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the roots issue

issue no. III


 
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creative process III

 

When I was 7, I knew 22-year old me wouldn’t be afraid of anything. Not even cavities. I would be a budding multi-hyphenate (actress-fashion designer-dolphin trainer-dog walker, to be exact) I would dance through the world with ballerina-like ease.

But I don’t always do that, often I’m just trying not to step on my own two feet. (For anyone who has actually seen me dance, you know that sentence is more than just a metaphor.)

When I stumble, I call my roots, mom; the steady constant who reminds me that, with courage, confidence, and coffee, there’s nothing I can’t do. So, in the beginning of creating Issue No. Three, I instructed everyone to focus on their home-grown roots.

One month in showed little progress until one of us spoke up and challenged the idea that our backgrounds were so one-dimensional.

All of a sudden, “The Roots Issue” became about so much more than just familial roots.  It explores the concepts that ground us as humans, in art, gender, sexuality, race, and an overarching sense of community.

Every single article conquers the idea of diversity, in all it’s facets. We don’t know your roots.  We don’t understand the intimate details that define you. But we want to. So grab your notebook, your camera, your guitar, your artistic tool and tell us your story.

 

We’ll be waiting. 

 

al

editor-in-chief


 

 

 

quest love: the root(S) of opportunity

chauntice green

 

A few months ago at one of our weekly meetings for the magazine we started spitballing article ideas that were aligned with this issue’s theme, Roots. Trees, heritage and exploring the backyard that is Los Angeles were common and reachable topics. Of course, what’s a little brainstorming for The Roots Issue without the outlandish idea of actually somehow featuring the legendary Roots, or more specifically Questlove. We laughed, we dreamed and we pushed the idea to the back of our minds. There’s no way. Would one of us fly to New York and search the city for them? How would we even begin to reach out to their “people”?

Well, a little backstory, I work as a host for a pretty popular Hollywood restaurant located inside of a celebrity infested boutique hotel. When I tell you I’ve seen them all here, I mean it. One time I saw Denzel and just about died. That has nothing to do with our story. I’m just bragging. I mean Denzel, come on now. Anyway, it’s a Saturday night. Extremely busy, I had just sat a couple at their table and was headed back to the host stand when I saw a very familiar afro with a pick in it stepping into the elevator directly in front of the host stand.

“No fucking way.” I think to myself.

Right as I reach the host stand, the afro turns to face me and it’s no other than Questlove himself. Standing there in all his musical glory. The elevator doors close and I take my phone and run to the bathroom to make the call to my team. I mean, he’s here in the flesh, in LA! QUEST fuckin’ LOVE and we have the opportunity to potentially make a dream a reality or at least try. I didn’t know how long he was staying at the hotel or if I’d ever see him again while working, but he was here and that’s all we really needed to know. We asked and the universe so gracefully handed us our “opportunity.”  You would think after seeing him I would go home and practice some kind of dialogue, write out a few key points to hit while explaining what the magazine was and how great it would be to have him involved, or just simply working up my confidence in front of the bathroom mirror to introduce myself like I worked for one of the biggest magazines in the damn country.

Well the next day I was scheduled to work a morning shift. These shifts are spent in front of a computer for eight hours waiting for a phone to ring, reading books and occasionally checking E! News for this week’s best dressed. The place is quiet, it’s empty and it’s the perfect time to strike up a conversation with a stranger. I heard a ding from the elevator doors and as they slowly opened, out walked Questlove. With a suitcase. He was clearly heading out and this was my chance. He passed by my newly painted host stand wearing glasses so dark I couldn’t read his eyes, jeans, and a black sweatshirt with his very recognizable red pinned heart. He pulled his suitcase and before he reached the big black valet doors I muttered, “Have a nice day!” He wished me a nice day too and proceeded out the doors. And that was it. That was opportunity literally closing the door in my face. Opportunity called and I simply was not prepared to answer.  Why didn’t I take the time to prepare myself for our conversation. I mean, I saw him, he was here, all I had to do was dedicate a little time in preparing for a meeting that he didn’t even know he was about to have, because it was an opportunity given to me and all I had to do was prepare.

Preparation, I believe, is the foundation for confidence and with confidence and preparation it is very rare that a person should miss out on an opportunity. In that moment that Questlove walked out of the elevator I felt myself tense up because I hadn’t prepared, therefore I wasn’t confident. How could I sell a dream to someone as acclaimed as Questlove? How could I swiftly move through a conversation that I hadn’t taken the time to imagine?  Now I’m kicking myself in the ass for being such a punk!!!

“There is a difference between wishing for a thing and being ready to receive it. No one is ready for a thing until he believes he can acquire it.” - Think and Grow Rich // Napolean Hill

Our lives can be handcrafted by us if we simply put action behind our wants. Because with a little positive thinking and dreaming all that we want is waiting to reveal itself to us, but what use are we to it if we are not prepared. If you are not constantly working towards your desires, then they just stay desires and you’ll have trouble recognizing when those desire have turned themselves into opportunities.

Ask yourself this, have you ever felt like an opportunity was a burden? Let me explain, if you know you want to do something with all your might, but life keeps getting in your way and you haven’t found the time to dedicate growing, learning and being better at that something that you want, then it is very likely that you may turn away from the opportunity to do that something on a larger scale because you will feel as if you are not ready. The same way I felt like I was not ready to have the conversation with Questlove. Our minds trick us in that way. It makes us believe that time is something we can control and opportunities will be waiting for us to get our shit together. It’s just not true and the best way you can protect yourself from your own ego is by going the extra mile to prepare even when you think your opportunity is far far away. Even when your wants don’t necessarily show any immediate promise or gain, prepare for them. Because if you’re asking for it, just know it’s coming, but how ready are you? Have you put in the effort to make sure you are in the position to confidently accept all that you ask for?

All I’m saying is, don’t let your Questlove walk out of the building. I didn’t know he was coming that day, but it wasn’t for me to know. All I needed to know was he showed up and I was either ready to approach him because I had coached my mind or I was ready to miss out because I hadn’t. Don’t miss out. Stay ready. Stay prepared. Even if it’s you looking into the mirror and telling yourself you can do it and you will make it. Even if it’s reading books on your respected desire. Even if it’s taking classes to stay ready. Standing in the middle of your bedroom alone, but putting on a show for thousands of people. Even if you want to meet someone and it seems impossible, it’s not. So imagine those wants and desires, picture them in your mind, speak them out loud and then pretend like you are in those situations as much as you can. An opportunity can only be an opportunity if you prepare for it. It’s coming. Opportunity is coming. Waiting behind corners to surprise you when you least expect it. How will you stand up to your opportunity?

 

written by // chauntice green


 

 

 

a new dialogue

timmy lewis

 

creative director/ choreographer // timmy lewis

video // darrin bush

dancers featured // maryann chavez / whitney duggins / riley groot / patrick leshoreluis martinez / ryan ruizgina vidales / molly yates

music: "Lonesome Dove" by Timberwolf


 

 

 

indian astronaut

omid singh

 

We don’t see a lot of Indian Astronauts in movies. We’ve all seen the Arab caricature on screen: he’s holding a big gun, baring a menacing grin and sporting a beard that makes anyone in a hipster coffee shop go “Daaaayum I want that!”

My name is Omid Singh. I’m a comedian, actor and former vegetarian. I was born in San Diego, California and from there my Indian father, Iranian mother and Indian/Iranian older sister and I bounced around from hotspot to hotspot across the globe during what became my far-out childhood. When I was in fifth grade, we moved from Dubai UAE, to Katy Texas. My parents apparently didn’t care where we lived as long as it was hot. Growing up in Dubai, people of all colors, cultures and sizes surrounded me. But when we moved to Katy I was the “Blackest Mexican” they had ever seen..  That year, I auditioned for the school talent show with a dance, unbeknownst to me that I would actually end up hosting the talent show instead. What started out as my music teacher’s hunch turned into me hosting the shit out of that talent show. After that, I was hooked-  I knew I wanted to work with words.

After I graduated high school, I made the move to Brooklyn, NY by myself and when I say “by myself,” I mean my mom followed me out there because Iranian moms can’t be kept away from their kids. She’s standing right behind me while I write this whole thing. I moved to NYC to pursue my dream of being on SNL- to be a cast member, put on funny outfits and break character like Jimmy Fallon.

I never even got close to being on SNL. I took the UCB classes all the way through 401 and when I applied for their Advanced Study I was denied (twice). It’s still weird to me that I was denied into their program since UCB also conducts a Diversity Program where they want anyone but straight white males to apply, and had asked me to apply several times. The phrase “Diversity Program” to me is actually kind of fucked up. It sounds like something white people created to help themselves sleep at night. A diversity program feels like someone saying, “You couldn’t be here without us.” And that’s no fun.

Broken hearted from UCB, I picked up the mic and fell in love with stand-up comedy. It was easy to find the appeal in the long hours, the waiting around, free drinks, sexy women, fried food and lots and lots of genuine, belly-full, cheek-aching laughs. New York was a great city for me as a stand up looking for stage time.

After 4 years, I left New York and moved to Los Angeles where I live today. My experience as a brown comedian in LA has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, I can tell when I’m being added to a lineup just because a brown person is needed and Sammy Obeid was busy.  On the other hand, comedians are usually treated so poorly that any gig received can feel like a blessing. So far I’ve only had one role in a Hollywood film, a featured extra playing a college student in the movie Argo. On the first day of filming there was a massive scene where hundreds of Iranians like me stormed the fake US Embassy they built on the lot. Everyone was screaming and running, holding different weapons including baseball bats, which I found very weird. As a comedian, part of my job is to observe, make fun of things and help fix them. There’s something funny about a movie that takes place in 1979 Iran where people are holding American baseball bats. “Death to America! Except for The Babe!” was not heard echoing through the streets at the time. But what sounds like a funny behind-the-scenes story actually opens up into a much broader issue, when you think about it. Hollywood has a pretty poor track record of taking brown people and their storylines seriously, and my experience has been no exception.

I know you’re thinking, “Now Omid, are you just angry because you haven’t been cast in something yet?” You’re damn right I am. I just want to have one line when I go in for a commercial audition. Instead I’m background, silent noise, and it’s frustrating that I’m only seen as someone who doesn’t speak. Just someone who picks a box of imaginary cereal off an imaginary shelf like a totally real asshole. Believe me, we can do so much more than just portray a stereotype.

The generation of brown actors before me has bitten the bullet on cliche brown roles and they bit it hard. A comic I really look up to is Maz Jobrani and he wrote a book last year called I’m not a Terrorist but I’ve Played one on TV.  Maz is Iranian, but his audience is international, attracting people from all over the world because they love his sense of humor. His book, his message and his brand are so strong right now and it’s because he rejected Hollywood’s limited idea of what brown actors are good for. I’ve opened for Maz on the road at comedy clubs and theaters across the country and the best part about being around him is learning how to conduct myself in the industry. Actors and comedians like Maz pave the way for others and help set the tone for a more inclusive industry. I have a feeling that more quality parts for brown people are right around the corner, because audiences are getting smarter and more aware of the imbalance. The demand for diversity is growing.

If we want to add more diversity to programming in a genuine way, then we need to stop treating it as an add-on, or a separate track. Diversity is not some side project, or something that should be thrown in at the end to make a picture look less “one dimensional.” True diversity incorporates people of all races in the same projects together, as equals. This would not only increase the depth and relatability of any given show and open it up to a wider audience, but also push creatives to step up their game in a casting system rooted in talent, work ethic, and energy rather than physical ‘type’.

But this doesn’t only apply to actors. The lack of diversity starts from the top down. Without brown producers, directors, financiers, movie stars, writers and even more writers, we won’t be having a diverse Hollywood. At the end of the day, no one wants to be offended and no one wants to be left out and right now I’m feeling very left out. Mostly because I never see brown people in zombie apocalypse movies- brown people don’t make it to when the world ends according to Hollywood. Here’s an idea: hire some new writers and some new actors and film an end-of-the-world movie that takes place in Bombay. It’s not hard to get us involved. Plus you’d get the benefit of being ‘innovative,’ which everyone knows is the highest compliment in existence in the world of filmmaking.

What we really need right now is an authentic, artistic voice, if only to avoid Jake Gyllenhaal playing The Prince of Persia...with a British accent. That doesn’t make sense at all-whatsoever-across the board-when you really, really think about it. Neither does Ashton Kutcher doing an indian accent in brown face trying to sell popchips. If Jake Gyllenhaal gets to be The Prince of Persia then I’d like to audition for the role of George Washington whenever that movie is made. I’ve heard picking white actors for those major roles helps a movie sell, but my dad has a stack of about 200 DVDs with Indian actors on the cover. Thinking India isn’t a film market is anyone’s first mistake in not seeing the big picture in film. Indians’ love for film is generations old and they are hungry for real content.  We’d love to see Hollywood storylines with more than one brown person who does anything other than sell you something or rent you a car. So to all you writers out there, stretch those wings and really dig deep for a meaningful, introspective reflection on the times that are upon us, because we are out here too. Somehow, it’s a Herculean task to get everyone involved, but we will come out the other side glad that it happened sooner rather than later. Now, send me to space.

 

written by // omid singh


 

 

 

(impossible) standards and

(not entirely helpful) practices

taylor byers

 

I’ve always loved watching TV.

When I was younger,

I used to sit in front of my bathroom mirror

And try to look like the women I saw on my favorite shows.

Setting the standard of what it meant

To be beautiful

With their clear white skin,

And their long slender frames,

And their blonde hair so flawlessly

Dancing over their shoulders.

But when I looked at myself,

I didn’t see

Any of the things that tv told us were beautiful

looking back at me.

I saw dangly brown hair falling over broad shoulders.

I saw wide hips,

And when I relaxed my posture,

I hated seeing the folds in my stomach.

I remember holding scissors up to my belly button.

So young that I didn’t understand

Why I couldn’t just cut my fat off,

But already aware enough of beauty standards

To understand that I wanted to.

And when I looked at my face,

All I could see was my skin.

All I could see was that left quarter of skin on my cheek

That couldn’t quite blend with the rest.

A place where native and european

Refused to mix.

When did I start feeling so inadequate?

I remember the first time someone asked me,

“Whats wrong with your skin?”

Years of “Aren’t you going to have that fixed?”

And “Isn’t there anything they can do?”

Slowly suffocating under a pile of questions turned to insecurities,

Each breath of self-assurance more difficult to find than the last.

Blindly, frantically reaching for a hand to pull me out from underneath it all

Before it was too late.

When I took my final breath,

The last drops of security leaving with my exhale,

I finally felt bony fingers lacing through mine.

Pulling me out into the arms of my rescuer,

Mister Mass Media himself.

Gasping for air,

I breathed his promises of confidence deeply into my deprived lungs.

Looking to him with bright, young eyes

As he brushed my untamed hair off my baby face,

And leaned in to whisper in my ear.

I was waiting to hear him say they were all wrong.

But his lips curved into a sinister smile,

And his pupils turned to dollar signs,

And what had looked like the beautiful, warm embrace of his arms

Became a cage I had unknowingly walked right into.

He laughed as he hissed,

“They were right.”

He taunted me with the possibility of happiness.

He told me every day that

If I could only make myself look like the porcelain women he presented to me on TV,

That all would be right and

Nobody would ask me about my skin anymore.

Before I met Mass Media,

I didn’t know there was something wrong

With skin that was different.

I didn’t know

That I needed to be fixed.

To be bleached,

And painted white,

Until you only saw

The part of me that

Looks the way it’s ‘supposed’ to.

With Him constantly murmuring in my ear,

It only took so many times of hearing,

“Maybe you should wear your hair down

To cover it.”

To shame me.

As if “it” didn’t mean me.

As if “it” was some blemish that needed to be taken care of,

Instead of a part of my ancestors showing in my face.

As if “it” made me less than you.

Does it make you uncomfortable to look at me

And see an ugly part of history staring back at you?

Is that why you feel the need for me to cover “it” up?

To silence

The part of me that screams,

“I am the result of the slaughter of millions of people.

I am the result of women being raped.

Of villages being pillaged.

Of an entire culture being swept away,

Diluted down through

centuries of living in a new world.

A white man's world,

That tells you

His way is the only way.

A world where the only

Remnant of the native tribes of this land live

In 10 by 10 squares of sectioned off property

And on the left side of my face.”

But you only have to look at one of those things.

And my great rescuer, Mister Mass Media,

With his television heart,

Backed by my peers, my relatives, my mentors,

All said to me

Over and over,

“This is not beautiful skin.

It needs to be corrected.”

And so eleven year old me

Begged for a dermatologist to make “it” go away.

To make that piece of me go away.

And the worst part is,

The saddest part to me now,

Is that out of all those times of

People telling me

I was damaged,

No one ever said

I was beautiful the way I was.

No one ever told me,

It’s okay to be mixed

And it’s okay for it to show.

Years of avoiding my hair up

Because it would show my cheek.

Of avoiding turning my face to the side

So “it” wouldn’t be seen.

Years of pleading with doctors

To fix me,

And not one of them ever said,

“You don’t need to be fixed.”

Maybe that’s because Mass Media

Was whispering in their ears, too.

Convincing us to believe in Him

More than we believed in ourselves,

And we all fell for it.

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And now,

Over ten years

And countless applications of bleach-heavy facial creams later,

It’s almost all gone.

I’m all “Fixed.”

You don’t see it when you look at me.

Erased.

Like the millions before me.

Just another casualty

In the endless war of

The white man versus the world.

All controlled by the great puppeteer,

Mister Mass Media himself.

Who, all this time, had been

pulling on our strings,

Clapping with delight as he watched us dance for him.

Playing into his every desire.

Until one day,

I became strong enough

To cut through the stitches of my sewn shut eyes.

Razor truth liberating me

From His false promises of adequacy

That would simply never be fulfilled.

 

And now, even after all of that,

When I look into the mirror,

I still don’t see someone who would

Ever be considered TV beautiful

Looking back at me.

But I know now

What I didn’t know then.

There is nothing wrong with me.

There is something wrong with TV.

 

written by // taylor byers


 

 

 

kids book: Adulting III

elle stempe

 

Upon the initial conceptualization of this reoccurring article, I immediately drove my happy ass over to the bookstore and set up camp in the children’s book section.

“I can be in this section too if I want, bitch,” I thought to myself as the mom in my vicinity eyed me strangely. Yeah, I probably attracted some attention as I sat cross-legged on the floor – black hoodie, beanie, cigarettes hanging out of my pocket, and the smell of post-grad pessimism seeping from my pores as I leafed through pages of brightly colored stories.  If only this lady knew I was in the process of teaching people some super wise and important life lessons, maybe she’d show some respect. Pearls before swine, I guess.

Anyhoo, What Do You Do With An Idea? was one of the first books I grabbed from the shelf and knew instantly that this is the book that we as creatives need to be reading to our children.  The concept of this story is so vital, because ideas are our lifeblood, and what da fuck do we do wit em, is something we all need to be reminded of now and again to keep us doing what we do.

This sweet tale written by Kobi Yamada and Illustrated by Mae Besom (who showcases her truly gorgeous pencil and watercolor illustrations. I highly recommend dropping by your neighborhood bookstore and picking up a copy to own for yourself, just to gaze at these) tells the story of a child whose idea one day just pops into physical existence, right in front of them. The child looks at the weird little guy, pictured as a lil’ speckled, golden egg with a crown and chicken feet, and wonders what to do with it. The child shrugs it off and tries to walk away.

But the idea keeps lingering around, and the child kept thinking about it as they were pretending the idea didn’t exist. But soon enough, the child realizes that there’s something kind of great about this idea, and so they decide to take it around with them and play with it and help it grow. Once the idea is out in the open and the child shares the idea with the people, some of them laugh or stick up their noses at it all.

The child almost believes the unkind things that the people have to say, but once the child decides to silence the critics and truly embrace and nurture the idea, their whole world begins to change. More colors start to appear, more magic surrounds them, and with time and attention, the idea sprouted wings and began to engulf the entirety of the land. The idea, as it turns out, changed the world.

Don’t you feel inspired as a creative genius now? If not, go pick up the book, because clearly you don’t get it, and I can’t help those that don’t want to help themselves. In all seriousness, this story has many practical lessons for all of us, but especially those of us who are creatives. Here are the 5 adult lessons I took away from the children’s story, What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada:  

 

1.     Your idea probably looks like a little creep at first. You may look at it and say, “Huh…is that really it?” But although it may not be the most stunning or elegant looking thing at first, you WILL remember it for its uniqueness and its authenticity. It REALLY was made for you because –whoa – it was MADE BY you. Now that’s some mind-blowing shit right there.

2.     Give your idea a proper, nurturing environment to grow in.  Take time out to play with it and see it develop. Tend to it the way you would if you were tending to your own child. You would want to bring out the best in it, yes? That doesn’t mean saying all of the reasons that it CAN’T work, because dude, way to be a killjoy. That’s not how one builds confidence?? Find the parts that work, and encourage those things, and upon more growth all of those missing pieces will fall into place when the time is right.

3.     After getting to know your idea for a while, you may want to leave it, thinking, “What’s the damn point?” Don’t…Or do. My point is, as a creative you need to know how to sort out the good ideas from the ideas that were born unto a night conceived with the help of weed, insomnia, and too much pizza. Not to say that those ideas are ALWAYS bad, but just think of why you thought this was a good idea in the first place. If you really can’t think of why, then maybe move on. Ideas are kind of like pet goldfish: Although you loved Simon and Garfunkle, and Beauty and Beast (come on, you named them all famous duos too, right??), maybe they just weren’t meant to live forever. However, if you remember precisely why this was such a fantastic idea – that it was going to push boundaries, or make things better, or make people happier, or it’s just so fucking AWESOME, then hang in there! You and your idea are on the brink of brilliance!

4.     Fuck the haters. SERIOUSLY – FUUUCK ‘EMMMMM. They don’t want to even give your idea a chance because they are precisely what I just said: FUCKIN HAAAAAAATERS. (Lovers are the ones who truly change the world, just sayin’.)

5.     If an idea is worth sticking around with, it will change you. At the very least you will learn something about yourself, and that’s sort of a change, isn’t it? Honestly though, I think it’s good to constantly evolve as our selves and as human beings. Evolving is what we’re meant to do to grow as a species. Whoa, man…I think I had too much weed and pizza.

written by // elle stempe


 

 

 

breakdown bullshit

nicklaus von nolde

 

Often as actors*, we get some pretty wack ass breakdowns. Real degrading pigeonhole shit that just makes me shake my head. No, I’m not “shredded hot boy next door with a perfect smile,” and no, my girlfriend isn’t “natural looking but huge breasts but thin but model type,” but that’s what this industry wants us all to be. Nothing of depth, nothing of substance, just the same dude and same chick we’ve seen on TV for the past 30 years. How does that better our industry and what’s more, better our society? It doesn’t. It’s all a bunch of bullshit. Well, I’m here to shatter this way of thinking. I’m here to show you that depth is easily capable and that it’s not “not profitable” to strive for characters with substance. And believe me, if you give us specificity, you’ll get so much more from an actor. Our job is to be specific and breathe life into characters. Now don’t get me wrong, if you give us those shite breakdowns, we’re still going to smash it. Like I said, our job is specificity, but why not create characters of depth with real wants, flaws, history, relationships, attributes, interests, etc.? Below you will see five young actors who are sick of what they’re getting sent out for. Some turn their typecast on its head, some made lemonade out of their crap lemons. Regardless, all of them deliver specific characters that have authentic backstories and incredibly high stakes.

*Actor: all sexes, races, ages, shapes, sizes, colors, etc.

 

T H E  B U L L S H I T

 

T H E  P L A Y E R S

 


See, it’s not that hard for us to kick ass, just takes a little bit of effort and specificity.

written & directed by // nicklaus von nolde

actors featured // chauntice green / milani mae lumactod / paul romero / samuel hernandez / nate treadwell


 

 

 

in process iii

wilson lemieux

 

 

Do you feel you have more or less opportunities than someone in a bigger city?

Texas is a unique place to say the least. We've got towns of 200 and cities of 15 million, so in terms of opportunities in bigger cities, we have those in abundance. 

I live in what can be described as a small town of almost 200k. Creativity, for the most part, hasn't been as celebrated in Amarillo as it is in Dallas, Austin, or Houston for example. However, with the rise of social platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook the importance of good content, video or otherwise, has made its way here as well.It's my belief that I was just lucky enough to bloom at exactly the right time in that regard. Amarillo has been a community that has been such a blessing this past year. I've been so fortunate to not have to hunt for work. It's all found me. Has it been the way I've marketed myself? Maybe. Has it been the increased need? Definitely. 

It all comes down to community and I think that's what Amarillo has and does better than any other city in Texas. People are genuinely good here. 

 

How did you get started in this line of work? 

I have always been a dreamer. I grew up in a town of 1500 people called Wellington, Texas. I graduated with a class of 47 people. In the 4th grade I didn't win a student award for best attendance or grade point average, it was for creativity. I fell in love with video in college when I touched my first DSLR. That Canon 7D, with its ease of use and image quality, really opened my eyes to a reality I hadn't seen before. I took advertising classes in college, was on the student ad team, even got to pitch creative campaigns to people at corporate Nissan when I was only 20 years old. Some friends and I started a "company" that failed miserably but it was there that I learned how to shoot, edit, sell our work, and just how important networking really is. I took an internship with an entertainment marketing firm in New Jersey when I was 21 and really started producing content at a quick rate. After deciding that I'd rather get married and adopt a little boy than live in a shitty apartment in Brooklyn, I moved back home and got a job at a bank equipment company. As drab as that might sound, I really honed my craft there. I figured that if I can make videos well enough to romanticize ATM's and Vault Door stoppers then I could make videos for anything. 

About 9 months ago I left that company to start my own and never looked back. Turns out I was right about the ATM videos. 

 

What around you inspires you?

To be completely honest, first and foremost it's my faith. In society today, especially the creative one, Christianity isn't exactly smiled upon, but I have a firm belief that my talent (if that's what you want to call it) comes from God. 

I feel that it's my duty to be a good steward of that and to use it for Christ's Glory and to help others. A close second to that is my family. I will expand on that in an answer later. I love film and really well made stories. One of my favorite ads is the "Dear Brother" by Johnny Walker. Videos or whatever ads that can sell something without ever talking about the product are always the best ones. Wes Anderson & Quentin Tarantino are two of my all time favorite directors. Attention to detail, thinking outside of the box, and overall quality of their work is something that I aspire to be known for. 

 

You just welcomed a daughter into your family! Congratulations! Has that given you any new perspective when you're creating?

First of all, thanks so much. Nora (my daughter) was the beginning of my transition into freelance work. I started Lemieux Company really out of desperation. My wife and I found out we were pregnant in early June, 2015. I didn't feel I was making enough money to support what was soon to become a family of four. I had the connections and an investor so I took the leap. Daily I know that if I can't put out work that catches someone's eye and helps to bring in new clients, then we won't eat. Any extra mile I've ever taken has been because of them. 

 

Explain more in depth what you've been working on recently! What achievements you're most proud of?

I literally just left a meeting where the client might award my company the opportunity to play a roll in a complete brand build out. Lemieux Company, for now, just focuses on video. In the future it will become part of something much bigger in terms of overall corporate identity both on a business to business level and consumer driven markets. That's what I think I'm most excited about. The fact that this has become what it has in just 9-10 months has been mind blowing. We just won best in show in Amarillo Advertising for one of our first pieces of production. I've brought on clients like the City of Amarillo, a multibillion dollar energy company, an entire university, and even one of our most beloved Mexican Food restaurants. (And in Texas, Mexican food is worth its weight in gold.) 

 

What's the most frustrating thing about creating for you? The most rewarding?

I think we can all agree that clients can be a headache. I think any good creative entrepreneur is a creative first, business person second. So of course, everything you, I, or anyone else makes has a little bit of ourselves in it. 

Being able to create a project for a client that both represents your creative integrity but represents their goals as a person or business is what really sets apart a good freelancer or creative for profit. The most rewarding is seeing my son's face when I show him my latest video. Right now he's under the impression that I've made all of the Harry Potter films, Jurassic World, and any TV show he's ever seen. The fact that I can inspire my 6 year old to grow up, start his own business, and make a name for himself has been and will always be my biggest accomplishment. 

 

Social media has changed the way we are able to access different art and artists. It’s been able to connect us to people like you! Who are some artists that inspire you on instagram?
That's always a fun question to answer. There are so many. You've got Seth Dunlap (@sethdonalddunlap) for example who does some amazing work. The same can be said about the guys over at Elevation Church (@elevationfilm)  their work is phenomenal. Gray Anderson (@graydenpapers) is someone I just started following recently and he is amazing. I mean holy shit, Salomon Ligthelm (@salomonligthelm) is FIRE. I spent a weekend in early June with my friend Garrett King (@shortstache) who is also next level. Then you have your community, right? The ones that live in the same town as you or ones you keep in contact with everyday. Here locally I try very hard to keep a relevant and updated social presence but most other videographers here don't really have one. That doesn't mean they're not insanely talented. Blake Cartrite (@simpleandhistoric) is amazing and so is good friend Nate Pfeil (@natepfeil). 

 

What is your “Creative Process”?

I've spent a lot of time really trying to figure out what that means... especially to myself. For the longest time it was "listen to what the client has to say and then make something cool." But as I've matured in my own creativity and have started to get bigger clients, I find it more and more important to be able to answer this question, not only to others, but for myself. If I'd have to put my process into words it would be that I always try to understand the project at hand first. Training videos for a client like Valero are not going to be anywhere near as creative as videos I've done for your publication, right? After that we have to have some sense of story. What does a project aim to accomplish? What visuals do we need to meet those goals? What does this video feel like? I tell my clients and any audience I've ever spoken to that visual storytelling should accomplish three things. 

    •    Evoke Emotion. 

    •    Provoke Action. 

    •    Leave an Impression. 

If your work (video or otherwise) doesn't accomplish at least those things, then it's a failed attempt at something good. Taking that into account the next thing I always want to do is nail down the music. A music bed (and audio in general for the matter) can completely make or brake an entire production. If you don't have a good song, then your video is shit. With a music bed in mind, you can start your planning. Get your dates for your shoot, go shoot the stuff, then (for the love of all that's Holy) make sure you backup your footage. Twice. Maybe three times. Lay that music bed you picked out and start editing. Make a first edit. Make it again. Make it better. Then send it to the client. Navigate your client through your reasoning. Why did you choose to open with this shot instead of another one? If you varied off from the original plan, why? Does it better help to accomplish our goals of evoking emotion, provoking action, and leaving an impression? If so, how? Etc. Finally you go through revision after revision until the client finally says they love it. Then you get paid, right? So that's always awesome, but don't stop there. The biggest part of personal branding is and even your own storytelling is how you develop the relationship after the work is done. Some of my best clients have come off of a small shoot that was meant to be just a one and done project. My biggest client came from a relationship that took me 4 years to build while I was in college. Who knows where I'd be without that, you know? Sometimes the process is long and winding, but in the end it's always worth it.

When you were a kid, what did you dream of doing?

So as a kid, I didn't have much. My Dad couldn't really work and I grew up during most of my formative years watching my Mother bust her ass to make sure we could have the things we needed as kids. That being said, work was always something to be proud of. More so than grades, more so than a new girlfriend, more so than being a stud in sports. (talking about small town life here. If you weren't a good athlete, you were kind of overlooked.) Being a hard worker was worthy of much praise in my home. So, when I grew up, I wanted to have a good job. I can remember being so upset one day in the 4th grade because I didn't win any awards aside from "Most Creative." I didn't know where that would lead me. I didn't know the value in that. Being poor and not having the nice things other kids at school had, all I wanted was to be able to have a stable life and not have to worry about getting bills paid. It's like it was yesterday, my mother told me. "Son don't cry. You'll be a Spielberg one day." Now, lo and behold, I make videos and tell stories for a living. There were times early on that it wasn't so stable and the bills didn't get paid, but I've never been happier. So, finally, ha! to answer your question. I wanted to be successful. That's what I dreamed of. Have I realized that dream? Who knows. But I'm happy. So is my family. And that's all I can ask for. 

 

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My wife. Heather chooses to stay home and be with our children. Heather looked the opportunity I had to start this business in the face, even with all of the uncertainty, smiled, and told me to go for it. Heather had Nora with no epidural, no pain reliever, nothing, and could walk around the hospital in a matter of an hour or so. 

My wife's taught herself how to make bags, and crib sheets, and baby clothes, and rocket ships out of legos, and light sabers and forts, and fix the plumbing, and how to take a good portrait. My wife's put up with the 12 hour days and my bad attitudes and 2 sick kids and baseball practice, and bitchy baseball moms, and she does it all with a smile on her face. If I can't wake up, go make a good video, and come home... then I'm one half ass version of a person. I work because I love her. I wake up every day because I love her. But I get better everyday because she loves me. 

 

How has being married influenced your work?

Really see above for this answer. 

It ebbs and flows, though. Sometimes you have to step back and realize that it's better to go home, eat with your wife, play with your kids, and start again tomorrow, than it is to push yourself to exhaustion just so you can finish a project. I feel like I've learned the hard way how and when to balance my time. There were days in the last year and even now that working late is the only option. But to give a super clear answer to your question, being married has made my work better. Heather is ruthless when it comes to critique. If she thinks it sucks, I'll know. If I can't tell her why I made decisions in a production, then she'll let me know it's awful. It’s really such a blessing to have that kind of authentic support at home. 

 

What kind of evolution have you seen in your work?

It's grown in terms of depth I think. It's more tactile, it's more fluid, it contains so much more dynamic than even a year ago. I pay a lot more attention to details like color and audio now. When I first started it was all about the visuals. But in video, a medium that is so dynamic and multifaceted, visuals are only such a small part of the process. 

 

As “Creatives”, we’ve all had moments of self-doubt. Do you have a particular moment of doubt that sticks out to you? How did you combat that?  

"Imposter syndrome" is something I've heard a lot about recently. Luckily I don't suffer from that. It's not that I don't have doubts. But at the end of the day, all any of us can do is try better tomorrow. It comes down to taking this creative thing we all share in, which is such a good thing, and not making it our ultimate Identity. For me, my identity isn't in my videos, it's in Christ. It's in my community. And it's in my family. You are so much more than an end product. You're someones lover, you're someones friend, someone's daughter, son, husband, wife, father, mother. THOSE are the things that should fill you with hope. How lucky are we that we can do cool shit and make a living? SERIOUSLY THOUGH? Like how awesome is it that we're not digging a ditch somewhere or wading through cow shit or fracking oil or whatever other awful things people have to do for money. I try to count my blessings. I think Lil Wayne said it best with, "I wake up in the morning, take a piss and wash my hands, take a knee and thank the man, and get back to that money." 

Whatever you do folks, and I don't care if this is the only line worth printing in this whole article, don't let your creativity consume you. You make the cool stuff. The cool stuff doesn't make you.

 

we know, he's freakin' cool. that's why we've been following his work for months. you should too.

@Lemeiux.Company | www.lemieux.company | Lemieux Company

 

photos by // @baharehritter of Ritter Collective


 

 

 

hella gentrification

eryn kimura

 

i remember first going to uc santa barbara & being baffled by the number of privileged folks that pulled the shifty eyes, the head-to-toe-toe-to-head looks, the semi-fearful-semi-disgusted-semi-awkward-yet-always-silent-with-zero-smile looks when me & the other females of color would tread a typically white space (with the occasional tokens that seem to conform to the scenery), the fucked-up peer sloshing through the crowded party only to step on my foot, push me, & say "ew, you need to go." it was in these extremely frustrating moments that i would rep frisco the absolute hardest; remembering that if i were to ever step to anybody like that in my respective sf public schools, muni spaces, or public areas, that i would indeed get my shit banked. (to this day, forever thankful.)

i can't help but see the same silly conformity i witnessed at a uc santa barbara party, here at home in my mama land of frisco.

what conformity? well i mean: 1. the lack of community, 2. the lack of human compassion/empathy, 3. values of profit over people, 4. the lack of neighborly small talk on the street, 5. the carefree transplants that see this city as merely their playground to get fucked up, make money, meet hella people, eat good food, share it on instagram, & say "oh, i live in the city" without caring to know the working class families on your block, or without caring to see or understand the incredibly beautiful narratives of struggle that built this golden city. 

sure maybe i am getting older & entering new spaces of the "real world". well if the real world means two white girls at the tipsy pig bar saying, "this is our cue to leave..." after immediately seeing two young mixed-race frisco-raised men of color walk into the bar, then i might be pulling some out of pocket shit the next time you see me. sure, i understand change occurs. but when the city, my home, is becoming drier/whacker with every new eviction, more & more money-centered & less community-minded with more & more goofy ass aston martins zooming through residential neighborhoods with children walking, i mean, i will be telling you what's really on my mind. i cannot see my home ransacked by more metal cranes & "luxurious" high-rise condominiums only to promote apathy & dead fishes that swim with the nonexistent, illusive mainstream. i'm not saying i'm finna bank somebody's shit (violence is not quite the language i try to perpetuate), i'm just saying, that i will be sharing, i will be voicing, i will be saying. i will be saying. i will be saying. i will be saying. i will be saying.

i do believe in compassion & i do believe we are all, including myself, not able to always see the water that we all are swimming in. i get that not everyone had the same upbringing as i, attending an alternative public school focused on polyculturalism & community building via art. i am not saying my upbringing is better or more righteous than anyone else's. i guess i just love having being born & raised in san francisco, traversing the panoramic city across time with my parents', grandparents', great grandparents', & great great grandparents' shared stories. i guess i just feel so fortunate to have grown up with a diverse array of city folks that have shown me at a young age what a positive, tolerant, polycultural, inclusive community can look & feel like. i guess i just get hurt feelings when i see some young dudes of privilege laugh at an older chinese man collecting cans from the nearby trashcan. i guess i just get really hot when i am told that there are "too many asians in san francisco". 

audre lorde once said: "when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. but when we are silent we are still afraid. so it is better to speak" / "what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood". 

to my fellow homegrown sf cats & trans-bay cats fearing displacement: we are all artists, we are all storytellers -- it is in the way we live day to day, in the way we occupy our space in our communities. let our collective culture be known, let us share. feel free to say. just say. do say. i will say. i just did say. i said. i will continue to say.

 


 

 

Eryn Kimura is a practicing “artivist”, community organizer, youth facilitator, and art teacher. 

Eryn Kimura received her BA in Asian-American Studies and Psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2013. Her undergraduate work focused on education reform, Asian-American female identity formation, social movements, and Afro-Asian solidarities. Returning to San Francisco, Eryn began to engage in “artivism” – art and activism. With her detailed illustrations, paintings, and unique “おはりえ” collages, her art has been featured in numerous local exhibitions and publications, such as Kearny Street Workshop, SOMArts and Cultural Center, LA-based Issue Magazine, and C-Head Magazine.

Eryn has served as a local community organizer, activist, and API youth mentor in San Francisco's Japantown-Fillmore community, and facilitated recyclable, installation-based youth art classes in Bayview Hunter's Point. 

Unable to afford San Francisco, Eryn Kimura currently resides in the countryside of Kyoto prefecture, Japan, teaching at three local junior highs and two elementary schools. 

Eryn Kimura is a fifth generation San Franciscan, multi-ethnic Asian-American, and proud product of the San Francisco public school system.

Eryn’s work can be viewed on her website: erynkimura.com


 

 

 

el grande // my dad

samuel hernandez

 

Heroes don’t always make the loudest noise.

Don’t have the biggest muscles or the fanciest toys.

Being a hero doesn’t even mean you have fight.

It means, no matter what, you always do what’s right.

 

My parents are both originally from Mexico and I was born here. That makes me first generation. Wow, that’s such an odd sensation. I am a first generation. It’s weird to say that out loud. It has this sense that you should feel proud of where you came from. But pride is an interesting thing when you come from two different worlds, cause while I was born here, an American, my first language is still Spanish. I would learn so much culturally latino at home, and go to school where it would slowly vanish. It was the ESL class. I was told it was supposed to represent that America was accepting and in a progressive state, but instead it honestly felt more like it was there to help you make a fluid transition as it white washed your past away. I would fight it, because I wanted to be a macho latino like my Dad. I mean, I feel like that’s a similar dream a lot of young boys had, but I knew that if I forever modeled myself after my pops, I would be fine. What an adult thing for a boy at the age of five to decide.

When I was younger I loved going places with my Dad, feeling like a detective movie duo. He, the old wise man. I, the young handsome lad. I loved being his side kick. My pops very own ride or die kid. It was exciting for me and most of the time it was a great ride, because, to me it felt like my dad was known by everyone world wide. There wasn’t a store we would go to for miles around where latino people did not know his name. I would look up at him all the time thinking: “Who is this guy? What’s with this fame?” We’d walk into a salon about an hour away from home and immediately hear“Que onda, El Grande.” That’s what people knew my father as: “The Big One.” “El Grande.” He loved it and always happily responded. I would watch him glowing, entertaining these strangers and leaving them with smiles, always hoping one day I could have a similar affect on people for miles. To walk around like Achilles. This warrior. The peoples champ. ROCKY! Yes, my father is Mexican Rocky.

El Grande was born in Zacatecas, Mexico. I’m sure you all know the place. The kind with farmers, animals, crops and wide open space. He dropped out of jr. high to help his family get fed doing various jobs and boxing, being bet on and paid by old men. When he was older, he heard of the promise in America and decided to make a fresh start. After getting there, working at a jiviin’ taco bell in Chicago, a cute coworker inevitably won his heart and they got hitched. A short while later they did the dirty and had me. I know the plots a little different, but to me that’s Rocky.

I digress, this really is a story about pride. I just wanted you to know who my dad is and to know El Grande has an extroverted side.

Now whenever my dad needed jeans there was this one place we would go, an "All American" store owned by an “All American” family with their “All American” values down on Rand Road. I liked going there the first few times, it’s the kind of store where their security system is wind chimes. A place filled with nothing but leather, hide, and suede giving you the feeling you’re in the wild west making a goods trade. The second time we were there I noticed my dad turn into this completely different man. I could see him trying to cover up who he is with everything he can, making it so the strong warrior I loved was now a man keeping his head down. It killed me that after living here for 17 years, he felt the need to do this in his town. The air was tight. I looked around and saw all these “All American” people with distrustful “All American” eyes staring at me and my “All Mexican” family, as if my people all have this terribly immoral Trump stamped one size fits all mentality. We got to the counter to pay and immediately froze over from the coldest “is that all?” I’ve ever heard. Sounding like she really meant “get out.” “are you done wasting our time?” and “can you even pay for this?” with her short three frigid words. We left the store and the champ immediately returned. He was acting like nothing happened, but in my head there was still something I needed to discern.

“What was that in there?” “Were you scared?” Why were they so weird”

With a chuckle he said. “Mijo, let them do their jobs.” while calmly stroking his beard.

There’s also the time I saw a big Mexican flag in a store and I pointed “Dad, can we get one?”

Handing me one with stars and stripes instead, he said “Mijo, be proud to be in America.”

I didn’t get it. Did my dad hate who we were? Was he ashamed? America is where dreams come true, but why must we forget from where we came? And why should we love it here, if when we walk into their most patriotic stores it feels like the mantra of this country is “God Bless America, the place where if you don’t look like us, we’ll just glare at ya.”  It made no sense and I was angry. How can I be like my hero if my hero is a fraud? Maybe El Grande isn’t as big a man as I thought.

A few years later I forgot about all those events, I was in high school and my sense of identity had formed. I had become “Americanized” so the feeling torn was now a thing of the past. Lets give it up for ESL class. During this time my dad would play golf frequently with people from work. My dad was so good his boss asked him to play with him,  which was cool, because he had lifetime Sunday morning tee time reserved. One Sunday my dad came home early from playing and sat in front of the tv. I was confused, from the looks of it there wasn’t any bad weather I could see. That’s when my mom took me into the other room…

“Do you know why your dad came home early? Did he say something to you?”

“No, I have no idea. I thought it didn’t make much sense.”

“Well, I guess him and his boss are no longer friends…”

“What??”

My mom explained that while playing golf, boss and friends got frustrated with all the landscapers working on the course.They started being rude, laughing at them, and making a lot of racial slurs. My dad quietly started packing up his clubs and grabbing them from the cart. His boss tried to stop my dad, saying: “Don’t worry we’re about to start!”

 

“No, thank you. I think I should leave.” The affect of their racism was easy to see.

“You’ve got it all wrong, we’re not talking about you, we’re talking about those men.”

My father slowly walked up to him, looked him in the eyes and said: “I Am Them.”

 

Standing there, listening to my moms words, all I could hear were cheering crowds. My dad had risked his job, thrown away a lifetime of games, stood up for his own people, and I couldn’t have been more proud. All I could say to my mom was “wow.” Walking back to my room passing El Grande watching tv, I stared at him in all his glory. “Que ves guey?” “Whatchu looking at fool?” He said and I laughed knowing I would never forget his story.

 

Some culture you’re born into and some you learn,

Some you experience yourself and the rest you have to earn.

Listen closely to all the stories you hear of “way back when.”

Because once they’re gone it’s your job to keep alive whats left of “them.”

written by: samuel hernandez


 

 

 

Move with me

yanelis francesca 

 

Dancers have always seemed very majestic to me. The way they are able to connect with their bodies on a real personal level and command attention through movement. It’s one of the most beautiful art experiences a person can have. I've had the pleasure of living with two very talented dancers and getting an inside look at the world of professional dance in Los Angeles. It’s not an easy industry. It’s an industry that demands, demands, and demands. An industry that takes, but doesn’t always give. An industry that is filled with passion. An industry that you can’t halfass your way through. It’s cutthroat and rarely shows mercy.

For most dancers in Los Angeles it seems as if they have dreams of touring with an artist. Traveling the world and performing on stage doing exactly what they love. It’s kind of romantic if you think about it. A dancer, who has probably spent majority of their life training, getting the opportunity to show the world what they are made of. One night they’re in America going from west to east and the next week, they find themselves in countries they’ve only dreamed of. They hear the screams of fans and they feel energy that overtakes the arenas. They become nomads. Sometimes traveling for up to year, leaving bits and pieces of themselves in new places as they wander from city to city to country. Tour life I’m sure is an unforgettable experience and one that not many people will know.

With this issue being The Roots issue, we knew we couldn’t pass up the chance to speak with a dancer on what touring was and what it meant to them. So, we caught up with the very beautiful and talented Yani Francesca on her experience with touring with the R&B Songstress Kehlani.

 

written by // chauntice green

video by// darrin bush


 

 

 

native american poser

jordan wilson

 

A pair of non-descript, mass produced moccasins sit in my closet, a small dream catcher that I bought at a dollar store hangs on my wall, and the only two words I know in Cherokee are “ageyutsa” and “hastadina” which roughly translates into girl and stop. I am a modern day Native American and a classic fraud of my own heritage.

 

“What are you?”

This is the most common way people gently ask me about my ethnicity.

“I’m Cherokee Indian. You know, Native American. My ancestors were here before all of your white ancestors came to fuck it all up and take everything we were.”

 

Whoa. Hold on. Where was all of this unwarranted anger coming from? We? I wasn’t there; I was born in ’94. I’m not even fully Cherokee. I’m ½ Irish. I just look very ambiguous. Yet each time someone asks I feel the need to defend my roots that I know absolutely nothing about.

Recently it dawned on me that I should probably stop just looking the part and start understanding it too. That way next time someone asks I can hit em’ with the facts and not just my aimless and fiery anger. So naturally, I Googled it. I am a millennial after all. 

I read (intensely skimmed) through endless pages of history, culture and traditions. I learned about wedding rituals, fashion, medicine, food and spiritual beliefs…but written by different people with different stories and opinions and what they each thought were the “facts”. None of the information was consistent. The Internet is a very confusing place and finding authentic information about the Cherokee people, more or less any topic, is difficult. I wasn’t sure where to go from here, I felt directionless and even more like a fraud for using the Internet as my source for truth in the first place. 

I also noticed that the longer I searched and with each new page I clicked on, an advertisement would appear on the side of my screen with a scantily clad woman in what I can only describe as a loin cloth made from an infant squirrel and a faux suede bra with some feathers loosely dangling from it. Atop her head was an obnoxiously oversized mock headdress and on her face was what looked like war paint except neon. This was troublesome. I clicked. It took me to a costume website and to my horror the character for the costume read “Pocahottie”.

 What?? Pocahontas would not be caught dead in that get up because first of all it is so last season and more importantly and truthfully it is HISTORICALLY INACCURATE. A loin cloth? War paint? Headdress? A faux suede bra? Where is she going? To hunt, dance, fight or sleep? Because she’s dressed for all four. Also women didn’t wear headdresses, chiefs did and not even all tribes of Indian chiefs. Who made this costume? Have they ever even Googled anything before??

I know, I know, who am I to judge? I’ve only been Googling my heritage for an hour, but for the first time in my life I felt like I had been mocked and profiled at the same time. I’m sure I’ve seen this before or some version of it and thought nothing of it or even laughed. How could something so offensive and inaccurate be made into a joke and why had it taken me so long to notice? Now more than I was curious about the history of my heritage, I was worried for its future. Hundreds of Native American tribes reduced to cheap polyester costume pieces worn primarily by girls at music festivals. An entire culture reduced to an idea of face paint and feathers. Victoria’s Secret has done it, Elle Magazine has done it, Nicki Minaj, Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, Beyoncé. It’s everywhere. It was so easy to find appropriated Native American influences but virtually impossible to find anything real, anything rooted.

I visited home recently; Oklahoma is home to many generations of Native Americans. While I was there I talked to my family to see if they could give me some insight. My mom’s side is where our Cherokee blood comes from and my great grandma is full Native American. Much to my dismay they knew about as much as I did. It seemed like there were no ties to our past, somehow a whole culture had vanished.  My mom, grandma, great grandma, brother and sisters are all in some different amount, Cherokee.  We don’t live in teepees, own any “traditional” garb, hunt or speak the native language. We did go to a pow-wow once and I think we stuck out like sore thumbs. Although it was at a recreation center so the whole ordeal probably stuck out like a sore thumb.

I wanted to be able to end this by telling you what I’ve learned about Cherokee people but truthfully I’m more struck by what I didn’t learn about them. I did learn that I wish I’d have tried to learn sooner. I learned that cultural appropriation is real and very evident in our society. I’ve learned that if we continue to ignore it and keep embracing the stereotypes, many cultures will follow and be lost in caricatures. I learned that I am truly a millennial because my first instinct was to Google it. I learned that we think we know more than we actually do and that’s what ignorance is.  

I am also worried. Worried that you will read this, feel bad for a minute and then forget about it. Like it never existed or made you think. If anything I hope this will spark some interest about your own heritage and what role it plays or is played out as now. You will probably be surprised too. 

written by // jordan wilson


 

 

 

home

tray bain

 

poem // tray bain

video // darrin bush

score // samuel tucker young