Author/Filmmaker Anthony Green discusses, “THE SOULS OF BLACK PEBBLES”

Anthony Green is a writer and filmmaker from Memphis currently residing in Washington DC. Green served as an English professor at Columbia College and the University of Memphis. His writings have appeared in Glint Literary Journal, Polychrome Ink, and Black Magnolias. His works include When Boys Exhale and #BlackGayStoriesMatter, a collection of short stories, which was the inspiration for his debut film, THE SOULS OF BLACK PEBBLES

“I am in love with black gay life and the black gay experience. There’s just something magical about black gay men that I love writing about. We come in so many different shades and hues. It’s not just a physical color. It’s what’s on the inside and personality as well. I like to show the variety of experiences we go through, especially when I was writing my horror film. I feel that horror is about survival in my life; no one has been the greater survivalist like black gay men,” he said. 

THE SOULS OF BLACK PEBBLES is a black queer horror narrative; it will screen on Sunday, September 26 in DC. The film screening will have a Black Queer Lives Matter Art Gallery featuring local artists exploring black queer survival. Here’s what Green shared with PrideIndex. 

PrideIndex (PI): How are you, Anthony?

Anthony Green (AG): Oh my god, I’m good. How about you? (Sounds extremely excited) 

PI: Where is all of this excitement coming from? Events from this past summer? Other things you’re working on down the road?

AG: Yeah, everything is coming to fruition. We shot the film {THE SOULS OF BLACK PEEBLES} in January, and now we finally have our first big premiere event coming up.

PI: I have questions about your film THE SOULS OF BLACK PEEBLES, but I want to start by asking about this past summer. Tell us about the writers-in-residence event for Lambda Literary Summer Series. 

AG: Yes, I was one of the writers selected by the Lambda Literary Summer Series. It was an amazing, fantastic opportunity to work with so many other queer up-and-coming artists. I’ve worked within the Lambda Fellowship Program before, and I’m so glad I did. It let me explore my work with refreshed new eyes more in line with my purpose. I feel so supported by Lambda. I’m lucky to have that experience. 

PI: So that means you’re going to write three or four books to submit to the next year for Lammy Award consideration, right? 

AG: That would be the hope. My goal is to one day have a work of mine selected for their Gay Mystery award. One of my favorite writers, Michael Nava, has won before. I love a mystery. 

PI: Who are some of your artistic mentors or influences? 

AG: First, I would say James Baldwin because there’s his superpower in how he speaks, truth to power in that matter of fact way. It is not in a cruel or mean. It is an undeniable human truth to people that is powerful and resonates boldly.

Secondly, I would select Maya Angelou. My production company, Cagedbirds Production, is named after her legendary poem. Her work has gotten me through some dark days. I wanted to make sure that I recognized that. 

I would also name E. Lynn Harris and James L. Hardy. I remember having to sneak their books from the library and have those be my first glimpses into black gay life. There’s something about representation that saves people, and those artists saved me; I hope to rescue someone else. 

PI: Tell me, how did you become a writer and a filmmaker?

AG: My first book, #BlackGayStoriesMatter, was self-published via Amazon. I also did some literary journal stuff as I taught English at the University of Memphis. From there, I have moved to DC, where I started doing plays. Once the pandemic hit, I was in a place where I could not do plays because no one was going to see them, so I decided to come together with our existing production team and do our first film, and that product is THE SOULS OF BLACK PEEBLES, a black queer horror narrative. 

PI: There were a couple of things in there that I wanted to focus on. The first thing is you wrote a book, and you are a literary person, making you one of the slashes. Writer/producers/filmmaker/PA/I blow my own horn. (Laughs) 

AG: Yes. (Laughs) I’m a small slasher. 

PI: Let’s talk about your book first, when and where you were published. 

AG: The book was my thesis project for my MFA. I wanted to focus on select queer narratives. And in working on this project, I studied everybody from James Baldwin and James Hardy to E. Lynn Harris. My product ended up being this collection of short stories entitled #Black Queer Stories Matter. I like this collection of stories. I went into different genres that typically do not have black queer characters infused by some black queer lived experiences. 

PI: Was one of those stories the inspiration for THE SOULS OF BLACK PEEBLES

AG: Good question. Yes, one of those short stories turned out to be THE SOULS OF BLACK PEEBLES. It was my first foray into horror. Stephen King once wrote, “If you’re going to write horror, you need to write about what scares you.” Growing up, I was most afraid of slaves, Martin Luther King Jr, and The Temptations. As an adult, I wanted to assess why I was scared of images of other black men. Often, when we look at anti-blackness, we’re always looking at it from a white perspective. So what happens when the calls are coming from inside of the house? I wanted to explore that psychological state from a black perspective.

PI: My grandmother will have a fit when she reads this story about a black man who was scared of Martin Luther King Jr and The Temptations. You must explain why you were afraid?

AG: I’m from Memphis. All Memphians in elementary school go to the Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. They didn’t tell my six-year-old self that when you visit Martin Luther King Jr’s room, there will be a statue of him right there. So that traumatized me; his voice and that power, the entire experience was overwhelming. As a young man raised by a single mother, parented without black male influences, it shows up in different ways. I wanted to explore that with this character.

PI: Now, what about the fear of The Temptations?  

AG: (Laughs) Have you ever seen that Temptations movie? The little mini-series? Everyone died so tragically and quickly. If you were to look at that film through the right lens, that’s a horror movie.  

PI: (Laughs) Okay, but if you look through another lens, you will see how they triumphed. You had that character, Otis. He was the person in the group that kept things together when things went all over the place. 

AG: That’s true. You’re speaking to a 30-year-old man looking at it. Imagine it from a child’s perspective. 

PI: Talk about Cagedbirds Production. 

AG: Cagedbirds Production started out as a writing contest for kids in juvenile/alternative schools. Our focus was to encourage and showcase the literary work of at-risk young people. From there, we wanted to do an in-person event, so we came up with this thing called The Black Box. It was supposed to be a series of short plays written by people from the community of different LGBTQIA class identities. All of those stories would come together to create a larger tapestry. When I moved to DC, I started getting involved with Brave Soul Collectives with Alan Sharpe and African-American Collective Theater. They pushed me to do my play, When Boys Exhale, here in DC. Before the pandemic, we had two sold-out shows. We were set to run the show again and then go on tour in Atlanta, but the Covid-19 pandemic hit. 

PI: What did you do to keep busy during the pandemic? 

AG: The first thing I did was apply for grants because Cagedbirds Production lost a lot of money because we could not do shows. Once I started COVID Artists Relief Grants, that’s when I had the idea of doing this horror film. I use those funds to find locations in DC and utilize our entire production team from the play. That’s the heart of what we do, for us, by us vibe; it’s this vision of having black queer creators involved in all stages of the production process.

PI: What are you going to work on next with Cagedbirds Production ? 

AG: We’re in the middle of promoting this project. {THE SOULS OF BLACK PEEBLES}  We had our first sneak screening at Memphis Black Gay Pride. Now we’re doing the screening in DC on September 26. We will be doing a virtual screening with Adodi’s DC Chapter, and with Black, Gay, and Stuck At Home. The film will be streaming on the new black gay streaming platform iElevate + tv. We’re raising money to submit it to film festivals. As far as our next film project, it will be a murder mystery about early childhood trauma and church heart. 

PI: What advice would you offer to aspiring up and coming writers? 

AG: What advice would I give? Constantly create and put things out there, and do not compare yourself to others. As artists, we often compare ourselves to what others are putting out there, what awards they’re getting, or how much money they’re making. If you keep looking at that, you’re only looking at half of yourself. I remember when I was starting the process of making this film. So many people told me you couldn’t make a film for less than $100,000. Or you can’t make a film during the pandemic. Don’t focus on the resources you don’t have; if you do, you’ll never move forward. The great artists did not always have the best resources; they knew how to make the best of what was in front of them.

PI: What’s next for you on the horizon? 

AG: I’m in the middle of working with the 202Creates program for Mayor Muriel Bowser. She selects a couple of creative entrepreneurs from around the city to work with. We have fellowship workshops to help take our innovative businesses to the next level. They have helped me promote the gifts and resources I need to sustain Kingsburg during the pandemic. They were vital to the production process of my film. Not only did we deal with the pandemic, but we had to deal with filming during the riots on the capital. We had a hard time filming on location because there were certain spots that we couldn’t shoot anymore. It was 202Creates that helped us to put together a final product. 

Anthony can be reached via Instagram at @anthonygreen3576

THE SOULS OF BLACK PEEBLES screens Sun, Sep 26th at 19 Dupont Cir NW • Washington, DC at 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM click here