Damon Dash has been a staple of the hip hop community for decades, but few folks know that he has been battling diabetes for most of his life.
Fortunately Dash’s disease hasn’t stopped him from creating, and his new film, Honor Up, will provide viewers with an inside look to his road to success.
“It’s an artistically shot film based on a very authentic experience. It’s basically about my life and the characters that were in my life and the things that define me as a man. Honor, morals, principles, and never looking the other way. It’s about looking out for the people who looked out for me,” he explains.
“My relationship with my OG, the man that taught me how to survive, actually stars as my OG in the movie. Growing up, I had a lot of juice from the older guys and that helped me have juice with the younger guys like Cam’ron. We came up on the same block, so the film shows my relationship with Camron and how we used to work things out in the hood. You’ll see good acting, dope performances, dope clothes. Everything will be stimulated.”
In addition to releasing new projects Dash is using his platform to raise awareness about the disease via the Dash Diabetes Network.
“I was diagnosed when I was 15. It wasn’t so devastating to me. When I found out, I was really happy that I was diabetic because before that I had lost 40 pounds, I had to urinate a lot and I was dehydrated a lot. I thought I had something that was going to kill me fairly soon so when I was told I was diabetic, I was happy that it only took a needle to feel better,” he told TheGrio in an exclusive interview.
“It got me focused and made me appreciate the life God gave me to live. I have been diabetic my whole adult life and everything I have done has been accomplished as a diabetic. Its a tough, 24-hour situation and I think the more knowledge you have, the better you can manage it. If you don’t manage it, you will die quick and it will feel slow.”
Dash spent years using insulin injections to control his diabetes, but has recently turned to a new treatment, Afrezza, an inhalable medication that acts very differently than traditional insulin therapy.
“When you feel sick for a long time all you want to do is feel normal again. No one likes to stick a needle into your body all day. It’s hard on your skin. The most important thing is it works in 15 minutes whereas injectable insulin takes about 90 minutes to absorb. The innovation is how fast it works. It puts you in control,” he says.
“I’m not a spokesperson. I was using it and the company saw that I as using it wrong when I posted a video on Instagram and it went ‘diabetes viral.’ As a diabetic, you want to tell people when you find something that works.”
“I always had it on my agenda to raise awareness about diabetes because when you see someone else win, you know that you can win too,” he says. “It affects everybody, but especially in the black community, it runs rampant. Everyone knows an uncle or a grandma without a leg because it was amputated due to diabetes.”
The honor code
Dash funded the film Honor Up on his own dime and insists the recent advances in technology make it possible for aspiring filmmakers to achieve their dreams.
“Because of the resources to shoot and distribute films now, there should be nothing that stops an artistic person from turning their vision into reality. Cameras are digital, you don’t have to pay for film and if someone doesn’t pick your movie up, you can always distribute it directly to the consumers or stream it,” says Dash.
“Because it costs a lot of money to make a movie and usually no one person can fund it, a lot of black people weren’t doing it in the past. Now, like me, people are figuring out how to fund it themselves. I had to stand behind my own art for once instead of making money off of other people. There are no excuses not to do it on your own. You can’t blame anything on anybody but yourself. You can make a movie with an iPhone camera. It’s all about how you edit.”
Although Dash’s film has garnered lots of buzz, due in part to the lawsuit his cousin, Stacey Dash, filed over her appearance in the flick and the fact that Kanye West screened it for industry insiders last month, Dash insists there are still some looming issues.
“I’m not so happy with how I’m being treated. If things continue the way they are, we will have a different fight going on because I’ll be bringing lot of awareness about the people who are just exploiting our culture and how disrespectful they are. If you make a movie and put your money up, you shouldn’t have any problems distributing it if you have a partner. They should respect your culture and not exploit it,” he says.
“Honor doesn’t lead people’s actions these days. A lot of what has been going on in Hollywood for years is now coming to the forefront about how black people are being treated in Hollywood. I want people to understand what honor means.”
Honor Up is due out February 14.