This February, I wanted to intentionally focus on branching out of the social media algorithm and learn more about Black history and culture. It at first was a challenge. I began to realize that a lot of racial discrimination isn't as forward as we may think it is. Everyday media filters out the stories that we might not have heard before, and only focuses on what will get the most views. I want to share some incredible stories and works with you that I've caught up with during this last February. As the year goes on, it's important to remember that every month it's important to uplift and support black communities and dig deeper into how Black history shaped our nation. Black history is American history.
Created within the walls of San Quintin State Prison, this podcast dives into the everyday life of incarceration. Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams started Ear Hustle in this high-security prison as a rehabilitation project. It was crowned Radiotopia's 2016 Podquest winner and with their and (Nigel Poor's)added support, the first season was released the following year. The title comes directly from prison slang, which means to eavesdrop. Inmates interview and speak to topics such as living with someone in a 4x9 space and you start to realize that everyone may have a bad roommate story. By listening to the whole story you start to understand the dynamics of systematic racism, the (in)justice system, and that everyone has a story. This one really holds a special place in my heart. I was able to go and tour San Quintin and talk with some of the inmates. This podcast captures their personalities and most of all their humanity. It's both relatable and eye-opening. The first couple seasons have episodes that are like half an hour long so throw that on while doing laundry or something.
Average Episode Length: 25- 60 mins
Black History for White People
From The Black Panthers to today's protests in the Black Lives Matter movement, they focus on one simple idea: educating white people on Black history. Growing up in the American school system with many white privileges, there are a million things I need to unlearn on the topic of race and Black history. This podcast puts the listener in front of their own learned biases with facts and stories that were left out of "traditional American history". The group of hosts is made up of many multicultural people so it becomes these really raw conversations with each other about race. Each episode aims to challenge white people to become actively engaged in social justice. Acknowledging your place as an ally to African American communities helps share that weight of oppression and lack of opportunity. To know the past is to grow into the future.
Average Length: 45- 60 mins
Higher Learning with Van Lathan and Rachel Lindsay
If you watch The Bachelorette, and I do not, you'll remember Rachel Lindsay from Season 13. Afterward, she got a lot of hate for being the first African American woman on the show. She handled it really well, but no person should have to go through that. I found this podcast from the recommend section on my podcast app. Now, she's teamed up with sports and entertainment host Van Lathan to fight the good fight in this educating and entertaining podcast. Twice a week they review the hottest topics in Black culture, sports, and politics. In conversations that you feel like you could jump right into, Higher Learning is fast-paced and all about what's going on right now. If you're ready for some celebrity gossip with some new perspective on racial themes, this is absolutely the podcast for you.
Average Length: 1h 30min
Malcolm and Marie
Starring the beautiful Zendaya and John David Washington, this movie follows the aftermath of his movie premiere for a filmmaker and his girlfriend. Tensions rise as they discuss the emotional aspects of their relationship and his movie. It's beautifully shot: strictly in a grey tone. Their acting is phenomenal. You can physically see the power shifts in each scene. It has an incredible script. This Netflix original was shot completely in quarantine too so props to that. They mention ideas of how the way art is perceived is heavily dependent on race and how a co-dependent relationship can seem to just keep going in circles. Some of us may have that relationship, some of us have already been through it, but it can be extremely exhausting and that shows through in the movie.
Watch Now on Netflix
The Rape of Recy Taylor
As you would expect from the title, it is a pretty heavy documentary. Interviews with the family and multiple historians cover what happened to Recy Taylor in Abbeville, Alabama. It talks about the historical power dynamic between a group of white men and Black women. The boys basically admitted guilt in their interviews, however, due to Taylor's race and the boys' connections in the town, nothing became of the case. Rosa Parks began to get involved in fighting for this case as well. They highlight the violence against Black women that American history leaves out and how this specific case influenced so much more of the Civil Rights Movement than it is given credit for.
Watch Now on Hulu
Black is King
In another incredible visual album, Beyoncé celebrates all kinds of Black history. Based on the story of The Lion King, a young prince is raised through a series of performances that are dedicated to the celebration of culture. The film addresses the idea of leadership as rooted in stewardship to the community rather than "white supremacist ideas of hierarchy, dominance, and oppression". She creates new images for the stereotypes put on Black culture and exemplifies power and pride in it. It's a journey of temptation and growth, but ultimately a triumph for the young king. Her costumes: incredible, the dancing: incredible, the music: incredible. I would expect nothing less from Queen Bey.
Watch Now on Disney+
12 Years a Slave
This is one of the hardest movies I have seen. Depicted with realistic violence, the horrors of the south are brought to light in this movie inspired by a true story. Solomon Northup was kidnapped and brought down south to be enslaved where he is stripped of his entire identity. They refuse to call him his real name and instead gave him the name "Platt". The hours are long, there is no one that he can trust. There is a community in these trying times, but that's because it's the only way to survive. The Guardian deemed it "not just a great film but a necessary one." While it may be easy to distance the idea of slavery to a textbook, it was something that had people forced into a drastically different way of life that is vividly depicted on screen. I did have to take some time after watching it, but it is something everyone should see.
Watch Now on Hulu
Judas and the Black Messiah
In Chicago, late-1960s, a man by the name of William O'Neal is offered a plea deal by the FBI. He just has to infiltrate the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. He ends up getting very close to Chairman Fred Hampton in which the FBI is trying to get rid of. It's an incredible biopic of another story that isn't directly taught in classrooms. It's another story the government tried to cover up. This movie talks about the betrayal of the Black Panther Party but also the idea of O'Neal turning against his entire community. Great movie, highly recommended. I guess it's in theatres now too so be safe out there if you do decide to go.
Watch Now on HBO Max
Black Art: In the Absence of Light
It's an informative documentary that highlights the importance of Black artists in history who have been traditionally withheld from the art world. Artists that shaped history like Norman Lewis Art historians speak to ideas While facing racial bias, many creators turned to political art to tell their stories. Emma Amis and Faith Ringgold are some of the ladies behind bigger acts of speech within their art. They focused on the racism and sexism issues that they were faced with. It's almost like a PBS documentary, I really liked it but I can see how it may also put you to sleep. I would put this on if I was a substitute art teacher.
I started watching this show because it was created by Donald Glover and his brother Steven. I loved his movie Guava Island and his music so why not. It's a funny show, as these young men try to figure out the Atlanta rap industry. It's dramatic and weird, it absolutely has Glover's flair in this slice of life comedy. I'm excited to continue watching this series for some of the topics they cover in upcoming episodes.
This show has Winston from New Girl! Now in a role of a budding cartoonist, he is navigating the world with a new "woke" mentality after a racial profiling situation with the cops. He is now faced with animated items asking him questions he doesn't want to answer about his art like "what is the metaphor behind Toast and Butter?". It's a funny show with a great cast, Lamore Morris is a great actor. I thought it was a good storyline and made me laugh, but didn't necessarily say anything about or challenge racism in America.
Watch Now on Hulu
Self Made: Inspired by the incredible Madam CJ Walker
Another great Netflix Original, the untold story of the first woman millionaire and her climb to the top of African American hair care products. It's a four-part series that dives into Sarah Breedlove's entrepreneurship and personal life that raised her to the name of Madam CJ Walker. While Octavia Spencer's lead performance captured the essence of CJ herself, the storyline is not completely in line with what happened in real life. The show dramatized the competitive relationship between her and (fictional) Addie Munroe. Creators say that this show should not be taken as a fabrication but as the inspiration of Ms. CJ and real-life Annie Malone. A good show, but do your research! We'd love to see something that uplifts both hardworking ladies!
Watch Now on Netflix