Archive for the ‘African-American’ Category

Michelle Obama’s The Light We Carry

February 24, 2023

Finished reading Michelle Obama’s new book, The Light We Carry. The audiobook is amazing, read by the author. From my Goodreads review,

I have to begin by saying I loved “Becoming.” It was easily one of my favorite books the year it released and an all-time favorite memoir. So when “The Light We Carry” was announced, I wondered if I needed another Michelle Obama book. I thought I would give it a try and see. I got on our library’s wait list and bumped it up a few times, finally beginning to listen to her and hearing how she views the world. This isn’t a cookie cutter self-help book. It’s also not another memoir. Michelle shares with the reader what she’s learned, how she lives her life and why it’s so important to keep moving forward in a positive manner no matter the hatred, bigotry, or viruses that come our way. An amazing book. Perfect timing for me to listen after losing a friend to a stroke last month. We have a choice each day we wake up. We don’t always achieve perfection. I would say I nearly never do. But if my intentions are good and if I can steer myself back after some lows, I can live my life for love and with positive intention. There is so much work to do. We don’t read this book and that’s it. We read books like this to fuel our internal fire. And then we go out into the world and share a moment of goodness with others. And each light helps the world shine brighter and makes positive change a reality. So happy I read this book. Essential.

Yes, we need another book from Michelle Obama. Read it, listen to it, and feel hopeful. 5 out of 5.

Roberta Flack (American Masters)

February 13, 2023

A really wonderful biographical documentary on Roberta Flack currently runs on PBS’s American Masters. From the site,

New film tells Flack’s story in her own words and includes interviews with Reverend Jesse Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Yoko Ono, Angela Davis, Eugene McDaniels, Joel Dorn, Peabo Bryson and more.

From “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” to “Killing Me Softly” and beyond, Roberta Flack gave voice to a global soundtrack of beauty and pain, love and anguish, hope and struggle. American Masters: Roberta Flack illuminates where reality, memory and imagination mix to present music icon Roberta Flack, a brilliant artist who transformed popular culture, in her own words. With exclusive access to Flack’s archives of film, performances, interviews, home movies, photos, hit songs and unreleased music, the film documents how Flack’s musical virtuosity was inseparable from her lifelong commitment to civil rights.

Roberta Flack has long been a favorite of mine. Her albums run from 1969 – 2018, just shy of 50 years. I have loved Roberta since her beginnings including Killing Me Softly, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, The Closer I Get to You, Feel Like Makin’ Love, Where Is the Love, You Are My Heaevn, Set The Night To Music, Making Love, and the amazing freaking incredible remix of Uh-Uh Ooh-Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes) (House Of Trix Mix) I danced to very specifically in 1989 Philadelphia the year before I moved to NYC. Flack was diagnosed with ALS in 2022. She will no longer be performing. This film is a must-see. 5 out of 5.

Watch Roberta Flack on American Masters streaming online now.

The Assignment with Audie Cornish

January 23, 2023

NPR’s Audie Cornish hosts a CNN weekly podcast. I came to hear about long COVID and stayed for the OnlyFans piece. Both were very informative. The 30-minute format works well for Cornish. From CNN,

Fiery Twitter threads and endless news notifications never capture the full story. Each week on The Assignment, host Audie Cornish pulls listeners out of their digital echo chambers to hear from the people who live the headlines. From the sex work economy to the battle over what’s taught in classrooms, no topic is off the table. Listen to The Assignment every Thursday.

4 out of 5.
Listen now on CNN, or find the show on your favorite podcast platform.


January 19, 2023

I loved the Close Encounters vibe of Nope. Jordan Peele does a great job creating a film with nods to the classic Sci-Fi films of the 1970’s, while putting his own signature on this well worn genre. Is it me, or do we just not see enough siblings in movies? I loved Emerald and OJ. They perfectly complimented each other as brothers and sisters often do. Nope is part of a series of films Peele’s done with elements of horror in them – 2017’s Get Out and 2019’s Us. Loved the first, haven’t seen the second. Nope has amazing special effects, a strong script, and great performances from Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer. The film hurls the two characters into an unbelievable situation. I won’t say much more other than how they confront their peril, it’s a stroke of genius. 4 out of 5 for Nope.

Reel Charlie Speaks: The Watermelon Woman (dir. Cheryl Dunye, 1996)

January 9, 2023

Reel Charlie Speaks is an LGBTQ podcast spin-off of Reel Charlie. Each month I select a classic queer film, television series, or creator. I talk about how the subject spoke to me when I first discovered it years ago, and how its stood the test of time.

In this episode, I explore the classic New Queer Cinema film, The Watermelon Woman (1996), the first feature film from black lesbian filmmaker Cheryl Dunye.


Listen to the podcast at
or find it on your favorite podcast platform.

The Watermelon Woman site
Cheryl Dunye’s Wikipedia
Jingletown Films

Interviews: Zelenskyy, Brunson, and Springsteen

December 19, 2022



Three big interviews aired recently on streaming services. All are worthwhile in their own right.

  1. David Letterman flew to Kiev and interviewed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on a subway platform far below the ground where the war with Russia rages on.
  2. Oprah Winfrey interviewed Quinta Brunson the creator of Abbott Elementary.
  3. Howard Stern interviewed Bruce Springsteen.

For various reasons, all three of these are excellent choices. President Zelenskyy’s interview speaks intimately and urgently. Quinta Brunson’s interview showcases a new generation’s voice. And Bruce Springsteen’s interview covers an entire career.

Zelenskyy’s interview currently streams on Netflix.
Brunson’s interview aired on OWN, and currently streams on HBO Max and Discovery+.
Springsteen’s interview currently streams on HBO Max.

Neptune Frost

October 19, 2022

I so wanted to adore Neptune Frost, billed as an afrofuturist, science fiction, romantic, musical film. There were some glorious elements to the film. The singing felt indiginous to Rwanda. Make-up and costumes popped seemingly out of nowhere and definitely brought a sci-fi aspect to the film. But the story confused and eventually bored me. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. It felt experimental in places and narrative in others. I wished it had picked a genre. Still I always applaud filmmakers who take risks and look forward to future projects from co-directors Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman. Damn I really wanted to love this one. 2 out of 5.

Neptune Frost currently steams on Kanopy, and is available on disk from your local public library.

Sound Barrier: Sylvester

October 9, 2022

Podcast series, Sound Barrier dedicates its premiere season to Sylvester. What a treat these eight episodes are as they trace the rise of musical phenomena Sylvester, who shamelessly and proudly embodied the triple threat identities of black, gay, and femme during an era still dominated by the cis white patriarchy. Sylvester dared to simply be himself. And that act gave us a remarkably talented man who helped us dance our fear, worries and grief away during the shocking early years of the AIDS crisis. From Spotify,

When Jason King was a kid, his family had a compilation full of disco hits from K-tel records in their music collection. On that tape was the song “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” from the singer Sylvester. Jason—who is a musician, a nationally recognized journalist, and the Chair of NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music—didn’t know much about Sylvester at the time. In fact, he wasn’t even sure if Sylvester’s signature falsetto belonged to a man or a woman. But he knew it was his favorite song on the tape.

As an adult, Jason’s love of this song led him to learn more about Sylvester, an openly gay Black man living in 1970s America who dressed in drag and challenged gender conventions with a fervor few other musicians possessed. Though he wasn’t a household name, Sylvester’s innovative sound and persona paved the way for countless artists—particularly LGBTQ+ artists—to express themselves freely. And this is a big reason why Jason’s appreciation for Sylvester has made its way into his journalistic and academic work.

This has set the stage for the launch of Sound Barrier, our new documentary podcast hosted by Jason that aims to explore artists who have made pioneering contributions to music and culture. Fittingly, he has turned his focus to Sylvester for season one—exploring not only the singer’s life, but also the influence Sylvester has continued to have on BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists after his death.

King’s outstanding passion for all things Sylvester along with his intensive research into Sylvester’s musical career proves a winning combination. King brings so many excellent talking heads into this series. Triumphant, must-listen to podcast series focused on one of the best musical talents of the 70’s and 80’s. You’ll come because I told you to, but you’ll leave with a new appreciation for Sylvester’s prominent place in a generation of music, and his role in gay liberation and AIDS activism. All hail Sylvester. 5 out of 5.

Sound Barrier: Sylvester streams on Spotify.
Read an interview with Sound Barrier creator Jason King.
Listen to Sylvester’s music on Spotify.

Abbott Elementary: Season 1

September 25, 2022

It took me a long time to really give in to loving Abbott Elementary. I appreciated its intelligence and timing from the get-go. I get why it won Emmys. It’s got a style similar to Parks and Recreation, and The Office which I never connected with. I stayed with it through the entire first season and at Episode 11, I finally laughed really hard out loud. It’s half hour bites, so this one is perfect for a quick watch after a long day. Great to unwind to. Wonderful cast, excellent acting, writing, and directing. 3.5 out of 5.

Abbott Elementary currently streams on ABC, HBO Max, Hulu, fuboTV, and YouTube TV.

Five Days at Memorial

August 31, 2022

Five Days at Memorial is a fictionalized disaster medical drama limited series adaptation of the non-fiction 2013 book by Sheri Fink. When historians look back on the early 21st Century, the aftermath of Katrina will be seen as one of the worst natural disasters. Of course with climate change we are certainly headed for worse natural disasters in our lifetime. What Katrina will be remembered for is the horrific lack of response by the local, state, and federal government. Why? First there’s Bush’s appointees – at the top of the list Michael D. Brown who were hired as cronies, not as experts in their fields. Sure, go ahead and give your friends jobs. Just don’t give them the first Under Secretary of Emergency Preparedness and Response (EP&R) in the newly created Department of Homeland Security. Second and this one is the worst sins of Katrina, no one cared about rescuing poor people of color. If you hesitate on that last sentence, image a Katrina-like storm hitting Newport, RI or Santa Barbara, CA. Enough said.

The limited series is incredible. Full of trauma and suspense. Yes, it’s entertainment. But it reminds us in a respectful way of the horror people faced, both patients and hospital staff as everyone tried to continue to care for the sick and dying during the worst disaster the U.S. had ever seen –  over 1,800 fatalities. The cast is outstanding including Cherry Jones, Vera Farmiga, Cornelius Smith, Jr., Robert Pine, Adepero Oduye, Julie Ann Emory, Michael Gaston, and Molly Hager. Each of the five episodes focuses on one day during Katrina and then after the levees broke. I will tell you the intensity builds and builds. By the final episode, I was sobbing during several scenes. I don’t want to forget Katrina. None of us should. 4 out of 5 for the haunting Five Days at Memorial.

Five Days at Memorial currently streams on Apple TV+.

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