Tina Knowles doesn’t need no introduction, she is the woman who blessed us with Beyoncé and Solange, but she has become a star in her own right thanks to her Instagram Live show, Talks With Mama Tina. Now it’s time to get to know the two men who support her in making her show the hit it is.
Cassius had the opportunity to talk with Trell Thomas and Jasper Hagan. In our discussion with the two men, they shared how they came together to work on Talks With Mama Tina as producers. The show touches on topics ranging from voter suppression, race relations, and other social issues affecting the Black community. The show is much-needed as the country is literally engaged in the most important presidential election of our lifetime and have shattered early voting numbers.
Thomas is no stranger to being engaged in the voting process. He leads #AndStillIVote initiatives like the Open Letter To Congress plus is a founding member of My Publicist Is Black, pushing important conversations in Hollywood. He also is Chief Of External Affairs of WACO Theater.
Hagan, a Morehouse graduate, began his media career while working with iHeartmedia, successfully creating and executed local, regional, and national media campaigns.
Step into the interview below.
Cassius Life: To kick things off, tell us how you two ended up linking up with Mama Tina to bring this show to the masses?
Trell Thomas: Well, I have to start by saying it was divine. I’ve worked with Miss Tina for quite some time and really we were just trying to figure out how to kind of talk about what was going on, how to, to galvanize people around the election. And then, uh, Jasper and I met kind of, I want to say randomly, but I don’t believe anything is by coincidence. We met at the top of the year and we just connected and started building together, and then right around the time that Miss Tina and I were talking about doing something about the election and just making sure that our voices are heard and making sure that we know our power as the Black community. Jasper and I just started talking and he told me about some of the things that he was working on.
And then it just all just came together, and we all just started moving forward with this plan to do Talks With Mama Tina.
Jasper Hagan: And I echo those sentiments, Bernard. I think that it just goes to show that when we come together and mobilize and two or more are gathered that so much greatness can happen. As Trell mentioned, we did everything virtually, right, so he’s out in LA, I’m in Chicago. We have a two hour time difference and three hours when we think about all of the resources that we pull together from the east coast, but we were able to strategically put a plan together and then execute it and pivot when need be to bring together to make the first season amazing.
CL: Now, voting has always been important, and due to this upcoming election, it seems like it’s even more important because basically, it feels like our lives are literally depending on this election. So, it’s always been a challenge to get young Blacks involved in the process. So, what would you say to them personally to get them activated into voting?
TT: Honestly, I think that we don’t have a choice. Our literal lives it’s not a figurative thing. Literal lives are on the line with this election, with the pandemic taking out close to a million people at this point down to just all of the attacks on Black communities, on Black and brown bodies. It’s not an option. And I think that more so than ever before, now people are also realizing that our votes do matter because if they didn’t, the voter suppression wouldn’t be at the all-time high that it is.
I mean, you look at the tweet that was put out, the photo that was photoshopped of 50 Cent and Ice Cube, uh, with the Donald Trump hats on. Like, people are going to those types of lengths to suppress the Black vote, to confuse us, to make us think that we shouldn’t be involved or, that our voice doesn’t make a difference or that our community is divided in ways that’s just not true. And so I think that for us, and I’ll let Jasper add to it, for us it’s not, it’s not an option. And, and that’s what I want young people to know. That’s what I want black people to know.
That’s what I want everybody to know because another four years of the same thing definitely can’t happen, and even bigger than that, people are realizing the effect that local elections have as well because Daniel Cameron wouldn’t be in the position that he was in had the local elections be taken more seriously and as a result, Breonna Taylor would still have her life or some justice.
That’s what I want everybody to know because another four years of the same thing definitely can’t happen,
JH: Yes, yes. No, I think that now more than ever with so many people being at home that it’s a lot of let me just focusing on what’s around me now because I don’t have time for like distractions, right? So we’re all hyper-focused on this year’s upcoming election, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. And in terms of the youth realizing and African-Americans with Black and brown faces, more than ever know that voting is so important and so pivotal because we think about like it. In 2016, there were less than 80,000 votes that determined who became president. So, that fact within itself is very, very alarming.
The more of us that go out and get friends and help friends go to the polls and come up with different plans to be able to cast our vote, be it by mail, absentee ballot or going to the polls, the better position we put ourselves in. And even if you say, “Historically, my state has been a blue state,” or a red state or what have you, your voice still makes a difference in your local government. So, yes, we all, we know that it’s a presidential election, but let’s not forget the people who are going to represent us, uh, at the state and local level.
CL: Amen to that. Now, Trell, you brought up, 50 Cent and you brought up Ice Cube, and I had a question about that. Um, basically there are not a lot, but there’s a good number of Black celebrities that have thrown their support behind Trump some have even tried to break bread with Trump. How do you guys feel about that?
TT: I don’t have a lot to say because about that within itself because I try not to speak on things that I really don’t understand. And I don’t totally understand that or know the inner workings of it.
I can just speak for myself, and I would say it’s not a thing that I would do… or that I would support, but I, I don’t, I can’t speak in-depth, about other people’s decisions.
JH: I think that one of the great things about what we have with Talks With Mama Tina, we’re fortunate enough to work with someone who has an alternative view, so we’re able to all align together and voice, and carry the torch for a view that we strongly support.
This is not the time to play politics or to shy away from speaking truth into power.
CL: True, true. Now, granted, it’s a fact, most, a good number of us don’t really mess with Donald Trump. That’s a fact. We don’t. But some do the Candace Owens and Diamond and Silks who openly endorse him, but when it comes to that dynamic when you break it down, it’s not really much as Black women really on that train, but it’s like, there’s a good number of Black men, um, and it’s kind of alarming to see. Uh, what’s your opinion on that?
JH: I think that, and, and Trell, uh, you can totally add to it, but I just know that when you, when you mention Black men and supporting Black women, uh, I think that it’s so important and again, this is one of the reasons why we came together. We feel that Black women are like so, so, such strong pillars within the community. They’re on the front lines. When we think about the Tamika Mallorys of the world, they’re, they’re going to bat for Black men, and it’s shown. So, uh, one of the things we wanted to do was make sure that we’re supporting Black women. So, from us being behind the scenes and supporting Miss Tina, as well as all of the amazing guests and people, um, who partake in, uh, Talks With Mama Tina, we wanted to make sure that, um, they led the forefront, but we also did what we needed to support them.
TT: Yeah, I think that my energy is more so focused on, on like… I think that people who made those kind of decisions or who are making, um, decisions about supporting that candidate, it’s, I feel like that’s a waste of time and waste of energy for me personally.
Um, Black men have a lot of work to do, and, and Black women are the most-educated group that we have, in my opinion, and it shows in the way we vote. You know what I mean?
And so we have to make sure that we’re doing our part in supporting the Black women who are the group that always, always, always support us.
TT: So, and, for me and for us, teaming up with Miss Tina to, uh, do this show, we wanted to learn from Black women. You know what I mean?
Who are constantly leading the way, and like Jasper had mentioned, constantly on the front lines. Um, and, because we know as Black men that we do have work to do. There’s a lot of, there, there are a lot of systematic things, um, that we can talk about all day that have been set in place to confuse us, to separate us. And so we have to make sure that we’re doing our part and, and we’re doing our part in supporting the Black women who are the group that always, always, always supports us. And hopefully, by being an example, other people will follow in that lane or down that trail.
CL: Excellent answer. Did COVID-19 effect making this show happen at all?
TT: You know what, to be honest with you, no. I mean, at first, it was like one of those things… Miss Tina, as you probably know, if you follow her on Instagram, or any, or on social media or have seen any of the clips or anything that’s going around, she’s like, she’s so, she’s truly, Mama Tina, right?
So, she’s like trying to figure out this social media and technology thing, and it shows sometimes in her caption or like some of her bloopers. And, so at first we were like, “Okay, how can we have her work these, uh, technical things,” but she and I, we, we figured it out and Jasper and the Smogo Team, and we all just made it as user friendly as possible for everyone. And we’re in a new normal… and we just made the new normal work. No surprisingly it was, it was really smooth.
JH: I would say, I, I would add into that, and we have a, a running internal joke is, it’s all about the light. So, we made sure, uh, Miss Tina wanted to make sure all of the guests have proper lighting because this is the new normal, as Trell mentioned. So, the fact that we were able to ensure everyone had the proper setup and was able to go live from their respective locations, it was a smooth process with everyone pretty much being at home versus trying to catch people in between, uh, filming or shows, and things of that nature.
CL: Dope, dope. Who were some of the big guests, as far as political-wise that she’s had on the show so far?
TT: Uh, yeah, sure. So, the show is not partisan, right. So it’s, it’s not been like strongly leaning toward, a certain candidate or a certain … It’s really been about bringing together Miss Tina’s friends and family, which is why the show is affectionately called Talks With Mama Tina because it was about bringing people to the table to have a loving conversation, to have a conversation that you would have around your kitchen table or in your living room. And so, some of the guests have been people that are, like that are politically leaning, like people like Deray and uh, Tamika Mallory. So those are people who can speak to that kind of, uh, political-
JH: Stacey Abrams.
TT: Stacey Abrams, uh, people who can speak to that political kind of tie in. And then you have, uh, the people like Bishop T.D. Jakes and, uh, Michelle Williams… and Sarah Jakes Roberts. People like that who are big and important voices for certain communities but also are, you know, people like you and I, who are trying to figure this thing out and help other people figure it out. So, that has been the most beautiful thing about the show, is that we, we’ve been able to have this family conversation with Mama Tina.
JH: And to add to that, one of the great things about the show is that we were able to have specific episodes. So, yes, we had such great talent, but we’ve had shows that were geared towards the faith community or talking to Millennials, or talking to, uh, Hollywood Black loves, so that fact that we were able to, uh, have so much variety on the show, we were able to reach so many people, and it showed in the numbers that each week after week, the viewership increased.
CL: Are there plans, hopes, to make the show, take the show off Instagram Live, and put it on another platform, a bigger platform than that?
TT: Yeah, man, you just have to stay tuned. We’ve got a lot of really great things in the works. For me, this was, Miss Tina is, she’s such an important voice, and it’s one of those people who and she always talks about this, who at, her at 66 years old is on, uh, this social media platform and has for, her following ranges from like, uh, Generation Z, teenagers, all the way up to the older, demographic, 40 and 50-year-olds. So she has such an important voice that really spans. And this isn’t the first time that she’s been approached to do something like this, but it’s the first time that she’s been able to do it kind of in a space where it felt more comfortable and it felt, timely.
And so, there are, as you can imagine, a lot of things are coming to the table now, and we are just figuring out what we want to do and how we want to do it. So, some big things are coming for sure.
CL: Dope. Anything to add, Jasper, on that?
JH: No, he hit the nail on the head. Like I can just say it again because it sounds so nice, you say it twice.
Good things are in store. (laughs).
CL: (laughs). And finally, one last question. If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win, okay-
TT: When, and not-
CL: We’ll put it out in the universe. When they win, hopefully, what do you hope they can accomplish during their term in the White House?
TT: Uh, Jasper, I’ll let you go first.
JH: (laughs). Yeah. I say that. I hope that whoever’s in that seat, right, like whoever is in that seat, I hope that they not only see the value in the Black vote but see the value in supporting Black and brown communities. I’m from the west side of Chicago.
Born and raised in the trenches, right. So, I know what gentrification is because I look back at that same community, and it’s changing so drastically. If we employ and put those resources into communities so that, again, so the Black and brown faces can benefit, then it can add so much more value. So, I think that recognize the importance of your audience, not just when it’s time to cast a ballot, but when it’s actually time to get the work done.
TT: I agree with that, and I would just add that I hope that the new leadership brings community, brings the true things that America has stood on. Liberty, justice for all the ability for people to come, and be revitalized, and feel safe. I hope that what the new leadership brings are the things that we’ve been taught since we were young that America is, but have yet to experience in, in its fullness, right.
So, I hope that they bring in the truths that have been quote-unquote held self-evident, right?
So that is my hope and my desire. And then it really is, uh, my desire that people of color receive equity, you know?
I think that, that it is past time for people to be treated like people, not as, as animals, not as three-fourths of a person, not as, what they’ve been shown on TV. It is my prayer that this new administration brings with it new life, and the revitalizing of America because it’s past time that we live up to our truths, or the truths that we say.
CL: Amen to that. I would say if there’s been any silver lining out of this four years of this nonsense, there has been some sort of awakening within especially the youth as far as politics and getting active in their communities and things of that nature. And it’s kind of reflecting in certain, races down-ballot, like in South Carolina, things of that nature. So, hopefully, that does translate into a win for those races and those people running. So, I’m very optimistic– I wasn’t at first, but I am very optimistic now.
TT: Yeah, man. Well, I, we just gonna carry that optimism and we gonna also put in the action, we gonna turn our pain into purpose, man, and we are gonna make some changes. You know what I mean? It takes conversations like this one even, so thank you for taking the time. We have to be having those on Zoom and on our telephone calls with our families.
In-person in the grocery store. This is not the time to play politics or to shy away, from speaking truth into power. This is the time to talk to everybody, big, small, uh, southern, eastern, western, what, who, whoever they are because we have to … It is what we have to do to move this nation forward for real, you know?
CL: Yes, sir.
JH: Total, totally. And I think that … I just wanted to add, I think that, as you mentioned, one of the things that came out of the pandemic is that we’re so multi-faceted. We’re not one dimensional. We know how to adapt. If it took this pandemic to get so many eyes and ears to know that, hey, your voice matters, Black lives matter, all of these things matter, then it was not in vain.
CL: Amen to that.
Photo: Trell Thomas/Jasper Hagan