• FINALLY...A Long Time Coming! Genesis is HERE! The Introduction...


    Is it a novel? Is it a screenplay? It's neither. It's both. It's a non issue because it's my story and I'm telling it the way I want to tell it. What we're talking about, really, are rules. Rules for writing. Rules for identity. Rules for fantasy. But isn’t restriction…rules… the very opposite of fantasy? I think that's how we found ourselves in this mess in the first place: the mess of having so few Black Superheroes to celebrate. We have placed rules on fantasy and imagination. It is well beyond time to do things differently ... fearlessly.

    Growing up, I wanted to be Superman. Every weekend, I would turn on ABC Saturday morning cartoons at 8:30am to watch The Super Friends. In 1978, I accepted Christopher Reeves as the 'Man of Steel' and completely believed a man could fly as proclaimed in the movie trailer for Superman: The Movie. So for Halloween, 1979, it was no huge leap that I would be my favorite character and superhero. My mom bought me the Superman Under Roos. She allowed me to wear them over my blue body suit. You know…the awful ones that snapped in the crotch. She let me wear my ‘fourth Sunday’ white tights with white Keds. She safety pinned a reddish pink towel to my shirt at the shoulders for a cape. I knew better than to jump off anything because the towel was too short to catch air but I looked the part and I was excited.

    Red Hill Elementary School hosted the North Garden Halloween carnival every year. This night-time event was a great way to dress up and participate in Halloween games including a cake walk, a haunted house in the cafeteria created by the fifth graders and classroom to classroom "trick or treating". The highlight of the carnival was the Costume Parade! All of the kids were instructed to get in line and march in a parade to show off their imaginative costumes. I was so ready to march my lil Super behind in the parade with my hands on my non existing hips and my cape blowing in the wind. Standing in line with the other fourth graders, I overheard little white boys laughing at my costume. One eventually became so bold as to say, "You can't be Superman! You don't look right!" I looked down at my costume trying to figure out what part of it didn't look right. I looked just like Superman! I got a cape! Was my cape too short? Was the body suit was the wrong color blue? Dang it! Did my white tights and Keds messed up the look?!

    No.

    It was me. I was the wrong part of my costume. I’m standing there in my blue jumpsuit and a red towel, listening to this group of white boys in my fourth grade class, who were already so sure in their white and male privilege, they thought it fine to tell me I could not be the superhero I loved the most. Worse than the white boys laughing and pointing at my costume, the teachers standing nearby did nothing to correct them. Instead, I was the one they told, by a Black teacher ironically, "perhaps you should have chosen something else" in the same way many of our children were told "perhaps college isn't right for you" or "no, it's highly unlikely you'll become a doctor or a lawyer or President of the United States." And still, worse than both the laughing boys and the condescending teachers was the fact that I believed it to be true. I believed I chose wrong for wanting to be Superman.

    In 2006, I finally crafted the story I wanted to tell. It was the story I wanted to write and share with children who loved superheroes but never saw themselves depicted in the superheroes on television or in film. By 2006, the two Black Superheroes to have their own tv series or feature film where Spawn and Blade, respectively. Thinking back to the Red Hill Elementary Halloween Carnival, I found it difficult to believe parents would want their children to be the devil’s spawn or a murderous vampire. This would be my chance to create characters who would be Superman to children now and down the road. So I wrote the story I wanted to tell.

    Over the years, the story changed. When I first penned the "Genesis" screenplay in 2006, I firmly believed in the possibility of all things, including Black Superheroes on the big screen. It seemed like it was time. Regular white superheroes were making a comeback, so why not? I created characters I hoped children, in general, black children in particular, would look at as examples of their own greatness. But in 2008, a new and unexpected thing happened. An actual Black Man standing as tall and as proud as Superman himself, came into our lives and he stood for ALL of us. He stood for the American Way.

    Oh wait...uh oh.

    Barack Hussain Obama became a man of the people, for the people, voted in by the people and the people were happy. Kinda. Sorta. The we, the people, should have been so much more united because WE had done this progressive and heroic thing. WE elected a Black Man into the highest office in ALL the land...but we were real quick to see how we did not live in a…what did they call it? A Post Racial America? Who made that up? America, was still an 'us vs. them' nation and the Black Superman was worst than Kryptonite. How would my superheroes fit in this world? Are "we" the heroes? Are "we" the villains? The US was failing at being "us".

    For ten years, I held my characters close and tight. I was protecting them from a world that called my President a monkey, a terrorist and a foreigner. And then came Trayvon. And Mike Brown. And Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. And all the names with and without the hashtags and marches to lament their murders. No. My heroes were too hopeful for this world…too naive. The story I wanted to tell in 2006 no longer existed because in 2016 "we" were the villains, no matter who wrote the story. It was exhausting. It was infuriating. I was angry and felt like being the villain. And so I continued to write...writing my feelings and giving them to my heroes. I would let them decide: are they heroes who combat evil-doers or would they be the nightmare America expected them to be? Would they be the force to wake up this nation? The fun has been in letting them show themselves to me and introduce themselves to me in this new world There are no rules in this world.  None..

    Is it a novel? Is it a screenplay?

    It's storytelling.

    -TDV
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