WCW-Che Grayson: Storyteller

Che Grayson, if you haven’t heard her name, You will. 

I first met Che at a Geek Girl Brunch event years ago. I was struck by knowledge of filmmaking and I found we had a lot in common. We both had created our own comic book. She, like me, has a love for superheroes, which inspired her to create and self-publish her own comic book series, Rigamo, about a young Black girl who discovers that her tears bring people back to life. Che is fascinated with the power that fictional characters, super heroes even, wield and how they inspire us.

TbsDeFqB_400x400.jpg

I was excited that Che gave me the opportunity to speak with her as she juggled her crazy schedule. When we spoke she was preparing for her thesis. Busy Lady!

Here is the interview!

O.C.O:  Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that film making was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?

C.G:  I started making films in college. So, I never really saw it as a hobby it felt more like a calling the moment I finished my first script. It's why I went to film school because I felt it was so much more than just a passion or hobby of mine but it was a destiny I had to work toward. The hardest part has been making a living of it after film school. I'm still working on that part but I get closer every day and with every project that I finish. 

O.C.O:  Why do you consider yourself a “nerd activist"? 

C.G:  I thought of the term as a way to combine my greatest passions: fandoms and social justice. I feel like they're not mutually exclusive and a some of the greatest stories (i.e. X-men, Black Panther and Steven Universe) have an amazing way of highlighting the experiences of marginalized communities and those who have felt "othered." All of these heroes and fictional character believe in justice so in a way a nerd or geek is also someone aligned with that same belief in justice and equality (at least the compassionate ones) 

O.C.O:  Why is Dumbledore your favorite wizard?

C.G:  I think Dumbledore is one of the most thoughtfully complex characters in children's literature. He galvanized an entire generation of witches and wizards and ultimately led to the defeat of one of the most nefarious characters in history. And it's not just what he does that I love and respect so much, it's what he says. J.K. Rowling gave him some of the dopest lines in seven books. Constantly dropping knowledge and truth when Harry needed it most and I honestly needed it too as a reader. Honestly what's not to love about Dumbledore? 

 Photo credit:  Black Nerd Problems

Photo credit: Black Nerd Problems

 CLUELESS X HOGWARTS COSPLAY  Photo credit:  cheinwonderland

CLUELESS X HOGWARTS COSPLAY

Photo credit: cheinwonderland

O.C.O:  What’s harder: Getting started or being able to keep going?

C.G:  I love getting started on things. I have new ideas in my mind all the time, when I'm walking the dog or when I'm trying to sleep. But by far, the hardest thing to do is to keep going. Sometimes finishing something can seem nearly impossible and the only way to keep going is just to keep going. It sounds weird but it's true. As a storyteller I've realized that the only way for me to be able to call myself such is if I keep writing and directing and telling stories. But I have to keep telling myself, I can't really call myself a writer if all my stories are stuck in my head and not on the page and that's one of the things that keeps me going.

O.C.O:  When inspiration is waning, when do you feel creatively sapped, what do you do, how do you overcome it?

C.G: When things get hard I always search for inspiration, whether it's making a playlist on Spotify, a mood board on Pinterest or just having a writing session with a friend to keep me going. I also just take my writing one day at a time. I make myself write two pages a day even when it's 10 at night and everyone is sleeping. That's actually the best time for me to get writing done. And sometimes when I'm working on a film I just need to watch a good more or when I'm writing my novel I just need to pick up a good book to remind me that what I'm striving for is possible.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 1.31.05 AM.png

O.C.O: Tell us about your comic: Rigamo

C.G:  Rigamo was my first comic, about a young girl who realizes that she has the power to bring people back to life but discovers that gift comes with a terrible price. Since then I've written for a couple anthology series and am making moves to some create-owned comic ideas I have off the ground. The most important project right now is called Magic Hour, it's an anthology television series that similar to the Twilight Zone but Black and queer. Wish me luck!

12115874_1645963985674289_154212508460285473_n.jpg

O.C.O: What advice would you give aspiring artists who want to use their platform as a way to resist and give back during these weird times?

C.G:  I think is this digital age it's more important than ever to stand up for yourself and for others who are on the right side of history. Art can be a cathartic and empowering way to tackle real-life issues on a personal, national and even global scale. If you feel you have a story to tell, tell it. Make a Kickstarter, start a blog, get the word out. There is an audience for you who is hungry for the stories you're bursting to tell. 

 Photo credit: NYU TISCH

Photo credit: NYU TISCH

O.C.O:What’s your superpower or spirit animal?

C.G:  For my super power I would want to be just like Jean Grey she is both the strongest and most compassionate of superheroes and I've always been fascinated by the true power of the mind. 

Ditto on Jean Grey for me as well! Follow Che on InstagramTwitter to get the latest updates on Magic Hour and read her comic story on Bitch Planet Triple Feature #2!

xo

Kos

WCW: JAMILA ROWSER-WRITER

You guys may have seen me post about Geek Girl Brunch, on my social media pages. I am so grateful to have found the Geek Girl Brunch Community. I have met so many amazing women through it and wonderful friends.

I had the opportunity last week to talk to co-founder Jamila Rowser.  Jamila is bomb! She has written for NYLON Magazine, MTV, Mass Appeal and Critical Chips 2 (which was nominated for the 2018 Angouleme Alternative Comics Award).  In addition to Wash Day and Geek Girl Brunch, she also founded Straight Outta Gotham, a project that highlights connections between hip-hop and geek culture.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 6.22.43 PM.png

Back to her new project Wash Day!  Wash Day is a slice-of-life comic that pays tribute to the beauty and endurance of Black women and their hair. The 27-page story was written by Jamila Rowser and illustrated by Robyn Smith, with script edits by J.A. Micheline. It follows Kimana, a 26-year-old woman living in the Bronx, as she cares for her long, thick hair.

As Kim goes through her Sunday morning rituals, readers experience the highs and lows of her day—fresh coffee, rising rent, girl talk and catcalls.

Screen-Shot-2018-04-06-at-10.08.59-AM.png

Jamila, inspired by her own wash day ritual and desire to read more comics by and for women of color, decided to follow the words of the great Toni Morrison, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it

Robyn decided to peruse comics so she could tell stories that highlight the personal and societal aspects of Black womanhood. It is those very facets that she saw in Wash Day and drew her to the project, “There’s something radical about a story of a Black woman taking time for herself and taking care of herself in ways extremely specific to Blackness.”

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 6.44.43 PM.png

Wash Day will be self-published with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Which runs from April 3rd - May 4th.  Hyped to see Washday exceed its Kickstarter goal of $5k to $10k! #blackgirlmagic at its finest!

 A physical copy of the comic book,  Wash Day

A physical copy of the comic book, Wash Day

Check out my q&a with Jamila below!

O.C.O: What brought you to comics?

J.R: I’ve always enjoyed anime, video games and sci-fi and fantasy, so comics was inevitable for me. I also had a late uncle named Barry who was a huge comic book fan and was a big inspiration to me as well. He took me to my first comic con when I was young.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 6.23.17 PM.png

O.C.O:  What was the inspiration behind “Wash Day”? and Why was it important to you to highlight the day in the life of Kimana?

J.R: I love josei manga and I wanted to create a Black josei comic basically. A comic by and for Black women. There’s a quote Robyn Smith, the artist of Wash Day, said that I think describes up it beautifully, “There’s something radical about a story of a Black woman taking time for herself and taking care of herself in ways extremely specific to Blackness.” 

 Preview pages, illustration by  Robyn Smith

Preview pages, illustration by Robyn Smith

O.C.O:  How did you and Robyn link up?

J.R:  I found Robyn on Twitter! Someone had retweeted her art and I was drawn to it. I look at more of her work and I loved her style and read her moving comic The Saddest Angriest Black Girl in Town and reached out to about working on Wash Day. She was excited to be a part of the project and loves drawing hair, which is great because there’s a lot of it in this comic. She’s been an absolute pleasure to work with.

 With a pledge of $30 or more, readers will receive a  Wash Day  sticker sheet featuring art by Robyn Smith. 

With a pledge of $30 or more, readers will receive a Wash Day sticker sheet featuring art by Robyn Smith. 

 Preview pages, illustration by  Robyn Smith

Preview pages, illustration by Robyn Smith

O.C.O:  Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

J.R:  Other than my Uncle Barry, I would say my friends and music are my biggest influencers. Specifically, artists like Frank Ocean, Solange, SZA and Tyler the Creator, especially their recent projects. Missy Elliot, Erykah Badu and Outkast are also big inspirations to me as well. I think they are all highly creative people whose art is often clever and intellectual, but also deeply relatable and accessible to many.

 Preview pages, illustration by  Robyn Smith

Preview pages, illustration by Robyn Smith

O.C.O:  What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

J.R:  That I get to work on something that I care about. It sounds simple, but it’s truly fulfilling to be able to devote time and energy into a project you’re passionate about.

O.C.O:  If a young girl is interested in creating comics, what’s the best advice you can offer her?

J.R:  Create what you want to exist in the world.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 6.21.55 PM.png

O.C.O: What’s on your horizon? Any current/future projects and plans/dreams you can share with us?

J.R: I am working on a mini comic that I’m not ready to announce yet. I hope to release it late summer/early fall. I’m pretty excited about it! I can say that it is inspired by an iconic song.

O.C.O:  What advice would you give to aspiring artists wanting to use their art to address social issues? 

J.R:  Try to let go of the pressure to be the representative of your people. It’s often a burden I feel as one of the few Black women who works in a predominantly white space (I’m talking about my 9-5 job), but I actively try to let it go and remind myself that my experience is mines alone and I can’t and shouldn’t have to represent my race or sex. The same goes for stories, of course there are experiences we all share, but don’t get hung up on trying to include everyone’s experience.

Support Wash Day y'all: www.washdaycomic.com the kickstarter campaign runs through May 4th.

You can follow Jamila on Instagram and Twitter.

Xo

Kos

The Shape of Water: A modern yet magical tale

Guillermo del Toro (best known for Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim)  shines as a storyteller in the movie, The Shape of Water. The story, set in the 60s, during a time when the USA was in the mist of the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War era, a mute cleaning lady, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) befriends and falls in love with an amphibian, played by, imprisoned in a government building where Elisa is employed. She is one of several women who clean the government facility. When she learns of the horrific experiments and treatment that her new friend is undergoing, and will undergo, she realizes that she must risk everything to help him escape.  

It’s definitely a sci-fi take on Beauty and the Beast and The Creature of the Black Lagoon. The movie also shows how Elisa struggles to make her voice heard as she considers herself somewhat of a “beast” as well. The creature at first is frightening; some may say grotesque. Then, as the bond between him and Elisa blossoms that initial reaction is forgotten (not to spoil the movie but trust me) you begin to soften up to the creature.

The-Shape-of-Water.jpg
guillermo-del-toros-the-shape-of-water-is-a-moving-monster-love-story--and-will-definitely-get-oscar-attention.jpg.png

Del Toro pushes the phrase “Love has no bounds” by showcasing how jarring and endearing the bond that develops between Elisa and Amphibious Man. The manner in which they communicate with each other was beautiful to watch.  Neither speaks, they just depend on their physicality to communicate many emotions: love, hope, fear, anger, loneliness and forgiveness.  They were able to push through impossible odds and making the effort to show they care. Their story shows we are more than capable of doing that as well, with all our technology and gadgets.  The bond that forms between Elisa and the creature is jarring and endearing. Their relationship may push bounds for some, but also may strengthen what you define as love.

Sally Hawkins’ performance, is charming and graceful. The joy she expresses is contagious! Doug Jones as Amphibious man is tender and believable.

Screen-Shot-2017-11-10-at-8.01.38-AM.png

The Shape of Water is truly a wonderful movie it combined a lot of my favorites genres: sci-fi, period films, and fairy tales.  Del Toro fans will not be disappointed with his story, his visual styling, his attention to colors, set design, costumes, and of course his monster. The soundtrack is memorable with wonderful period tune choices.  

Shape-of-Water-first-reviews-848537.jpg

I loved this movie! I think you get that?! Go see it!

Happy Holidays!

Kos

Giving the gift of kindness

So, this was initially going to be a gift post, but I have decided against it. I rather use my platform to highlight an issue that is very important to me “BULLYING” As a child, I was teased and bullied. The experience has had an effect on me. I can not imagine what it must be like to be bullied in this age of technology. A component that children and adults are faced with now, which brings to mind recent accounts of bullying resulting in the suicides of 10-year-old Ashawnty Davis and 13-year-old Rosalie Avila.

 Ashawnty Davis

Ashawnty Davis

 Rosalie Avila

Rosalie Avila

In the past, I have posted content on social media thinking I was making a clever comeback to bullies who have posted toxic comments about me. In reflection, I realize that this response was bullying too, replying out of anger for my appearance being racially mocked. Two wrongs don’t make a right and I learned this year it’s truly best to ignore and walk away.

Bullies hurt people because they are hurt.  

As a way to kick off the New Year, I am working with and supporting two companies this holiday season:

Flexin' In My Complexion

Ten year old Kheris Rogers (yes ten years old) created Flexin’ In My Complexion, a tee shirt line which inspires African Americans to be confident and comfortable in their skin. Kheris was motivated by the fact she has long been bullied for her skin tone.  In elementary school, for example, white students and teachers discriminated against Kheris for her dark skin.  The racist taunting got so bad that her mom decided to transfer her to a different school — but the bullying still occurred. This time, from black students, who suggested Kheris’ darker skin shade made her less beautiful. Since launching  “Flexin In My Complexion” a few months ago Kheris has received praise from Alicia Keyes and featured her collection in two New York Fashion Week shows in September, making her the youngest designer ever!

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 2.10.01 PM.png
DJdEbKPXcAcjtP7.jpg

Kheris says “Going through that inspired me to begin Flexin’ In My Complexion because black comes in so many shades and they all are beautiful. What I want people to learn from my brand is that beauty has nothing to do with what is on the outside. What is on the inside is what counts.”

 QUEEN!

QUEEN!

And then there is Ditch The Label

Ditch the Label is a digital charity, which means that most of their support is provided online through their website and partnerships with games and social networks. They have determined that 50 percent report having been bullied, 50 percent of those who had been bullied report being bullied about their appearance, 24 percent of those bullied said they had their private information shared online. Their mission statement:

“Each week, thousands of young people aged 12-25 benefit from our digital online support programs through our website and partnerships with online games and social networks. We operate the largest bullying support community in the world and have thousands of support guides and resources freely available.”

Since Ditch the Label uses social media as a way to combat cyber bullying, they have amassed several videos that speak to why bullying and how to respond to the bully. 

I am extremely grateful to see people/organizations doing the work through art and social media to help people in pain. I have included the go fund pages for the burials of Rosalie Avila https://www.gofundme.com/4sgnu88 and Ashanty David https://www.gofundme.com/ashawntys-way-out-no-bullying

I plan to continue to speak against bullying in 2018; and to encourage those individuals and organizations who have made it their mission to rid our society of this abomination. Please join me. 

xo

Kos