Let’s face it, I know you’re going to watch “Black Panther.” The film has been highly anticipated for two years already so why would I even put it on the list? What I will say about it is, and I promise no spoilers, it lives up to the hype. It exceeded every expectation of mine and the audience members around me. After watching the movie, you’ll all want to pledge your allegiance to Wakanda. I was shook three minutes in! It has it all: action, romance, plot twists, and opens room for a must-have conversation within the Black community. If you didn’t plan on watching it, truly look within and ask yourself why.
With all the well-deserved flock going towards “Black Panther”, I thought it was worth mentioning other movies starring the essence of Blackness that is commonly overlooked by the outside world. Because it is Black History Month, I thought we would all benefit from indulging in Black cinema as part of celebrating Black excellence. There’s variety from parody to documentary and hopefully you spread the word about some other Black films worth noting.
This documentary dives into how the U.S. prison system perpetuates Black enslavement post-slavery from lynch mobs to present day. This insightful film, featuring Black Panther activist Angela Davis, politicians, and scholarly input gives a broad analysis on how laws and stigmas are created to target the Black community, much like the War of Drugs. The film unravels and exposes every layer of how a justice system put in place to serve and protect its citizens, punishes Black people at disproportionate rates than any demographic in America. Directed by Ava DuVernay, the documentary only uncovers the tip of the iceberg of how America conspires against its’ Black citizens.
A hilarious parody of Blaxploitation, action, and comedy, Black Dynamite focuses on a Kung Fu black belt, take no mess, smooth, seductive, jive turkey that gets reunited with the CIA after his brother is killed. Black Dynamite’s real focus (and yes, that is his name) is cleaning up the streets of the Black community from drugs and tainted alcohol along with his team Bullhorn, Cream Corn, and Saheed. This film, starring Ryan Cooler, will have you both in tears and knowledgeable about what life was like during the 70s when the government introduced drugs to Black neighborhoods.
You either love it or you hate it, but everyone knows someone who can quote “Boondocks.” This comedic animation centers on the lives of the Freeman family. Huey Freeman, a 10-year-old pro-black activist, regularly labeled an extremist, serves as moral guidance. His brother, Riley, an 8-year-old with a reckless tongue and do-what-I-please personality inspired by the thug lifestyle. The brothers are accompanied by their civil rights activist Granddad who slangs his belt faster than you can say ouch in a not so ordinary suburb called Woodcrest. Together they share wild adventures like battling an archival from the underworld or saving Oprah from a kidnapping. Did I mention they are familiar in the art of strategic fight forms?
Finally, a film about Black boyhood and its’ transition into manhood while mentioning the realities of stereotypes and misconceptions placed on being Black, gay, and poor. One of reasons why this film is breath-taking is the insight the audience gets on intimacy, childhood development, how trauma can take course in someone’s life, and why every moment has meaning. We follow Chiron through life as he tries to understand his identity and how the world perceives him. The film, while providing aesthetically pleasing visuals, is tear-jerking and honestly depicts a narrative rarely portrayed about Black boys and men alike.
A group of four friends who grew up together in Harlem gets corrupted when one boys gets hungry for power. Tired of being fighting with a rival group and inspired by an old friend during an armed robbery, Bishop, gets a gun and becomes trigger happy. The cast involves some big names like Samuel L. Jackson, Omar Epps, Queen Latifah, and of course, the Tupac Shakur. After watching, you’ll want to consider your friend dynamics to see who really got juice and who’s just plain crazy.
“Chewing Gum” (series)
Micheala Coel makes her debut as Tracey Gordon, a religious, sexually frustrated, virgin, twenty-something distancing herself from her thick-accent African mother’s ideology of sex and intimacy. Her sister, Cynthia, is loyal to her mother and church ideas. She lives in her own world and re-imagines her sister as a sinner of lust after discovering Connor, her sister’s love interest. This wacky Netflix comedy will have you cackling. It brings relief to the beginning stages of sexual exploration when you just don’t know what to do. A little tip though, don’t do anything Tracey does.
“Living Single” (series)
Living Single debunks the archetype of a single Black story rhetoric by providing six people who are diverse through style, personality, occupation, and ambitions living un-apologetically in their Brooklyn brownstone apartment. With only 5 seasons, we witness amazing character development as friends, Khadijah, Synclaire, Maxine, Kyle, Overton, Regina, and Ira (in season 5), discover themselves. Together, they learn what it takes being twenty-something in a 90’s kind of world.