By Sharee Silerio
At the barbershop. In the hair salon. Family gatherings. Game night. Dinner after a movie. What do all of these places and activities have in common?
People getting together.
When people normally gather, what do they do? Besides eating, they talk. Whether it’s about sports, music, number 45’s latest fiasco or another tragic case of police violence, it’s difficult not to talk about things when you’re around people you know and trust.
Conversations feed the heart, soul and mind, connecting people from all walks of life, experiences and beliefs.
Add themes such as what it means to be black or a person of color; race, gender, relationships and current black news, and you will have a discussion that will challenge everything you know and think you know.
The scripted series “Conversating While Black”, highlights these one-of-a-kind life moments. Produced by Brooklyn Director Rahwa Asmerom and her production company blackSTORY films, the series stars MaameYaa Boafo (An African City), Andrea Lewis (Black Actress), Skyler James, Damien Norfleet, and DeShawn White.
“The inspiration was mainly to share dialogue-driven mini-stories about unconventional topics we often talk about but which we do not get to see explored on-screen,” Asmerom told Curly Nikki.
Asmerom wrote the two-to-three-minute episodes in collaboration with filmmaker Essence Ward, who both viewed it as a way to hone their writing and film and television production skills in between projects.
CWB is a 10-episode web series that celebrates the “gift of a good conversation” featuring five “thoughtful, curious black folk” – three women and two men.
“Doing most anything while black calls for caution and comedy,” Ward said on the series’ website. “These characters love black culture and have a steady stream of questions, observations, and jokes about the way we live now.”
Andrea Lewis, who plays feisty, spicy Anya in the series, was asked by Asmerom to be a part of the project, as she is a fan of Lewis’ web series and content online. Lewis liked the message in the script including its artistic elements, and thought that Anya was an interesting character.
|Screenshot from web series “Conversating While Black”|
“She’s one of those people who doesn’t take something at face value. If you’re going to say something to her, you’re going to have to back it up with facts, which is kind of how I am in real life,” she said.
Lewis also explained why audiences should tune in to the series.
“It is a good representation of black millennials right now. It is truly a conversation that black people are concerned with. It’s a little bit of news, a little bit of popular media, but it’s also for an educated group of people; which black millennials, for the most part, are very educated.”
Although most will see “Conversating” and think: is this even a word? Asmerom and Ward see it as an opportunity to spark dialogue.
“We chose the name ‘Conversating While Black’ because we wanted to clearly convey that this was a series about conversations,” Asmerom explained. “Conversating is a controversial word. We have a lot of viewers who like to correct us and assert that the correct word is conversing. The point of using a word like conversating, which is in fact a word, is that it demonstrates how influential black vernacular is to American English.”
Topics in the show include “non-traditional” black names, the one million plus African-American men who are missing, haters and more.
“Because they are so near and dear to my heart, I love the topics of conversation and how they evoke ironic, serious, and funny responses from our characters,” Asmerom said. “I especially love the conversations about baby daddies and haters.”
The show is a great fit for thoughtful, curious viewers who appreciate rich dialogue, unconventional perspectives and stories without clichés.
BlackSTORY films was started in 2013 as an individual project, and since then, Asmerom has produced a short film titled “Didn’t I Ask For Tea?” with the feature length film “Maya vs. Settling” and an episodic television series in development.
“The inspiration for blackSTORY films came from my love of black culture and my yearning to see more authentic representations of black life on screen,” Asmerom said. “The conversation about black under-representation in the media is often focused on the statistics, and on having more films and shows feature black actors rather than on the narratives and characters being reflective and true to the range and nuances in our culture. For me, it’s not about just having more content which features actors that happen to have brown skin but narratives that really lend themselves to our variety of views, dialectics, and experiences.”
Watch the entire series on Blavity now.
Let us know what you think of the series.