How long have you been a professor?
I’ve been a professor for about 17 years. First at the Cal State University, Northridge for about eight and now here at LMU for eight and a half.
What inspired you to become a professor?
There aren't too many jobs where I can talk as much as I do and still have a job.
What type of classes do you typically teach?
I typically teach courses concerning the intersection of African American Studies and popular culture. So that includes film, science fiction, television, comics and most recently music.
How long have you been an author?
I’ve been an author for about 16 years.
When did you win the American Book Award?
I won that award in, I believe, 2012 for my book "SuperBlack: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes." It was a real honor to win an award that, in my mind, the authors that have won it prior to me and continue to win it after me are so impressive. I’m really humbled to be included in that group of people.
What inspired you to write your book on Prince?
I was wanting for a deeper explanation from the people I had already read about Prince and race. It seemed so intriguing that they seemed to stop short. Then I thought, "Well, maybe it’s a possibility that I can go forward with it myself, further than they did." That was the attempt; I didn’t necessarily think I would, but I wanted to at least try.
What was the process of writing this book like?
It was a very revealing process because I came into the project with some preconceived notions about I would be a real honest critic of Prince, and I thought I knew all the places I would really, as they say, hit him hard. As I got into it, a lot of my preconceived notions were turned over the head. For example, I was very critical of Prince’s attempt to incorporate hip hop into his music. I still am critical, but I learned to really appreciate what he was trying to do and even see some of his successes.
What do you hope people take away from the book and your talk?
I hope they take away a deeper understanding of Prince in relation to American society in terms of race, gender and sexuality. Maybe they might want to read something about Prince, given that they’ve listened to a lot of his music.
How do you think your book talk plays into Black History Month?
Hopefully it helps to underscore the importance and the complexity of Blackness. That it's not just one’s look or one’s statements, but it's also how one is understood.
What’s your favorite project that you’ve done so far?
Well, it’s like asking which one is your favorite child. I can’t pick favorites. I love all my babies, but right now this Prince thing is kind of interesting.
What prompted you to actually write your book on Prince?
I looked around for the book I wanted to read, and I couldn’t find it. So I had to write it.