The full BrownTown diaspora unites to take on Black and Brown representation in media in the follow-up to the podcast’s inaugural episode. “Beezy” of BrownTown joins us to incorporate a Pakistani perspective and experience into the discussion on Black Panther, Coco, and Hasan Minaj to name a few. Where shallow “diversity” efforts fall short, BrownTown unpacks the nuances of the more representative media landscape and how to hold creators and audiences accountable. Originally recorded January 4, 2019.
“Beezy” is a first-generation Pakistani who grew up on the North side of Chicago near Foster and Damen. He currently works in financial services at an asset management firm, essentially “playing in excel all day.” He once lived with both Caullen and David at an apartment then-newly formed as “BrownTown.” The rest is history…
Since the first ever Bourbon ’n BrownTown recording on the same topic in April 2017, we have witnessed new works in TV, film, music, literature, and other art forms that present an unapologetic, nuanced, multidimensional look at Black and Brown life in America and abroad. BrownTown understands a conversation of this sort can go many ways, incorporating many worldviews. For this episode, they primarily use their personal experiences as Black, Mexican, and Pakistani men to analyze the content and impact of more mainstream projects and media events over the past year. As buzzwords “diversity”, “representation,” and “inclusion” are employed more than ever in media, business, and politics (no exception here), BrownTown dissects where these themes operate, when they can be problematic, and, most importantly, how they can be liberatory in implementation to not only better represent our current social world but work toward towards a more equitable future.
BrownTown starts by welcoming and getting audiences acquainted with the little-known third member Beezy. Right off the bat, they get into comparing sending petty work emails to communicating with internet trolls and the difference between racism and racial prejudice amongst marginalized peoples. As Beezy opens up about his upbringing, it helps us understand his perspective regarding pop culture and interactions with diverse groups of people as a young adult. Piggybacking off of a conversation on Black Panther in the Hip Hop 2.0 episode, the gang dives into the takeaways of the film, both within the story itself and the broader cultural impact. From here, Caullen pivots to the Black actors’ struggles to obtain certain “color-blind” roles only after a years of work and validation by mainstream white audiences. David champions the authenticity and underlying message of the animated film Coco as well as the importance of accessible language in film, TV, and comedy. When Beezy positions himself as “anti-woke,” him and Caullen explain how Hasan Minaj’s comedy can be both entertaining to broad audiences, educational with a poignant agenda, as well as culturally relevant to Indian/Pakistani peoples in a way other comedians are not (Do you know what a lota is? Watch this.).
Finally, the team zooms out and positions pop culture as a microcosm for our global society. With the resurgent backlash to R. Kelly’s lengthy history of sexual abuse, autocratic rule of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Chicago’s Black alderpeople shutting out and ignoring young Black activists, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s commendable work in congress, we can understand that representation is by no means the end all be all. SoapBox believes that art can be a the passport to radical change, but one must still take the journey and challenge the forces that made it so difficult to travel there in the first place.
CREDITS: Intro song The Story of OJ by Jay-Z. Outro music Stay Down by Big Sean. Audio engineered by Genta Tamashiro.
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