Saturday, February 06, 2021

1. Classic Cicely

Following Cicely Tyson’s death last week, fans are paying homage by revisiting her most timeless performances. From 1974’s The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman to Roots, Tyson’s roles provided the kind of representation Black women are still fighting for — and the actress displayed a range that most actors can’t approach. Who else can go from playing a teacher who keeps an ex-con played by Richard Pryor on the straight and narrow in 1981’s Bustin’ Loose to a singing role as “Mother Hopkins” in the Outkast-produced, 2006 prohibition musical Idlewild. Tyson is gone, but her work will stand the test of time.

2. ‘Greenleaf’

Black identity is entrenched in the church, a relationship that dates back to colonization and is etched into the African American experience whether one grows up religious or not. Greenleaf, an original television drama from the Oprah Winfrey Network, encapsulates this system, flaws and all, as it follows a Black church family from Memphis. Greenleaf does not shy away from controversial topics such as infidelity and sexual assault, while also presenting the difficulties of keeping a community inspired, a journey that has OZY Editor-at-Large Christina Greer riveted.

3. ‘Once There Was Brasilia’

WA4, a chain-smoking, intergalactic agent on the last legs of his career, has just been sent to Earth to assassinate the incoming Brazilian president on Inauguration Day 1961. The twist comes when his junk of a ship crashes in the satellite city of Ceilândia, where the country’s displaced and unprivileged reside. WA4 eventually embraces the oppressed community and helps them overthrow the National Congress. This Afrofuturist docufiction echoes present-day Brazil’s corrupt political landscape, and can be caught on Amazon Prime.

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1. Chloe Deserves Better

Google Chloe Bailey, and the singer and actress still shows up as “child actor” in the search bar. This week, though, the world realized exactly how grown up the 22-year-old is, after Bailey participated in the overtly sensual “Buss It” and “Silhouette” challenges on TikTok. As the protégées of Beyoncé, Chloe and her sister, Halle, grew up in the spotlight, but Chloe didn’t even have an Instagram of her own until this year. Now she is discovering that not all fans were ready for her to grow up — at least, not in that way. Amid the hubbub, this piece by Refinery29 is worth a read. It has been widely shared and discussed by a Black community tired of the way women are slut-shamed and vilified.

2. ‘Black Buck’

Darren Vender does all right for himself. While he does live with his mom in a Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstone, the self-described “attractive Black man” who is “taller than average” has held down his Starbucks manager gig for four years. Vender’s life changes, however, after he convinces a regular to order something new. Impressed at his salesmanship, the customer — who turns out to be a big-shot businessman — asks Vender to work for his startup. Written by Mateo Askaripour, Black Buck is an eye-opening read that deftly touches on the intersections of class, capitalism and race.

3. ‘Four Hundred Souls’

Actress Phylicia Rashad (SoulThe Cosby Show), writer Michael Harriot and activist Angela Davis are just three of the 90 compelling voices compiled in the new anthology Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019. Edited by scholars Keisha N. Blain and Ibram X. Kendi, Four Hundred Souls tells the centuries-long journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present through short stories, historical essays and vignettes. This essential read adds color and context that paints African American history more authentically than the monolithic account defining most history books.

4. ‘Tea By The Sea’

When Plum Valentine’s parents left her in Jamaica, the plan was to protect the 17-year-old from the troubled streets of Brooklyn. She saw it as abandonment. She feels that loneliness again when she is impregnated by her 25-year-old tutor who runs off with their baby. Written by Jamaican-born Donna Hemans, Tea by the Sea tells three narratives, that of Plum, her tutor and their child, in a story about the lengths one will go to find a lost loved one.

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1. ‘Humanity Archive’

Nicknamed “the professor” as a kid, Jermaine Fowler took a detour to business school despite his lifelong dream to educate the world through history. Luckily for us, the Louisville, Kentucky, native never let that vision die. His narrative-based documentary podcast Humanity Archive showcases people unknown and stories untold, telling history like you’ve never heard it before. One episode, for example, tells the story of Benjamin Banneker — a free Black man in the 1700s who stood up to Thomas Jefferson for his views on slavery. With a passion that cuts through the audio, Fowler makes listeners feel as excited about history as he is.


Tune into this head-spinning project (pronounced “ee-kok-weh”) between Batida, an Angola-born, Lisbon-raised artist, and Luaty Beirão, an Angolan rapper turned activist. The trendsetting duo — particularly Batida, one of the most revered and hottest rising electronic musicians out of Africa — shock with a three-set “single” in which all three songs are titled “Pele” (yes, we are just as confused as you are). Each a remix of the former, the songs build new layers, synths, techno and 808s onto the drums and bells introduced by the opening track. And if you like that, then watch out for the March 5 release of the full album. Titled The Beginning, the Medium, the End and the Infinite, you can be about 95 percent confident it’s not just an infinite loop of “Pele.”

3. ‘Historically Black’

With the help of celebrity voices including Issa Rae, Keegan-Michael Key, Roxane Gay and others, Historically Black explores unique stories in Black history inspired by user-submitted artifacts like a family photo or a slave’s bill of sale. It hits differently when you learn about the Million Man March through a conversation between a young woman and her father, or about the lives of Black New Yorkers in the ’20s through the lens of a photographer. Produced by the Washington Post, the podcast picks history up by its ankles and shakes out all the hidden gems.

1. Spades

To borrow a phrase from Joe Biden, if you’re Black and don’t know spades, then you ain’t Black. Playing spades with Black folks is an experience unto itself, and the rules vary by region and how nitpicky the fam is about things like sloppy shuffling and cross-table talking. In standard play, four players split into teams of two with the objective to win “books,” the cards in the middle, each round. The highest card wins the book, so it’s imperative to pay attention — you don’t want to trump your partner’s winning hand or play a suit outside the one that led. Although African American card players don’t get the credit they deserve for making spades what it is today, there is no more universally beloved recreation among Black people.

2. ValiDate

Finding love when you’re broke and figuring out the meaning of life is boss level. The nostalgia of the struggle is something ValiDate — an interactive video game — gets. Set in Jersey City, players choose from a cast of 12 characters with more than 60 routes and 70 to 90 hours of content. If you’re familiar with virtual novels, you know characters make the game. Not only is ValiDate’s cast exclusively people of color (except for that one French dude), they’re geographically and sexually diverse as well. Meet everyone from a Qatari HR specialist to a Samoan marriage counselor to a Puerto Rican theater teacher after downloading the free demo.

3. Fanorona

Chess and checkers are nice, but if you’re a fan of both, there’s no reason you shouldn’t familiarize yourself with fanorona. Popular in Madagascar — no, really, you will find a board in almost every home —  the objective of this two-player strategy board game is to squeeze your opponent’s pieces so they are forced to move toward you. The player with the most captured pieces wins.

‘The Food That Built America’

The new podcast from OZY and the History Channel tells the extraordinary true stories behind some of your favorite foods and brands. You’ll hear about how industry titans like Henry Heinz, Milton Hershey and Ray Kroc revolutionized American food and transformed American life and culture in the process. The first episode details the rise of Coca-Cola, from the mind of a chemical genius (and opium addict) to the advertising prowess of a pharmacist turned promoter. Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts.

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