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Exploring Afrofuturism and Its Impact on Mass Media with William Jones S7E54

Exploring Afrofuturism and Its Impact on Mass Media with William Jones

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00;00;02;05 - 00;00;31;13
Rob Lee
Howdy. Rob Lee here from the Truth In this Art podcast. And this episode is brought to you by Rob Lee. Rob Lee, not me, but the Rob Lee. That's special coffee drink that you can find a sophomore to Rob Lee for those who don't get it. It is a mix of your iced coffee. Just just flavourful iced coffee. You know, sophomore does really good iced coffee because they roast their own coffee so that that makes a difference.

00;00;31;26 - 00;00;53;02
Rob Lee
Secondly, in this iced coffee, you'll get just a dusting of cinnamon and then an a generous amount of simple serve. And it's again, over ice. That is the Rob Lee go there to sophomore that's 2223 Maryland Avenue in Baltimore and order the Rob Lee and any of their other great drinks. Get some beans. Get a T-shirt. Sophomore forever.

00;00;53;09 - 00;00;58;25
Rob Lee
Check out sophomore and get the Rob Lee. They're a sophomore coffee because I'm.

00;01;06;10 - 00;01;10;19
Speaker 2
Only a couple months down.

00;01;14;03 - 00;01;16;01
Speaker 2
I think I recognise.

00;01;16;14 - 00;01;38;14
Rob Lee
Welcome to the truth in this art. I am your host Rob Lee. You know, Rob Lee not to be confused with the other. Rob Lee is walking around it poses, I'll tell you, posers. So today I have the privilege of being here, having a conversation with the founder and president of the Afrofuturism network. Then historian, a comic book geek, a writer and an educator.

00;01;38;15 - 00;01;41;17
Rob Lee
Please welcome William Jones. Welcome to the podcast.

00;01;41;21 - 00;01;44;17
Speaker 3
Hey, thank you. Thank you. I appreciate you having me on.

00;01;44;24 - 00;02;05;23
Rob Lee
Absolutely. I am just thrilled and I feel like we talked like 15 minutes before I even started recording. So I feel like we already had a free interview, which is kind of great, actually. Right. So again, thank you for joining the podcast. And let's let's dive right in. Describe would you describe the Afrofuturism network and what was your thought process and kind of building out?

00;02;05;23 - 00;02;15;21
Rob Lee
This is a a a business thing, not quite accurate. Seems larger than that. But describe describe what that is and what was the process in building it out? Wow.

00;02;16;05 - 00;02;37;21
Speaker 3
Well, for one, you know, I always tell folks in terms of Afro futurism, you know, I was I was an Afro futurist before I even knew that was a thing, you know, and I'm sure like many of your listeners and anyone that's into these things, it started off my childhood. You know, I've been in love with comic books, science fiction, fantasy, you name it for as long as I can remember.

00;02;38;00 - 00;03;05;01
Speaker 3
And I was introduced to about my parents and I just fell in love with it and I'm not giving it up. That's one part that I've always held onto. And the other passion that was ignited in me very early age because of my upbringing was also history, you know. And later on I find out there's this space where these two things come together and you know, the term Afrofuturism was coined in 1990s and we found out that there was like a name for this thing.

00;03;05;07 - 00;03;24;18
Speaker 3
Oh man, this is really cool. And I had always looked to have my own business, I always look to do things independently. And this I felt was an excellent opportunity to do what I love and at the same time turn it into a business. Because I think, you know the old adage, you know, you do what you love, you never work a day in your life type of thing.

00;03;24;18 - 00;03;49;18
Speaker 3
So this was a space where I could do that and it really happened. It was kind of weird. I would always write and do research and so on and so forth. And one time I was invited to Croatia to speak on black people in science fiction, comic books, films and so forth. And I brought a friend of mine, you know, longtime friend of mine came he came with me to Europe because he's like, I'm not letting you go to Croatia.

00;03;49;18 - 00;04;19;12
Speaker 3
You're talking about black people and white supremacy. No, Europe by yourself. So he comes with me and he sees the presentation. And after it was over, he was like, Man, this is it. What are you talking about? He was like, No, this, this. You got to do this. This is your thing, you know? And I came up with the idea of the Afrofuturism network as this space of just trying to find a way to bring all these creators and creative people together under one banner where they could communicate with one another.

00;04;19;18 - 00;04;47;00
Speaker 3
If you hear something, you pass, oh, so on and so forth. And I'm always looking for ways to promote other people so that it my business is really I'm in the business of helping other people to reach their goals. That's the way I see it. And it's under the Afro futurist banner. And out of that I've written a book, The Ex-con Goddess in the African Queen, which is based on research I did in graduate school.

00;04;47;00 - 00;05;02;25
Speaker 3
And that book has had some incredible legs for quite a few years, and people are still reading it. People still talk to me about it, I'm still doing presentations on it and it's like really weird because, you know, when you write something like, Who's going to read this? I'm talking about Luke Cage and One Storm and so forth.

00;05;03;02 - 00;05;21;15
Speaker 3
Who cares? You know, and you put it out there and you get this response from people, you know, from across the country, overseas and so forth. And they're really buying into they really enjoy it. And like I said, you know, it still has legs and also I did a comic convention, did a Comic-Con, and we were working on the second one, talked about a little bit later.

00;05;21;21 - 00;05;47;01
Speaker 3
But because of COVID, you know, that got pushed back by something else came out of it. And currently I have a radio show that I'm on. 14:50 a.m.. W Well, yeah, 95.9 FM and right out of the DMV, folks, they don't know for me for the longest DMV mad department motor vehicles New York I'm talking DC, Maryland and Virginia.

00;05;47;22 - 00;05;51;27
Speaker 3
So, yeah, it's just been great, man. This this ride that I've been I've just been really great.

00;05;52;12 - 00;06;03;05
Rob Lee
You know, we do that thing where we bracket which part of the DMV we're in as well, right? And yeah, like sometimes Baltimore doesn't seem like it's part of the deal, but no shots. No shots.

00;06;03;19 - 00;06;05;03
Speaker 3
Right.

00;06;05;03 - 00;06;27;09
Rob Lee
No, that's that's great. And I love this this notion of community and this notion of working with folks. And it doesn't seem as restrictive as some people make it. It's like, oh, well, this isn't Afrofuturism and this is and so on. And I think when it's like, Hey, are you interested in this? Is this something? And does it does it fit?

00;06;27;09 - 00;06;39;15
Rob Lee
Doesn't make sense. And I just just love what you were describing there in terms of the messaging and in terms of what your approach is and some of the opportunities that it's presented. So that's it's great to hear and thank you for sharing it.

00;06;39;27 - 00;06;40;07
Speaker 3
Yeah.

00;06;41;15 - 00;07;01;12
Rob Lee
So let's talk about a specific life experience that has or any life experiences that have helped shape your creative sensibilities. Did you have your your sought after speaker? So that's one thing, is it? I mean, he was like, oh, and how did I get this dude again? And then you're, you're the author. You're into the comic book space as well.

00;07;01;18 - 00;07;02;24
Rob Lee
So so tell me about that.

00;07;03;09 - 00;07;21;07
Speaker 3
Wow. There is so much you know. I know. We sure it's I'll try to be as brief as possible. You know, there was so many experiences that I look back on that really shaped me. And I mean, starting from a very young person. Yeah, one of the earliest things I can remember is that, you know, I love to draw, you know, I'm an artist and so forth.

00;07;21;15 - 00;07;40;05
Speaker 3
And my father would also draw and I would draw superheroes. And because of the most of the comics that I've looked at had white characters. Most of the cartoons I'm looking at have white character. I would oftentimes draw white characters. And one day my pops saw me sketching and he was like, you know, I mean, I'm elementary school.

00;07;40;15 - 00;07;58;18
Speaker 3
And he was like, Why haven't you drawn any black people here? And I didn't have an answer. I remember this like it happened yesterday and I did not have an answer. And in not having an answer, I just started drawing black. You know what I'm saying? Because certain things don't require a response is for you to think, you know.

00;07;58;18 - 00;08;17;23
Speaker 3
And the reason why I hadn't drawn really I hadn't thought about I hadn't seen myself as the very heroes I was drawn. And that one conversation, a very brief conversation with my dad changed my entire outlook in terms of how I looked at art from that moment forward. Right? The other thing that shaped me was once again the love of history.

00;08;17;23 - 00;08;38;06
Speaker 3
And this is coming from dining room table conversations. This is coming from, you know, they didn't teach you this in school kind of approach that my parents had and things that I had to watch as a child, things that I had to read as a child outside of what the school was giving. And I remember, you know, the autobiography of Malcolm X was my bedtime story.

00;08;38;07 - 00;09;08;04
Speaker 3
It was literally my bedtime story. I mean, the actual that the kid version, the real Alex Haley who got it. And I remember Jay Rogers sex and race was also my bedtime story. I'm talking like a kid. So those experiences very early on shaped me in terms of my thinking and I just grew with it later on down the line, you know, when I decided to go to college, you know, it's really interesting because I wanted to be an engineer for no reason.

00;09;08;20 - 00;09;16;10
Speaker 3
Let's be clear. No reason. I just really made a lot of money and I thought I could make robux I could, you know, I thought I can make role.

00;09;16;15 - 00;09;36;18
Rob Lee
Oh, I've got to stop you right there, because that is as part of my story as well. I literally it was just like artists when I was a kid doing my own comics and didn't really have that conversation as much as of like, why aren't you doing this or doing that? But when you mentioned the robotics thing, you're like, I'm going to make robots.

00;09;36;18 - 00;09;49;09
Rob Lee
I'll say, Hold up, I want to go to the you could make it specialise in robotics right up until like high school. I'm like junior or maybe Ed had that fix it physics class and I was like, okay, I'm not going to be an.

00;09;49;10 - 00;09;49;23
Speaker 3
Engineer.

00;09;50;08 - 00;09;51;01
Rob Lee
Or something else.

00;09;51;09 - 00;10;00;26
Speaker 3
Exactly. So I ended up going to Tuskegee University and I was going to be like, will be engineers. I'm a robot. And when they stop using numbers in maths class, I started putting in letters.

00;10;02;19 - 00;10;02;29
Rob Lee
Some of these.

00;10;03;00 - 00;10;22;16
Speaker 3
Variables. Yeah, exactly. And like they would give you a bunch of letters, but a number would come out as an answer. I realised that wasn't for me and I remember I got so frustrated that actually dropped out like I just took myself out of school and tell anybody. Yes, so I had dropped out. That lasted for as long as it took my mom to find out.

00;10;23;18 - 00;10;40;06
Speaker 3
So. Right. She was like, well, you can drop out. Just pay me back everything that I paid you. You know what? I think I'm a get his college thing, right? And they said, you know, one of the questions was asked was, well, what are you doing when no one asked you to do it? And I was like, I'm reading history books.

00;10;40;15 - 00;10;59;23
Speaker 3
And I remember I would be in a study group and they won't have the maths book, physics or whatever. I'm in the corner with the history books, so my roommate at the time was like, Well, duh, why don't you major in history? And I hadn't thought of it, you know, and I did. And that just changed everything in terms of my professional, you know, trajectory just moving forward.

00;11;00;03 - 00;11;25;10
Speaker 3
And then from there, ultimately, you went to graduate school, Clark, Atlanta, HBCU, represent and studied African studies there. So those are some of the earliest things in terms of shaping you put me on this path and like I said, I'd always loved comics cartoons to this day, you know, you know, obviously nothing has changed really. And I remember one major thing.

00;11;25;10 - 00;11;46;13
Speaker 3
I just shared his story with you and written a book. And like I said, I didn't know what to do with it or whatever. And I was on my way to work on the train and I was on my way to work. And something said, Get off the train. And I'm like, going to work. It's sort of like what is called, you know, maybe I should say that we did have a while ago, so I think I'm safe.

00;11;46;13 - 00;12;08;23
Speaker 3
The statute of limitations on lion is over. I don't know if that's the thing, but I was on the train and I got all and I had copies of my book on me and I stopped this and called for books in Washington, DC. And I walked in and fortunately one of the owners was there. So I said, Look, I got this book and would you be interested in carrying it?

00;12;09;13 - 00;12;16;11
Speaker 3
The woman takes the book and she just thumbs it. She was like, How many copies and would you like to do a presentation here?

00;12;17;09 - 00;12;17;23
Rob Lee
It's great.

00;12;18;05 - 00;12;41;15
Speaker 3
And I was so nervous because I would not expected it. I had my tablet with me and I was like, Well, let me check my schedule. And I had to hold it up because I had Candy Crush on, so I had to be as great. So trying to play big business man, like I had a out or something and I'm like, Oh, I just put the volumes down and I'm like, I think I can squeeze you in for it, you know?

00;12;41;24 - 00;12;57;05
Speaker 3
And I did it and I did a presentation at Sankofa Books showing off my research and so forth, book signing. And like I said, it's just been, you know, really great since that point. And I've had so many of the experiences I could go on and on. But, you know, those are just some of the main books.

00;12;57;11 - 00;13;16;02
Rob Lee
No, that's that's huge. And thank you for for sharing that even in the adding that that last story. And I was really, really great. And one of the things that you mentioned that I think one of your peers had mentioned, like, what's the thing that you're doing that you enjoy? You came to the elimination. It's his history. It comes out of this, that same notion.

00;13;16;02 - 00;13;39;29
Rob Lee
It's because I've been doing this deep dive into like Austin Kleon stuff and just trying to understand this creative thing that I feel that I've cut off because I chose professionalism and, and there can be a middle ground between the two or choosing whatever the identity that I felt that would make me money and feel something that my parents maybe brag about or other people could brag about.

00;13;39;29 - 00;13;51;25
Rob Lee
And one of the things that he touched on in it, and I think some people really need to look in, examine it, what are the things that you're doing like when you're procrastinating because we're all procrastinate.

00;13;51;25 - 00;13;52;14
Speaker 3
Exactly.

00;13;52;16 - 00;14;18;26
Rob Lee
And if I have the day job as a lot of create as a lot of creators do. Right. And the day job is fine. It's solving puzzles. And I like that. Right. But if it was like, you know, you get to do ten podcast a day or work 8 hours, I'm choosing a podcast every time. And that's the thing I rather procrastinate doing, whether it's working on questions, researching like I got an interview that's coming up next week and I was like, All right, I'm up super early.

00;14;19;03 - 00;14;27;18
Rob Lee
Let me watch this dude's movie to better understand where he's coming from. And that's going to give me more context and leave for much richer conversation, I think.

00;14;27;25 - 00;14;29;00
Speaker 3
Right, right.

00;14;29;04 - 00;14;52;25
Rob Lee
And it's important to really do that and really extend and also, I've noticed and I actually had a question I want to ask you that's not even listed, but I've noticed that we we hear about professionalism all the time. What is your take on professionalism like? I feel like it's a pejorative. I feel like it's a weird turd term.

00;14;53;03 - 00;15;19;13
Speaker 3
Yeah. I think professionalism is something that other people can speak to more than I could. So in other words, what I mean is I could be doing all the right things in my mind that you could see as being unprofessional, you know what I'm saying? So I think it's this thing where there's almost this agreeance that our exchange was respectful.

00;15;19;28 - 00;15;41;16
Speaker 3
Yeah, you know what I'm saying? That we can have that exchange and there's mutual respect going in both directions. I believe that's professionalism. I don't think it's anything that can be defined by the way a person dresses or any of it is these other things that we attach to it. When I'm done with you, when we're done having our conversation, our engagement.

00;15;41;23 - 00;16;06;27
Speaker 3
Yeah. Can you say, you know, he knew what he was doing. They respected me. I respected him. Yeah. I believe that's the core of professionalism, because you can deal with someone and, you know, the best unprofessional suits, the best unprofessional attire. You know, speaking the King's English. Yeah, I don't know what it is, but, you know, at the end of the day, you're saying this is one of the most unprofessional people I have ever met.

00;16;06;27 - 00;16;33;00
Speaker 3
It's because of that engagement. So I think that's where that professional design piece comes in. And, you know, real quick, in terms of, you know, occupations, I've been real fortunate. I've actually been doing what I love as far as like quote unquote work goes. Also, I'm a teacher, know a teacher and a professor. So for one way or another, I always feel like I'm going to be educating people in some form or fashion.

00;16;33;00 - 00;16;43;02
Speaker 3
I've actually been able to bring in comic books, cartoons and everything else into the classroom, so that's kind of cool too. So I still find a way to bring that element even into my workspace.

00;16;43;16 - 00;17;03;13
Rob Lee
That's as great. Like the I try to align and connect with the day job is because it can't be too far off right? So, you know, I'm a data analyst, so one of my jobs is uncovering things, getting to the root cause of things. And I think through this podcast I'm uncovering like people's stories and helping, you know, in that way.

00;17;03;13 - 00;17;12;00
Rob Lee
So that is of interest to me. But if it was completely boring, like, you know, you're skimming this, right, this like just like Neil Simon out of here.

00;17;12;01 - 00;17;13;25
Speaker 3
Right, exactly. Exactly.

00;17;14;03 - 00;17;23;25
Rob Lee
So so tell me about a time where, like, someone gave you a shot, like, that was, like, very influential. And I think you may have mentioned it, but. Yeah, yeah, there's another one. Actually, it comes out.

00;17;23;25 - 00;17;43;17
Speaker 3
To this, like, it's so weird, you know where you are today. You're like a composite of all your experiences. Now you've come across. And so, like I share with you the same Colfer piece was really huge in terms of Put me on this path, let me know that I have something that folks want to hear. A couple of the things that had happened to me early on.

00;17;44;09 - 00;18;06;13
Speaker 3
I was a writer and the way that I got on that path was pretty interesting. I remember I was this is going back for folks that don't remember VCRs and VHS tapes and stuff like that. Right. So, you know, I loved that. I was like this really big tape stuff. My sister had asked me to record a comedian for she was somewhere.

00;18;06;13 - 00;18;27;25
Speaker 3
What is it? Can you record this comedy show? A stand up show that was like who I recorded and I was recording it. And I remember hearing the guy Stand-Up. I saw he say who he is because, you know, but nonetheless, he was saying these horrible things about black people and Africa. I just remember. And people were laughing, you know, this guy's huge.

00;18;28;03 - 00;18;51;09
Speaker 3
Yeah. And I'm like, wait a minute, people are applauding this. And I'm like, something in me was like, you got to get your side out, you know, to kind of counterbalance that and show that there's another approach to this. So I started writing and one of the first pieces I had written was called Black Leadership Always Hip Hop, An Apology.

00;18;51;09 - 00;19;13;16
Speaker 3
And my first thought was to submit it to at the time, once again, going back a few years, Source magazine was huge. Yeah, Excel, all these hip hop magazines. I submit it to a bunch of hip hop magazines. Didn't hear back from it. You got a letter back from Excel magazine, still have to work and the guy critiques my piece took the time.

00;19;13;25 - 00;19;33;27
Speaker 3
And that's the thing that I always hope that I can do for the next person. Taking the time to listen to them, to to hear what they have to say, to read what they've written. Because what people don't realise is that can make a huge difference in someone's life. Five, 10 minutes can make a huge difference. This guy actually took the time to read it.

00;19;34;01 - 00;19;52;26
Speaker 3
And I could tell because I look what he had to say. And he said, this seems like this would be something good for a newspaper. Yeah. Did you try it at. Okay, let me try newspapers. But I didn't know what to do. I had gone to a presentation or down in the dumps. I remember I did that at the time.

00;19;52;26 - 00;20;14;02
Speaker 3
I was broke and I got to this presentation and it was Kevin Powell was on stage as well as Michael Eric Dyson. And after it was over, there's a book signing and I'm like, I ain't got the money to buy the books. I'm a stay in line. Anyway, let me peruse this. I was better. I had money to buy it.

00;20;14;02 - 00;20;36;07
Speaker 3
I don't know. This guy's going to talk me. What? And I stood in line for Michael Eric Dyson, and we just talked and I just remember him speaking to me once again, huge crowd, whatever. But he took the time and he said, here's some folks that I know in newspapers that might be interested in hearing what you had to say, got in line, talked to Kevin Powell, same thing, gave me some people and so forth.

00;20;36;17 - 00;21;01;28
Speaker 3
So I followed up with that. My writings ended up in newspapers across New York City, daily Challenger, other black newspapers carry carry more articles. And this is when the Internet was was was there. It was growing, but people were still reading newspapers. And I had gotten an email from Franklin Marshall College in Pennsylvania, and he said, Would you like to come and speak to the Black Student Union?

00;21;02;24 - 00;21;12;29
Speaker 3
And invited me to speak there two years in a row. And that put me on the path. So those are just a few stories, you know, in terms of once again, helping to shape where I am today.

00;21;13;15 - 00;21;43;11
Rob Lee
Appreciate that. That's great. Love hearing it. So let's talk about Afrofuturism a little bit. Describe your relationship with how Afrofuturism is presented in contemporary mass media. And I think I touched on this a little bit earlier that I've had people who may pop on and they were mentioning their by-line but are hesitant to talk about it, or they have a very kind of myopic or very like silo view of what it is and what isn't right.

00;21;43;12 - 00;21;49;01
Rob Lee
And yeah, so, so tell me about your relationship with how it's presented for for mass consumption.

00;21;49;07 - 00;22;17;09
Speaker 3
Right. Well, I think I'm the opposite. I love talking about it. So I don't have a problem with that. For me, Afrofuturism is just looking. I look at it in two ways and one way I look at it, the creative side is looking at this space of black creators as well as black representation in science fiction, fantasy, comic books, speculative fiction, that whole arena.

00;22;17;18 - 00;22;37;08
Speaker 3
And we're looking at the creators in terms of recognising and celebrating black contributors to that realm, because a lot of folks think that this is new for us. You know, that that you know, this you just heard about and it's been around for ten or 20 years. Folks don't know that W.E.B. Dubois wrote science fiction. Yeah, you know what I'm saying?

00;22;38;05 - 00;23;12;10
Speaker 3
The comment. You know Delaney. You know Blake. What? Arts of America, speculative fiction. I even look at Ancient Africa as being Afrofuturism. If you're talking about developing maths, you're talking about developing science in those things. That is something you're developing for the future. Yeah, you know what I'm saying? So you have this vision of what you want for future generations to be able to do, because right now, you know, you can create for yourself without developing maths, not developing science and all these other things and live, you know, a good life.

00;23;12;18 - 00;23;35;04
Speaker 3
But the moment you say, no, I'm looking at science, I'm looking at maths, I'm look at all these things. I am now thinking about the people that come after me because I'm going to teach them how to sustain themselves and how to build for themselves. So I look at that side of Afrofuturism as all encompassing creation. I also look at it as history, past, present, future, all in one arena.

00;23;35;04 - 00;24;00;03
Speaker 3
At the same time, I look at these things happening separately. I look at them happening all together and I think Afrofuturism speaks to that. And on the other side there's a very real and I guess analytical approach in terms of where will black people be 100 years, 200 years, 20 years from now? And when I say it in that realm, I'm not talking about, you know, just in terms of like fantasy.

00;24;00;03 - 00;24;18;02
Speaker 3
I'm talking about looking at the data today, looking at where we are and looking at where we want to be and where we probably will end up based on our habits and such today. To also look at it from that very real point of view. So it's not for me any one area or any one thing, it's all encompassing.

00;24;18;16 - 00;24;20;14
Speaker 3
So that's the way that I view Afrofuturism.

00;24;21;03 - 00;24;49;13
Rob Lee
So do you feel that in mass media? So like in I'm thinking one, thank you for sharing it but into I'm thinking like when we see more content like pop culture related content that's kind of labelled or like it's like dotted line two to Afrofuturism. How do you feel that that is representative of it and how do you feel that people are doing a good job or bad?

00;24;49;17 - 00;24;57;03
Rob Lee
How do you kind of that from your standpoint is being a person that's a consumer as well and a person that speaks and knows about this particular area?

00;24;58;05 - 00;25;19;06
Speaker 3
It's hard for me to say because, you know, there are things that I enjoy and things that I don't know. And I just look at it sounds, you know, simplistic, and I think it's really just that simple. The only thing that I would say that I'm concerned about is all too often when black people create things, we tend to lose control of it.

00;25;19;20 - 00;25;45;06
Speaker 3
And it's only a matter of time, you know, if you create something, of course, people of other ethnicities, races, whatever kids might be, will embrace it, will take it on. Because you look, you're living around other people, cultural diffusion is inevitable. But what concerns me is all too often we create things to empower our communities, to build up our communities, to make our communities more powerful, to not just empower, but to make powerful.

00;25;45;19 - 00;26;07;28
Speaker 3
And I think there's a lot of black folk that are uncomfortable with that. We we seem to shy away from the idea that we build something and it's ours, because before we really begin to, like, crystallise it, shape it, we already start having this conversation. We have this conversation. Can other people do it? Can we let other folks in?

00;26;07;28 - 00;26;23;11
Speaker 3
And so I'm like, Well, let's finish building it up first. Let's secure it first before we start concerning ourselves with what other people can or can't do with it. It just seems like that we have that kind of conversation. Yeah, premature, you know?

00;26;23;18 - 00;26;47;12
Rob Lee
Yeah, I. I would throw out all of this your way. I used to do a podcast called Unofficially Black, and it was just like me and one of my buddies. And it would be things that, quote unquote, black people don't do that. And we would just basically come from that perspective as black guys. He may he's very safe age, but still black guys, you know, colorism aside and you know, we would have these different conversations from, you know, our perspective.

00;26;47;12 - 00;27;06;03
Rob Lee
And I remember early, early on and the your background caught my attention because this was one of the early episodes of that podcast, because I was a late adopter, I didn't jump on the bandwagon immediately to see Black Panther. Oh, you can lose your black heart. I say, how do we. It's like inviting people to the quote unquote cookout.

00;27;06;03 - 00;27;16;17
Rob Lee
Exactly. But because I didn't jump in, take in, wear a dashiki to a premiere. Right. You know, and one of the things I was like, I don't like crowds.

00;27;16;29 - 00;27;17;29
Speaker 3
I gotcha.

00;27;18;01 - 00;27;34;17
Rob Lee
And, you know, I remember some of the takes when the film came out and how that got revised after Chadwick Boseman passed, I was like, Yes, I remember a lot of y'all saying he was the weakest part of the movie, right? I remember a lot of you we're keeping for like the Royal Guard or what have you saying.

00;27;34;17 - 00;27;55;18
Rob Lee
They're the best part. So now we shifted in. It's just interesting where people kind of took what they wanted to take from it to kind of paint with story. Made the most sense to them. Yes. But as upon rewatching it, like, I just dug it more than when I initially watched it because I had that baggage going into it around like identity.

00;27;55;18 - 00;28;16;17
Rob Lee
And are you black enough? Because I see stuff that I've heard forever, you know? Yes. And then going in and rewatching it, I was like, yo, this scene happened. This is reminiscent of this and that that's happening. I still have my issues with some of the third act. I was like, I saw Lucy die, but I was like, I appreciate this movie much more and the things that I, I appreciate it for.

00;28;16;17 - 00;28;20;04
Rob Lee
I appreciated it even more for those things. Right.

00;28;20;22 - 00;28;48;06
Speaker 3
And I think that's what great art does. I think when when something is done correctly, it has legs, it has longevity. And you can look at it five, ten, 15 years from now and maybe even see something new that you didn't notice before. Yeah, the conversations that come out of it, you know, if a movie is really good, folks are talking about it long after it's over and all types of conversations, you know, stuff that ain't going to happen in the movie, you know, you're talking about because it made you think of something else.

00;28;48;18 - 00;29;04;11
Speaker 3
And I think that to your point, I think one of the in my opinion, one thing that I noticed in a lot of conversations with black folks, we seem to have a level of analysis for each other that we don't have for other folks.

00;29;04;23 - 00;29;05;03
Rob Lee
Yes.

00;29;05;15 - 00;29;31;08
Speaker 3
You know, and I think that that can be damaging if we're not careful, because there's a level of scrutiny they will have for each other that we don't have for other people. And that is something that you see a lot, especially when it comes to art, when it comes to expression and so forth. More questions are being asked of you and say your white counterpart is pretty much long the same thing.

00;29;31;15 - 00;29;39;12
Rob Lee
And I think they they run into I don't think that that cohort of people run into us. So like when let's say young she came about I don't think there was a similar conversation.

00;29;39;13 - 00;29;40;09
Speaker 3
Oh, no.

00;29;40;12 - 00;29;54;20
Rob Lee
So it's odd, but it was presented in some pockets as of this. Like if you'd like Black Panther, you know you're going to love this is like I go I guess is off the gas a little bit. Exactly. It just this is this is just this is a movie.

00;29;54;26 - 00;29;56;13
Speaker 3
Right, right, right, right, right.

00;29;56;13 - 00;30;17;22
Rob Lee
Yeah, I but I absolutely agree with it. And that is something and I think in some of the pockets that we talked about earlier that we travel in, that thing happens. And I think it's conversation worthy and it's discourse worthy and people need to be more open to it because as we used to say, and unofficially, black, there's no step one to being a black people.

00;30;17;28 - 00;30;20;10
Rob Lee
That black person. There's no shortcut to being a black person.

00;30;20;26 - 00;30;22;02
Speaker 3
Right. Right.

00;30;23;18 - 00;30;46;19
Rob Lee
So I got I got a couple more for you. Sure. Often this one is very interesting to me. Often we learn about what one's inspiration is and we usually get these kind of great, you know, warm and fuzzy about the motivators. Right. But sometimes we don't get those those warm and fuzzy. Sometimes it's something dark. Like I remember I used to say, I'm running off of lack of spite and things of that nature that are those motivators.

00;30;46;19 - 00;30;55;20
Rob Lee
So do you have any motivators that kind of fall into you? Like, this is effective? This is not like the thing I want in a bio. This is not like the nice thing.

00;30;56;09 - 00;31;24;16
Speaker 3
Oh, I'm trying to think. Not really the only thing that motivates me that I guess you would say I wouldn't even call it a negative. I would just say it's kind of, you know, somewhere else. I don't know. Failure is is something that that scares me because the first time that I try to go out on my own and say I was going to do something, it didn't work out.

00;31;25;14 - 00;31;51;14
Speaker 3
And I mean, you know, when you when you try, like, I don't know when you when you really set the bar high and it doesn't work, at least for me, the low is really low. Yeah. Your sales are higher. You go up on that tightrope. I can walk because I can walk that further down you go. And I remember, man, when it didn't work out the first time, it really didn't work out.

00;31;51;14 - 00;32;07;08
Speaker 3
But the good thing was, you know, it took a minute to recover and kind of dust yourself off, but it was really good because for one, you get to see who's really in your corner and who's really supporting you. And to say that, you know, I got you and it's going to be okay, it's going to be better.

00;32;07;17 - 00;32;34;07
Speaker 3
And then the other thing is, if you you learn from it, you know, and you figure out, let me learn more about this craft. So one of the things like just because you are a great writer, that in and of itself isn't enough to sustain the talent alone isn't enough to sustain. There's a business side to it, there's a work ethic to it.

00;32;34;12 - 00;32;53;21
Speaker 3
There's all these other elements. If you want to turn it into something that you want to sustain yourself, but you also have to be cognisant of. So I think that for me, going back to your original question, failure is something that that keeps me going because I've tasted that before and I didn't like the taste of it.

00;32;53;21 - 00;33;01;13
Rob Lee
So it's so it's not this yeah, this this potato salad has reasons I didn't want that.

00;33;01;24 - 00;33;02;27
Speaker 3
Yeah, exactly.

00;33;03;03 - 00;33;32;26
Rob Lee
Yeah. I've been in that spot before and finding I think you learn a lot from those quote unquote failures or what have you. And, you know, I learnt that money is not my biggest motivator. I learnt that and this was one of those things where the day job funded a creative passion. So I think if there is less money coming in from the day job is like I got to focus on like not eating only asparagus because I'm going to for frozen vegetables instead of like buying a any microphone.

00;33;32;26 - 00;33;48;05
Rob Lee
This is going to sound patchy for a little bit. And I remember that thing kind of suffered for a bit. And I looked at it, I was like, you know, this is coming from me. I'm the person that's this, this driving this, and I'm too closely identifying with the thing that may be money. And that's really not for me.

00;33;48;05 - 00;34;09;26
Rob Lee
The thing that I'm doing, kind of going back to what do we procrastinate doing? What are we doing exactly? And that's the thing that was driving it. But I recognise that connexion and I think once I was able to recognise that I was like, well, I'm not going to be in that spot again because it was hindering me doing this creative thing that I, that, that is just me, that's what my identity is, right?

00;34;10;26 - 00;34;31;26
Rob Lee
So this is the last real question. I have it. Then I got some rapid fire one here. So this is one I think it's kind of often we hear further culture, which feels like a nineties branding geared towards the urban demo. What does that mean to you in the truest sense, like when someone is like being earnest, you know, saying we're doing this for the culture.

00;34;31;26 - 00;34;46;24
Rob Lee
I feel like Kelsey Grammer is behind it for some reason. I don't know why. I don't think I don't why I'm taking shots at cursing. But yeah, girlfriends, I don't know. But you know what comes to mind when you think of like the truest sense of what someone's trying to put out there. When you're saying this is for the culture.

00;34;47;14 - 00;35;10;18
Speaker 3
You may not like this answer. Please, please. Like one of the things that I don't know, slogans like that just don't do it for me. Say, you know, and there's so many others. I mean, that that could be a show unto itself, because I think that sometimes the slogans, it loses what it originally meant to be and it just becomes a thing to say.

00;35;10;26 - 00;35;30;02
Speaker 3
And it also becomes an excuse that I can say and do anything. But if I put forth the culture on it, then it makes it okay. And if you challenge it, something is wrong with you, you know what I'm saying? So I'm allowed to do and say all of these different things. And at the end of the day, I found doing it for the culture, if you like.

00;35;30;10 - 00;36;06;00
Speaker 3
You know, I don't agree with that. That's not really building up the culture. Did I get to call you a hater? Which is another word. I hate that way because that just kind of, you know, it there's no analysis. I'm just dismissing, you know, so a lot of the slogans are they just don't do it for me because like I said, if you kind of takes away from what I think, what it is, we're really trying to do, you know, if I'm thinking for the culture, it just means those things that are really and truly going to uplift black people, you know?

00;36;06;02 - 00;36;13;08
Speaker 3
And it's really it really just comes down to a simple question. Is it good for black folks? Was bad black folks flat?

00;36;13;14 - 00;36;35;11
Rob Lee
You know, and that and that's the thing I find that when something starts to permeate and I agree with you, when there's something that starts to permeate and it's out there, I naturally I'm in that spot of like justice for that. That's literally where I live at. And I remember this period where people would just do something that felt a little reckless or a little dismissive and say, oh, self-care.

00;36;35;25 - 00;36;36;17
Speaker 3
Right, right.

00;36;36;25 - 00;36;54;05
Rob Lee
That's not what that is. Okay. And, you know, for the culture is a prime example and it's just like and that's why we're the question I was way I did because it reeks of it's giving if you will ninety's McDonald ads and that's right all right cool we like sprite I don't know what to tell you. Like, what do you want from me?

00;36;54;08 - 00;36;54;19
Rob Lee
Right.

00;36;54;22 - 00;37;23;23
Speaker 3
And you know, and all too often, that's exactly what he slogans end up. Yeah. They end up in ads, they end up selling products to us because it's all so black folks talk. They love this phrase, you know, somebody, you know, pulled out of the barbershop one day and a couple of black folks say, like, oh, let's use this to to to convince them, you know, that, you know, brown Band-Aids are for the culture, you know, so that's when you end up getting these things that you didn't need or you weren't looking for.

00;37;24;03 - 00;37;32;07
Speaker 3
And someone else is telling you now that this is for your own good, you know? And once again, when you challenge you, you're the one being question.

00;37;32;14 - 00;37;51;02
Rob Lee
And I think when they go a little too far in that wrong direction and it feels very overt because, you know, folks in that kind of role, they love the sneakers. Sometimes when they go a little too much, when it's like you're not even sneakers and you're not even being a ninja about it, that's where you get, you know, Juneteenth ice cream and cocoa butter and.

00;37;51;02 - 00;38;06;05
Rob Lee
Exactly. And as I said in this, this will date the podcast a little bit. We're not too far away from it. But I remember once watching CNN in the night, I think it was maybe I think it was Juneteenth maybe. And I'm just looking at the colours and the messaging and all of that. And I was like, you guys just rebrand.

00;38;06;06 - 00;38;13;03
Rob Lee
Freedom, I think is not even the colours of the floor. There is a Juneteenth flag. These are Pan-African colours. That's like, what are we doing?

00;38;13;04 - 00;38;26;25
Speaker 3
And so here's this for right, right. So that's what happens once again when you don't circle the wagons around what you create, when you don't circle the wagons around what you have and and not be afraid to tell people you can't get in.

00;38;27;10 - 00;38;29;14
Rob Lee
Yeah, you're not on the list. I don't.

00;38;29;14 - 00;38;58;09
Speaker 3
Know. And if you are going to quote unquote get in there, certain rules you have to follow in order for this thing to be acceptable. You know, I always point to animate for example, and it's, you know, definitely relate to the folks that are listening. I just can't draw anything and call it enemy. No, no. You know, you just can't have an animated and call it anime, you know, and I know anime needs animation, so forth, but it still has to look a certain way.

00;38;58;21 - 00;39;16;20
Speaker 3
It has to sound a certain way. There are certain rules you have to play by. And if you're not doing that, that the the anime culture will say that's not anime has no problem saying it. Have no problem telling you that. So I think that using that as an example, that is how we should look at the things that we create.

00;39;17;03 - 00;39;31;25
Speaker 3
This is what is going to look like. These are these are words and terms associated with it. And if you bring in anything other than what we've listed, that's not this call is something else. But that's not what this is. And that once again, we can't be afraid to do that.

00;39;32;08 - 00;39;49;11
Rob Lee
I agree. And we could go on forever. You know, don't let me get started talking about food. Right. You know, I think that's a good spot for us to kind of start with the real questions. And now with all of the goodwill that we've established over the last 30 some odd minutes, right now, it's time for some rapid fire questions.

00;39;49;11 - 00;40;03;06
Rob Lee
So, you know, top of mind, whatever pops in your head initially. So first one, well, in three words or less, what makes your brand successful? Because I'm just going to summarise it as a brand. I think that's the key.

00;40;03;16 - 00;40;03;24
Speaker 3
Yeah.

00;40;04;05 - 00;40;05;29
Rob Lee
Three words in three words or less.

00;40;06;08 - 00;40;11;27
Speaker 3
Oh, three words or less. I would say hard work relationships.

00;40;13;04 - 00;40;13;29
Rob Lee
What's your favourite drink?

00;40;14;29 - 00;40;18;14
Speaker 3
Probably must eliminate nicely put together.

00;40;18;14 - 00;40;20;10
Rob Lee
We don't call on a partner anymore. Half and half.

00;40;20;22 - 00;40;21;18
Speaker 3
Yeah, that's the one.

00;40;23;10 - 00;40;28;04
Rob Lee
We should favourite word in a language outside of your primary language.

00;40;28;04 - 00;40;41;24
Speaker 3
Wow. Oh geez. That is a good one. Outside of my primary language. Probably. Oh, maybe. Ola, you're saying hello to folks?

00;40;42;00 - 00;40;50;08
Rob Lee
Yes. Yeah, I was. And usually curse words and just like Spanish curse words. Let's see if you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

00;40;51;00 - 00;40;51;12
Speaker 3
Peru.

00;40;52;03 - 00;40;58;20
Rob Lee
Okay. And lastly, this is this one of your like I think was Killmonger right?

00;40;58;20 - 00;41;45;02
Speaker 3
I'm you know, I'm pretty wide open like. Yes, yes. Okay. But you know, what I really thought was interesting about Killmonger, like you said, when you go back and you watch the film over again, I don't know that his whole experience embodied black people or where they trying to embody aspects of white people. Because the reason why I bring this up is because you're looking at someone who was kept out of Paradise Review to be Paradise couldn't get in and was abandoned by where he came from.

00;41;46;09 - 00;42;12;10
Speaker 3
And I remember listening and reading Malcolm X and he was talking about his interpretation of the Old Testament, you know, and I saw parallels between that story of being kicked out of the Garden of Eden and having this anger and, frustration against the folks that put you out. And I think that there's a lot, obviously, of of Killmonger that embodies the black experience in many ways.

00;42;12;19 - 00;42;28;02
Speaker 3
But I also think it embodies aspects of the white experience and white history that folks aren't talking about. Because remember in the movie, oh, there's the agent. What's his name? Ross. Yeah, he says he's one of ours. Yes.

00;42;28;11 - 00;42;28;28
Rob Lee
Yeah, he did.

00;42;28;28 - 00;42;56;20
Speaker 3
We made him. Yeah, he's clear on that. And when you look at this outside force that comes into Africa to get Africans to fight each other. Huh? Black folk gained on that? No, no. Black person going back to the continent of Africa, getting black folks to fight one another. That's an experience that has come. Imperialists. Yeah, so in as much as yeah, there are aspects to Killmonger that are revolutionary and so forth.

00;42;56;27 - 00;43;16;24
Speaker 3
There's also a lot to him that speaks to the imperialist mindset, you know, wanting to get revenge against the African continent, once again, getting Africans to fight one another. Because if you look at the entirety of the film for all of his revolutionary acts, who does he who is he killing more of?

00;43;17;26 - 00;43;26;23
Rob Lee
Yeah. Yes. You know, and it's know it's about it's about him. Ultimately, it's like you guys fine. But I need to be the king, and I still need to be on the throne. This is my.

00;43;27;03 - 00;43;45;02
Speaker 3
Yes. Yeah. So in many ways, yes, I want to 2% agree with Killmonger and a lot of what he was saying and what he was doing. But I think that very cleverly they also inserted this door. My son is part of that. Probably what kind of drove him crazy because also remember, am I talking too much about this?

00;43;45;11 - 00;43;46;04
Rob Lee
No, no. You got. You got.

00;43;47;08 - 00;43;52;06
Speaker 3
Because the other part, remember, this guy burns down the garden.

00;43;52;15 - 00;43;53;04
Rob Lee
Yes, he does.

00;43;54;06 - 00;43;59;24
Speaker 3
So this is about him destroying the future of Wakanda. Is this a.

00;43;59;24 - 00;44;00;17
Rob Lee
Start with me?

00;44;00;17 - 00;44;25;02
Speaker 3
Yes. Right. There's no. No, these were cannons aren't immortal. Yeah, you know what I'm saying? And he also when he when he undergoes this process of speaking to the ancestors, he's not on the ancestral realm. He's not reconnecting with the Africans, going all the way back. Yeah. He's only reconnecting with that one generation, his own father, he don't even see true where he comes from.

00;44;25;06 - 00;44;27;00
Rob Lee
His only mechanism is back in Oakland.

00;44;27;00 - 00;44;38;01
Speaker 3
We're having. So that's as far back as he's gone mentally because once if you look at T'Challa, he didn't know all those no titans was in the field.

00;44;38;01 - 00;44;40;11
Rob Lee
We don't know all of that. But it's baked in and embedded. But they're.

00;44;40;11 - 00;45;08;26
Speaker 3
There. Yeah, you know what I'm saying? There's still a connexion, so he doesn't even have that past connexion. So I think Killmonger is this underrated villain, many ways, underrated character. People are like great MCU villains. They all go to battles, you know? Killmonger I think it's forgotten, but I think that he's they've done a really good job of putting together these, these, this dual mindset, this African and this European bias into Killmonger.

00;45;08;29 - 00;45;17;06
Speaker 3
And you also saw that in the What If Yeah animated show, which I thought was brilliant in terms of the way they portrayed him there. So yeah.

00;45;17;06 - 00;45;18;11
Rob Lee
Thank you. That, that, that is.

00;45;18;19 - 00;45;19;08
Speaker 3
Long winded.

00;45;19;08 - 00;45;32;18
Rob Lee
But no, no, no, no. That, that is great. And as give me ideas, we'll talk later about that. Right. So I think we'll wrap up there one, I want to thank you for being on this podcast and being such a great guest and to I want to invite and encourage you to tell the fine folks where to check you out.

00;45;32;18 - 00;45;33;05
Rob Lee
Check out your work.

00;45;33;18 - 00;46;02;28
Speaker 3
Oh, thanks. Well, for one, my website is Afrofuturism net dot com. As Afrofuturism Netcom, you can find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook under Afrofuturism network and also on LinkedIn because I'm always trying to connect folks and do business. You can find me into William Jones there and I would invite all of your listeners, including yourself, you know, check me out on my radio show into the afro verse.

00;46;03;01 - 00;46;28;28
Speaker 3
Yes, name of it. 14:50 a.m. w a well, 95.9 FM and that's once again in the DC, Maryland, Virginia area. But if you're listening outside of that, you can find me online w0l DC News.com, check me out there and please pick up a copy of my book, The XCOM, Voodoo Priest, Goddess and the African King, where I'm analysing for black superheroes.

00;46;28;28 - 00;46;39;13
Speaker 3
That is, I'm analysing Luke Cage, Storm, Papa Midnight and the Black Panther. And you can find that on Amazon and also sold on my website, as I said.

00;46;39;28 - 00;47;04;11
Rob Lee
So there you have it, folks. I want to again thank William Jones for coming on to the podcast. And I'm Rob Lee, saying that there is art community conversation in and around Baltimore. You just got to look for it.

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Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Host
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.
William Jones
Guest
William Jones
Historian, Afrofuturist, Author, Speaker and Educator, William Jones. Afrofuturism is a multi-media cultural genre that wields elements of science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, and even a little magic to address both the real-world issues facing black people in the present day, and to re-examine and offer up a better way to see ourselves in the future, both in fiction and in reality. It encompasses the world of sci-fi and fantasy culture from a black perspective, and encourages a breaking down of current, outdated, and widely accepted paradigms to promote a more fully realized and complex black experience. Afrofuturism is intersectional, and, at its heart, about representation and fighting erasure through a kind of cultural activism.

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