When asked to talk about his latest venture he co-founded with friend/business partner and author John Collins, Dr. Derrick Tennial is like a kid experiencing a sugar rush. Just watch him as he smiles with excitement and jumps with glee. “Oh my God! it has been absolutely amazing,” he said. “Active Works Media is an entertainment company whose mission is to be a creative voice that educates, empowers and entertains communities of color and beyond.” Why Atlanta, the first project of this venture, is a limited series that profiles members of LGBTQIA communities in Atlanta.
This is not the first venture for these brothers in the name of ink, an affectionate bond these gentlemen share for their love of writing. In 2013, Tennial published Collins’ first book Virgin To The Life. In 2016 the two collaborated on The Dingalogues – a highly successful stage production that featured the stories of five black gay men, crafted through monologues. Collins served as co-writer and co-executive producer. Tennial speaks about Grown As Men: An Inconvenient Truth, a short book which is available now on Amazon, and ACTIVE Works Media. The writing duo hope to premiere the first interview in this series in time for Atlanta’s annual Black Gay Pride celebration during the Labor Day Weekend. Now that we have gotten Tennial to contain his exuberance here’s the skinny.
PrideIndex (PI) Hello Dr T, It’s been almost two years since we last saw each other face-to-face. How have you been?
Dr. Derrick Tennial (Dr. T): I know right! It has been too long. I am doing well. I am still in academia, which has kept me pretty busy. However, I have found my way back to my creative roots!
PI: Covid has changed it all, have you had the chance to come up with new material for a book? If so, spill the teas.
(Dr. T): During Covid, I reflected on my life as so many others did and decided to change the trajectory. I recognized there were some things I was holding onto, and I committed to getting back to my creative self. Yes, during Covid I came up with a lot of new material…(Laughs). However, I have only published one….and it is a pocketbook, a very short book of fiction, which is intended to be a series entitled Grown As Men: An Inconvenient Truth. The first book or “episode” is about two preachers, who are heavily involved in their church who decided to get married. I know, controversial right? (Laughs). But that is what I do. I am called to interrupt the status quo, to challenge the counter story. The e-book is available on Amazon.
With controversy surrounding Critical Race Theory (CRT), I am also at work revising and publishing my dissertation as a book. I feel like I wrote it for such a time as this. CRT was a part of the theoretical foundation I used to tell the stories how educational, political, and public policies affected six generations of my family in the South. In true narrative counter story fashion, I used the voice of my great-grandfather who died in 1978 to tell the stories of his descendants. I am excited about it! It will be available on Amazon in September.
PI: Tell us about your new venture. What is it? What do you hope to accomplish?
(Dr. T): I am the co-founder of ACTIVE Works Media. ACTIVE Works Media is a media entertainment company whose mission is to be a creative voice that educates, empowers, and entertains communities of color and beyond. We are ACTIVE: Aware of our Community, Truth, Intellect, Voice, and Evolution. We really intend to do what the mission statement says, “educate, empower, and entertain.” Our very first project is entitled “Why Atlanta,” a limited series that highlights various aspects of the LGBTQIA+ community in Atlanta. The first segment of the series is entitled, “My Name Is…And My Pronouns Are.” We highlighted members of the LGBT community who identify as gay, lesbian, gender non-conforming, and trans. Oh my God! It was absolutely amazing! We are in post-production now; the series will premiere in September, hopefully in time for Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride.
PI: I heard the author John Collins is involved. What is his involvement?
(Dr. T): Yes, John Collins, author of the Virgin to the Life series, which includes Sounds of Burned Silence, Poetic Violence, God Ain’t Call Me Fag, and Letters, the co-writer and co-executive producer of The Dingalogues, which we produced in 2016, is the other half of ACTIVE Works Media. John is the first author I published under my publishing company, Let’s REThink That, which is now REThinking the Narrative… I told you I was busy during Covid. I will be relaunching RTN this fall as well. John and I have enjoyed a great working relationship, and we recognized the potential to do more in 2016 during the production of The Dingalogues. We have a number of ideas that we’ve worked on since then, but none of them came to fruition until NOW! There are no coincidences in the universe. It is all about timing!
PI: How long did it take you to come up with this idea from conceptual to finish?
(Dr. T): With this particular project, it was like a gay relationship….We met on Friday, developed it on Saturday, and produced it on Sunday. (Laughs!) No, it was not quite that fast. Beyond being his publisher and The Dingalogues, John and I have been working together all along. We just formalized our business relationship on April Fool’s Day of this year. (Laughs.) We started working on the concept for Why Atlanta in February actually. It was not until after we became a formal business, we moved full steam ahead with Why Atlanta. By May, we had a production schedule and a filming date. Things moved very fast!
PI: How did you recruit participants to this project?
(Dr. T): We reached out to people we knew in the community to help us recruit participants for the show. We are also using our personal contacts as well. I am very grateful to Thrive SS and Larry Walker, also from The Dingalogues production. Larry is a founder and executive director of the organization and Dwain Bridges, who is also a founder and director of operation and finance. These brothers are doing amazing work in the area of providing support and services for individuals living with HIV. They opened their arms and welcomed us into the facility, which is where we filmed the first episodes. Also, we brought on our friend and brother, Tao Fi of Here’s Life Media, who did an outstanding job as director. The synergy the weekend we filmed was awesome. Everyone was so patient and cooperative. We are truly grateful.
PI: What platforms will this series be available on?
(Dr. T): Active Works Media has its own YouTube Channel, so it will be available there. We shot the series using the highest specifications and best quality cameras. The finished product will be ready for when Netflix, Hulu, iElevate, or whomever comes a calling….(Laughs.) The cinematographer, Maurice Henning of Polymed Pictures is one of the best in the business. We are pursuing various avenues because we feel this work is groundbreaking. We really want to educate, empower, and entertain through this work, so we are not limiting ourselves to just one platform.
PI: Is there a possibility of “WHY ATLANTA,” becoming a feature length documentary?
(Dr. T): Any and everything is possible! John and I are not taking anything off of the table! Today, YouTube and Nextflix…tomorrow, the Academy Awards. You never know! (Laughs!)
PI: If someone was interested in becoming the subject of a future “WHY ATLANTA” webisode, what should they do?
(Dr. T): Please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also leave information on our website: www.actvworks.com. Of course, anyone can follow us on IG and Twitter @ actvworksmedia or Active Works Media.
PI: What’s Next For You?
(Dr. T): There is so much!!! (Laughs!) My goal is to transition from academia and really live in this creative space. Lucratively I might add. In addition to working with John to push Active Works Media to amazing heights, I am relaunching Let’s REThink That, now as REThinking the Narrative (www.letsrethinkthat.com). I still publish, but I am working to expand the brand. I am working on two new books. I am also working on launching Breathe, a spiritual safe space. Stay tuned…I’m not done yet!