Black History Month is a time to celebrate, reflect and empower the Black people who have made the United States what it is today. As I write this article, I would be remiss not to mention that in this country, Black history feels more important than ever following the recent limits on teaching Black history in Florida public schools by Gov. Ron DeSantis and the killing of Tyre Nichols by five police officers in Memphis, Tennessee.
Art has always been used as a medium to express social injustices that occur in the world, and I hope this list will inspire you to learn something new about Black history and people, which is needed in this moment.
Dear White People (The film and the series)
Dear White People should be required for everyone to watch. Contrary to the title, this show is not about white people at all. Dear White People follows a group of Black students at the prestigious fictional Ivy League college, Winchester University. The series, and the movie open with a “Dear Black People” party hosted by a group of white students who are dressed in blackface. Fellow student Samantha White films the party to expose the racism running rampant on the campus, despite the “post-racial” myth the dean and the school board want to tout.
[The Diamond Drag: House of Fashion of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’]
What I think is brilliant about Dear White People is that it does not depict Black people as a monolith. There are a variety of Black experiences and thoughts that are explored throughout the series. Written and directed by Justin Simien, the series and the film explore identity, activism, police brutality and intersectionality.
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America
If you are a foodie, this one’s for you. This show is an ode to African American cuisine that has been the cornerstone for many American dishes. Stemming from West Africa, audiences get a full landscape of what has inspired and influenced Black culinary staples in America. Chef and writer Stephen Satterfield hosts the show and explores rich stories and histories through food culture.
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker follows the trials and tribulations of entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, played by Octavia Spencer, as she becomes America’s first woman self-made millionaire. Born as a child of enslaved people, this Netflix series touches on a lot of social issues, such as patriarchy, racism, Black wealth and misogynoir. Self Made is a fictional depiction of Walker’s life and how she overcame discrimination to create hair care products for Black women and become a successful Black female entrepreneur.
Judas and the Black Messiah
This biographical crime drama depicts the betrayal of Chairman Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya, of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s. William O’Neal, played by LaKeith Stanfield, was an informant for the FBI who betrayed the Black Panther Party and Hampton, which led to his assassination by the FBI in December 1969. Kaluuya and Stanfield’s performances shine in this film as they bring these characters to life and tell their story.
The Hair Tales
The Hair Tales is a fun and vulnerable series about the triumphs and trauma centered around Black women’s hair. Tracee Ellis Ross, an executive producer of the documentary series, described the show as a “love letter to Black women.” Whether it is locs, braids, blowouts, silk presses, weaves or wigs, all of it gets explored in this series. Featuring celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey, Chloe Bailey, Issa Rae, Chika and Marsai Martin, it is an eye opening series surrounding the history and the culture of Black hair.
[Review: ‘You People’ explores love and race relations with a timely commentary]
The Harder They Fall
This is an exciting Western and a historical fiction about Black cowboys. A story of revenge and loss that is not often told about Rufus Buck, played by Idris Elba, and Nat Love, played by Jonathan Majors. It is a really fun, action-packed film. If you are into action films, you will enjoy this one.
Loving is a film based on the true story of Richard Loving, played by Joel Edgerton, and Mildred Loving, played by Ruth Negga, an interracial couple living in Virginia in the 1960s. Due to anti-miscegenation laws in the south, they were jailed and had to fight for their right to be married to each other.