Maiysha Kai sits down with legendary actor Omar Epps. You might know him from “Juice,” or “Love and Basketball” or the “The Wood.” But now you will know him as the author of the new Afrofuturistic book, “Nubia: The Awakening.” In this interview, Omar Epps gives an introspective look on his love for hip-hop, the film industry and the importance of being prepared for success. This is an interview you do not want to miss!
[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.
Maiysha Kai [00:00:05] Hello, I’m Maiysha Kai, host of theGrio’s Writing Black Podcast. In West African tradition, to be a griot is to be a storyteller, one who carries and communicates the experiences and legacies of a people. As theGrio’s lifestyle editor, I’ve always been fascinated by how we tell our stories. That’s why we launched Writing Black, to explore the myriad ways Black writers craft stories and communicate our experiences. Thank you for joining us. Here’s an excerpt from this week’s guest.
Nubia: The Awakening [00:00:39] Uzochi sat on an Azure couch exhaling. Continuing to zone in on the energy at his center feeling it fill his heart head and limbs. For more than an hour, he’d been planted there, refusing to rise until his body was settled, staring at the sofa’s fabric, Its color reminding him of the strange blue light that it continued to reappear in his line of sight since he left the fight near school. By the time he’d made it home to Kips Bay, he was shaking. He’d gone straight up to his apartment, unable to do anything but sit and breathe.
Maiysha Kai [00:01:16] And he’s been in a lot of things. I’m talking “Juice”, “Love and Basketball”, “The Wood,” “E.R.” You may have even seen him most recently on “Power: Raising Kanan.” That’s right. It is the one and only, Omar Epps is with us this week. Omar, thank you so much for being on “Writing Black,” it’s so exciting to meet. How are you?
Omar Epps [00:01:41] I’m good. I’m good. Thank you for having me.
Maiysha Kai [00:01:44] Oh, my God. I’m so tickled. I’m so tickled by this. Like, you know, I think I speak for more than one generation of women to say that this is a moment in time for us. So don’t worry. I will not let that be the crux of our discussion today. But, We created this podcast because we really wanted to talk about the intersection of identity and craft and language and how we use language. And obviously, as both an actor and an author, you have a unique perspective on how we use language. So I’m really excited to talk to you about that. But also, you know, I don’t think a lot of people know you’re an author. So you had a book out. Fatherless to fatherhood.
Omar Epps [00:02:39] Yeah. From Fatherless to Fatherhood.
Maiysha Kai [00:02:40] Which was a really intimate memoir about your experiences, I think a really relatable one to a lot of people. So I do want to talk about that. And also you have an upcoming book which brings you into another genre. You’re delving into the world of like Afrofuturism and a little bit of Y.A. I believe with Nubia: The Awakening. How did this project come to you? I mean, was this always an interest of yours or was this something that has developed recently?
Omar Epps [00:03:11] Well, to be quite honest with you, I mean, I’m a fan of all genres of just art period and all formats. And you can that where, you know, when, when and where you connect. And to be quite honest, the germination of the idea is something that I’ve had in my head for like over a decade now. And when I went on that journey from my memoir, From Fatherless to Fatherhood, when I was promoting it, it was just what blew me away was like, how many people actually still read books? Because we’re in this digital age. And, you know, I come from the mother, I’m the son of an educator. And so I read a lot when I was young. And so in the back of my mind, I was wondering, like, man, I wonder if kids still, like, avidly read books. And so we were at this book convention at the Jacob Javits Center. And there’s like hundreds of kids lined up, you know, on this one line. And I was like, Well, what’s that for? And they were like, Oh, that’s the young adult sci fi that I forget the author’s name, forgive me, but they’re like huge in the space. And the people I was with were like explaing it to me. Like, you know, they’re a rock star, these kids. And I was, like, blown away and like, wow, kids still read books.
Omar Epps [00:04:27] And so when I went to the hotel that night, it was the light bulb moment, you know, of Nubia, the Awakening. And like I said, it’s been sitting in my head and it was just something a voice was tapped me on the shoulder, said, Hey, it’s time to unearth this and figure it out because there is an audience for it. And they they are rabid. They’re dedicated. They’re they’re loyal. You know, I didn’t I didn’t know that, you know, in this particular format. So it was a three and a half year journey to to write the book. My coauthor is Clarence A. Hanes, who’s who’s a rock star himself and with Penguin Random House, Delacorte. It’s just been an amazing experience so far because people really believe in the project and the vision and, you know, the topics that sort of are the underbelly of the book. The advance reads, the response has been phenomenal because I’ve really tried to weave. It’s this sort of magical there’s that, you know, fantastical element, but it’s really rooted in some deep truths and deep questions about, you know, why we are, how we are. To your point earlier, when you talk about the use of words and things of that nature, and I try to take that sort of nugget and really unpack it and peel back the layers of the onion, if you will.
Maiysha Kai [00:05:51] Yeah. I mean, I think exactly what you just said is exactly why we created this podcast. Like, you know, when you talk about bringing identity the fore and we have seen this huge surge in the white market in, I would say, the last 5 to 10 years. I totally agree with you. What we’ve learned thus far from these narratives. It’s impossible, obviously, to talk about the future without some context of the past. And I think that’s what makes fantastical literature from our demographic that much more intriguing, frankly.
Omar Epps [00:06:34] I think that’s a great thought and you know as. Black and brown people, if you will. You know, it’s a it’s a really interesting thing in terms of us in general, but specifically the youth demographic, the teen demographic, because as we grow and evolve through life, we realize that we have to unlearn skewed narratives that we were just taught in school. You know, Christopher Columbus discovered America and, you know, and one after the other. After the other, which is all not true. And if you don’t seek out the real information, the truth of the information, then you’ll just go off with some someone else’s narrative that’s actually untrue. And so I find that specifically in our communities, because especially when you go abroad, when you go abroad and you travel across the world, it’s like every other cultures learning the real truth. You know, we’re the ones that have it misconstrued and it’s not to a fault of our own. So with with with a book like Nubia: The Awakening, I’m trying to tap into that in subtle ways, right? Kind of like put the castor oil on top of some pancakes and put some syrup on that, you know? So it’s still entertaining. But, you know, after the reader, especially a young reader, reads the book they’re going to walk away with some questions about certain things in life. I was intent for with writing it for a younger demographic, because that’s one the mind is still it’s not I’m not even talking about development. You just it’s just a sponge.
Maiysha Kai [00:08:26] It’s open, pliable, I totally hear you. I used to teach that age group. So I get it.
Omar Epps [00:08:32] It’s you know, it’s kind of like drop instances in there. And also, you know, it correlates to a lot of which, though the book takes place basically 100 years from now. A lot of the overarching themes, if you will, in the book, they correlate to certain things now, or at least that’s how I try to execute it. So that the message at the end that the reader gets is like, wow, this kind of, you know, feels like now.
Maiysha Kai [00:08:57] Yeah. I mean, we’ve seen that happen, you know? I mean, whether it’s somebody whether it’s an author who’s writing now or, you know, we’ve seen this recently, like a lot of people got really interested in Octavia Butler, for the first time in the last few years, because all of a sudden, things that she was writing like in her like Parable trilogy, we’re all so prescient and so relevant. And, you know, these are books I read in real time, you know, that I was like, oh, my gosh, you’re totally right. You know, I loved what you were saying about the Y.A. audience and how pliable they are. Jason Reynolds, who, you know, incredible Y.A. writer, has done tons of books. I remember asking him at one point we had a conversation. I asked him like, so why? You know, why children’s books, essentially, why Y.A. Books? He’s like, Well, you know, people always like kind of pooh pooh this. Like you’re somehow copping out if you write for a children’s audience. He’s like, they’re the both the best and the hardest demographic to write for, you know, because you a you have to get it right. But also they’re the best audience. Like what better audience than one that, to your point, is so open and so fluid. And I don’t want to say pliable because I think to your point, like, I think that’s that’s more of the parents, right. You know, but in terms of what they’re able to absorb and and consider, I think is is important.
Omar Epps [00:10:24] And adjust. The younger crowd, they adjust on the fly. They just deal with life as it comes because they don’t have the weight of so many responsibilities on their shoulders just yet. Because as those things come along, it can harden your mind, you know? Right. Cause you got to punch that clock. I got to put food on the table, and you just sort of get stringent with the mind, whereas, you know, the young person can, you know, they change their favorite color tomorrow. And it’s it’s okay, especially this generation now. There’s so interconnected. You know, I look at it. I look at that part of it. As a gift. You know, the fact that if I was like 13, you know how when we were kids, they had like pen pals and you’d just sort of write somebody randomly and then they might write you back or exchange program stuff like that I think is very, very powerful for this generation to now I’m just using this as as a ruse. But like, you know, they may watch something on the news, right? And it’s like this is happening in this place. But they may be they may have a Twitter or Instagram friend that’s actually boots on the ground in that place and they’re able to get in real time. No, this is actually what’s going on. So it’s hard to hide the information and it’s hard to misinform this generation. And I think that down the line, that’s a massive gift because it’s going to knock down these barriers that we have, whether it’s ethnicity, socioeconomics or just the idea of tribalism. There’s always going to be that element of human life. Right? You know, I’m from New York. I like the Yankees. Oh, you’re from Philly. We’ll always had that part of it. But at least that’s there’s an innocence to that because it’s just competition. Right. But in the minutia of actual life, you know, that’s part of why I based the book out of New York as well. New York is sort of the other character. I’m not biased because I was born and raised here, but.
Maiysha Kai [00:12:26] It’s fine if you’re biased, that’s fine.
Omar Epps [00:12:28] No, no, I’m not biased because there’s beautiful places.
Maiysha Kai [00:12:31] Listen, I lived in New York for over 20 years. I’m biased. I get it.
Omar Epps [00:12:37] Well. I’ll say the old New York that I come from is totally different.
Maiysha Kai [00:12:41] No, you are absolutely
Omar Epps [00:12:42] This New York looks like Tokyo.
Maiysha Kai [00:12:44] You are absolutely correct about that. You are, you are. Yes.
Omar Epps [00:12:47] Yes but but but there was only brought that up because there was an honesty to people back then that I think that was that was very pure. Right. Right. And there were so many different cultures and every culture had a little pocket. So and then you all got to smash together like sardines in the can on the train. Right. And you might be standing next to, whether the dude is a white dude from Wall Street was worth like $10 million or, you know, the Chinese dude up the block or the Russians dude iaround the corner, or the Jewish woman down the block or at the deli. All of these different cultures, the Latinos, the the Caribbean, you know, Blacks, Black people, like we’re all living in this sort of condensed space. So it forced you or at least it forced me to, one, have an interest in other ways of life, in other ways of thinking, and especially through food, you know, like the first time I had Middle Eastern food as a little kid, you know, and I would sit and sit in the stores with these guys. And, you know, they had pictures of, you know, their brothers or their family, like right at the window. And, you know, you get talking to them. This is people you talk to every day and they tell you stories about their life coming up that seem so far fetched. But with everything we’ve gone through was as a not only a culture of society, now it’s like, you know, you just sort of gain a respect for other ways of living like this space for for us all in the whole point is and this goes back to Nubia, the biggest message I want the reader to take away is the idea of unity and what it really means in actuality.
Maiysha Kai [00:14:25] Yeah, you know, and I will say that your New York experience, even you as a native and me as a transplant, paralleled each other very closely. So I totally relate to a lot of that. I also think about the fact that you are entering the way market at a juncture in which we’re also facing the whole like backlash against, you know, anything that even remotely resembles CRT. And I say that the way I say it, because CRT is not taught in elementary schools or junior highs or, you know, what have you. But we’re seeing, you know, more and more like book bannings and, you know, just people trying to deny the truths, the facts, the just, you know, honesty of other people’s existences. And it’s so interesting to me that that’s how you framed up, because I think to myself what an interesting time to be entering that market when those very ideas, the idea of of exalting what’s different or saying how what’s different is vilified as being attacked.
Omar Epps [00:15:32] Yeah. And we’ve but we’ve been through this before. You know, because I’m I’m say that humbly, but I’m like low key, a low key historian. I’m a couch. I’m a couch historian. But I only say I only say that to say that when you study history, I’m talking about thousands of years. All they’re doing is, you know, copying and pasting. Copying and pasting the same, you know.
Maiysha Kai [00:15:55] Revising the story to fit. I mean, that’s what they’re doing.
Omar Epps [00:15:58] Revising, it is revisionist history. I don’t want to go off on a tangent will stick to you. But I’m just just to to sort of put a button on this issue. Even when you look at this, go back a few years ago and look at what ISIS was doing. They were destroying libraries. They were destroying structures that it stood for thousands of years. So in essence, they were trying to destroy history. Actual history scrolls that had been around for thousands of years that people could go see and touch. And then in American culture, what we don’t realize is when you go to a museum, all that stuff was pilfered from other nations. This ain’t ours. These are stolen goods that they put on display and then charge you to go see. So how that comes back to Nubia is okay. Well, I want to be in the future. What’s it going to look like? If not, it’s not a it’s not about being morbid. It’s about being realistic. So what if what if we don’t change our way of living as human society and all of these cataclysms, climate change and all these things actually take place? Then what is the world look like? You know, I think it’s on multiple layers. So like Nubia, the mythology of it is that Nubia was a utopian society. It was his own island nation off the coast of Africa. The men and women there lived in perfect harmony with the land, so much so that each individual was bestowed with a mystical power. Then everyone was different and.
Maiysha Kai [00:17:32] And that was a good thing.
Omar Epps [00:17:35] And that was it was a great thing because everything was in total balance. They lived in total balance with their environment. There was there was no crime. There was no poverty. There was none of that. And along with climate change. Came war across the global war and and Nubia is destroyed. And so now the Nubians become refugees and they’ve all settled here in New York would be in 100 years from now. You know, half of the city is basically underwater. Starting at the lower tip. And that’s where all the poor people live in the swamp, the rich, high and mighty. They live more uptown in midtown, which is what we’re calling the upper high. And not only are they, they have all the wealth. And, you know, if you could picture a building twice as tall this. Three times as tall as the World Trade Center. Something like that.
Maiysha Kai [00:18:33] I can picture I think it’s a central park south. Yeah.
Omar Epps [00:18:37] Yeah. Right. But they’ve also fuzed technology into the body, so they live a completely different existence. And so our main characters are Uzochi, who represents loe. Lencho, who sort of represents hate, and Zuberi, who sort of the gray area in between. Zuberi is a female. She’s a a warrior. Her father’s a warrior. She just you know, she stands on a square. She stands for Truth and Justice. Lencho is sort of our revolutionary. He’s he’s he’s our revolutionary. He’s he’s about preserving the integrity of Nubian people. And who Uzochi is the awkward teenager. Being a teenager is a very awkward stage of life because you think you know it all, but, you know, you don’t know it all. And you still have to live right under.
Maiysha Kai [00:19:34] Right? You’re old enough to know that you need autonomy, but you don’t necessarily know enough to have your own fully formed ideas. Absolutely.
Omar Epps [00:19:41] Right. And so and so the the legend of the true Nubian history, because their parents had to scatter and, you know, live in this sort, basically they were displaced and they’re just trying to get by. All of their all of their parents generations they no longer have powers and no longer have that magic. And they think it’s been destroyed with their native land. And you have this this this is sort of motley crew of teenagers, these Nubians, they’re all around the same age, like adolescence. And it’s like these these mythical powers start to sprout in each of them and they don’t know what it is. So they think and they’re like the weirdos that they don’t know. Like, no, this, like, real because their parents never explained their history.
Maiysha Kai [00:20:32] This is your legacy as well.
Omar Epps [00:20:34] Right.
Maiysha Kai [00:20:36] Yeah.
Omar Epps [00:20:36] So it’s kind of like dealing with stuff like that, you know, it’s dealing with, like I just said, like displacement is dealing with socioeconomic issues. I brought up that we’re tribal on purpose because you know, the people who are here prior to them coming, they think they’re coming in to take over. So they have their own tribes, if you will, and or the feeling of gang, to protect their turf. You know, and, you know, obviously, those sides are going to look going to clash. And obviously, there’s a lot of twists and turns and sort of shapeshifters, if you will, in terms of other characters who seem like they’re down, for one thing, but they really have ulterior motive behind other things. And it’s really fun. It’s a really fun read. And I think that, you know, it’s something you can really sink your teeth into because there’s just so many issues that correlate to now that I think about it in a way of like. It’s like when we see some of this stuff on television that we’ve seen in the last couple of years. It takes me back to being a kid. We had a Black and white TV until I was 16. So I remember watching, like, old footage of, like, the riots from, like, the fifties in the sixties and stuff to watch something on screen. It’s one thing to see. Dogs being sick on people. Human beings. Little girls and boys and the sick and dogs. And have the fire hoses on them and just beaten them.
[00:22:08] You know, when I was watching it as a kid. I mean, who could wrap their mind around that? But I was so infuriated, but at the same time, I was motivated. So I’d say that to say, let’s skip forward to now. You know, when you watch things like Ferguson and all these things and you’re like, it’s so interesting how the universe has a mathematical equation for for everything. So follow what I’m saying. Had we not been in a pandemic, in the lockdown, the George Floyd thing, it would have just been another thing that happened that locally they probably would have heard about. But the national uproar. Was only because everyone was stuck in a house that they had to be they had to be forced to watch. And this is how this parallels back to the past. You know who doesn’t get enough credit for being a hero? Is Emmett Till’s mother. To have the courage all the way back then to say no, show his face in the papers because everybody that reads the papers is going to be forced to see what they did to my son and it horrified people.
Maiysha Kai [00:23:11] Yeah, I mean, people don’t believe what they can’t see. Stay tuned for more from the Writing Back podcast.
[00:23:21] The Grio stars stories with Toure. Coming soon on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network.
Maiysha Kai [00:23:33] Welcome back to the Writing Black Podcast. And I’m also, you know, really fascinated by when you fell in love with words because, you know, like most of us of my generation, our generation, you know, might have become familiar with you, I don’t know, around 1992 with “Juice.” You know, my producers surf the Internet. We found out that you were actually also a wordsmith prior to Juice, having been in the Wolfpack. Can you tell me about, like, how words became another vehicle for you before or maybe at the same time as acting? Because we all know you as an actor and you’re a brilliant actor. But like, what else? What else happened there?
Omar Epps [00:24:20] Thank you. Well, I’ll tell you. For me, I’ve just been inspired by the artists who inspired me. And I say that to say, you know, for me, acting became an extension of writing. I’ve been writing poetry since I was like eight. You know, I’ve been reading Langston Hughes and James Baldwin and Maya Angelou and so forth and so on, since I was like a little kid, you know? I was captured by, you know, how certain artists I call them, but say individuals can express themselves through work. Even when you think about someone like Nina Simone, this is how, you know, I would have these questions like. Why is that being said that way? And then you have it. Then you get into the entendre world. It’s like you’re saying one thing, but you’re also saying this at the same time in this very same phrase. You know, I think as of now, Shawn Carter, Shawn Jay-Z, Carter is a master at that. You know, so things like that. And like I said, I always wrote poetry and I got into rap and everything like that. And and I would read a lot. And, you know, once I saw Sidney Poitier on television, I was like, I want to do that, you know?
[00:25:49] But understanding how to convey feelings and emotions and thoughts through word, through the format of acting became of interest to me. Actually, one of my secrets. I can say this now, but I actually always try to find a way to emote without saying something, you know? You know, and I’m very, very hands on with my eyes, with the audience. I always want them to see something else going on in this character. But this character is its own universe, where we’re all our own universes. You know, I don’t know what you’ve gone through in your life. All the minutia of it. Same for you. To me. You know, so it’s like that thing where what’s that feeling that we have when we know someone for some time? And now you feel that you feel it today. Now, like you’re you uncle. And you know they’re not. That’s to me, that’s magic. Because you know it. You feel it. Though it might not be, it’s not being said in dialog at that time. So it’s like when you take something like that. And I was fortunate, and mind you I did put in the work, study the craft. I still am studying the craft because I love it.
Maiysha Kai [00:27:14] It’s a on going Process any craft, right? I love that you say that.
Omar Epps [00:27:18] Exactly. In his art. Art has no expiration date. That’s the beauty of it. It’s not like it’s athletics, like one day you knee’s going to give out and can’t jump. So you can’t run so fast. Some of the greatest art is delivered, you know, when someone’s in their 70 or 80, they have a whole different perspective of life at that point, you know? To me, it’s like an infinite medium. I mean, with what we can leave behind as artists, whether you’re a painter, whether you’re, you know, Alvin Ailey, you know, whatever medium it is, we have the ability to transcend time through our art, and that’s powerful.
Maiysha Kai [00:28:00] I mean, it’s powerful to me as well, and it’s powerful to hear you say it. And I think also, you know, this through line of of words. I love that. I love the way that you talked about, you know, moving from poetry into another medium. But it’s all kind of the same thing because I agree with you as somebody who has worked in many mediums myself, that it always came back to storytelling and what the power of being able to do that. You mentioned, you know, James Baldwin and Langston Hughes and like Maya angelou. Who do you turn to, whether and listen. It could be you’re listening to something, maybe it’s Jay-Z, maybe it’s you know, who do you turn to when you’re looking when you think of someone who conveys messages in a way that, like, really resonates with you? I know it’s a big question.
Omar Epps [00:29:01] That’s a that’s a very, very big question. That’s one of those I got to ponder. But you know what? I’ll go with Jay. You know, I’ll go with Jay for now, because of not only what he says and how he says it, but how he’s living as a human being. We don’t even know the power of how someone like that is inspiring the generations coming after on on on a multitude of levels. Especially when it comes to being Black and brown in the world, specifically in this country. You know, it’s it’s, you know, hip hop. You know, think about the jazz musicians. That was hip hop, you know, and then you go before that and you go before that and it comes right back to Africa. Comes right back to the motherland. Which we have our tribes, we have our rituals that the girl is coming of age, the boys coming of age. We do certain dances for a reason. We beat the drum for a reason. Everything is for reason. We were the scientists. We were the ones doing the first surgeries. We were the ones who cultivated the land and learned how to sustain it and irrigate the land. We were the ones that that’s been stolen from us.
[00:30:31] So, so much to the point of where if you follow me for a second, you know, you’ll save up all this money. You’ll either save the money or you go steal the money to buy a pair of 1500 dollar sneakers with some French name on it. Meanwhile, you’ve got a dude over here who may be of your own who’s making the same quality of sneaker with a deeper meaning. But you don’t. You know what? Yeah, but that’s that. That all comes from our history being stolen from us. And so we have to. We have to imbue the younger generation with the true worth of their value, of our value of what we’ve contributed to this world, not just this country. We got to go past the narratives of, Oh, we Black, we built America. You know, we built the world. How about that? You know what I mean? Literally. Let’s study history. Let’s study the facts. So we should be able to have these conversations. When I see the way that the world, the way the American society is right now, it can be off putting. But as I said before, there is a gift within all of this for young people because they try to go through what we’re going through right now. That’s not the way that they see the world. They see the world. They are experiencing the world in a completely different way. And so I think that we’re at, I guess the right word would be an impasse. Right. Of how we’re going to move forward. And it’s like to me, let’s think about technology. It’s like the design of our society needs a firmware update, not a software update. What we’re doing right now is software updates.
Maiysha Kai [00:32:21] We should just turn it off and put it in some rice?
Omar Epps [00:32:23] No, I’m not saying turn it off and put it in some rice. I’m saying, you know, you could do a software. You can you got a plan? Yeah. If the firmware update, you got to be connected to WiFi
Maiysha Kai [00:32:35] You want jailbreak the whole thing. I’m trying to get the lingo.
Omar Epps [00:32:43] I’m saying firmware. Okay.
Maiysha Kai [00:32:47] I agree.
Omar Epps [00:32:47] Because it’s, you know, once you. Here’s the conundrum. Once you control the person’s idea. You have. Then you can control their perception of all things. The conundrum to that is you can’t control anybody’s idea. Period. Something similar may have been thought about before. Like they say, there’s nothing new under the sun. But. Who thought of a phone with no buttons. On it at a time where they were looking at jobs like, what, are you crazy? But then you have to dig into that history. He patented that 20 years prior. Or you look at someone like George Lucas, for instance, the Star Wars, they developed technology. He had to wait to make certain films because they didn’t have the technology to pull off his ideas. So, you know, when I think about whether there’s ten years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, obviously in Libya, the awakening, when I think about the book, what is it like a hundred years from now? What can it look like and what are the positives? You know, like they say, we got to go through the darkness before we get to the light. So ultimately, at the end of not only this book, but just the story itself is there it’s bigger than there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. The light is starting to emit from within.
Maiysha Kai [00:34:13] I think you’re right. It’s out of necessity. And I think to your point that there’s an incredible opportunity there. And I am totally with you in terms of everything happens for a reason and this era that we’re in is happening for a reason. So you we know you from the screen saying other people’s words and we know you now on the page saying your words. Will we see you transitioning to screenwriting or bringing this narrative to the screen? Is that something that you have in mind or are you just letting it breathe for now?
Omar Epps [00:34:48] Absolutely. Yeah. No, no. Well, from your lips to God’s ears, I mean, that that is the ultimate plan. And I have been quietly, you know, writing and producing for at least the last decade.
Maiysha Kai [00:35:02] At least ten years.
Omar Epps [00:35:05] It’s a it’s a tough you know, it’s a tough business. I mean, you know, as many as many incredible young Black and brown female filmmakers that I’ve been around that are producing amazing work. You know, it was. Only one Black Panther. That’s the problem. You know, Black Panther deserved everything and more. But there should be 100 more of them.
Maiysha Kai [00:35:31] I do.
Omar Epps [00:35:32] You see what I’m saying? So I hope to I hope to contribute to that that resilience and stamina that an artist needs, because everybody’s going to get their chance. This is what I tell young kids when I speak to them. Everybody’s going to get a chance. Somehow, someway. The thing is to sustain is the hard part. You know, you might get a chance to be in some movies. You might get a chance to put out some PSAs. Might get a chance to write a book. And it’s this big splash.
Maiysha Kai [00:36:03] Right?
Omar Epps [00:36:04] But then what? So we have to prepare for success in that way. We have to prepare for it. You know, and you can see the difference between people who do and people who don’t. You know, and I think the younger generation just I’m really excited for them because I actually, you know, my kids are 23, 18 and 14. And I think about I mean, my 23 year old is kind of the last of the Mohicans. Like she remembers the world with no social media, stuff like that, you know. And we had to go through that with her little sister because she was like, Why didn’t I? Could she get home? I was 13. I wanted a phone and it was like but it was a different time. Like, now it’s like it’s out of fear. Like, we need to, you know, if something happens, we need to be in touch with, you know. And, you know, and I look at my son, you know, his 14 year old kid, and I try to imagine myself being 14, you know. In the world now. It’s like kind of scary to me because as I say, the time that I grew up in I mean, things were just so honest. There weren’t cameras everywhere. There was no people talk to people. You know, if you if you were a young person interested in another young person, like for me, being a male, fucking young female, you had to know how to approach her and have social interaction, talk with her and make her laugh. And, you know, and these kids now, it’s just, you know, everything is this is the trip is thing. They like going inside a restaurant and everybody is for people that have telephones.
Maiysha Kai [00:37:34] I know. I know it’s wild. It’s wow.
Omar Epps [00:37:37] It’s it’s strange but but there’s something to that where I always I always try to see. Well, I don’t try. I always try to. I try to see the silver lining. But I look at life through the lens of artists. Like every single thing to me is there’s a there’s an art to it. There’s something there to be that will enrich me. It’s kind of how I look at the world. And they always say, like, the most valuable thing in this world is, Oh, it’s love and I’ll make it. Yeah, love is very important, but time is the most valuable thing in the world because you can choose to fall out of love with somebody, or you could love somebody and don’t even like them, you know? But think about it, like when it comes to family, like you love them because that’s your family, but you don’t want to hang out with them every day. You don’t have a choice in time. Yeah. Like this time that we’re spending together right now, we’ll never be able to get it back. And so I say that intentionally to say that’s why when we say you need to make the best of our time, that’s the truth. And we have every millisecond to do so, to grow, to evolve, to get better in the ways that we can. And a big part of that is how we treating one another, how we affecting one another, how we affecting one another. You know, as you know, every tribe has its place. You know, whatever whatever you believe in, if you’re a believer and then a higher power if you’re not. Certainly there’s a vast thing in between that is sort of. Unexplainable. Right. It took to a lot of people. And in you know again kind of bringing it back to Nubia.
[00:39:31] Unpacking some of what that could look like, you know, and sort of letting the reader define it by. Their own means. Instead of trying to gotcha Nathan with what I think they should think, you know, sort of more posing questions. And again, I go back to the beginning of the conversation. Like we we spend time not just as Black and brown people, but I think just as human beings. I posted something this morning and I think I’m going to post I’m going to sort of give a counter post to it probably tomorrow. But I posted something about, you know, if a man has a good woman by his side who is pushing him to be his better self and so forth and so on. Like honor and cherish her. Because that’s the best way for you to live in gratitude to the Almighty, whatever you believe in. But I want to counter that with the same thing for females. You know what I mean? And now we’re in this. Sort of pronoun acronym world. Everything is everyone is so sensitive. But at the end of the day, the sun is the sun and the moon is the moon in clouds and clouds and sky is blue right now. It is what it is. We can’t be in that middle space of, you know, life is light and we have to. That’s why we have to embrace it. And kids. It’s so it’s so cliche, but it’s that cliche. It’s just the truth. Kids are the future.
Maiysha Kai [00:41:10] I hope not. No, I hope not. Listen, I think that there there definitely points there. I think that, you know, in terms of the fulfillment that we find, this is something that we hope that a younger generation finds. I hope they find it, but I hope they find it first in themselves. And I hope they appreciate it when they find another is for sure. But I also you talked about time and I appreciate the time that you’ve given us for this. You know, you get you’ve spoken so freely and so candidly, and I don’t know that everybody does that. And I do really appreciate that because I think we are obviously at a juncture where we’re lacking that kind of candor and that kind of honesty and and where we in need of a lot of vulnerability, I think, in terms of how we’re approaching the world and how the world is approaching us. So. Omar Epps
Omar Epps [00:42:03] The world is going to be fine. The world is going to be fine.
[00:42:06] You’re Right.
Omar Epps [00:42:08] Look at what happened during the pandemic. What happened? The air cleared up. So animals coming out in places like, we could go out again. Finally they gone.
Maiysha Kai [00:42:19] Right. So you’re right. The human species. We might have some things to work out, but you’re right. The world is going to resolve itself. Yeah. I just really appreciate you being here. And especially, you know, I think you and your president, you have so much meaning to our audience and to generations, because I was just watching Raising Kanan and yesterday young people. So thank you so much, Omar Epps, and thank you for this book. Nubia: The Awakening will be out this fall. We are very excited. That’s right.
Omar Epps [00:42:50] Preorder my books.
Maiysha Kai [00:42:52] And I will be digging into it. So I know you all know someone. So thank you for explaining that to me. Thank you for celebrating Nubians, because, you know, we out here, as they say.
Omar Epps [00:43:04] Yeah. Yeah, we all out here. Thank you so much. I appreciate you guys so much. Thank you.
Maiysha Kai [00:43:10] So if you’re like me, Omar Epps represents one of your favorite times in your life. So it’s a perfect time to talk about my favorites, which are books and readings and listening and watching viewings, watching whatever viewings that I like to recommend that relate to our discussions this week and this week. I think Omar did such an incredible job of discussing Afrofuturism and particularly how it relates to our past. And another author who was incredible to me, that is N.K. Jemison, I highly recommend, you know, The City We Became is an excellent entry when my favorite descriptions is this one from a fellow author, Neil Gaiman. It’s a glorious fantasy set in that most imaginary of cities New York. And considering our discussion with Omar, I think that that’s kind of a perfect companion piece, really, because having been a New Yorker myself, it is a little surreal. Like, you know, are we in the past, we in the future, are we in the whatever, Disneyland? We don’t know. I also, honestly and I say this because I’ve seen a lot of debates about this online, you know, over the past year or two. I am a huge Lovecraft Country fan and I think, like I got to a point where I was like, if you get it, you get it. And if you don’t, you don’t. And I understand that everybody wants to see some of the more abject horrors of our history and some of us, you know, just don’t get it and some of us just don’t like it. And that’s actually okay, too. But if you are into understanding how Afrofuturism and actual African-American history fit together, I think, you know, get you a little viewing party going on in HBO, Max, with Lovecraft Country. And I think like Misha Green, just like she did with Underground, did an excellent job of kind of melding, dovetailing, comparing, paralleling whatever word you want to use these two eras and letting us know that, as Omar said, you know, there’s nothing new under the sun. Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Writing Black. As always, you can find us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts.
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