Black & Fantastic
LaKase Cousino is an author, filmmaker, and the founder of Cous Cous Media, LLC. She publishes The Seelie Crow magazine in addition to producing and directing films about the human condition told through a fantastical lens.
The Seelie Crow is a space dedicated to uplifting creators in the realm of Fantasy, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds. While the genre has traditionally favored homogeneous representation, we believe the future of Fantasy will be shaped by previously silenced voices. This magazine is the first of its kind founded by a Black woman.
“Land of the Conqueroo” is LaKase’s professional directorial debut and serves as an homage to the Black women and men defying every barrier set before them to claim their human rights in the United States.
LaKase doesn’t take no for an answer. She’s a brilliant woman who is doing amazing things and has made uplifting the voices of BIPOC fantasy authors her mission. Don’t take my word for it, read what she has to say for yourself. Let’s get right to it.
1.) Tell us a little bit about LaKase Cousino.
I love storytelling! There’s something magical that happens between people when an idea comes alive and we see a bit of ourselves in it. It’s like bringing daydreaming to life. So, I grew up reading and watching TONS of movies. Going to the movie theater was how my parents rewarded my brother and I, it was how we spent time together. Then, we would sit in the car on the way home asking each other what we liked, what we didn’t. We were like amateur film critics. With books, I spent my summers and holidays holed up in my room reading and imagining myself on adventures. Books taught me how to express myself in a brand new way.
2.) You’re a fantasy author and have a book called Across the Broken Tide. Tell us what it’s about and what inspired it.
That was my debut and it was about a young woman living in the 10th century who discovers her entire life is essentially a fabrication, but she’s learning this while forced into an adventure. I think I was inspired by research, and also my own longing for figuring out who I am. I’m a little older, but self-discovery takes many forms. I just loved being able to research this period of time that is thought of as very restrictive and – for lack of better words – super white, and finding out people of all backgrounds were living, and making art, and changing the world. It was a beautiful experience.
3.) Your book is self-published. Please share with us why you chose this route.
I think it was the best route for the book. It’s a hard sell! I haven’t come across many books like it, so I thought it would be better to maintain some creative control.
4.) You have a new multimedia company called Cous Cous Media. Please share what your company does. (by the way couscous is one of my FAVORITE foods).
It’s my baby. It literally came about when I was pregnant and thinking about my legacy. I wanted to be able to not only leave part of myself behind for my son, but I want to be able to create space for other people. Through the company, I’m able to be creative and talk about what makes the world turn: art. Also, couscous is delicious! I chose the name as a play on my last name, first name (a friend’s daughter called me couscous and it stuck), and on the power of something so small to have a real impact on the person receiving it.
5.) What projects is Cous Cous Media currently working on?
I finished my first official short documentary and started a Fantasy culture magazine! It’s been a busy time, but very rewarding. I’ve gotten to interview and engage with some awesome people.
6.) You have a fantasy culture magazine called The Seelie Crow. Please share more about this with our readers.
The Seelie Crow is a Fantasy culture magazine dedicated to uplifting voices in the space that would otherwise be ignored. It’s a place for people to write, share their art, and talk about why they love stories with fantastical elements in them. We talk about books, comic books, films, TV, music, and accept original fiction and poetry. I want it to be a place for people to play and I think we’re on our way there!
7.) Cous Cous Media and The Seelie Crow. Such interesting names. Please share what they mean to you.
Cous Cous just makes you feel good. Our tagline for everything under the umbrella is “Fantasy With Flavor.” We want to fill you up on it! So, Cous Cous is all about community and being taken in and cared for. Seelie and crow are due to my nerdiness! I love fairies, folklore, and mythology, and “the seelie court” is the name for the kingdom of fairies. The crow imagery is because crows are seen as messengers and powerful spirits. I like to think of us as powerful messengers. We’re harbingers of what I hope will be positive change.
8.) You have a short documentary called Land of the Conqueroo. Please share what inspired you to produce this documentary.
The documentary is an exploration (in under 11 minutes) of the effects of COVID-19 and environmental racism on the Black community, focusing specifically on my home in Kansas. It was a labor of love because I’m a descendant of emancipated people who fled racism in the South for the promoted freedom in the Midwest. When they got here they found that wasn’t the case. They were given land stolen from the indigenous community that had been all but destroyed by people passing through. Still, they learned – with the help of the Osage People – to cultivate it and developed a community where they were safe. Unfortunately, they faced a new kind of violence in the form of racist land assessments, being forced out of consideration for railways, and other means. I spoke with other descendants about how they live now and found out one is helping to run a community garden and orchard! The spirit lives on.
9.) You are a Black Indie creative. Tell us what that means to you.
It means nothing can stop my flow. I might have to stop to breathe, there might be obstacles erected to make me feel lesser, but I have too much power in my veins. I might fail over, and over, and over again, but I’ll make art no matter what it takes. That, to me, is the nature of being Black and Indie.
10.) You’re also a new mother. Tell us what challenges you faced balancing family life and starting a new company.
I’m still struggling! I often find myself too tired to keep my eyes open. I have aches and pains! But I look at him and know it’s for a good cause. My biggest challenge is saying “no”. I don’t mean saying no to others, but to my own ideas. Everything sounds like a good idea when you’re vibing, but I’m learning that I want to live to see my child grow up. I recently learned Black women are suffering from strokes due to exhaustion at accelerated rates. I’m working to be more mindful of my own limitations.
11.) Tell our readers where they can find your book, Across the Broken Tide.
You can find it anywhere books are sold! It’s available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and elsewhere.
12.) Tell us when we can expect to see the first issue of The Seelie Crow and the documentary, Land of the Conqueroo.
We will be selling the magazine from the site in May of this year (2022). We have both print and digital available for readers. I am in the festival submissions stage of the documentary, but I will make it available for free to viewers wishing to learn more about the effects of these issues. I hope to have that out by the end of the summer for viewing.
13.) Where can we find you on social media?
You can find me everywhere as @LaKaseCousino! For the magazine: @theseeliecrow
For Cous Cous Media at large: @couscousmedia and on YouTube as Cous Cous Media!
14.) Please share your website(s).
Audra Russell is a blogger, freelance writer, and published author. She holds two undergraduate degrees in journalism as well as a Master of Science degree in Education. She also completed the Wesleyan University online Creative Writing Specialization course series.
She is an avid reader and writer’s advocate. Her passion for promoting the works of up-and-coming authors inspired her to create her podcast, Between the Reads, as well as her website, Read It Black to Me. Her debut novel, BLOOD LAND, was published on August 29, 2020, as her fiftieth birthday gift to herself. She lives in Maryland with her husband of more than 20 years, her 3 amazing children, a 12-year-old perpetual puppy, two dueling cats, and her lone surviving chicken of 8 years who she affectionately renamed Gloria (she will survive!)