Room Rodeo: a Chicago student’s film about Black cowboys

Bill Pickett

I watched Concrete Cowboy a few weeks ago and while I liked it and found it interesting, I felt like it was missing something. It’s by no means the first movie about Black cowboys (see: The Black Cowboy, Harlem Rides the Range, and Black Rodeo) it’s the most high-profile, mixing Hollywood actors with IRL cowboys.

But next week, there’ll be a new film putting its hat into the ring so to speak and it’s called Room Rodeo.

The film is about Jamil, a Chicago boy trying to prove he is a descendant of Bill Pickett, a Black cowboy, rodeo, actor, and ProRodeo Hall of Famer. It stars D’Andre Davis as Jamil, and mixes drama with documentary interviews and footage of Black cowboys and historians.

His dad stands him up. He acts out. Now Jamil is on punishment in his room. He’s also finally reached the fifth grade and has a history project due.

If only his dad would tell him about his great grandpa, rodeo star Billie P – like he promised. But just when Jamil’s dad calls and things begin to look up, the cool kid from class calls with a humiliating declaration: Black cowboys aren’t real. Now, Jamil must drum up the courage to embark on a quest to discover the truth on his own – all from the comfort of his room. With some help from a dubious heirloom, Jamil puts aside whispers of doubt to venture into a fantasy dreamscape where he claims authorship of his own story.

Room Rodeo will be screened online for 24 hours as part of the creator’s thesis requirements, starting on 12th May at 7 pm. A virtual Q&A session will follow on 13th May, also at 7pm.

Icon vs. Superman, as told by Evan Narcisse

Comic writer and journalist Evan Narcisse wrote a piece on the Icon/Superman crossover from “Worlds Collide”, an intercompany crossover event from 1994 where characters from Milestone Comics met with Superman. Part 4 of the series featured Icon (#16, August 1994)

An alien ship lands on Earth. Its occupant gets raised as human, hiding special abilities for fear of reprisal. But when the superpowered extraterrestrial becomes an adult, Truth, Justice and the American Way mean something very different. Because this strange visitor from another planet is black.

If you like Black superheroes, check out my crowdsourced list of them.

Ekow Nimako's Afrofuturistic LEGO® universes

Ekow Nimako is a Toronto-based artist who makes Afrofuturism sculptures from black LEGO.

Ekow Nimako is a Toronto-based, internationally exhibiting LEGO artist who crafts futuristic and whimsical sculptures from the iconic medium. Rooted in his childhood hobby and intrinsic creativity, Nimako’s formal arts education and background as a lifelong multidisciplinary artist inform his process and signature aesthetic. His fluid building style, coupled with the Afrofuturistic themes of his work, beautifully transcend the geometric medium to embody organic and fantastical silhouettes. 

I haven’t played with LEGO in years so I didn’t know there were so many varied pieces to make these majestic sculptures. It’s truly breathtaking to witness.

(via Colossal)

Julie Adenuga on Catfish UK and the new rules of romance

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures but Catfish was a rare exception. Even though I know it’s predominately fake and mostly for clout-chasing, it was still wild, messy, dramatic and fun. Now we’re getting a UK version, co-hosted by Julie Adenuga, and she spoke to gal-dem’s Adwoa Darko about the show and romance.

The presenter wants viewers to watch the show through an empathetic lens. “Anyone I said ‘I’m hosting catfish, UK’ to, their first reaction was ‘oh my gosh, it’s gonna be so funny’. That’s their first reaction. And I look at them,” she says before pausing. “These are real emotions.” She also understands how the road to dating someone is often paved with half-truths as she’s had a few people lie to her about knowing her two brothers without knowing she’s related to them (“now you look like the biggest clown of all time”).

We all learnt the rules of the game from Nev: reverse Google image search people if you’re unsure, video call them, ignore people with only one picture because it’s 2021 and everyone has a camera phone. However, through working on the show Julie reveals she’s learnt a new one: “Tagged photos really became our friends. We’ve had profiles sometimes when we see they’ve got 2,000 followers and only one person has tagged you. What’s going on there?”

Bad times for Adwoa, though, who opened the interview with an admission: she had been catfished.

gal-dem: Lets start with the fact that I was catfished

Julie Adenuga: When did this happen?

I met this guy from Ghana right. I was thinking ‘rah we’re gonna do up Kente get ready’. He said he’s single and later he drops that he has kids and an ex-wife that has gone off and married somebody else, and the kids are in Ghana. We go on the date and this man is doing the most, he’s like toasting to us and I’m thinking ‘rah is this me yeah?’

No one has ever toasted to us. This is live.

Read the rest of the interview to find out what happened and stream the Catfish UK promo below.

Meet Catfish UK Hosts Julie Adenuga And Oobah Butler | Catfish UK

Dom Griffin on Them: Covenant

The Problem With Them: Covenant...

My man Dom knocked it out of the park with his latest review of Them: Covenant, the newest Black torture porn horror series on Amazon Prime. As you can see from the above thumbnail, it’s trash. I’ve not watched it but I could tell it wasn’t for me just from the trailer and Dom confirmed many of my initial thoughts when he watched it for our sins.

It’s spoiler-heavy but I never planned to watch it so whatever. Even if you hadn’t planned to watch Them either, I implore you to watch the review anyway. Not least for its razor-sharp critiques on a lot of things regarding Black media and how some of it is made for white people to coax them out of their privileged world view (I guess?). As much as I loved Get Out and it helped me deal with a lot of personal demons, I fear that it has unintentionally awoken a beast that is white studios greenlighting Black horror because it’s seen as “diverse” to peddle Black torture narratives that just make Black people feel worse.

But those are my thoughts. Go listen to Dom’s and laugh your way through otherwise you’ll just cry. If you watched Them, what did you think? Let me (and Dom) know in the comments.

Charles Pulliam-Moore on DC Comics' Black Supermen

A great piece from Black pop culture critic Charles Pulliam-Moore on ‘Black supermen‘. Here’s an excerpt:

As is always the case with legacy comics characters, if you look far back enough it isn’t long before you come across stories “of their time” that reflect the distinct lack of voices that didn’t belong to straight, white men with two-dimensional ideas about people who were unlike them. Superman’s always been a symbol for an idealized form of the American dream and a mythic idea of morally sound justice. But in comics like Giant Superman #239 from 1971, an issue including multiple stories from writers Otto Binder and artists Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye, you can see how DC Comics has always had a difficult time addressing Blackness in the context of Superman stories as its own identity rather than something that exists in contrast to whiteness.

For more like this, check out my blog about Black superheroes and that time Batman was Black.

African Americans in Soviet Russia

George Tynes, flanked by Soviet army cadets

Zakkiyah Job wrote an interesting piece on the great African American escape to Soviet Russia.

Under Stalin’s de facto policy of ethnic cleansing, it’s hard to picture the USSR as any kind of paradise for persecuted minorities, but in stark contrast to the trauma and systemic oppression that people of colour had long-faced in the many parts of the western world, Mother Russia poised itself as a beacon of equality, ahead of the historical curve.

The likes of Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Dorothy West found themselves in the USSR, much to the chagrin of the American federal government. But the history of Black people in Russia goes further back to include people such as Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a Cameroonian aristocrat who started an Afro-Russian dynasty in the 18th century.

After Ottoman forces kidnapped him as a boy from Cameroon, he was sold to a Russian diplomat and “gifted” to Peter the Great, who publicly adopted and freed him. Abram became a military engineer, a high-ranking general and a nobleman. He is also a maternal great-grandfather to the famed Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

For more on the subject, check out the following list of texts:

Roy Mehta's 'Revival' explores Brent's multiculturalism between 1989–93

Revival book cover

Roy Mehta is a London-based photographer and in his latest publication, Revival: London 1989-1993, he reconnected with his roots in Brent, north-west London. The book is a collection of Roy’s photos taken in a 4-year period from the tail-end of the 80s to the early 90s.

During this time, in 1989, Roy was living in Farnham, but he knew the area of Brent like the back of his hand – he just hadn’t been there for a while. So he packed up his camera and started to wander the roads of his old hometown, taking pictures along the way and observing the streets that he once used to roam as a child. “I gradually got to know the people and began to be accepted into churches, pubs, homes, dancehalls and other places in the community,” Roy tells It’s Nice That. “This was a long time before digital photography and social media, so photography was a different kind of practice; people related to the camera in a different way.”

Quote from It’s Nice That

Revival: London 1989-1993 is available from Hoxton Mini Press and on Amazon. There will also be an exhibition of the work in March 2022 (you can check some of the photos from there too).

Sophia Tassew's Khula jewellery brand is dope

Sophia Tassew with 4 models wearing Khula earrings

Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.

Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”

I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow. 

Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.

I especially love the late 60s/70s vibe from the designs, which she said inspired her alongside her roots from East Africa and South Africa:

Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.

If you can, please support Khula and buy something from the store when the next batch drops. And follow both the Khula brand and Sophia on Instagram.

(featured image taken by Chad McLean from Instagram [his website])

A Quick Ting On: a non-fiction series focused on Black British culture

Jacaranda Books is set to release A Quick Ting On, their first non-fiction series dedicated to Black British culture. The series has been curated by Magdalene Abraha and features the likes of Chanté Joseph (!!!), Tobi Kyeremateng (!!!), and Sophia Tassew (!!!)

Here are the eight books and their release dates:

  • A Quick Ting On: Afrobeats by Christian Adofo (7th October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Plantain by Rui Da Silva (22nd October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Black British Power Movement by Chanté Joseph (28th October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: The Black Girl Afro by Zainab Kway-Swanzy (4th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Black British Businesses by Tskenya-Sarah Frazer (12th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Theatre Sh*t by Tobi Kyeremateng (19th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Grime by Franklyn Addo (2022)
  • A Quick Ting On: Bamboo Earrings by Sophia Tassew (2022)

This is exactly what we need and I’m so excited for this series and everyone involved. I’ll update with links as and when they come up.

Yaphet Kotto on Alien and Black and female representation in sci-fi

yaphet kotto in alien

Yaphet Kotto passed away yesterday at the age of 81.

I took for granted how many brilliant films he featured in:

  • Live and Let Die
  • The Running Man
  • Midnight Run
  • Across 110th Street
  • Blue Collar
  • Raid on Entebbe

But one of his best known roles was that of Parker, the chief engineer in Alien.

In the video below, Kotto discusses the impact Alien had on him and Black and female actors in sci-fi after its release. Although not explicitly mentioned by Kotto, the actor who played the Alien in Alien was also Black: Bolaji Badejo, a Nigerian visual artist and actor who sadly passed away in 1992.

YAPHET KOTTO on ALIEN | Opening Doors | TIFF

Renowned's John Dean on Zoom calls with Angela Davis

Angela Davis wearing a Renowned t-shirt featuring herself

Renowned is a streetwear brand created by John Dean III and in his interview with In The Know, he discussed how it all began and his Zoom calls with Angela Davis.

I had the opportunity to have a Zoom meeting with Angela Davis. It was amazing. Talking to her is like talking to fairy godmother; this icon—she’s a feminist, philanthropist, scholar, the total representation of culture. For her to wear my t-shirt and send me a picture just shows how powerful the t-shirt was but just also how the messaging is effective.

Angela Davis appears in her own exclusive Renowned line alongside the likes of Huey Newton and Kathleen Cleaver.

Stream the interview below.

John Dean's streetwear brand, Renowned, is a celebration of Black heroes and Black culture