It's Black History Month — no better time to support these Black-led movies and shows.
In 2020, pretty much every industry went through a crisis. Yes, partly because of the pandemic. But, after the murder of George Floyd and the international Black Lives Matter playlists, everyone looked around and realized: their Black representation was abysmal.
From corporate offices to movies, people were forced to reckon with the institutionalized racism at the center of their industries. Promises were made. Copies of bell hooks's All About Love were sold out. DEI executives were added to C-Suites. And everyone swore to look inward and make changes outward. But now, all those promises have been forgotten.
DEI leaders are being fired across the board in record numbers, and companies are proving that all their talk in 2020 was just that — talk. According to a report by Revelio Labs, a data analytics company analyzing workforce trends, DE&I roles have been diminishing faster than non-DE&I positions since 2021.
The entertainment industry is also reneging on its promises. Despite having loyal audiences and critical acclaim, Black titles that were greenlit during the BLM fervor have now been cast aside by executives. In 2023, a record number of Black-led titles were canceled. Some of the axed titles include: HBO MAX's Love Life starring Jessica Willims; Grown-ish, the Hulu spinoff of Black-ish starring Yara Shahidi, Trevor Jackson, Luka Sabbat, and Marcus Scribner; the beloved political comedy series Ziwe starring Ziwe; AMC's Damascus; FX's Kindred; and the reality show Sweet Life: Los Angeles.
Even powerhouses in the industry are worried by this trend. Issa Rae, showrunner of Insecure and the President in Barbie spoke with Net-A-Porter about this trend. “You’re seeing so many Black shows get canceled; you’re seeing so many executives – especially on the DEI side – get canned. You’re seeing very clearly now that our stories are less of a priority.”
If even Issa Rae worries about the state of entertainment, it must be dire.
So this Black History Month, support Black titles — before they get axed. Maybe by showing our support to Black stories, we can get more of them made. Here's to wishful thinking.
Forget Anyone But You, Rye Lane is bringing back the rom-com. Starring David Jonsson andVivian Oparah, this lighthearted romantic comedy follows two heartbroken singles who spend a day together in South London.
They Cloned Tyrone
Starring John Boyega, Teyonah Parris and Jamie Foxx, this science fiction comedy and mystery follows an unlikely trio as they delve into the heart of a neighborhood conspiracy.
Directed by Daniel Kaluuya (of Nope and Judas & the Black Messiah), The Kitchen is a dystopian commentary on class in London. Set in a future without socialized housing, The Kitchen follows a community determined not to leave their home.
Head to the theaters for this one — it's one of Jeffery Wright's best performances. It follows an author who parodies the mainstream expectations of Black writers and is caught in a trap when his parody book skyrockets in popularity. A commentary on American culture and the publishing industry, follow this outrageous tale — which also features Issa Rae.
Kelvin Harrison Jr. stuns in this biographical portrayal of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges — who was the illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation. It tells the insane but true story of his rise into the upper echelons of French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, including his love affair and falling out with Marie Antoinette.
Abbott Elementary is back for Season 3 this month. Celebrate the Emmy award-winning sitcom by binging the first two seasons in preparation for its great return. Fingers crossed it never gets canceled.
From the Bridgerton family comes Queen Charlotte, which emerged from the fun and fanciful world of Bridgerton as a force of nature. Dramatizing the real-life story of Queen Charlotte and George III, this surprisingly sharp and smart drama explores themes of race and mental health while retaining Shonda Rhimes's addictive approach to romance.
Speaking of British dramas, Top Boy is London's answer to The Wire. Every few years it goes viral when it comes back on Netflix. Catch up now and don't be surprised if you find yourself incorporating London slang into your day.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse
The Spider-Verse animated Spider-Man movies follow Miles Morales, the Black, Brooklyn spiderman, as he travels across multiple dimensions. The most recent 2023 installment is a heart-wrenching journey that will thrill and surprise you, then leave you begging for part three.
Donald Glover's partnership with Amazon Studios is bringing us a TV remake of Mr & Mrs Smith this year. Until then, enjoy Swarm, starring Dominique Fishback. Fictionalizing the fervor of Beyonce's Beyhive, it's a satirical thriller about fandom.
Based on The New York Times-bestselling book by Charmaine Wilkerson, Black Cake is a generational-spanning family drama wrapped in a murder mystery about a woman whose children unravel the mystery of her life from the Caribbean to America.
Zoe Kravitz, the ultimate cool girl, stars in one of my favorite shows ever — another Black-led show that was canceled after one season. A rework of the novel by Nick Hornby and the 2000 movie starring John Cusack, High Fidelity is a tumultuous story about one girl, the music she likes, and all her exes. It also stars Da'Vine Joy Randolph, who is currently nominated across the awards circuit for her recent role in The Holdovers.
After the hit that was Hulu's Genuis: Aretha, the series is back with a story about Martin Luther King and Malcom X. This docu-series explores the work and personal lives of these two civil right figures without shying away from their personal figures and spotlighting the contributions of the women in their lives and in the movement.
The Color Purple
A cinematic feat, this 2023 musical adaptation features a powerhouse cast of: Halle Bailey, Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, and more. You're going to want to see this in theaters.
The Little Mermaid
Halle Bailey brought new life to this fairy tale and its soundtrack. Balance the heavier content you consume this month with this tale (no pun intended) of hope and love.