Happy New Year, internet friends. To kick things off, let's meet 2017's very first Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Usman Ally.
Who are you?
I'm a relatively introverted extrovert... this is a silly answer.
I'm an actor who is currently flowing against the current and working on shows where my ethnicity has very little to do with the roles I play. HOORAY FOR PROGRESS!!
Also, a former SLAM Poet and Hip Hop Theatre Activist, and currently a fledgling playwright (only until certain people start asking me what audience I write for, coz, you know, they don't really ask white writers the same question, so then I just stop. I need to work on caring less about this), BUT, mainly, I'm a theatre and TV actor who figured how to channel my energy, interests, anger and passion into something productive on the stages of Chicago.
What are you?
I'm an African-American-Asian. This is a puzzling term for many people in this country, I know. But there you have it.
Where are you?
I'm in the 'salt-and-pepper-beard' phase of my life, though I feel as if I've arrived here about 10 years earlier than most.
Where are you from?
Okay, to elaborate on my earlier description: I'm of Pakistani heritage, but was born in Swaziland, and spent the first 18 years of my life in Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania mainly. I've lived in the states for about 16 years, first in Portland then Florida, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I claim Chicago as my hometown, and it claims me (thankfully, otherwise that would be embarrassing and poserly of me) but my head, heart and soul are divvied up between all the places I have lived... it is, as you can see, a bit impossible to answer this question briefly.
What do you do?
I do many things! I like walking my dog, watching documentaries (this is the introvert part) and I also act on a few TV shows like Veep, Nobodies, Madam Secretary, and the upcoming and very exciting A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix to name a few.
What are you all about?
I'd be more interested in hearing what people I know think I'm about... but that might also be depressing, or disheartening, but hopefully endearing!
Professionally, I'm all about accurate representation, visibility and nuance for minority characters in the stories we tell on the screen and stage. I feel it is imperative to create work that better reflects the world we live in, and that those roles/characters/stories are not being presented solely from the white/western gaze. It seems that the term 'diversity' is being hijacked and perverted by the extreme right into meaning something that strips away rights from white Americans, and it is crucial that we fight that narrative tooth and nail.
Identity Politics, Race, Gender, Ethnicity, minority rights, and social justice issues are at the core of my being.
What makes you angry?
Hmmm. White Savior Complexes are a big one. If I see another white savior a la "Django dances with Wolves while fucking Avatars as the Last Samurai," I don't know what I'll do... actually I do know... I will just stop watching, and make it known that I won't watch or support this poop.
You know, with the election of Drumpf, it's understandable feel disempowered. I know I certainly do, as well as FUCKING FURIOUS, and disappointed (and "I can't look at people who voted for him without feeling a level of disgust at their lack of empathy, common sense or concern for HUMAN RIGHTS of people of color, women, disabled people, you know, basically every minority in America, and every person of color abroad,) but we do live in an interesting era of empowerment as well. With social media, you have so much access to letting rich, white guys know what you are not going to stand for. And, I think that slowly, things are changing in Hollywood. Doors are opening a crack, and we just have to make sure we push those motherfuckers open all the way, and say "I'm here, I've BEEN here, and now I want my seat at your table. And I want some of that pie... like a lot."
That's a lot of mixed metaphors I know.