‘Black Panther’ & Me

I never was into comics as a kid. I worshiped the Power Rangers and dabbled in Batman: The Animated Series. I remember singing Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” during Batman Forever, and leaving church early to see Spider-Man 2. 

I was the casual geek playing Magic: The Gathering at lunch, but never venturing into Dungeons & Dragons. (Although I did view the awful adaptation in middle school). But I never fully invested in that world. Partially because I didn’t think it belonged to me.

I never saw anyone like me enjoying those things. And the sad part is I never noticed it. I assumed it was what whites did – and if one was black and read anime – you were weird. I didn’t need another moniker added to my name as the chubby Oreo in the all-white Boy Scout troop who secretly crushed on elder members.

So as Ryan Coogler’s story of T’Challa unfolded, with it’s pristine depiction of African royalty in Wakanda, I sat numb in awe. Yes, I may not have known this Black Panther existed before the Black Panther Party. Or that he was basically Marvel’s Batman. But I felt justified. Someone opened the door and said “come on in, we’ve been waiting for you.”

(Black) Lightning Does Strike Twice

The CW threw there hat in the inclusive ring with last year’s announcement of D.C.’s Black Lightning. After the success of their mostly white superhero shows – adding Supergirl two years ago- it was time D.C.’s first African American star shined. Akin to Marvel’s Luke Cage, Lightning struck in the 1970s off the popularity of blaxploitation culture. Afros and jive populated the original comic as Jefferson Pierce, a crime fighter wielding the ability to control electricity, fought injustice. Decades later as the comic genre booms along with the need for fairer representation, Black Lightning strikes back in 2018.

While many blerds rejoiced at the thought of seeing this character come to life, there was an equal level of apprehension. This is The CW we are talking about. Other than Jane the Virgin and supporting casts on the comic titles, accurate potrayals of blacks and POC was scarce. And when rumors buzzed of a Black Lives Matters episode of Arrow, even the ancestors rolled their eyes. Luckily Black Lightning’s success is sewed by Salim and Mara Brock Akil.

The coupled screenwriters behind Girlfriends and Being Mary Jane deliver a relevant and substantial black family drama with hero elements. From this vantage point, the series elevates its tone above the campiness that plagues nominal comic vehicles. The story becomes the focus. And with a good story, everything else can fall into place.

Jefferson Pierce is a divorced principal of Garfield High, curbing the vices of the neighborhood from his students and family. He retired his cape nine years ago, but when a villainous crime circuit threatens his two daughters, Black Lightning suits back up. Driven by Pierce’s need to protect his family, he sees his responsibility goes beyond his own front door. The community is plagued with gun violence and drugs. And where there is violence, there are the unjust hands of the police.

The opening scene finds Pierce (Cress Williams) driving home from a school event. Dressed in a suit and tie, along with his two young daughters, the cops pull him over claiming he matches the description of a theft suspect in the area. Pierce exhausts its the third time that month he’s been profiled as his eldest daughter Anissa (Nafessa Williams) records the interaction with her smartphone. The series unabashedly displays and discusses the current Black experience in America. From protests against police brutality, to questions of class within the Black community, its all on deck. And we’re all better for it.

In addition to the topical issues addressed, the Akils have surrounded the show in a tapestry of authentic blackness. A man compares Black Lightning’s costume to a Parliament/Funkadelic outfit. Anissa chides her younger, rebellious sister Jennifer (China McClain) as “fast ass.” The soundtrack – much like Shonda Rhimes’ with Scandal – is syrupy soul and funk, an homage to the 70s original comic. The series opens to the politically-charged anthem “Strange Fruit” made famous by Billie Holiday. The show is a level of blackness never before herald on The CW.

Beyond the great story and rich cultural observance, the hero stuff we actually came for is legit. Black Lightning kicks ass with believable fight scenes and seemingly strong graphics. The pilot skips the clumsy stretch of our protagonist figuring out how their powers work. Instead we see the veteran Pierce reassemble his skills seamlessly. And he’s going to need it facing one of the most gruesome villains in CW history. Arrow had Slade and Flash Zoom, but Lightning brings Tobais – a brutal thug kingpin who harpoons his foot soldiers for discipline. The violence delivers real consequences for our characters and the story, keeping viewers intensely bound to what happens next.

Two episodes in and I’m sold for the season – which promises us at least two more heroes joining the family’s fight. Black Lightning airs Tuesday’s at 9 p.m. ET on The CW or all the time on The CW app.


This week marks the return of all the shows (ALL OF THE SHOWS *in my Rihanna voice*). 2018 began at a gradual pace of a show here (Star Trek Discovery) and there (This Is Us). But midway through January, new and returning shows are stampeding on my evenings. Let the games begin.

Monday – Tomorrow is the 2-hour season one finale of Fox’s surprise hit The Gifted. The battle between mutant and human intensifies as the Hellfire Club gains the Underground’s trust. Meanwhile Dr. Campbell convinced Jace in using his next stage in mutant manipulation – a machine that replicates the Strucker siblings’ powers.

Tuesday – This Is Us is in mid swing of its second season, but a new challenger at 9 p.m. will require my live viewing instead. The CW’s highly-anticipated Black Lightning series premieres. The first African American hero of the CW’s D.C. family features Cress Williams as the retired metahuman. When a violent gang threatens the livelihood of his family and neighborhood, he places the cape back on. And may received help from his two daughters as well. Black. Female. Heroines. On. TV. Sign me up.

Wednesday – Wednesday evening is a triple threat of entertainment. At 8 p.m. I play soap drama with the kids of Riverdale. Next I return to Filory as SyFy’s The Magicians entered its third season. Magic is no more for Quincy, Julia and friends. But a gallant quest may be the key – or seven – to restoring the magic in the world and beyond. Finally FX delivers Ryan Murphy’s second installment of American Crime Story. This time we revisit the murder of Gianni Versace, a crime I remember but definitely do not know the full story.

Thursday – TGIT returns with Liv and Annalise on their shows respectively. And as recently promised, their two worlds will collide when Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder crossover. Who wants more wine!?

Friday – Fridays are dedicated to ABC’s excellent fifth season of Agents of SHIELD. The team has been transported 80-some years into the future, where the Earth is nothing but a crater – remnants of a catastrophic Inhuman event. Coulson and the team are fighting  Kree as well as other forces of the galaxy.

Saturday – This still remains my catch up day – between apps and Hulu anything I miss will be devoured within these 24 hours.

Sunday – CBS is screwing the populace hiding the superb Star Trek: Discovery behind its $6 pay wall. The show is great for Trekkies and newbies alike, with an African American female lead in Sonequa Martin Green (The Walking Dead). In addition to Trek, Showtime via Hulu boasts The Chi. From Lena Waithe and Common is the multi-narrative portrait of Chicago lives.

This is the schedule as of now. Subject to change of course.

502017: 5-1

Like an episode of Scandal written by The Onion, season one of Trump is reaching its season finale. If nothing else positive occurred, 2017 was laced with a wonderful soundtrack. Featuring songs from artists for every mood and moment, follow me as I count down my favorite 50 songs of 2017.

5. “The High” Midas Hutch ft. Bluey Robinson

Bruno Mars wasn’t the only artist resurrecting sounds of the past. Producer Midas Hutch traveled back to San Janipero’s 80s inspired world with this synth-heavy ode love. It’s odd while I loved 24k Magic, none of it’s songs are on this list. Ironic.

4. “The Land of the Free” Joey Bada$$

In between portraying a knife-wielding foot solider of the Dark Army on USA, Joey delivered his strongest LP to date. A politically-charged concept album gave us this thought-provoking single, taking aim at Trump, police and others that oppress for profit in Amerikkka.

3. “Bodak Yellow” Cardi B

No other artist gave us hope more than Love & Hip-Hop alum Cardi B. The “Trap Selena” catapulted to success, atop the Billboard charts and the Grammys on the strength of her record-breaking debut single. Borrowing heavy from Kodak Black’s flow, Cardi became the first female hip-hop artist to covet a #1 100 hit solo since Lauryn Hill. Money moves indeed.

2. “DNA.” Kendrick Lamar

The second song lifted from DAMN. was this insanely potent declaration of dominance. If “Humble” is braggadocios, “DNA” is unfuckwitable with a dose of bacdafucup. Kendrick’s heaving his fiercest with no regard for peers or naysayers. He obliterates Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera as he transitions spitting at the speed of light to a live Rick James sample. And the video is fucking brilliant. GIVE HIM THE GRAMMYS NOW.

1. “Crew” GoldLink ft. Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy

No other song this year did what GoldLink’s “Crew” did. The song, the features, the HOOK. “Crew” is a mood. It’s a mantra. It is the Song of the Summer. 2017’s anthem. Instant classic.

502017: 10-6

Like an episode of Scandal written by The Onion, season one of Trump is reaching its season finale. If nothing else positive occurred, 2017 was laced with a wonderful soundtrack. Featuring songs from artists for every mood and moment, follow me as I count down my favorite 50 songs of 2017.

10. “Late Nights & Heartbreak” Hannah Williams & the Affirmations

My number 10 selection is a year old song from the perspective of someone who knows she’s no good. As the foundation for Shawn’s title track, Williams’ voice is paralyzing as she paints her sins out on a canvas for her lover to read. No wonder Jay chose this track to apologize. Apology accepted.

9. “don’t choose” dvsn

Aww yes, the push and pull of today’s talking perfectly described. dvsn’s single from Morning After flipped from bumpin’ production to a soulful 60s vocal. At first it was a bit jarring, but the two sounds work beautifully together illustrating the struggle between love and lust our suitor faces.

8. “Don’t Go” Kevin Ross

With one of the year’s strongest R&B efforts, newcomer Kevin Ross crooned his way to the Soul Train Awards and more with this Off the Wall sounding midtempo song. A bright and shinning talent that deserves your attention.

7. “Thinking” Great Good Fine OK

This band appeared on my Spotify Discover Daily, and I know why. Sounding like a white boy band’s early traverse into R&B, it sounded like nothing else this year. The simple melody, soft vocals. It felt like seeing your school crush enter the gymnasium at your first dance. Whatcha gonna do?

6. “Cave Me In” Gallant, Tablo & Eric Nam

If “Thinking” captures the crush you let get away, “Cave Me In” is the joy of owning the love after a lifetime of wins and losses. Intricately written it’s one of the year’s brightest collaborations. R&B is live and well and in good hands.