Tuesday, November 19, 2013

USA Today calls THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY “Race-Themed Film”


By Funnel Cake Flowers, The Urban Chameleon News Reporter

USA today calls Black Man Holiday I mean Best Man Holiday a Race-Themed film

Awww snap white people you done messed up again and let me guess you have no idea why.

Allow me to explain, to translate. You see Black people want nothing more than to fit into the fabric of society here in the United States of America. You know the country that was built on the backs of our ancestors but yet and still we are considered outsiders. I know you keep telling us, “That’s bullshit! You gotta Black president, what more do you want, everything is equal.

But it’s really not and USA Today’s comment was evidence of that. For if we were really considered equal, and Black people in Black films and non-Black films were common I guarantee you we wouldn’t be having this conversation. There would be no need to point out that The Black Man Holiday, (excuse me) I mean The Best Man Holiday is a “race-themed film.”

And the thing that really hurts is that I’m sure, NO! certain, that the Black people involved in Black Man Holiday (excuse me) The Best Man Holiday were not striving to make a Black film…just a film…people…just a film. And you ruined it white people.

Have your Urban Chameleon opinion/story featured by emailing tickles.tv@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Why now are "SLAVE FILMS" being produced?

by today's Urban Chameleon contributor
Ayoka Chenzira

There is a disconnect between the lived experiences of contemporary Black America and the movies. One reason is that there simply aren't enough films featuring the lived experiences of people of color that are greenlit for production. Not that the stories or screenplays aren't there -- they are not being made.

This period of what is being called "slave films" is discomforting. On the one hand so many people are unfamiliar with that period in American history. Common thought also suggests that so many of us think that slavery was such a long time ago -- so we do need films that show that part of the county's despicable history.

That said, in many ways, the films about slavery are not telling us anything new and in fact continue to highlight the same premise and archetypes -- that slavery was terrible not because people were stolen from their homelands, bought and sold and insured (by still surviving U.S. insurance companies) but because the white slave owners were sadistic. Cut to -- let me show you how sadistic. The sadistic (often well to do) slave owner and his seemingly powerless wife are finally challenged by the well-meaning white man who will essentially become the turnkey hero through an act of kindness or bravery. This of course disallows for the historical evidence of how many slaves survived, rebelled and escaped. It also closes the door on a deeper visual rhetoric about how slavery was part of a knotty American fabric -- common -- ubiquitous -- often without fanfare. It's residue still has death grip on modern day America.

You can tell a great deal about a culture through its art and specifically through its national cinema. Not only by what is produced but what is absent. Timing is everything -- so the question does remain -- why now are "slave films" being produced? We often hear that screenplays by African American filmmakers cannot be found. I have a science fiction film and am adapting the novels of Pearl Cleage to the screen, others that I know have dramas, comedies and historical pieces. What they have in common is a modern day take on African American lives -- and points of view that we seldom see expressed in American cinema. The absence of this work on screen is very telling about American culture.

Follow Ayoka Chenzira on Twitter @ayomentary 

How the Urban Chameleon Came to be

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Out Here In These Streets

By House of HaJ

Pardon the grammatical errors- I'm just flowing.

The phrase "Out Here In These Streets" came to life for me and a good friend of mine while traveling to South by South West in Austin Texas this past March 2013. The festival is a stomping ground for entrepreneurs
, innovators, independent thinkers and creative and technology lovers. People like us just doing our thing...out here in these streets.

In Black culture we identify with the term "streets" as a game, a jungle even at times a matrix; it basically sums up, a very real hustle; whether you're a drug dealer or an entrepreneur.

Several years ago, separately and at different times, me and my friend decided to take a leap of faith and dedicate ourselves to building something, being our own boss, being in control of our time while trying to make this world a better place.

As sexy as that sounds it's not always. In fact at times I wonder if I picked the harder hustle, ‘cause selling drugs has got be easier than keepin' it legal.

There is an illusion to being an "entrepreneur." You actually think you're in control. But you are not in control. I'm not even sure if god is in control. This was confirmed for me just the other day while watching for the first time the movie, Daddy's Little Girl starring Idris Elba. Lou Gosset’s character tells Idris' character at a moment where he’s down and out that's he's going to need the help of “God and two more white people.” That's real.

Most of the time being an entrepreneur is a pride swallowing, ego-deflating journey and that's not even the worst part. The worst part is continuing to actually pursue the damn journey; seeking the word "yes" in a world of "no. " But you do it anyway.
For an entrepreneur knowing and understanding this is what it means to be out here in these streets. Are you out here? Get at me.

Have your Urban Chameleon story featured by emailing tickles.tv@gmail.com

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

BOOM – Just like that Zimmerman Trades Places With Trayvon

Dear George Zimmerman,

For the rest of your life you are now going to feel what it’s like to be a black man in America.

You will feel people stare at you. Judging you for what you think are unfair reasons.

You will lose out on getting jobs for something you feel is outside of your control.

You will believe yourself to be an upstanding citizen and wonder why people choose to not see that.

People will cross the street when they see you coming.

They will call you hurtful names. It will drive you so insane some days that you'll want to scream at the top of your lungs.

But you will have to wake up the next day, put on firm look and push through life.

I bet you never thought that by taking the life of a young Black man that you would end up inheriting his.

Enjoy your "Freedom."


A Black male who could've been Trayvon

Saturday, June 29, 2013


Fresh from the Atlanta Fringe Festival, FUNNEL CAKE FLOWERS & THE URBAN CHAMELEONS created by Emmy nominated writer HaJ and directed by Award-winning filmmaker Ayoka Chenzira comes to Washington DC! This multimedia, interactive exposé highlights black-white relations by outing the lives of people of color who, as code-switchers, choose when to reveal their accents and attitudes in front of white people, creating a shocking and hysterical Saturday Night Live style mock of the human condition while “living in color in a white man’s world.” Check out the promo here

Tuesday July 2nd at 8:00PM
Wednesday July 3rd at 8:00PM

Katzen Center
American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave.
Washington, DC 20016

Ticket's are $12 for adults $10 for students and seniors. Purchase online here or at the door. If you can't make it TELL A FRIEND! You won't be sorry

Follow on Twitter  @Ticklestv @UrbanChameleons

Become a fan on Facebook!  


Urban Chameleons

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Caribbean mother doesn't get along with her private school educated grandson

by today's Urban Chameleon contributor, Anonymous
Six years ago when I had my son I knew it was my responsibility to provide him with the best that I could. When he was three someone told me about progressive education, which peaked my interest. These are schools that teach critical thinking as oppose to following orders. A huge difference between how poor children and rich children are developed. Outliers: The Story of Success written by Malcolm Gladwell, explores these and many other dissimilarities. Poor kids are usually taught to follow authority where rich kids are encouraged to be inquisitive. They are more likely to go to a doctor and ask questions that they have a right to know, like why are you putting that instrument in my ear?

The school that I ended up enrolling my son in teaches kids to be thought leaders and citizens of the world. This entails asking questions and exploring different answers until they make sense. The problem is, this makes for a difficult relationship between my son and his Trinidadian grandmother, (my mother).

One weekend I left him with her. She sent me a text telling me to pick him up earlier than we discussed before she wrings his neck. He called to tell me that my mother is very negative. 

My mother is old school, children don't get to have conversations with their elders about why they can't do something. The answer is, because I said so, and if you question me again I will beat your ass. That's the thing about being an Urban Chameleon and raising one, it's always about trying to figure out how to navigate the cultural conflicts that nobody prepares you for.

Oh well, maybe when he becomes president of a company or nation my Trini grandmother will appreciate his independent mind then;) 
Have your Urban Chameleon story and or opinion featured by emailing tickles.tv@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

More Black and Brown People at South by South West (SXSW) Please!

"If technology doesn't see race, that's actually a problem." 
 by HaJ

Left to right: Ayo, HaJ, Pamela Jennings, Sabrina Harvey and Nicole Valentine
This past March I was invited to speak on the Blacks in Technology (BiT) panel at South by South West (SXSW), Elevate the Game: Maverick Women Recode the Future, along with Pamela Jennings, CEO of Noble Wire, Sabrina Harvey, CEO of Art of Genius Tech Education & Women Interactive, and Nicole Valentine, President of Synergy Business Development and Ayoka Chenzira, filmmaker and interactive digital media artist as well as my co-creator and director of HERadventure an interactive, sci-fi movie. Ayoka and I developed HERadventure, which also debuted at SXSW.

Left to right: Denver Louis, Mary Pryor, Nicole Valentine, HaJ, Ayo
 On the first day of the festival that takes place every year in Austin, Texas, we ran into social media guru Michael Street and urban socialista Mary Pryor at Whole Foods. I guess a gathering of people of color was unusual here for minutes into our conversation an older white woman came up to us super excited expressing that she had never seen anything like “this” before. She admired Mary’s Afri-centric head wrap and complimented how beautiful everyone was while continue to stare in awe at the brown people before her. She then returned to finish drinking wine with her male friend who was about 20ft away. Even after returning to her table she kept staring at us. This woman’s perspective seemed to be a reflection of our presence at SXSW. Out of thousands of attendees you could probably count the number of people of color on one hand and have fingers left over. Ayo and I were apart of a smaller number of people of color who were presenting a project. One could argue a number of reasons as to why that was but it certainly isn’t because people of color aren’t innovative.

During out BiT Panel, meaningful conversations came about as it related to the importance of women and people of color advancing in the field of technology, specifically gaming and coding. However if the funding and information is only being distributed to largely one group of people then the experiences developed from new technologies will not reflect diversity of ideas and perspectives. Remember the YouTube video of the Black guy pointing out that the HP face recognition technology didn’t seem to recognize his blackness?   

This is why initiatives like Black Girls Code founded by Kimberly Bryant are so crucial.

BiT has taken a tremendous step in the right direction with creating panels and programming to provide information from people of color in technology and entertainment that's innovative at SXSW. We can only hope that initiatives alike will continue to be embraced, supported and expand into an integrated experience for everyone (including white people).

A friend of mine said to me that the Internet does not see race, it just calculates information according to zeroes and ones. I would argue that NOT seeing race is a problem. Or, being so in shock like the woman at Whole Foods because you’re not used to seeing a group of people of a different race is a problem. 

Being a part of a woman and gaming panel and presenting HERadventure our interactive, sci-fi movie starring a reluctant, female, alien, superhero who also happens to be a woman of color allowed us to continue pushing (or rather opening up) the envelope to empower those who seem to have gotten lost in the zero and ones. To find more about HERadventure visit the website www.heradventure.com

 Have your story or opinion featured by e-mailing tickles.tv@gmail.com

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tarantino Unchained

 By Jelani Cobb from The New Yorker
In early 2010, not long after the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Second World War revenge epic, “Inglourious Basterds,” I began teaching a course on American history at Moscow State University. When a Russian friend asked me what I thought of the film I told him I loved the way the director created an alternate history in order to make a larger point about the universal nature of heroism. My friend and, as I later learned, lots of other Russians took issue with the film for precisely that reason. “Is this,” he asked, “how Americans really perceive World War II?” In Russia, where the annual May 9th celebrations of the German surrender dwarf those of the Fourth of July in this country, the sacrifices that were crucial to defeating Hitler are a point of huge national pride. The history department at the university features a marble monument to hundreds of university students who died defending the country. Because many Russians feel that the world—and particularly the United States—has never properly recognized the scale of their losses, they tend to see “Inglourious Basterds” not as a revenge fantasy but as an attempt to further whitewash their role in Hitler’s demise. The alternate history in “Inglourious Basterds” failed there because the actual history had yet to be reconciled. The movie’s lines between fantasy and the actual myopic perspectives on history were so hazy that the audience wasn’t asked to suspend disbelief, they were asked to suspend conscience. With “Django Unchained,” Tarantino’s tale of vengeful ex-slave, what happened in Russia is happening here.
The theme of revenge permeates Tarantino’s work. If the violence in his films seems gratuitous, it’s also deployed as a kind of spiritual redemption. And if this dynamic is applicable anywhere in American history, it’s on a slave plantation. Frederick Douglass, in his slave narrative, traced his freedom not to the moment when he escaped to the north but the moment in which he first struck an overseer who attempted to whip him. Quentin Tarantino is the only filmmaker who could pack theatres with multiracial audiences eager to see a black hero murder a dizzying array of white slaveholders and overseers. (And, in all fairness, it’s not likely that a black director would’ve gotten a budget to even attempt such a thing.)

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/01/how-accurate-is-quentin-tarantinos-portrayal-of-slavery-in-django-unchained.html#ixzz2GvS6m8xw

Have your story/ opinion featured on HOTUC by e-mailing tickles.tv@gmail.com

How the Urban Chameleon Came to be