Today my #BeReal guest is Laron Chapman. I am happy to share this project embracing the idea WE ARE ALL UNIQUE. Let’s help him break stereotypes.
I have always said that if all we knew about each other (or ourselves) was that which was depicted in the media, we would all be justified in being fearful, narrow-minded, and judgmental toward one another. It is so easy to view others through a simplified lens, to enslave people in confined boxes within the contours of our minds, and to refuse to engage and penetrate the multiple layers of an individual’s fully-realized self. It takes patience, selflessness, and empathy to explore the greater depths of the people around us. This is something the extraordinary #BeReal series offers in a refreshing, organic fashion. It is a genuine pleasure to be invited back for another round of authentic, creative musing in a staggeringly human fashion.
For those of you that I have yet to make a formal acquaintance, my name is Laron Chapman. I am an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker with a background in entertainment journalism. I’ve been described as “sweet, funny, sincere, talented, artistic, insightful, caring” and a string of other adjectives I’d gladly welcome to be inscribed on my ultra-shiny, marble, and florally adorned gravestone following my successful world peace initiative. However, only a select few have taken the time to “understand” me beyond my disarming face-value qualities. I’ve made it a mission of mine to treat everyone with dignity, compassion, respect, and empathy because, like myself, no one truly knows what others see when they look at themselves in the mirror, the secrets they harbor, the pain they endure, or the confidence and self-worth they may lack. Building people up is not merely a favorable quality of mine but rather a lifestyle.
My perception of myself has evolved overtime, for better and for worse. I was born in a mixed-raced, single-parent household. While I’ve always identified as “African-American,” it wasn’t until I entered the life-molding, character building hell that is high school that I felt the full weight of what being African-American meant. One of my close, Caucasian friends once put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me aside with a warm expression and proclaimed: “Laron, I like you. You’re the whitest black guy I’ve ever met. You’re nothing like the others.” What’s most troubling about about my friend’s statement is not what he said “explicitly,” but rather what he implied “subconsciously.” What was genuinely intended to be a “compliment” was in fact an “insult” because it suggested that my whiteness was “ideal, superior” and, by comparison, my blackness was “flawed, unfavorable, inferior.”
Now, I consider myself pretty cultured. Sure I listen to Mumford and Sons, Coldplay, Florence and the Machine, classic rock, and pop music. However, I also have an unnatural obsession with Beyonce, soul, R&B, and hip-hop. I’ve never seen much purpose in assigning a label to my varied interests or associating it with my racial identity, but that has never stopped others. Ironically, the same assumptions have been made by members of my own family. The terms “sell out, city boy, uppity” come to mind when I’ve been subject to criticism for my articulate manner of speaking, my tastes in music/film/art, my college education, and my polished demeanor. Sometimes, I’m made to feel as though I’m too black to be fully accepted by whites and too white to be fully embraced by blacks. I straddle the proverbial line that separates the two. It’s an internal struggle that has plagued me for years. Where should my allegiances lie? Do I run the risk of being alienated by the other side if I choose one over the other?
Then one day, after several years of frustration, debate, reflection, and soul-searching, I made a commitment to myself. I didn’t have to choose a side. My African-American identity doesn’t come with a formal, instruction manual. I can be my own unique, creative, cultured, and open-minded individual and it doesn’t compromise or dismantle my heritage. The type of misguided stereotypes that are disproportionately associated with black culture (E.g. Rap music, craving for southern cuisine, lazy, anti-law enforcement, and an affinity for drugs, crime, etc.) are “social constructs” that only have as much relevance, validation, and merit as we choose to adhere to.
Of course, this issue is not solely a dilemma the African-American community, but rather most minorities in general (Asians, Middle-Eastern, Hispanic, Native-American, LGBT, and women alike). There are rigid, societal pressures that try to persuade and condition us to fit into confined boxes that stifle our maturity, our personal growth, our individuality, and our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. While Hollywood is ripe with diverse talent, the films that receive the most attention, especially come Award season, don’t always reflect the multi-cultural world we reside in (E.g. “Oscars So White Controversy”). Once I realized that I was not alone in my search for identity and self-worth, I turned to the creative outlets that have always helped me conceptualize and put my internal demons into perspective.
Two years ago, I was inspired to write a screenplay for a feature film that could help remedy the lack of diversity in mainstream media. While it was an ambitious undertaking, I poured my heart, soul, and life experience into a fully-realized narrative. After several revisions, film festival submissions, and positive reception from readers, I have put the wheels in motion to turn this personal story and passion project into a feature film.
I have officially launched a film fundraising campaign to raise revenue for production. The story (titled “You People”) is a satirical comedy about modern stereotypes chronicling the life of an intelligent, white-washed, African-American college student, adopted by a liberal Caucasian family, who has a crisis of identity while growing up in bible belt, white suburbia with his hip-hop culture obsessed, white best friend. When an attractive girl on campus approaches the black protagonist based on his “presumed” stereotypical traits, he has to undergo a “cultural transformation” with the help of his white companion to tap into his “inner blackness.” Exploring issues about race, gender, and sexual orientation in an unapologetically human and comedic fashion, my mission with “You People” is to give a fresh voice, an atypical perspective, and a thoughtful examination of minority subcultures (playing against type) not regularly depicted on screen.
They say to write about what you know. This is the eclectic, colorful, diverse, and unique world I come from. I’m my most authentic, vulnerable, unfiltered, true self when I’m writing. I would love to share this story with the world, and hopefully, bring about some healing and perspective. However, I can’t do it without your support. If this is a story, a cause, and a movement you believe in, there are many ways you can get involved. You can donate to my film campaign, you can like/share this page on social media, and you can even be a special part of the forthcoming production (see promo AD and details below)
It takes courage to be yourself, but you should always make it a priority. Embrace your uniqueness, go against the grain, celebrate diversity, and tell your truth. My film “You People” is an expression of my truth. It’s lovely to meet you all. As the series proclaims: BE REAL! Because your voice is worth hearing.
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