Although I would argue that you should consume Black film and television content throughout every month of the year, Black History Month is a poignant reminder to highlight Black creators and the impacts of their art. The following is a list of films and television shows that I feel are important to take note of this month. In order to understand any type of person, it’s integral to consume their art and learn from the beauty, anguish and joy that they’ve endured.
1. “Do The Right Thing” (1989)
“Do the Right Thing” (1989) was written and directed by Spike Lee, and if you watch one Black film this month, this should be the one. Lee cemented himself as a true auteur as he depicted the trials and tribulations of diverse Brooklynites dealing with personal toils on the most heat-ridden day of the year. This film may be oozing with style and a bombastic soundtrack, but the story is deeply rooted in the reality of how people of color are treated in America. This film isn’t just one of the best Black stories ever told, it’s one of the best movies to ever be created.
2. Queen and Slim” (2019)
This film was directed by Melina Matsoukas and written by Lena Waithe and James Frey. follows a couple as they run into disaster after driving home from their first date. After an altercation with a police officer, the couple go on the run and never look back.
I expected this film to be a thrilling chase movie, and in a lot of ways that’s exactly what it is. However, I never expected it to be laced with such beauty and complexity. This movie isn’t about Black folks in despair. It’s about Black folks finding joy in the midst of hardship. This film also sheds a light on the varying worldviews of African Americans. We are a complex people, so it would be a disservice to depict us in any other manner. This film teaches us how to live even when we feel like we’re going to die.
3. “Watchmen” (2019)
One might question the inclusion of this HBO limited series that’s based off of the 1986 graphic novel of the same name, but this story simultaneously portrays the hardships that African Americans dealt with in the past, and how it impacts them in the present. From its conception in 1986, “Watchmen” is a story that doesn’t just deconstruct the comic-book genre, it also deconstructs American history and culture. Without getting into heavy spoilers, the show begins with depicting the devastation of Black Wall Street in 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma. The way this show interweaves its fictional narrative with real life issues is truly magnificent. This show went to places that I never expected, and it’s a must-watch.
4. “BlacKkKlansman” (2018)
Yes, I understand this is the second Spike Lee film that I’m including in this list, but I still think it should be included because it’s based on an incredible true story. The film is centered around Ron Stallworth, a Black police officer who infiltrates the KKK and thwarts an attempted terrorist attack. “Do The Right Thing” may be Lee’s best film, but “BlacKkKlansman” is by far his most entertaining. The movie may have some heavy subject matter, but it’s an awesome story about overcoming adversity and fighting bigotry.
5. “13th” (2016)
President Obama once said this in regards to the prison system in America, “So let’s look at the statistics. The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners – think about that.”
The Ava DuVernay documentary “13th” (2016) closely examines the prison system in the United States, and how African Americans are incarcerated in an outrageously excessive manner. This documentary uncovers deeply rooted racism that resides in the prison system that needs to be acknowledged so that we as a country can end it. This film also sheds a light on elected officials who have had a hand in the oppression of African Americans, whether they are Democrats or Republicans. You can watch the documentary for free by clicking here.
These stories are important because they embody the Black experience. The Black experience can be filled with sadness, glee and a great deal of complexity, but when you consume our art hopefully you will gain something from it. What I would love is for all of us to gain a sense of commonality – because all of the Black people depicted in this content are true representations of who we are as a people.