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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Think Before You Ink

I see a lot of young brothers and sisters walking around with tattoos. Many are wearing skin art to express themselves. Some to emulate the celebrities like rappers like Lil’ Wayne and actors like Meghan Fox, Angelina Jolie and Persia White they see in the media. Others are trying to make a statement about who they are.

Unfortunately, most young brothers and sisters today are blind to the long-term ramifications of placing permanent markings on their bodies will have for their futures. Ink a person places on their body at 14 or 16 may cost them opportunities for careers and relationships when they turn 25 or 30. A $25 tattoo someone gets today can cost them thousands of dollars in salary, future spouses and potential friends.

What many brothers and sisters don’t understand are tattoos are not a form of artistic expression for Black people. Tattoos in African-American community they are rooted in of gang and prison cultures of places like Sing Sing and Leavenworth or the gang infested streets of South Central. Each tattoo is actually a statement about a gang member’s status in a particular local crew or cell block. Some like the teardrops on the eyes denote murders a person has participated in.Other tattoos like neck and facial designs can denote that a person may have serious mental health issues.

A tattoo may tell a story on the street, but in the world of work it closes the book on a future with most employers. In the workplace brothers and sisters already have one stripe against them for being Black, and adding tats only gives employers another reason to discriminate against us. Most employers associate ink with prison culture and gangs, and they don’t want that image reflected on their company image. So they avoid hiring people who wear tattoos at all costs.

While some people with tats may get that entry level job like retail and security, they hinder their chances at any type of growth in a career field by getting inked up. In corporate America tattooed people definitely aren’t getting promoted to management. And they aren’t going to the executive level. That’s the sad but horrible truth.

Along with stalling careers for a Black man ink can cost us brothers in the romance department as well. Sure it looks cool to be inked up and look like 50 Cent or any other rapper on a magazine cover, but that image isn’t going to attract a woman who wants a substantive relationship. The story he tells on his body is that he isn’t someone to take seriously.

Sure a brotha looks like a thug, but he ain’t attracting the types of sistas women who want a committed relationship that leads up to marriage. And if a professional woman does make a move on a brotha with ink, it’s just to have a fling or a one-night stand, nothing serious, because they believe they’ll never get a ring from them.

For the ladies, ink can cost them dearly in the romance department. The story a sista tells on her body with skin art speaks volumes about who she is and what she’ll bring to the table in a relationship.

When a man sees another man’s name on a woman’s body it’s a turn off. Seeing some other dudes’ name on a woman’s body tells other potential partners that a woman is unavailable. Moreover, it’s a sign that a woman will be emotionally unavailable in a relationship if he gets involved with her. For most men, seeing tattoos tells us that a woman is still carrying baggage from a past relationship, and can’t be there for us.

Seeing kids’ names on a woman’s arm tells men that a woman has been around the block. That she’s a baby mama. With a baby daddy or baby daddies. To potential partners it tells us that a relationship with said woman is going to be DRAMA and baggage.

Getting a Tramp stamp devalues a woman in the eyes of all men. It’s a statement telling the world a woman is a whore that can be had by any guy who comes by. To potential partners it says a woman isn’t marriage material, a woman a man will take home to his mother to present as his future wife.

If brothers and sisters would look closer at many of the celebrities they’re emulating by getting ink they’ll see they aren’t the ones getting the jobs, or moving forward in their careers in the entertainment industry. For example 50 Cent wanted to branch into acting. His career as an actor stalled because most producers can’t afford the dermablend it would take to cover the numerous tats on his body.

Moreover, most brothers and sisters need to take a look behind the White executives who control the 50 Cents, Persia Whites, Meghan Foxes and Lil’ Waynes. Do you see any ink on Sumner Redstone the Head of Viacom? Bob Iger, head of Disney? Rupert Murdoch head of FOX? Warren Buffett Head of Berkshire Hathaway? Bill Gates head of Microsoft? Steven Spielberg, the man who executive produced the Transformers movies? David Geffen? Richard Branson?

Look further at the owners of most NBA teams, NFL franchises and Major league Baseball. The owners don’t have a teardrop on their faces. They don’t have tribal symbols on their biceps.

Look at Hilary Clinton and Michelle Obama. They don’t have tramp stamps above the cracks of their butts or the names of their children or husband’s on their arms.

If you look at the skin of the billionaires who make the decisions of whether or not a 50 Cent or Lil’ Wayne’s records wind up in retail stores, or decide if Persia White Angelina Jolie, or Meghan Fox wind up on a movie screen, you’ll notice they’re 100 percent ink free.

And ironically, it’s the ink free people decide who have the power to control the ink in the pens and decide who gets to sign on the dotted line of the contracts of those record deals, movie deals, and sports contracts. They sign the checks, and decide who gets hired and who gets fired for those multimillion dollar deals.

Seems like person who controls the ink written on the pages of a contract tells a stronger story of success than the ink a person puts on their bodies. Something to think about.

Shawn’s advice to brothers and sisters out there: Think before You Ink. Tat free is the way to be.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Justice…Or Just Us?

The American legal system often states that people are innocent until proven guilty. However, things aren’t as always as black or white as presented in The Constitution or in the media. Proving a person’s innocence can be extremely difficult for anyone if they don’t have the financial resources to defend themselves in court.

While the state often provides people with an attorney for defense if they can’t afford one, the quality of that defense is often not effective due to a lack of resources. It’s often next to impossible for a poor person with a Legal Aid or Pro Bono Lawyer to prove their innocence when prosecutors can outspend them $1000 to $1. A District Attorneys often has every advantage in court because they have unlimited resources to spend money hiring experts such as DNA specialists, experts, psychologists and other specialists to prove their case. Not to mention paid informants who will testify and reinforce the statements made by police officers in court.

In one recent case Tonya Craft a teacher in Georgia had to defend herself against sexual molestation charges. It cost her $500,000 to provide an adequate defense to win the case. Craft exhausted her life savings and 401K account going to court.

I have to ask: How is the American justice system “fair and just” when a citizen needs a half-million dollars to defend themselves against the state? How is the justice system fair and just when a person has to spend their life savings and retirement savings to prove their innocence? Is “innocent until proven guilty” coming at a price too high for the average American to reach?

Tonya Craft was a middle class schoolteacher and defending herself in court broke her financially. Imagine the obstacles poor people face when they have to go to court to defend themselves against criminal charges. When someone doesn’t have the financial resources for providing an adequate defense in court, proving innocence against a prosecutor with millions of dollars to spend on one case can be next to impossible.

Many poor people, who are accused of crimes often face a stacked deck when dealing with a justice system that promises “innocence until proven guilty” but doesn’t tell them that it comes at a price far out of their reach. And due to their lack of financial resources, most poor people can’t adequately defend themselves in court against the District Attorney’s onslaught of resources. Most poor defendants often have to rely on the defense of a Legal Aid or Pro Bono Lawyer who is often overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases and cannot pay attention to the small details that can be the difference between conviction and acquittal when presenting a case to the jury.

Meanwhile a prosecutor is presenting a case to the jury with experts, DNA, psychologists and specialists on top of witnesses and informants.

And because poor people lack the finances to hire a competent attorney and experts to defend themselves in court, society doesn’t get justice. Many innocent poor people are forced to take plea deals and confess to crimes they didn’t commit because they can’t afford to defend themselves in court. The hope is that after they do time, they’ll be able to get back to their lives.

The courts have turned into clearinghouses for cases instead of punishing actual criminals. Is that justice?

Or is it just us? Is this what We The People want for a legal system? A process that’s all about numbers and not about protecting the people from the worst of society?

The travesty of this type of economic injustice in the U.S. criminal justice system is monumental. When poor people can’t adequately defend themselves in court they fall through the cracks. Prison changes these people and when they return the community they aren’t productive citizens.

Meanwhile, the actual criminals who committed the crimes are still out there looking for their next opportunity to strike.

I’ve read about too many poor Black men who were railroaded by the American Court system. Brothers who were wrongfully convicted and had to do time on cases built on the testimony of junkies and paid informants out to make a buck or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One rape case where an innocent man was convicted and sent up for 20 years because he couldn’t afford $600 for a DNA test. Another where an innocent man spent 20 years in prison for murder on the testimony of an informant who was a known liar. Numerous drug cases where a brotha was sentenced to decades in prison for just taking a ride in a car. Numerous gun cases where good kids were given records for walking down the street with someone who carried a gun. The infamous Central Park Jogger rape case from 1989 where five teenage boys were convicted on confessions gained from coercion without legal counsel.

For the grace of God, any of us could be a defendant. Heaven help any of us who is truly innocent and doesn’t have a half-million dollars to hire specialists to defend themselves against a prosecutor who can outspend them $1000 to $1 in court. And we better pray it’s not a death penalty case where our lives are on the line.

I doubt this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote The Constitution and Declaration of Independence. This is not innocent until proven guilty. This is not fair and just. This is the same kind of oppression that the British imposed on the colonists and led up to the Revolutionary War.

A court system should not be more concerned with clearing cases than getting justice for society. Nor should people have to spend their life savings to adequately defend themselves against criminal charges. And they shouldn’t have to take plea deals just to move on with their lives. Justice that leaves Americans realizing that it’s just us, at the end of the day shouldn’t be the law of the land.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jury Duty Should be Voluntary

It’s every American Citizens Constitutional right as an American Citizen right to serve on a Jury. Unfortunately, no one wants to do it. Because they have other things to. And it pays like crap. So federal, state and local governments continue to force citizens to serve mandatory Jury Duty.

A long time ago it was mandatory for every American male over the age of eighteen to serve in the military for two years and the government drafted men into the service to do their duty. However, protests over the Vietnam War made the U.S. Government change its stance on this policy.

I’m thinking it’s time federal, state and local governments changed their stance on Jury Duty.

Right now Jury Duty costs federal, state, and local governments billions in jury allowences ($15-$40 a day), postage and other court costs to send out questionnaires and summonses to residents based on voter lists, tax forms and other mailing lists. Many of the summonses sent to these addresses blindly get thrown away, others are returned to sender because the person moved and others get lost in the mail. Many more get disregarded by people who receive them and just ignore them.

Sure there are threats of punishments of fines and imprisonment for six months, if people don’t show up, but those policies are next to impossible to enforce. Currently with state budges suffering from budget shortfalls, many courts are cutting back on staff and can’t afford to send out court officers to arrest someone for not showing up for Jury Duty. Moreover, there isn’t enough room in the jails right now to imprison someone who skips out on Jury Duty. Many local jails in states like California are so overcrowded with offenders waiting for trial they have to release non-violent prisoners early. Adding people who skip out on Jury Duty would break the bank of most state budgets as they’d have to spend money to feed clothe and house people for such short jail terms.

The reason why mandatory Jury Duty fails is that it flies in the face of what America is about. America is supposed to be a country where people are free to pursue their own happiness. Forcing people to participate in the justice system to pass judgment on others runs counter to what the Constitution is about.

And the current allowance for serving Jury Duty isn’t proportional to modern day wages. And that’s one of the main reasons people are resistant to participating in the justice system as a part of jury of their peers. In most states the Jury allowance ranges from $15- $40 a day. In today’s economy that’s not enough money for a tank of gas to and from the courthouse. If getting people justice in jury trials is supposed to be a high priority in America, shouldn’t it be worth compensating people for it?

I know it’s every person’s constitutional right to a trial by a jury of their peers. And it’s every American Citizen’s right to serve on a jury. But the current jury system just doesn’t work. It’s inefficient, outdated, and doesn’t encourage people to participate in the judicial branch of government.

When the U.S. military switched to volunteer system in the 1970’s it was a change for the better. Recruits were more dedicated and more passionate about doing their duty in the armed forces. Productivity went up. Soldiers became better trained and better skilled. Injuries went down. Casualties went down. Turnover went down. It cost less for the U.S. to wage wars like Desert Storm, and the War on Terror than it did for the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

In fact the volunteer army has done so well for the U.S. Government over the past 30 years that the top officials at The Pentagon say they don’t want to do drafts anymore. The quality of the soldiers they get from volunteering are much higher than the individuals they’d get a draft pool. These soldiers are more effective in combat, and take their missions much more seriously than draftees. And many of the specialized skills volunteers learn would be hard to teach to a draftee who doesn’t want to be there.

If volunteers improved the military so dramatically, could they change to the criminal justice system for the better as well?

I’m thinking a change from a mandatory to a volunteer jury system would have a tremendous impact on improving the courts. Having jurors be there because they want to be there would mean they’d be more involved in the trials. That they’d pay more attention to the facts of the testimony in the cases. That they wouldn’t rush through the case just to get to a verdict and off a jury roll for six to eight years.

With volunteers I’m thinking the quality of justice would improve across the country. That many poorer people would have a better chance at a fair trial. Even though the American justice system says it’s innocent until proven guilty, it’s a known fact that District Attorneys often have an unfair advantage. Because prosecutors have unlimited resources they can spend more money than defendants who are often poor and cannot afford an attorney and have to rely on a poorly planned defense from a legal aid lawyer. I’m thinking volunteer juries would pay more attention to details would and provide defendants a fairer chance in a court system where District Attorneys regularly pad their witness list with informants, experts, junkies and other questionable people who provide less than credible testimony.

Volunteer juries would also keep prosecutors and defense lawyers on their toes. It’s a known fact that prosecutors and defense attorneys often try to find a jury of the stupidest people they can find so they can manipulate the verdict to their favor. Some wealthier defendants even hire jury experts so they can ensure the jury has the kind of personalities that will ensure an outcome of not guilty. However, if the volunteers are paying attention and really listening to the facts and really interested in getting justice, it’d be a lot harder for prosecutors and trial lawyers to pull a fast one on the jury.

And in civil cases volunteer juries would help reduce the amount of frivolous lawsuits. The court system all over the country is backlogged with lawsuits regarding slip and falls, car accidents, malpractice lawsuits, and . A good chunk of these cases are waiting for a jury not to get justice but to get paid. Trial Lawyers love the current jury system because it provides them with jurors who are apathetic and indifferent and don’t really listen to the facts. In fact they benefit from these juries because they often win large cash awards from their verdicts.

I’m thinking if the plaintiff and the defendant had to contend with a serious judge and a focused jury of volunteers they’d settle matters very quickly out-of-court and take the judicial system a bit more seriously.

And long-term a volunteer jury system would save billions in court costs and legal fees. Not to mention millions of dollars on postage that is lost on summonses that are thrown away, lost or just ignored. It would mean less downtime for people who spend up to two weeks in jury waiting rooms, and speed up how cases are processed through the judicial system.

How would such a system be implemented? An online application? Or maybe people coming down to the courthouse? After applying people could be on call until time of Jury selection for a trial, then called down when it’s time for a trial? These are the approaches the military uses to call soldiers up for service.

How would such a system compensate? In today’s economy I’m thinking people’s time is worth $100-$125 a day. Sure it’d be a bit more expensive than the current $15-$40 a day some states offer, but if government wants better quality jurors who will be more attentive, make better decisions, and take the process of the justice system seriously then I feel it’s worth the higher price. And making this allowance tax free with no penalties would really would make people eager to serve on juries.

And who would be the recruits for an all-volunteer jury? Who would be a jury of our peers if everyone is working? The unemployed? The Homeless? Welfare recipients? Hippies? Starving artists, struggling writers and struggling actors? People working night jobs? Part-time workers? I’m thinking the pool will be just as diverse as before. Maybe municipal employers and businesses would continue to make allowances for their employees to volunteer. But I’m sure a $100 a day jury allowance will bring more volunteers to the pool; people who would have avoided Jury Duty in the past due to the low pay. And if the government made the jury allowance money tax free and unable to be claimed as income for social programs and I know the jury room would be so full of people there wouldn’t be room to hold them all.

I’m just brainstorming, but I feel it’s time the U.S. Court system asked volunteers to be a part of its jury system instead of trying to force Americans to do their civic duty. I feel this kind of change to the U.S. justice system would make it more efficient and more effective. I feel it would make people more passionate about participating in their government’s judicial process. I feel volunteer jury system would have prevented aberrations of justice like Casey Anthony case, the police officers who were acquitted of the rape of a woman in New York, The Central Park Jogger case, the Rodney King Case and the OJ Simpson case and the numerous wrongful convictions of poor African-American men.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

When a Black Sitcom is on the air…Black people have Jobs

On TV, reality shows are cheap to produce. But sitcoms are money in the bank. While these shows may cost between $2-$3 million an episode to produce, most of that money is spent employing people behind the camera and behind the scenes.

One season of a sitcom employs close to 300 people on set. These include:


Storyboard Artists

Script supervisors

Production assistants

Hair stylists


Makeup artists


Prop managers



Set Decorators

Camera Operators


Video editors

Lighting operators




And the following people also make money when a project is in production indirectly:

Trailer Rentals

Personal trainers

Record companies


Small local businesses

Magazine publishers


Retailers (when consumers buy products performers use in the show and music played in the background)


A scripted production like a Black sitcom means lots of jobs for lots of people. Union jobs, free-lance jobs, consulting jobs and temp jobs. Not to mention business for other small busineses.

And an African-American production means jobs for 300 brothers and sisters and thousands more Black and minority-owned businesses.

So when a Black television show or film goes into production it’s not just an opportunity for African-Americans to find employment, but to gain valuable skills that can lead to a career.

And when brothers and sisters support Black productions by watching the shows, buying the DVDs it keeps money in the Black community and continues to stimulate the Black economy.

I know how important it is to get African-American projects into production and how it impacts I would love to get the financing to All About Marilyn or All About Nikki into production so I can put some brothers and sisters to work. It’s a long term goal, but I’m working on it. Every book you buy takes me one step further to that goal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

All About Films and Financing

People say my stories read like movies. That I have a great visual style of storytelling. And I’ve been asked on several occasions why don’t I make films.

The answers for that is simple: First off, I don’t have film experience. And second, I don’t have that kind of cash.

Compared to film-making, self-publishing is CHEAP.

Producing a complete independent film costs $3-$5 million dollars. Producing a TV pilot costs $2-$3 million dollars. Even producing a teaser or a trailer costs a couple of thousand dollars. And that’s just for the pre-production, wardrobe, permits and filming.

It costs more money required for the post-production editing making copies, trips to festivals and promotional efforts.

Unfortunately I’ve been unemployed close to three years. My savings are shrinking down to the triple digits. I wish I had that type of money to make trailer based off one of my scripts to show people what a Nikki episode or scenes from Marilyn would look like. I’d love shoot something, post it up on YouTube, and to see how the audience would respond to it.

But I realize if I ever want to make movies and TV shows out of my material it’s going to require capital. Capital from outside investors.

Could I get it? I don’t know. Fundraising like that requires a plan to sell the project to those investors. And the ability to pitch.

But to get those investors interested I have to show them proof that there’s an audience large enough to sell to before I write up a business plan.

I’m going to need to sell more books. A lot more books.

No one is going to invest money in something unless I can show those investors that there’s a way for them to get their money back. Business 101.

I know there are women who say they love All About Marilyn. And the first three scripts for All About Nikki were one of the most downloaded eBooks out of all the titles I offered this summer.

Bringing these projects to life onscreen is something I’d love to do at one point in my life. I just need to find the money and the resources to do it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Montana Fishburne- One Year Later- WTF? (Where's the FAME?)

I was flipping through some circulars last Saturday when I noticed a Sears ad featuring the Kardashian Kollection Clothing line.

I immediately thought back to Montana Fishburne.

Remember Montana Fishburne? Lawrence Fishburne’s daughter? The sista who stated she was going to be like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton? The 19-year-old who said she was going into the porn industry? The one who made a hardcore pornographic sex tape in the hopes of it rocketing her to stardom through infamy? The girl with dreams of having her own reality show?

A year after Montana Fishburne’s sex tape was released, I don’t see a reality show. I don’t see a clothing line. I don’t see fame and fortune.

It looks like all Montana Fishburne got for having sex on camera was FUCKED.

Now I will say this, Montana Fishburne is clearly delusional and it's obvious to me from listening to her interviews needs some type of mental help, maybe even a stay at the mental health facility or medication.

But Montana Fishburne's quest for stardom speaks volumes about the racism in the American entertainment industry. How Hollywood sees color of women in the starkness of Black and White and shows us how separate and unequal the entertainment industry is.

I find it interesting how a rich White woman stars in a pornographic film (Sex tape for you spin doctors) she gets rewarded for her lewd behavior with reality TV shows, coverage in national tabloids, and a clothing line at a national retailer like Sears. Moreover, she’s presented by the media as an international celebrity to be worshipped and admired by the masses.

However, when a rich Black woman who stars in the same type of pornographic film and pursues the same type of infamy she’s virtually ignored by the media. There are no reality shows on cable networks, no clothing lines with national retailers for Black women. No glitzy glamorous coverage by tabloids and the press. Why? Because Sistas who participate in sex scandals aren’t presented by the mainstream media as celebrities. They’re just depicted as whores and ridiculed by the media and the Black masses and.

Unfortunately, many Black women who aspire to be stars today haven't studied the history of how Hollywood percieves the Black woman. They don't understand how the Sista who portrays the Jezebel for the entertainment industry by selling her body for fame and fortune is treated like an afterthought just like the slave women who were forced to become mistresses for the White slave masters on the plantation back in the Antebellum South.

Funny how not much has changed in liberal progressive Hollywood when it comes to its perceptions of Black and White.

Something to think about.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shawn's Review of I Will Follow

Last week was my Birthday. And for a present I bought myself a copy of I Will Follow.  The movie was so great I had to write a review for it.

Ava DuVernay's I Will Follow is a breath of fresh air in a stale period of African-American cinema. I Will Follow is a beautifully crafted film that features multidimensional characters, beautiful cinematography and a thought-provoking plot. I haven't seen a Black film made with this level of quality in over a decade. This is one of the best films of 2011.

Salli Richardson-Whitfield gives one of her finest performances as Maye, the niece of Amanda, a background drummer for some of the most popular musicians of the70's and 80's. After taking a year off to care for her dying aunt, she has one day to pack up all the belongings in the home she shared with her and we watch as twelve strangers help her pack her belongings into a truck and help her move forward with her life.

I Will Follow is a great movie. It's rare that we get to see these slices of African-American life presented onscreen, a film where we see African-Americans as multidimensional people, expressing themselves as human beings, not like caricatures and stereotypes. This is the kind of story about Black life we hear about all the time, but it's rarely ever shown onscreen in the media. It's very rare that Black actors are given material of this quality and an opportunity to perform playing multidimensional characters like this in today's media. This is the kind of African-American film I want to see made, and if I made films this would be the kind of film I would make.

The screenwriting on this film is top notch. Many say DuVernay's story is slow, but I have no problem with the pacing of this movie. The storyline is very subtle and nuanced showing us those little things in life so many of us take for granted. It's the kind of story that can easily go over people's heads if they’re not paying attention.

I've always enjoyed Salli Richardson Whitfield's work. But she takes her craft to another level with her powerful performance in I Will Follow. Richardson effortlessly carries the film from fade in to fade out in her portrayal of Maye, a woman who has to hold it together in the face of so much. It's the little things in Richardson's performance that are great to watch in I Will Follow, the looks on her face, the way she carries herself with a quiet dignity, the way she conveys kindness and compassion as she handles a stressful situation. Richardson has great chemistry with every actor onscreen and makes us feel a connection to all the people who she interacts with throughout the day.

The supporting cast is also very strong. Beverly Todd gives a dignified and elegant performance as Amanda, a woman who wants to end her life on her own terms. Michole Briana White is very strong as Fran, the Daughter who had a strained relationship with her mother, but is angry about the close relationship Amanda had with Maye. You feel her jealousy and anger at Maye throughout her time onscreen. When she and Richardson are on screen there's intensity and tension. Dijon Halton is solid in his role as Raven, a good kid who sticks around to help Maye. I love the conversation he has with Maye about Nas and Jay-z; it's the kind of conversation people have in real life. Omari Hardwick is solid as a potential love interest for Maye and Blair Underwood gives one of his strongest performances in a small role as Maye’s former lover. There are so many great performances here, like the two Goodwill guys who add some humor and the Cancer Survivor who takes down the satellite dish adds some warmth and humanity. I wish I could mention everyone, because the entire cast does an amazing job of supporting this film.

I really appreciate this film and what it represents historically for Black Cinema. I Will Follow was independently financed and independently produced. More importantly, it was the first Black film independently distributed to theaters by a black distributor. Made for just $50,000 and shot in just six days I Will Follow looks like a film that cost over $40 million minimum. The cinematography on this film is beautiful with serene shots and powerful visuals that tell a strong story the viewer will never forget. DuVernay tells a great story with her camera, and her first film has me eager to see more of her work.
I Will Follow is a Shawn James Five Star Essential Video. I’m urging everyone to pick this DVD up today!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is There an Audience for a Black Sitcom Today?

On the TV landscape there are dramas, reality shows animated programs and sitcoms. But over the past decade ninety nine percent of those programs have featured predominantly White casts. I have to wonder: Is there a market for a Black sitcom today?

The United States is becoming Blacker, Browner Redder and Yellower. America has its first African-American President. African-Americans have grown into a very large demographic of reliable consumers with lots of disposable income. Television networks could reap billions selling airtime for commercials if they targeted Black audiences with an African-American sitcom today. Viewers in the African-American community are starving for fresh content, and haven’t had programming targeted to them in close to fifteen years.

What constitutes a “Black” Sitcom? According to most television executives a television program featuring two to three African American performers in lead roles. A series that details stories about the African-American experience and African-American culture. Programs like The Cosby Show, A Different World, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, Sister, Sister, and Smart Guy.

While there is a market for a new African-American sitcom, most television executives are hesitant to greenlight it. Many state that “Black” programs are risky and are alleged have the highest potential to fail. Even some in the black community are apprehensive regarding African-American programming citing the quality issues regarding recent programs such as House of Payne and Meet the Browns which were full of racist stereotypes.

However, looking at the ratings for African-American programs over the years Black sitcoms consistently do well in competitive timeslots and maintain larger audiences of viewers than comparable teen dramas, police procedurals, and even some sitcoms with predominantly White casts on broadcast networks. Moreover, African-American sitcoms retain higher syndication values than teen dramas and police procedurals which often lose their audience in the rebroadcast market in less than a year.

Is there a market for a new African-American sitcom? I believe there is. From what I’ve read on the message boards like IMDB and, and AOL BlackVoices, African-Americans viewers are chomping at the bit and would be eager to watch a sitcom with a predominantly black cast. Millions of brothers and sisters are waiting for that reason to turn on their television. During these tough economic times, people want to laugh at something that will allow them to escape their problems for a half-hour.

When I was writing All About Nikki’s first season I thought about all the great black sitcoms I used to watch. I feel bad that the African-American kids of this generation don’t have the opportunity to see people who look like themselves on television or a program that effectively exploring the African-American experience.

I feel if someone were to create an African-American sitcom that depicted African Americans as positive, intelligent and funny with a strong cast, top quality production values, and solid writing they could have the next big television hit.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Black Sitcom-A Lost Art Form

The Black sitcom. Thirty minutes where brothers and sisters escaped their lives and shared a laugh or two with people who looked like them. Over the course of a half-hour viewers were entertained, and learned a valuable life lesson or two.

Currently the Black sitcom as a form of entertainment is almost extinct. Almost thirty years since the debut of The Cosby Show ushered in the golden age of African-American sitcoms, and almost fifty years since Julia debuted, Black sitcoms are almost nonexistent on broadcast and Cable airwaves. With the exception of Tyler Perry, no one is producing sitcoms revolving around African-American performers or featuring a predominantly Black cast.

I have to wonder is it because of a lack of African-American performers? Is it because of a lack of African writers? Creators? A lack of producers willing to invest in African-American productions? Or is it because African-American performers don’t know how to tell a joke anymore? Or is it ratings?

I doubt it has anything to do with ratings. Black sitcoms have consistently been successful since their inception. Classics like Julia, Good Times, Sanford & Son , The Jeffersons, and What’s Happening were solid performers ratings wise back in the day. The Cosby Show single-handedly took NBC from last place to first place on Thursday nights, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air always won its time slot on Monday Nights. FOX established itself as a network on hits like In Living Color, Martin, Roc, and Living Single while the WB began building a strong audience on sitcoms like The Wayans Bros, and The Steve Harvey Show, Sister, Smart Guy, and The Jamie Foxx show.

Even in the last days of Black sitcoms on broadcast television shows like The Game and Girlfriends were top rated, doing better numbers than WB or CW’s teen dramas. And Disney’s That’s So Raven was the highest-rated sitcom on the cable network when it was on the air.

I know there is a demand for African-American sitcoms. A starving audience of brothers and sisters are hungry for the next big black sitcom. But who is going to produce them? Oprah? Tyler Perry? Shawn James?

Shawn James?

I’d love to produce a TV show and get brothers and sisters working. More importantly I’d love to do something to get positive images of brothers and sisters onscreen on a regular basis again Unfortunately, I don’t have the millions needed to finance a TV show or even produce a pilot.

So until I can get the money to make my own TV show, brothers and sisters will have to settle for a paperback.

One of the reasons I wrote All About Nikki- The Fabulous First Season was to give young brothers and sisters the sitcom the networks won’t produce for us. I know a lot of brothers and sisters want a laugh right now and I want to give them stories that will put a smile on their faces.

I also wrote the book to inspire younger brothers and sisters learn how to create scripts for their own sitcoms. Currently out of all the screenwriters in Hollywood, two percent are African-American. And a smaller number than that are working. There’s a desperate need for more brothers and sisters behind the camera. And in order for those brothers and sisters to find work behind the camera, they have to learn proper structure and form when they write their scripts.

I believe the medium of African-American sitcoms still has a lot of life in it. I also believe there’s an audience of viewers eager to watch Black sitcoms. From the positive response All About Nikki- The Fabulous First Season has received internationally in places like the UK, Germany, and Australia, I know there’s not just an audience here in the U.S. eager to watch the next black sitcom, but abroad as well.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All About Nikki Now Available at & Other Online Retailers

All About Nikki- The Fabulous First Season
ISBN: 978-0615507019 
418 pages
Suggested Retail Price $16.99

 Available at, Barnes&Noble and other online retailers.
She thinks it's her world.
Unfortunately, we have to live with her.
Sixteen-year-old Nikki Desmond is the product of too many, too much, and too little. Too many boarding schools, too much money, and too little discipline. After being expelled from a fourth prestigious New York boarding school, her mother sends her to Los Angeles to live with her father.

In the screenplays for the fabulous first season of this teen sitcom, Nikki adjusts to life on the west coast while her father works towards correcting her surly, racist, and rude behavior with a combination of tough love, humor, and life lessons.

All About Nikki is the companion to the critically acclaimed screenplay All About Marilyn. For Marilyn fans it’s a chance for them to read the scripts Marilyn read.

Clips from All About Nikki episodes featured in All About Marilyn “Nikki’s Christmas Carol” and “I Got it Maid” will be presented in their entirety in this book.
Along with the first three episodes from the internationally popular sneak preview eBook, The All About Nikki paperback includes:

  • 13 complete episodes from the fabulous first season in the screenplay format. 
  • Extras Including:
  • Screenplay Basics
  • TV Episode Basics
  • Character descriptions
  • Author notes
Presented like a DVD box set with pages, All about Nikki- The Fabulous First Season is a book designed to show Young Adult and Independent Readers who watch cable sitcoms on Disney and Nickelodeon how to write their own screenplays. There’s a desperate need more brothers and sisters behind the camera and I’m hoping after reading this book more Black youth are inspired to research and pursue careers in film and television.

If you love teen sitcoms like Victorious, Zack & Cody, Hannah Montana, True Jackson VP and That’s So Raven, then you’ll love All About Nikki.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Self-Fufilling Prophecy of Failure and Black Men- How to Overcome It

I have heard the following statements in the Black community from Black women regarding Black males in front of their sons:

“Black Men are stupid.”

“Black Men are lazy.”

“Black men can’t do nothing right.”

“Black Men ain’t nothing.”

“Niggers ain’t shit.”

“Ain’t nothing a Black man can do for me.”

“All Black Men are dogs”

“Black Men are liars”

“Black Men are triflin’”

“Black men are cheaters”

“You gonna be just like yo’ no good daddy.”

“Black man ain’t nothing but a criminal.”

“He gonna wind up in jail”

“He’s gonna wind up dead.”

And every time I’ve heard a Black woman or someone else say something negative about a Black man in front of their sons those words come to pass fifteen to twenty years later. Usually brothers wind up dead, in prison, on drugs or in jail.

I have to wonder if this is a chicken or the egg situation regarding Black men. Do brothers become go down a tragic path because it’s in their nature, or is this nature ingrained in them subconsciously through the words of their mothers, the media’s representation of them and society’s perceptions of them.

The Bible states that if you speak something and believe it, and see it in their minds, it will come to pass. According to some psychologists, A self-fulfilling prophecy is defined when a prediction directly or indirectly comes true.

A self-fulfilling prophecy usually becomes true because people believe the situation is real and that the only outcome of the turn of events is the one predicted.

I define a self-fulfilling prophecy as believing what is said about oneself taking it for truth, and acting consciously or subconsciously to make the statements come to pass.

And in the case of Black males, they hear these negative statements made about them from the media, the community and more importantly, their mothers from birth. As young boys black males take these false statements about their who society thinks they should be to heart and believe them as truth. As they take these beliefs to heart, they behave in a way that is expected of them.

I often wonder if Black mothers were to say positive things to their sons about Black men like:

“Black men are strong.”

“Black men are smart.”

“Black men are honest.”

“Black men are quick learners.”

“Black men are talented.”

“Black men are courageous.”

“Black men are heroes.”

“No one loves a woman like a Black Man”

“Black men love Black women.”

“Black men care about their community.”

“I believe he can do it.”

“He’s going to do well in school.”

“He’s going to get his diploma.”

“You’re going to make me proud just like your father did.”

“Black men are great businessmen”

“Black men are good workers.”

“Black men take care of their families”

“Black Men are reliable.”

“My son is going to be an executive.”

“My son is going to be a success when he grows up.”

“Black men are hard workers.”

“He’s going to go down in history as someone great.”

“You’re going to go to college.”

“You’re going to have your own business.”

I wonder what impact it would have on Black men. Could this type of positive reinforcement change the way Black males think of themselves? Could implanting these positive statements in the mind of a Black male subconsciously and consciously create another type of self-fulfilling prophecy? One where the expectation of success leads to Black men taking steps to becoming successful?

Personally, I feel the way to break this vicious cycle of self-destruction in the Black community starts with the mind. Just as someone thinks is what they’ll become. I believe if brothers and sisters plant good seeds in their heads they’ll reap a bountiful harvest.


I’ll be kicking off promotion for All About Nikki- The Fabulous First Season after Labor Day. Just in time for the 2011-2012 TV season!