Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): Congrats on your upcoming film Shaded Smiles, a film that revolves around respecting and protecting women and girls. Before we delve into the message of this documentary, can you share a few details about the work you do in videography and how you were introduced into this field?
D.Roe: Yes absolutely, and thank you Sis Ebony for the opportunity to be featured in H2H! For those unfamiliar, I go by D.Roe. My journey in videography started a few years back and was primarily music based as a part of a collective by the name of NuWorld. Over the span of three years as a self taught editor and videographer, I continuously worked to perfect my craft day and night.
Naturally I got better and better with each project and with that, my passion for visual arts grew right along with it. As a freelance videographer/editor in the city of Chicago, the competition is thick, but I’ve always said there was enough for everyone to eat. With each music video and event recap I did, my notoriety began to grow within the creative community.
Along with freelancing, I was working a job where I was getting really good pay, but I wasn’t satisfied nor happy. I wanted to take my passion to the next level and naturally, in my mind, that next level was film. I decided to take a leap of faith and by far the riskiest decision I’ve ever made. I literally up and quit my job, cold turkey, and enrolled into Film School. A year and a half later, it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
EM: What inspired the film Shaded Smiles? How did the idea come about?
D.Roe: One night I was up thinking about the condition of our people. I knew I wanted to make a short film that spoke to it and I had been brainstorming all summer on the direction I wanted to go. I felt as if Allah was putting pressure on me to create something of meaning.
I made a list of 5 things that are “issues” in our community. 1, being black on black crime and us killing one another. Something I know all too well being from Chicago. 2, being the disrespect of our women and girls. This one in particular spoke to me.
The next morning, literally in the back of class, I FaceTimed one of my brothers, Immanuel. We had been bouncing ideas back and forth all summer, but I knew this was the one. I told him the direction I wanted to go in, and 30 minutes later he emails me a monologue, which would turn out to be the pivotal point and the actual opening of the script/film.
EM: In what ways has the disrespect and abuse of women and girls effected you as a man?
D.Roe: I’m really sensitive to things like that. As the oldest child and having three little sisters, I grew up being very protective. It’s really a sick world we live in, and a lot of men have sick mindsets. As a young man, I’m around it every day and see it first hand with my peers and associates.
Women and girls are like prey, and unfortunately we’ve become desensitized to this sick way of thinking and it has become the norm. It’s especially prominent in Black culture where we’re hip hop heavy and the music supports that way of life.
At one point in time I was literally afraid to have a daughter for this very reason. I did a study and found that 1 out of every 4 Black girls under the age of 16, experience sexual abuse. In a world where someone can record a guy hitting a girl, and no one steps up to do anything about it, it really makes my blood boil. I just want to change the narrative.
God willing when I marry, my wife and daughter(s) will be treated like the queens they are, and my son(s) will understand the value of their mom, sisters, and women/girls alike. It starts at home.
EM: How powerful is the use of imagery when getting messages out to the world?
D.Roe: I think imagery is one of the most effective methods in getting a message across. It shapes how we view the world. Those who create imagery are very powerful, whether it’s for good or evil. Film is a very powerful medium and a good filmmaker is able to interpret what they want to say and frame it in a way where the viewer is entertained, informed, and impacted. Imagery is used to “move” people, from imagery in propaganda, marketing, even religion. The fact that we have picture of a “white Jesus” is by design. With technology advancing and this age of social media we live in, imagery is becoming more and more prevalent.
EM: What can viewers expect from the film? What do you hope we will take from it after watching?
D.Roe: Quality and exceeded expectations. Though the story of Shaded Smiles isn’t necessarily “plot” driven, it will still give you that rollercoaster like feeling and take you on a journey.
The story itself is centered around the lives of four girls who are in a living room hanging out and having a conversation, which would eventually spiral out of control. It will cover aspects of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, insecurities etc., but all wrapped up and balanced in a way where it isn’t so dark and depressing, but hopefully informative and inspiring.
EM: There is currently a fundraising campaign for Shaded Smiles. What has the response been like since launching and how can the readers contribute?
D.Roe: Yes, the response has been amazing thus far, and my team and I are super grateful for everyone who has supported the fundraiser! We definitely couldn’t get it done effectively without you guys (although I’d try :-)), and it feels good to know that I have the support and people out there that back what it is we’re trying to do. You can find our fundraiser at https://igg.me/at/shadedsmiles/x or go to indiegogo.com and search “Shaded Smiles” in the search bar. Every dollar counts and we appreciate your help!
EM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
D.Roe: Unrelated, but we’re here on earth for a short time, do what you love! I promised myself that while I’m here, I’m going to leave my mark on this world, make an impact, and leave something of greatness that will live on far longer than me. I’m in the process of following my dreams, and I’m extremely thankful for those who support me and who are with me on this ride. Thank you Sis Ebony!
EM: Awesome! Thank you for the work you are doing to continue to bring critical subjects like this to light. May Allah bless you with great success!
(The following is Part I in a series of exclusive blogs written by single mothers leading up to the Houston premiere of “Raising Boys” on November 5.)
Written by Malaika Gardner
My name is Malaika Gardner and I have been blessed to be a part of a life-changing documentary entitled â€œ Raising Boysâ€, a solution-oriented presentation of the single parenthood phenomenon and its effect on the Black Male.
I am a working single mother and I have determined that neither my children nor myself will be the losers in this situation. I believe we will succeed, but it is proving wrong the assumed end result of this ideal that makes my job so hard.
It would be much easier if I were unaware of the facts surrounding young girls birthed to single mothers in our community. It would be easier if I was unaware of the reality of black men and the prison industrial complex in our communities. It would be so much easier if I would be content with a mediocre future for my family but I am not that female. Most single mothers have dreams for their children and for themselves but many are eventually defeated by the juggling act, paralyzed by the fatigue or drowned by the pain caused by the bleakness of their reality.
Myself, I grew up without a father but I had a warrior mother who gave me what she could. She taught me to value my spirituality, family, education and to always work harder than the next. Unfortunately nothing can replace a fatherâ€™s presence and love. I managed to graduate high school and college without succumbing to the stereotypical scenario believed for most children of single mothers.
By 22 I was a single parent. How did this happen to me? Long story people but not too different from the sister who never graduated high school and had three children by the time she was 22 years old.
What I give thanks for are the core values I was able to retain during my formative years. These values are what prepared me to carry the burden of the parental responsibility alone. I know this journey will continue to be a struggle because struggle eludes no circumstance.
As long as there is breath in my body and God in my heart, I will settle for nothing short of a beautiful destiny. Every day I wake up with a queen warriorâ€™s face, graceful stature and ready to fight for the greatest cause one could dedicate their life to, the future of the Black Family, The Original Familyâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦. Wow! Gotta go! Iâ€™m late! Time waits for no woman. Next time family! Peace!
P.S. Watch my story November 5, 2009 at the Angelika Theatre as we premiere a solution-oriented documentary that we hope will change your life: â€œRaising Boysâ€. Click below to RSVP.
by Jesse Muhammad for The Final Call Newspaper
HOUSTON (FinalCall.com) – October 16 marks the 14th anniversary of the historic Million Man March when nearly two million men descended upon Washington, D.C., at the call of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
In that sea of men stood then Columbia College film students Glen Towery of Los Angeles and Linus Michael of Kenya. Armed with thousands of dollars in donated equipment, both made the trek to the nation’s capitol with the goal of documenting what would be a life-changing experience for them.
â€œI actually did not know about the march until one of my friends called me two weeks before the gathering,â€ Mr. Towery told The Final Call.
The Million Man March was convened on October 16, 1995, to call Black men to atonement reconciliation and responsibility. A day of no school, no work, no play was declared.
â€œThat friend literally told me that I was going. I was in film school so I really couldn’t afford to go but so many people supported us,â€ says Mr. Towery, 57.
â€œI felt it would have been improper for me as a film student to go there and not document that day. I had to help preserve it.â€
The fruit of his work is now being shown in cities across the country in his documentary titled Glenn & Linus Michael Attend the Million Man March. The film chronicles their experience at the march. In over an hour of footage, images of men arriving, chanting, embracing, gang members uniting, powerful speakers, and exclusive interviews are shown.
â€œWe have to rekindle the spirit of that day. With this film I wanted to capture that spirit, package it and touch our men,â€ says Mr. Towery, who has won many awards the last several years including the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame award.
A large audience in Houston attended a viewing on September 12 at the Shape Community Center. Dwayne Muhammad, who attended the march, spearheaded the event out of a desire to â€œinspire us as men to never forget what we witnessed on that day.â€
Latif Salley, who was touched by the march to launch a Texas charter school, was moved while viewing the film. â€œThis documentary brought back a lot of memories. It is truly remarkable,â€ he says.
Mr. Salley is one of the many success stories born out of the march. The march inspired men to launch businesses, helped to decrease crime, increased membership in Black organizations, mobilized millions to become registered voters and overall ignited men to take charge in their communities.
â€œWe cannot let the spirit of that march die. We are going to show this film over and over,â€ says Deloyd Parker, founder of the Shape Center.
â€œI literally got chills just watching the trailer of this film. It is so touching and should be shown everywhere,â€ said Nation of Islam student minister Robert Muhammad.
Originally published 4.14.09
Written by Jesse Muhammad
As previously published on my blog, my older brother Deric Muhammad is working on the completion of the soon to be released documentary Raising Boys: Tips For Single Mothers.
On this past Saturday (April 11), videographer/producer Lawrence Moody wanted to get footage of our family’s history growing up in the 5th Ward area as well as the Northeast side of town.
Below, Bro. Deric is sharing stories of life in Wheatley Apartments just up the street from Wheatley High School. Some of the stories he told, I only saw glimpses of in our family albums. So many of the stories he shared I was hearing the details of them for the first time…in particular what exactly was going on at the time when my mother disappeared for nearly three years and returned to the doorstep with me in her hands.
A funny moment was shared when Bro. Deric recounted how he took the old school song “Everybody was Kungfu fighting” literally and kicked a young boy severely in the mouth. That bloody incident resulted in our family having to be moved to another unit away from the family of the victim!
From 5th Ward we went over to our old home on Sundown, that is right off Tidwell Streets. To be honest I have not been to that house since I was in elementary so I did not believe it was still standing. But it is…..
Bro. Deric and I shared one incident that occurred while staying there that we will never forget. It was the time we and our older brother Edward physically beat up our mother’s boyfriend at the time for his constant abuse of her. It was 3:00am in the morning that day. Being out there, I could still see the images of that night in my head.
We have come a long way just like others from that neighborhood. I will continue to fill you in as the documentary is released. Until then here are more photo highlights and please check out the 2nd trailer by Bro. Deric at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IMKbZF_Qro
Originally published 4.6.09
Written by Jesse Muhammad
He was raised by a single mother. How do I know? Because he is my older brother. (smile)
But seriously, being raised by a single mother and experiencing some of the traps of society that young boys can get caught up in has motivated Deric Muhammad to set a trend in 2009 by releasing a critical documentary, book and television show aimed at assisting single Black mothers raise young boys.
The three-fold project will impact single mothers across the country and the world along with touching the lives of young boys.
Please click the image below and watch the trailer of the “Raising Boys” documentary to see what is in store. I will keep you posted when the full version is released.
Originally published 1.8.09
(Blogger’s Note: New Orleans native Stacey Muhammad is an award winning independent filmmaker and activist committed to using the power of media to educate, enlighten and empower humanity. She relocated to Brooklyn, NY and begun the work of documenting and preserving Hip Hop culture through film and digital media. Her projects include the newly released short form documentary, “I AM SEAN BELL, black boys speak”. I went one on one with her to talk about the motivation behind that project, her passion for filmmaking, and what is in store for her career.)
Brother Jesse: Tell me a little about yourself.
Stacey Muhammad (SM): I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA and moved to Brooklyn, NY two years ago after spending many years in Washington, DC & Maryland. Iâ€™m an activist who has been blessed to find my voice through the art of filmmaking. More importantly, Iâ€™m a mother, so the plight of our children is particularly significant to me.
Brother Jesse: When did you fall in love with film production? What gave birth to the name Wildseed Studios?
SM: Iâ€™ve loved film for as long as I can remember. I was eager to actually learn the art of filmmaking and embark upon the journey of producing and directing my own films. Iâ€™ve always been drawn to documentary filmmaking and the activism that is inherent in this genre. Once I actually picked up a camera and sat down at an editing station, I was hooked.
Wildseed is the title of a book by the late African-American science fiction author, Octavia Butler and one of the â€œmanyâ€ books my mother encouraged me to read. I was immediately drawn to the story and the characters, for so many reasons. In many ways, this literary journey was like reconnecting to the origin of who I am and who we are as a people. Iâ€™ve been using the name ever since.
Brother Jesse: I had a chance to view part 1 of the I AM SEAN BELL documentary. That’s a serious story, why did you feel the need to address it from behind the camera?
SM: Sean Bell was murdered one month prior to my move to Brooklyn. I remember being near a playground the day the verdict was delivered and feeling a great sense of sadness and concern for our children. I started collecting articles about the murder without having a clear direction of what I wanted to do with the film. It was an emotional and exhausting process doing the research on police brutality (which seems to be the new form of lynching) in this city, watching horrendous video footage, and looking at photographs of the victims. I wasnâ€™t sure whether or not it would be a project Iâ€™d complete.
Hakim Green of Channel Live and I organized a block party in Harlem, NY in honor of all of the victims of police brutality in NYC. William Bell, Sean Bellâ€™s father came to the event. Many people were overcome with emotion by his presence, but I was a little too distracted by the responsibilities of the day to really appreciate the moment. However, at some point we started talking and he was just one of the most fatherly, loving and compassionate brothers Iâ€™d ever met. He kept hugging me and saying thank you so much for this, daughter. It got the best of me!
I knew at that moment that I had to finish this project, for Sean and for his family. I reached out to Akintoye Moses, who is a Brooklyn based educator about interviewing the young men in his Walk Like a King program. All of these young brothers go to school with my daughter so I was somewhat familiar with most of them, in passing. Once the interviews started on the day of production, I knew the premise of the story would be the voices of the children.
Brother Jesse: What response have you received from those that have viewed the I AM SEAN BELL” piece?
SM: The response has been beautiful and beyond anything I expected. I released the film online on the first day of the year and within minutes the emails, phone calls and comments began. People seem to have really been touched by this film. Many have watched it with their children, particularly their sons, and it has served as a catalyst to begin addressing some of these issues with our children. The outpouring of appreciation and support for this project touches and inspires me to continue to do this work.
Brother Jesse: You did a documentary on the Million Man March. Why was it important to produce that?
SM: When I became interested in film production it was only natural for me to develop a film that was a testament to the most significant event Iâ€™d witnessed in my lifetime, the Million Man March. It was important to produce this film in order to pay homage to this great moment in our history as well as document the efforts of those who worked behind the scenes, on a daily basis, night and day to assist Min. Farrakhan with making his vision a reality. The film screened at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum to a packed house on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the Million Man March. The response to the film was overwhelmingly positive and itâ€™s a project Iâ€™m very proud to have been a part of, with my good friend, Rashida James â€“ Saadiq.
Brother Jesse: What skills does it take to truly master the art of filming? Does one necessarily have to go to school to be great at it?
SM: Itâ€™s an exciting time to embark upon the art of filmmaking. Film school in the traditional sense may not be necessary, although I would never discourage it. However, itâ€™s extremely important to get some sort of hands on film training and learn the art of filmmaking. Itâ€™s a hobby for many, but in actuality itâ€™s an art form and our stories are more effectively told when we advance our knowledge of the art.
The cinematography, the lighting, the editing, all of these elements that go into making great film, serve as critical components to telling the story just as much as the story itself. Technology today allows anyone to go out and purchase a camera, computer and software and make a film. Itâ€™s beautiful because it allows people to tell stories. But if this is something one wants to seriously consider as a career and a vehicle by which they communicate with the world, they should take advantage of the many tools and resources available and hone their craft.
Brother Jesse: What type of work ethic does it take to be a filmmaker? Describe your state of mind when you are at work to get a project done.
SM: It takes passion more than work ethic to be a filmmaker. I can truthfully say that Iâ€™ve found my passion. Itâ€™s the type of thing where I have to force myself to walk away from my computer, shut it down, take a napâ€¦itâ€™s non stop. The projects I embark upon are labors of love, so Iâ€™m thoroughly entangled in every aspect of their creation. I canâ€™t imagine doing anything else.
Brother Jesse: Name a few of the great people in the industry that you have had the privilege of interviewing or working with.
SM: In terms of film, Iâ€™ve had the honor of being taught by the great Haile Gerima. His classes were not only lessons in film, they were lessons in life. Right now, Iâ€™m doing a lot of work with Tee Smif, who is an amazing filmmaker and music video director from Brooklyn, NY. He teaches me a lot! In terms of hip hop, Iâ€™ve had the honor of working with KRS One, Black Ice, Hakim Green, NYOIL & Chip Fu. Most of the work Iâ€™m doing right now is with Wise Intelligent of Poor Righteous Teachers. He has a monthly Spoken Word Hip Hop Showcase called The Hereafter that is irrefutable proof that Hip Hop is not dead! Iâ€™m honored to be a part of it.
Brother Jesse: What are your goals over the next several years and what should we be on the look out for?
SM: My goal is to continue to grow and create the life I desire and deserve. (Shout out to ASCEND Spiritual Flight Academy!) I also plan to produce at least four independent documentary short films per year that address some aspect of our struggle as a people, while providing solutions as well as avenues and resources for healing and growth.
Be on the look out for part two of the Sean Bell documentary as well as the documentary â€œOut of Our Right Minds, the Rise of Mental Illness amongst black womenâ€. My commitment is to document and preserve our history, tell our stories and make Black Film. I would like to thank Shomari Mason & RH Bless for their brilliance and assistance in making this film as well as Bro. Hasaun Muhammad for his support.
(Be even more enlightened by visiting Wildseed Studios at: www.wildseedstudios.com)