember I was in the 5th grade and I spent every free moment I had in the library.  Every week I had two or three different books I tore through and returned home.  Needless to say I got called a nerd and damn it I kept going to that library.  The stories I were reading stayed in my imagination too much to stay.  Looking back on it, I think that was my first “high” in life.  I spent so much time in that library, they made me an honorary library assistant and I actually was able to get out of class to help the librarians because my grades were good enough.

So I know Malcolm.  I know what it’s like to be a kid at a school where you don’t feel like you fit in.  My life had the added addition of me being a military brat.  So in the course of my life I’ve had at least 10 different schools where I had to go through the agonizing process of being recognized as an emotional, heart on his sleeve geek by all of my classmates.  So I know Malcolm, but he was better than me.  He accepted who he was and lived it out loud.   I didn’t accept who I was, but I just did a shitty job at trying to be anything else.

And then there’s Dig.  Oh God, how I love Dig.  Her spirit and her openness about her sexuality is everything I wish I could have had growing up.  Dig is exactly who I wished I could have been in school.  My education years were a place of fear, self-loathing and self-rejection because on top of my nerddom came a big whopping side of gay.  It felt like some cruel joke from the universe.  Not only am I a pitied nerd, but I’m a hated gay too?!  There were more than a few days I didn’t even think it was worth crawling out of bed.

But not Dig.  Not this girl.  She embraced it openly and unapologetically.  I can’t imagine how much more fulfilled my life would be if I had been able to just accept that part of me and give the rest of the world the middle finger.  Eventually, I was blessed to know that all of the people I consider my world loved me and didn’t give a damn.  But even now, I wish I had friends like Malcolm and Jib that were as nonchalant and easy going about it as they were with Dig.  It was never an issue in the movie that required deep breaths and hard conversations.  They never asked her awkward questions or tried to censor their conversation around her.  She was exactly who she was and they never needed or wanted an explanation for it.

These three teenagers deal with some serious topics in this movie.  They deal with violence, guns and drugs.  But not in your typical rap music video way or the way that Fox News would have you believe all young black kids deal with these issues.  And no I’m not saying they deal with these issues perfectly because honestly for some the stuff they did I’d beat my child’s behind.  What I am saying though is that they deal with these problems with unapologetic humanity.  They’re not monsters worthy of being shot down on sight.  They’re kids.  Beautiful, different kids, but still kids and the movie never loses sight of that.

And that my friends is dope.

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RRAP: Black Hero Spotlight (Jackie of FLOOR 21)

Book: FLOOR 21 by Jason Luthor

Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Science Fiction with Horror Elements

Character Name: Jackie

Bio: Jackie is a 17 year old girl living at the top of an apartment tower alongside the last remnant of humanity. Nobody knows how they got there or why, only that they aren’t allowed to travel too far down the tower. These rules are enforced by Tower Authority, who run civilization from the top floor. Jackie, daughter of two scientists, has a natural curiosity and thirst for knowledge.

Although she has no powers, Jackie has two character traits that make her able to deal with the oddity that is living in this tower.
First, her natural intellect, a reflection of her parents and their emphasis on education in her childhood, has made her unrelentingly inquisitive. She questions everything and seeks the truth about why they live in the tower when everyone else seems content accepting life there. She is able to piece different parts of the puzzle together and has broad knowledge with computers and biology.

Second, her teenage years, in which her parents became distant for reasons that are later brought to light in the story, gave her the ability to brush off serious circumstances and react nonchalantly to adverse circumstances. This almost uncaring emotional response is actually a help inside the tower. Since there is an ongoing infestation, the Creep, that reacts to negative emotions such as sadness, fear and panic, Jackie’s ability to brush off these kinds of emotions might make her socially maladjusted but make her perfect for exploring the tower.

While Jackie does get waist deep in the terrible circumstances surrounding the tower, she’s still a seventeen year old girl that is trying to find out what will make her happy in life. She is capable of extraordinary things, but at the same time wants to have back the old family she remembers from when she was younger.

Where to find Jackie: http://www.amazon.com/FLOOR-21-Jason-Luthor-ebook/dp/B00UNLBJNI

Quinton Veal Interview

Quinton Veal Interview

Today we’re getting a little bit into the head of poet and cover artist, Quinton Veal. 

Quinton: How you doing brother Lambert?

Brent: Pretty good man. Got a busy day ahead of me. Yourself?

Quinton: Yeah me too, working this cover for someone’s book.

Brent: Well tell me a little bit about that. What are your current projects in progress?

Quinton: Well it’s an Essay book cover art I’m nearly completed with for Katrina Bills.  A Black History Essay book.  I’m also currently working on my fifth poetry book.

Brent: You have a title for that book yet or is it still pending?

Quinton: Its science fiction poetry. The title is still up in the air.

Brent: Did your other four books have the same topic?

Quinton: No not syfy but just erotic poetry.  I’m trying out something new this time to see how that will work out.

Brent: How are you feeling about working in the genre so far?

Quinton: Its cool, my lady Valjeanne inspired me to write a little about that.

Brent: Has she been a major influence on your work?

Quinton: Yeah a lot, we huh…we pretty much influence each other.  When I write she tells me how great of a writer I am. She talks about getting a reader’s attention with poetry can be difficult.

Brent:  So give us a rundown of your works if you can.

Quinton: Her Black Body I Treasure (A Volume of Erotic Art and Poetry)

United Souls: Stories and Poetry of Seduction

The Collected Works of Quinton Veal, and Fire And Desire.

Quinton: Of course I create the covers for my own stuff.  Here are the works I have created the covers for other authors:

Immortal III: Stealer of Souls

Mona LiveLong:Paranormal Detective

Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds

The Switch II: Clockwork

Colony: Ascension

Brent:  Impressive stuff man.  Sounds like you keep busy.  Anything else you want to let us know about work wise?

Quinton:  My poetry has been published in Hurricane Katrina Couldn’t Break Us, Poetic Gumbo, and I Want My Poetry To….

I was also featured The O.T.H.E.R. S.C.I. F.I. Magazine and my artwork was featured in Genesis Science Fiction Magazine 2012 and 2014 editions. I am the co-owner of Q & V Affordable Editing. Right now I am currently writing my fifth book.

Brent: So with all your works and experience; what advice would you give to someone who’s an aspiring writer?

Quinton: My advice to writers is never give up on your dreams as a writer. Stay focused in whatever drives to go further.

Brent: So do you have a routine as a writer you follow?

Quinton: Yeah, I listen to 2pac mostly when I write and Public Enemy.

Brent:  Classics!  I hear a lot of writers say they use music to get them in the zone.  What about those artists inspire you?

Quinton: They inspire me to understand the struggles we face day to day.

Brent: So what authors are you keeping up with currently? Any books you would recommend to people out there?

Quinton: Langston Hughes, currently of course Valjeanne Jeffer’s book Colony Ascension: An Erotic Space Opera.

Brent: Good deal. So tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What’s it like there? What made you want to become a writer?

Quinton: I’m a native of East Saint Louis, IL. It’s cool but situations here are currently on edge since the Michael Brown incident.

What made me want to become a writer is that it’s in my blood!

Brent: Cool. Oh anything you want to let anyone know about before we wrap this up? Like projects or just any general wisdom?

Quinton: Here’s our website and everyone should give it a look. www.vjeffersandqveal.com

Brent:  Sounds great man.  We appreciate your time.  I’m going to put some links below this interview so people will know where to find your work.

Where to Find Quinton’s Works:

Fire and Desire: http://www.amazon.com/Fire-And-Desire-Quinton-Veal-ebook/dp/B00L9MCLUU/

The Collected Works of Quinton Veal: http://www.amazon.com/Collected-Works-Quinton-Veal-ebook/dp/B00JW3UXGM/

United Souls: Stories and Poetry of Seduction: http://www.amazon.com/United-Souls-Stories-Poetry-Seduction-ebook/dp/B007R9G6QE/