Interview By Lissa Alicia
Temple University graduate Donja R. Love gained notoriety in Philly for his work as a playwright and director of pieces such as The Nigga Files and How To Kill a Child and a Demon. Recently, Donja decided to take his skills from the stage to the computer screen with his new web Series Modern Day Black Gay. In the show he explores what it means to be a queer African-American male in 2014. Donja took the time out to chat with me about MDBG, changing stereotypes that are found in the queer community, and his favorite t-shirt in the Cognitive Dissidence line.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I was always the kid with a big imagination, but I never talked. I had a horrible stutter. I went to Temple and majored in theatre. The voice and speech classes I took helped with my stutter; but while there, interestingly enough, I found my voice in playwriting.
Years later I became a teacher, and wrote and directed plays on the side. After three years of doing that, I left teaching full time to focus on my artistry. I eventually became a teaching artist of playwriting. It's the perfect balance of education and artistry.
March of 2014 I moved to New York.
What is The Each Other Project?
The Each-Other Project is an organization founded by me and my partner, Brandon Nicholas. The Each-Other Project strives to create a community, through arts and activism, where Queer men of Diversity are seen. We have various projects, with artists and activists of color, designed to strengthen and showcase our community - one of those projects is Modern Day Black Gay.
What is your role in MDBG?
I'm the creator and director of Modern Day Black Gay. I wrote the first season and helped guide the entire cast and crew into achieving the best vision for it.
Why was it important for you to create MDBG?
I created Modern Day Black Gay because I got tired of seeing stereotypes of men who were supposed to represent me: Black and Queer. I never saw a truthful image of me! I wanted to explore what it means to be a modern day black gay man. I wanted to explore what he goes through.
What can we expect from the series?
You can expect a more three dimensional representation of Black, Queer men. We are so much more than the stereotypes, stigmas, and salacious images. We are your co-workers, bosses, employees, your acquaintances, your friends; we are your family.
How many episodes will be in season 1?
There are six episodes in Season One.
Are you working on season 2?
I actually am. I'm writing it in my head right now. I always start my work off, in my head, a few months to a year before I write it down.
In Season Two I plan on exploring more issues in our community. I want to dig deeper with all the characters and place them in situations that make them uncomfortable - where they have to really take a honest look at themselves.
Who are you favorite characters in MDBG?
When writing it my favorite character was Tony, for his compassion and thoughtfulness towards love and being himself. Now it maybe Trevor. I see more of my traits in him each day.
What is your astrological sign and are you true to it's traits?
Taurus; it comes in waves which traits I identify with. I use to be extremely optimistic; but, sadly, the older I got the more my optimism faded. Also, I was never really bullheaded; but now, as it relates to work, I stand firmly on my thoughts and agenda. It will have to take a well thought out opposing plan and powerful convincing to have me change it.
What do you find to be the hardest part about identifying as black and queer?
With being a Black, Queer man you can sometimes feel like you don't have a place in either minority or the world. Being Queer in the Black community is perceived as weak and a let down to our history. Being Black in the Queer community, and world at large for the matter, you're looked at as a raging bull ready to attack. There's a lot of code switching that happens for Black, Queer men in order to survive, whether we're conscious of it or not.
What do you find to be the most rewarding part about identifying as black and queer?
With being a Black, Queer man you're looked at as the underdog - where no one is really checking for you. That gives us the opportunity to surprise so many with our insurmountable strength and unwavering pride; the best part of all, we surprise ourselves too.
How did the MDBG team go about choosing the wardrobe for each character?
Thinking back on it, I was so simple in brainstorming the wardrobe. I only thought of each character's personalities to influence what they wear. But once our amazing wardrobe director, Kyshawn Lane, came on board he set me straight. Kyshawn took it a step further; he looked at each character's occupation to determine what they would wear as it relates to where they have to go to work everyday and their financial bracket to afford their aesthetic.
What do you believe it will take for mainstream media to change it portrayal of the black gay man?
I believe what's happening right now is what it will take for mainstream media to change its portrayal of the Black, Queer man... Artists and Activist standing and speaking up for us! During civil rights times, people like Ruby Dee, Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, Rosa Parks, and so many fearless others demanded a change in the way society treated Black people. Their unifying thread was their Blackness and fire for change. Not only is our Blackness and fire the unifying threads that we have, but so is our sexuality. We have so much to celebrate together and fight for. We just have to keep fighting.
What is your favorite item on the Philadelphia Printworks Cognitive Dissidence?
I looooove the Paris is Burning tee! It gives me every bit of my life!
Melissa "Lissa Alicia" Simpson is a 23-year-old freelance journalist, media & marketing specialist, event curator and amateur model. Her interests include binge watching Dr. Who, writing creative nonfiction and street art. Find out more about Lissa at lissalicia.com.