clay-cane-interview-1498171710
Twitter

Clay Cane Talks Surviving The Intersections Of Sexuality, God & Race In 'Live Through This'

Live Through This: Surviving The Intersections Of Sexuality, God, And Race explores the plight between the LGBTQ community and the church coupled and dealing with identity. 

Journalist, author and filmmaker Clay Cane explores the trials and tribulations that many LGBTQ people of color endure—especially after jumping life hurdles like race, sexuality and religion—in his new essay-style memoir, Live Through This: Surviving The Intersections Of Sexuality, God, And Race.  

The book is compiled of 27 separate essays dealing with Clay’s experience coming into his own as a young gay man of color growing up with limited resources in Washington state and Philadelphia. In efforts to highlight some of his most life altering vignettes, he divides the book up into one-word sections—Sexuality, Love, Race, God, Intersections—that target different facets of his existence and form part of his story.

But this isn’t just a story about Cane. Within the collection of stories, he interpolates all types of issues that affect the LGBT community and marginalized communities as a whole. For instance, there is an essay called “Plantation Life,” which targets undocumented immigrants.  “THE END OF THE MONTH IS A SIGNAL OF THE APOCALYPSE when you are living below the poverty line,” he writes. “While my mother did what she needed to do put food on the table, she also grabbed extra work wherever she could find it, no matter how difficult. My mother’s best friend Karla, who was a young Mexican woman with two kids, told her about picking fruit berry plantations deep in Washington State. “The work is hell, but it’s quick money, and it’s under the table. Girl, you’re white: I don’t think you can handle it!” Karla half-joked.”

Through a mixture of words crafting beautiful imagery, he targets the topical issue of immigrants and hard labor. As a biracial kid who grew up in poverty with his white mother, he vividly tells the stories of those he saw around him. Amid the real hard-knock-life tales, he manages to intertwine humor, nostalgia and sprinkles of pop culture. These diverse sets of stories with a handpicked selection of characters culminate from the time he was a child listening to Prince and Madonna to when he became a professional entertainment journalist and was spending face time with artists like Chaka Khan.

In his essay titled, "Divas Live: Beyonce, Mary And Patti," he remembers in 2007 when Khan told him during an interview, “I want to thank all my gay following, all my people, for staying with me and supporting me all these years. You all have been my most solid fan base and that’s the truth.” And while visibility for the LGBTQ people of color has heightened through out the years, struggle still persists. In 2015, Clay released Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church, a documentary that explores the plight between the black church and its long history with ingrained homophobia. If the documentary was a conversation starter, this new book is it’s colorful continuation. VIBE recently spoke with Cane about his new book, and the conversations it deliciously stirs even if the taste may not always be as sweet.

 

VIBE: Why did you decide to write the book separated by essays instead of a full memoir?
Clay Cane:
I didn’t want to do the straight cradle to the grave memoir, but in a way it is a memoir because I’m talking about my life. It’s more so about these warriors I met in my life who inspired me, and warriors don’t always live forever. Warriors are not super heroes; a lot of them have passed away, but they’ve had this impact on me and that’s what I really wanted to highlight. I felt like each essay had a take away of equality or social justice. Some are really uncomfortable and really terrifying, and some are really funny and over the top. But me as somebody who is black with a white mother, who is from Philly also Washington State, who grew up poor as hell, who also had a crazy religious experience, I have all these identities and intersections.

I feel like in many ways we all have that. So that’s why I broke it up that way, it made sense. It felt right, I also liked the idea of folks not having to read something straight through. You can read on the train, you can read it as you’re waiting for a meeting. It’s acceptable in that way, and my intention at heart was that these are the issues that I care about. I wanted to use the experiences of my life to talk about it.

What do you do to fight back that noise of shame and guilt that can creep in because of society’s stigma towards homosexuality?
The noise is never really gone. It’s there, but for me the noise is in different ways. When I was writing this book it was through our last insane presidential election, so as I’m writing it and I’m writing about undocumented workers for example on the essay “Plantation Life,” I’m hearing our current president talk about immigrants, undocumented workers and Mexicans. The noise was right there.

The folks in my book, we think about them in stats, numbers and voting blocks. I want to dehumanize those stats, numbers and voting blocks. So that’s the way of fighting back the noise, in acts of resistance. It’s fighting back in this current climate that were in, which is really scary. I think it’s always there, but you have to live through it. You have to go in the battlefield everyday, and that’s kind of what I did.

There’s one essay in there called “The Hip-Hop Closet” where I was going to a gay club in The Bronx at the warehouse, and they would not let trans-women in because they wanted the club to be more masculine. So I’m a young guy experiencing all these things, and I’m just in shock. What I’m seeing is that hurt people hurt other people. It’s not to say that it’s all their fault. But even if you find your people, you also grow up in these structural undertones of sexism, homophobia and the pressures of manhood and masculinity. For me the book is a wake up call, even to folks within my community. I’m not just calling out white people or straight people at all—it’s a wake up call to us as well.

You’ve been very vocal about the black church and the stigma it perpetuates against homosexuality and the LGBT community. What do you think the LGBT community can do fight back against this?
What we should do as a whole is that we have to say "no more." For the black church specifically... black LGBT folks in the church have this joke where it’s like, "Want to meet a whole bunch of gay folks? Just go to the black church." We have to say no more. No I’m not going to sit here in oppression and not say anything.We have to be vocal about that.

With the black church, for us it is very specific because for our churches we have the roots of Jim Crow, slavery and the civil rights movement. Our churches really have a historical freedom concept, so for a lot of us we don’t want to walk away from the church. We have to speak up, but we have hypocrites at the church, like the late Eddie Long who says terrible things, and administers anti-gay marches, but allegedly slept with men.

That’s disgusting, and we, as the gay folks in the church, build the church and support the church. The church couldn’t survive without LGBT folks. And white churches are crazy too, but I think for the people in our community our churches are vulnerable spaces too, because people are looking for salvation. They are looking for healing. To look for a place of healing and be shamed can really ruin somebody’s life. So that’s been a fight of mine for years.

What do you think that shame has done to the black gay community?
This is a theory of mine, but I think that part of the reason why the HIV/AIDS rates are so high among black gay men—because if you’re told the supreme being does not love you, where does your soul go from there? Why would you use a condom if you believe your life is invaluable? Why would you go on PrEp if you’re taught that you’re going to burn?

Self-hate is part of the reason why the HIV rate is so high, especially in the South where church culture is even bigger. So I say to people who are co-signing homophobia in the church, whether you're straight or gay, there is blood on your hands as well. It’s on you as well. There are people that are being hurt, and they are dying. It really is a crisis; it’s heartbreaking to me. I should say folks are doing something, but as far as the church aspect there is more that can be done.  

In the book you talked about how hip-hop influenced you as a young black man, but then when it came to your gay identity you felt shunned because of the homophobia and misogyny in the music. Do you feel more welcomed by hip-hop now?
That’s a good question. I think it’s complicated. Hip-hop artists know now that it’s not really profitable to be homophobic. Once upon a time it was profitable to be homophobic. That goes back to the church as well, the reason why churches are so homophobic is because it’s profitable, and now they are learning like Kim Burrell that this may not be bringing us what we want.

When it comes to hip-hop artists, people don’t play now. If you say something really homophobic and disgusting, that can really damage your career. So I don’t know if it’s sincere. I don’t know if it’s sincere, them staying quiet. But as far as feeling more welcome, there are some good folks there like Young M.A. and of course Frank Ocean, Taylor Bennett and iLoveMakonnen.

There is still work that needs to be done. I want to see a successful hip-hop artist be like an Ellen Degenres or like an Elton John in their career, and get love from hip-hop, but I think it’s complicated. Also, a lot of these guys are really young, and they need space to learn, evolve and grow. I love hip-hop, I really, really do; it’s just part of my roots. Black women have to deal with that, too. They love hip-hop but it’s deeply misogynist. It’s complicated, but someone like Common used to have homophobic lyrics; he turned around. You have to give some people time to evolve, and space to grow. But the irony of it is that for some people, being a homophobe makes you more masculine. Masculinity is very important in hip-hop. It’s a deep conversation about what’s profitable in hip-hop.

You also mentioned in your book the positive impact music has had on you as a gay man with artists like Prince and Madonna. Who do you think are those type of icons for this new generation?
Some artists have always acknowledged the importance of an LGBT following in their career. When you can’t hit the same notes; when you can’t get radio airplay, the LGBT community especially gay men— for women and women of color—they are there. So that’s really crucial and important. I think now when it comes to women artists, I think that every artist is performing at an LGBT pride event. I think with Beyonce you see that in “Formation,” she was really showing this kind of alternative vision of blackness with having Messy Mya in there and having Big Freedia.

If I would’ve had Beyoncé doing that, if she had been out when I was kid, that would have had a huge impact on me in the same way Prince, Madonna and Janet Jackson had an impact on me. These artists are out there, and they are being visible. And for a lot of them, they are being sincere. Lady Gaga is really sincere about it, you know she knows what she’s talking about. Even on Rupaul’s Drag Race, which is wild that she is on there giving tips to these drag artists. There are a lot of folks everyone from Marsha Ambrosius to Beyonce to Fantasia—although she’s gotten in some heat for some things here and there—she has a big following. Also, there’s Jennifer Hudson. I believe it’s sincere because they have LGBT people in their crews. But what Beyonce did with “Formation” was really cool, that she had this gender non-conforming context in there. That was really cool and powerful. She also had LGBT inspiration in Lemonade.

Lastly, you also write about the support your mother gave you as a child. What advice would you give young gay men whose mothers aren’t as supportive as your mother was to you when you were growing up?
That essay is called “The First Time I Was Called A Faggot,” and because of my mother kicking her boyfriend out of the house, saying ‘that’s my son.’ It really honored me for life. That was a crucial part in just my upbringing. It armored me for life. My mother has nothing more than an eighth grade education and she gave me some serious affirmation. So for young people especially young men who are going through these pressures of masculinity I would say that you have to live through it, you have to stay in it, and you have to look for your escapism. Like I did with music and with culture. You have to find ways to free yourself when you can, but you have to make it out on the other side.

And then ultimately you have to find your tribe, and that may take a long time. But you have to be in it, there is no other option, because when you’re young you don’t have much agency. When you’re young and a child you don’t have much of a voice. I hope any young person that reads through this, I hope it makes them feel a little more comfortable, and laugh a little bit more. You have to seek out little ways to find your tribe. But it’s difficult and it was hard, because when I was in it, no advice would have really helped me. Fortunately, now there are more outlets of social media, and stuff like that. But seriously, I’m putting out all the good energy out there to those going through it like I did.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Katie Spoleti

How Dinah Jane Shed Her Pop Coating And Bloomed Into An R&B Butterfly

With just 21 years around the sun, Dinah Jane has accomplished more than most. Her star initially rose alongside her pop sisters Fifth Harmony in her teens but in between chart-topping hits like "Work From Home" or "Worth It" was a longing for something more.

The "more" arrived this spring in the form of her debut collection, Dinah Jane 1, three tracks that play to her power vocals and confident nature. Leading single "Heard It Before" gives listeners the feels of the aughts with the help of producer extraordinaire, J. R. Rotem. Jane's accompanying tracks like "Pass Me By" and "Fix it" are just as alluring given her honey coated vocals. Instead of jumping from genre to genre, the songs are in the vein of Jane's R&B language, a move that transpired after a reflection into her musical identity.

The journey included experimentation with her first solo effort, "Bottled Up" with Ty Dolla $ign and Marc E. Bassey. The song was a bop by nature due to its similarity to her work in Fifth Harmony, which left Jane determined to find her sound.

"Being a solo artist now made it hard to define who I was because I was singing so many different styles before," Jane tells VIBE. "I had to take time for me to really cope and understand what it is that I really want to come out as my true identity. When I dropped my first record "Bottled Up" it was more me transitioning from Fifth Harmony to myself, I really love that I took some down time to understand who I was and who I want to be."

After a session with a producer in Atlanta, Jane arrived at the realization that the artists in her phone (Monica, Mariah Carey), was a sign for her to dig up her soulful roots. It's hard to deny Jane's vocals helped to build her former group and now, her own career.

"The most challenging part about making music has been me being honest," Jane said. "I have a tendency of holding back but keeping people's image safe. I was always afraid to portray them as something that people didn't know about and so my thing is like, 'Oh, I don't want them to think of my family like this or my friend who's not my friend right now.' I felt like if I wanted to create something authentic, real and raw I have to be honest not only to myself but to the public and stop putting a front that everything's good."

With a new attitude and direction, Jane is ready to fly above her worries. Check out our chat with the singer-songwriter below.

***

VIBE: When you were putting your three-pack together, what was going through your head? Was there a particular sound or moment you wanted to catch?

Dinah Jane: It was more like a certain direction. I felt like there was a part of me that had not been exposed yet as far as style. I really love that I took some down time to understand who I was and who I want to be. I started listening back to records where I was like, 'Wow, this is something that I wish was mine.' Some of Monica's records, Faith Evans or Mariah Carey, by the way, she followed me on Instagram [Laughs].

Congratulations!

She followed me on Instagram so I kind of got that verification that I should definitely do R&B. Those are artists that I've always been inspired by. I remember I went back to when I did my first audition on X Factor, and I said, "Who is that I want to sing and showcase my talent?" It was Beyoncé's "If I Were A Boy."

I felt like if this is a perfect time for me to throw in a bowl of my favorite artists that I've always looked up to and mesh it into who I am now. When I did "Fix It," I felt like it was so organic for me to go that direction and lean towards, so, when that happened the song became what it is now. I love the message behind it, I didn't realize it would empower so many people.

"Fix It" is actually my favorite out of the three. You just referenced your identity. Do you know what that is now? Or is that sonically or personally?

I think more so sonically, that's where I was lost the most because I had to put myself in a drawer for seven years. Now that I'm here, being a solo artist like I said, I was lost. Sonically I had to redefine who Dinah Jane was this whole time. I remember being in a session in Atlanta and this guy at the time asked me, "Who do you have on your phone? Let's look through it."

He's going through my phone and it's all R&B, not even that much pop, just singers from back then. And he's just like, "I was not expecting this, I thought you'd be the hype girl listening to all trap music." I have that personality trust me, but musically this is me. That clicked in my head that I was heading somewhere else and I needed to jump back to my old ways.

I love that. "Heard It All Before" has gotten so much love from your fans. I know you're not supposed to look at the comments but one that stood out was "I love this sound, leave pop alone." Do you ever feel trapped in one genre since you started within the pop bubble? 

It's funny that you say that. I feel like people or fans they kind of want to box you into who they think you are. I was telling someone, my fans they sometimes think they know me better than I know myself and it's kind of scary. There are times where I'm like, "No I don't have to be one way." It's crazy cause when I go to the studio I feel like I can be so versatile. I can do R&B easy but there are sometimes where I want to do those pop records, "Always Be My Baby" is that pop record to me and some people are good with it, some aren't but I think it just comes with your fanbase.

For me, they know my potential, honestly, they saw me on X Factor or even my YouTube days when I was 11 or 12 years old. They're like, "No Dinah, this is you, this is you, I want you to keep doing more of these." Eventually, I'll want to do some other things as well. But as of right now, it's truly R&B.

When it comes to creating you're always challenging yourself. What were some of the challenges that you've been facing this year while making music?

The most challenging part about making music has been me being honest. I have a tendency of holding back but keeping people's image safe. It's always been my challenge and I felt like if I wanted to create something authentic and real and raw I have to be honest to myself as well, not only to myself but to the public and stop putting a front that everything's good. My Mom always told me, "You've got to be real with yourself."

For sure. All three of these songs are super straightforward. What was it about keeping that energy while you were making these songs?

I was just trying to balance it. Like I said it was the most challenging part balancing that and I feel like with "Heard It All Before," it was the most fun, relatable song to write because my best friend was going through something. I was like "What?! He said what?!" We were literally having a full on group chat about it. When I did the music video, I wanted it to be about the situation that I was in with my girl. We were like, "You know what we've heard that all before." I just want to make this bundle relatable, sexy but then also swaggy and just not try so hard. So, when we put these three songs together, it felt so organic and true to who I was.

Even in the video, you exude so much confidence. What does confidence mean to you?

I think it's self-love. When you truly love yourself, you can see it in your face. You can see it in the glow and the energy you're giving to people. I wasn't always this confident, I would definitely say I was never this confident but, thanks to my mom, she always expressed that to me.

She said, "Dinah, I know you don't feel that beautiful today but you need to pick on the little things that matter. What's your favorite feature? Your lips. What's your favorite outfit you got going on? Pay attention to your best qualities other than that one negative thing you're picking on."

The confidence was never there but when you have people that are around you always encouraging you to love yourself and realizing your truth and worth, that's when the confidence kicks in. It's not something that's overnight, it takes time. It took years for me to realize that. Like I said, you have to surround yourself by honest, real people who can definitely make you see what you're not seeing.

Facts. Have you become that vessel for your friends as well? Like passing all of that on. Your mom passed it to you, you pass it to your friends, are you that person?

Yeah, it's like a telephone game. I have a younger sister who's 17 and she's always been insecure about her weight or her breakouts and I'm like, "You're a teenager, you're supposed to go through that phase. If I went through that you've got to go through it too."

In a way, I have to guide her through the stages. I was just talking to her last night and she's telling me about her friends and how she feels like she doesn't fit in, or certain cousins where she feels like she has to be a certain way. I was like, "Don't be a certain way, the way you carry yourself will vibrate and you will be so much more vibrant, it'll grasp more onto you. Just be your true self, you don't have to be anything else. I know who you are and you know who you are."

I feel like kind of being that older sister I feel like her mom sometimes. So I always feel this responsibility that she always feels 100.

What are some other plans you have for yourself, with your music for the year?

This is the first bundle. People wanted it to be named an EP but I was like, "Nah. It cannot be an EP because an EP is at least five to seven songs top."

This bundle is like a mini-project, it's the anticipation for the actual album. So, I want you to keep getting the feel of who I am, keep giving you these sneak peeks and then boom, hit you with the album. That's in the works, we'll see what happens. That's what we say now but sometimes things change, so don't get too excited.

Have you've been working with anybody? Any featured artists or any producers who are really understanding of who you are as an artist?

As far as features, I have one and then I'm working on another one.

So you can't say who they are?

I can't say. As far as producers and writers, J.R. Rotem is literally my dog. We walked into the studio and all of his plaques are all over the wall, plastered everywhere and we were like, "We get it, you're a legend. You're going to make me a legend," is what I felt in that room. I feel this great connection with him where we can be friends but also have that chemistry musically where he can connect with me instantly.

I love how we did  "Fix It," he brought out all of the live instruments and he made it feel like you were actually on stage, he made it feel bigger than what it was. So, I give him so many props for that because I've never felt that way in a session where I felt like I was onstage and it was just me by myself, no one else, well of course with a whole a** band, but I just felt the topic and the song, the musicality behind it is what meshed so well because of him. He is my dog for sure and my therapist because if it weren't for him this song would have not been made.

Stream Dinah Jane 1 below.

Continue Reading
Beyonce, Jay-Z and Blue Ivy Carter attends the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City.
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS

An Ode To Jay-Z, The Ultimate Rap Dad

Rap, throughout its history, has always referenced parenthood in some form. Most often, it was to extol single mothers for their goodness while deadbeat fathers were berated and called out for going ghost. In recent years, as the social media landscape has blown open the avenues of communication, famous rap dads, in particular, have become increasingly transparent about their lives as family men. Where years ago there seemed to be endless bars mourning the demise of the father, artists are now using their platform to balance the scales. They’re showing themselves to be present and intentional.

Few albums make me think more about the concept of parenthood, and legacy, than Jay-Z’s 13th studio album, 4:44. It’s a stark and blistering work of memoir, heavy on confession and self-examination. When 4:44 finally dropped, I, like many others, was filled with wonder. How was it that Jay had managed to so fluidly deconstruct everything I’d been wrestling with for the last few years? Though the specifics of our experiences differed greatly, the central ideas dissected on 4:44, especially those concerning fatherhood and family life, had been swimming around my brain for some time.

***

Hip-hop saved my life. And it was fatherhood that set it on fire. This bears explaining.

What hip-hop has done for me, is what it has done for millions of fatherless and heart-wounded kids—it provided, at the very least, the shading of a better life. If it wasn’t for hip-hop, and the value I ascribed to it, it would be impossible to know just how far I’d have settled into the more lamentable aspects of my environment. Forasmuch of a goon as I was growing up, something always kept me from becoming too emotionally invested in harsh crime. I dabbled in mischief like an amateur chef knowing he would only go so far. I saw in hip-hop, in the art of it, something worth pursuing with tenacity; something like a healthy distraction. So I committed to finding my lane.

Though there were brief stints dedicated to developing my modest graffiti skills and footwork, it was the words that flowed and came without struggle. The school cyphers sharpened my wits and compelled me to feed my vocabulary daily. Only my wordplay could save me from getting ripped to shreds in a lunchroom battle. I read books and scoured the dictionary for ammunition, I listened to stand-up comics who fearlessly engaged the crowd and proved quick on the draw. It seemed fruitless to know a billion words if I couldn’t convert them into brutal attacks. I had to break the competition down and render them defenseless, stammering for a rebuttal. There could be no confusion as to my superiority. So instead of joining the stickup kids or depositing all of my energy into intramural sports, I put my soul and mind into the task of taking down all manner of wack MCs. That’s why I say that hip-hop saved me.

But fatherhood was its own saving grace. It showed me that the world did not revolve, nor would it ever revolve, around my passions. Fatherhood put an extra battery behind my back as a creative, sure. But it’s more about being a consistent presence at home than chasing any dream.

***

As an artist and writer, I cannot so much as think about fatherhood without considering some of the material that deals with feelings comparable to those I felt after I became a father. Songs that contextualize very specific emotions over the drums.

In his 2012 track “Glory,” Jay-Z, someone who had long been vocal about his strained relationship with his father, reflects on the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy, his first child with wife Beyoncé. Produced by the Neptunes, “Glory” was released on January 9, just two days after Blue was born. From start to finish, it carries a sort of gleeful melancholy that resonates on multiple levels. While it is, in essence, a comment on the exuberant joy attached with welcoming a child, “Glory” is also a note on death and mourning.

Before Blue came along and flipped the script, Beyoncé had suffered a miscarriage. The pain the couple experienced left them fearful of not being able to conceive. The dual purpose of “Glory” is made clear from the outset, and with blazing transparency. “False alarms and false starts,” offers Jay, laying the groundwork for what immediately follows: “All made better by the sound of your heart.” The second half of the couplet establishes what was, as we come to learn, the most pivotal moment in the rap mogul’s life up until then. The moment where all is made right, where the sting of loss is eclipsed by the possibility of new birth. Jay continues in this mode, shining light on the redeeming gift that is Blue and, also, how the child is a composite of her mother and father, yet more still.

The opening bars of the following verse are equally striking as Jay, addressing Blue, touches on the death of his father from liver failure. Jay is signaling here, leading us somewhere but with the intent to shift gears. Instead of dwelling on his father’s shortcomings like one might expect him to, Jay breaks left, resolving that deep down his father was a good man. What begins as an indictment of a cheat who walked out on his obligations, ends with a declaration of forgiveness and generosity. But Jay soon directs the focus back to his blessing and how hard it is not to spoil her rotten as she is the child of his destiny. It becomes apparent that this is a man at his most self-actualized. A few more welcome digressions and “Glory” closes the same way that it begins, with the final line of the hook: “My greatest creation was you.” This points to something that I, too, came to know as fact. That no matter what I do, and regardless of what I might attain—power, wealth, the esteem of my peers—nothing is quite comparable to the happiness and the terror that comes with siring a child. “Glory” succeeds as it casts aside any traces of bluster and bravado, making room for Jay to unearth lessons that were hard-won yet central to his maturation. And what is the purpose of making art if not to bust open your soul and watch it spill over? Shout out to the rap dads raising babies and doing the work to shift the narrative.

Juan Vidal is a writer, critic, and author of Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture That Shaped a Generation.

Continue Reading
Mike Coppola

The Cast Of 'SHAFT' Talk Family Traditions, Power And The Film's Legacy

Back in 1971, Richard Roundtree became the face of the legendary crime/blaxploitation film SHAFT. His influence in the role paved the way for a new generation of black detectives filled with a gluttonous amount of swag, clever one-liners, and action-packed scenes. Samuel L. Jackson followed suit in the franchise’s 2000 installment as he took over the streets of Uptown Manhattan and Harlem filling in for Roundtree’s original character.

Fast forward to 2019, and SHAFT’s legacy has risen to higher heights, incorporating Roundtree and Jackson together with an extension of their detective prowess. Director Tim Story created a familial driven movie centered around three different generations of SHAFT men. Roundtree plays the grandfather; Jackson plays the dad—and Jessie T. Usher plays the son. All three embark on a mission that’s laced with dirty politics, Islamophobia, and highflying action in efforts to solve a seemingly homicidal death.

The dynamics between all three are hilarious and dotted with lessons learned from past paternal influences. On a recent sunny Friday afternoon at Harlem's Red Rooster, the trio shared some of the traditions and virtues the paternal figures in real life have taught them. Most of the influence passed down to them was centered on working hard.

“People say to me, ‘Why do you work so much?’” Jackson said. “Well, all the grown people went to work every day when I got up. I figured that’s what we’re supposed to be doing—get up, pay a bill, and take care of everything that’s supposed to be taken care of.”

“For my family, it was cleanliness and masculinity,” Usher added. “The guys in my family were always well put together, very responsible especially my dad.”

In spite of the SHAFT men's power, the film's story wouldn’t be what it is without Regina Hall and Alexandra Shipp’s characters. They both play strong women caught in the middle of the mayhem created by the men they care about. Both are conscious of the power they exhibit as black women off and on screen, yet are aware of the dichotomy of how that strength is perceived in the world.

“It’s very interesting because I think a lot of times as powerful black women we are seen as angry black women,” Shipp says. “So it’s hard to have that voice and that opinion because a lot of times when we voice it; it becomes a negative rather than a positive. In order to hold that power, it has to be poised. It has to be with grace, I think there is strength in a strong but graceful black woman.”

“People have an idea of what strength is and how you do it and sometimes it’s the subtleties,” Regina adds. “Sometimes our influence is so powerful and it doesn’t always have to be loud I think a lot of times how we navigate is with conviction and patience.”

VIBE chatted with the cast of SHAFT about holding power, their red flags when it comes to dating, and why the SHAFT legacy continues to live on. Watch the interviews below.

Continue Reading

Top Stories