These past few weeks I have felt as if I am one link in a chain of paper dolls. Connected to others with a new stream of consciousness. Linked in solidarity against racism and inequality. I am grateful for the effort to be understood. I want to trust this unity will continue, dare I say forever. But a part of me feels this connection will be ripped apart at some point in the future. After all, when you cut a strand of paper dolls, it leaves both sides flapping in the air.
I believe if we share our stories we will stay connected. It is the way people have passed on their traditions and manner of life since the beginning of human existence. Storytelling teaches history, and is a crucial component to understanding feelings of love, happiness, despair, and hope. If you are not exposed to narratives about yourself and also people who don’t look like you, there is a disconnect with our humanity. In today’s political climate it is becoming increasingly important to make sure that black legacy is being shared.
Visual storytelling through television and film brings you face-to-face with its characters, allowing you to engage with and care about them. Black filmmakers have been telling stories that resonate with their audience for years. The documentaries and films listed below are a few of my favorites that are available at no extra charge on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+. I invite you to view them for their tales of love, triumph, bravery, and family. I encourage you to watch Black stories so we do not lose this connection.
Movies & Documentaries on NetFlix
Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker (2020)
Self Made is Netflix’s mini-series starring Octavia Spencer, it tells the story of Madam C. J. Walker, an entrepreneur of black natural hair care products. The story takes you through her struggles and heart breaks, it also shines a light on her successes. She was America’s first self made female millionaire.
The four-hour miniseries is worth a watch. For decades black women were unseen, considered the most disparaged people in America. They worked as white people’s mammies (nursemaids and nannies) and cleaning staff. The only way for them to be seen was to create their own advantage. Madam C. J. Walker knew this, and she never stopped working towards creating a new reality of the strong and unified black woman.
"The United States is home to 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prisoners. How do we escape this?"
13th is a Netflix documentary presenting a historic account to the challenge of being Black in America and the racial inequality in the U.S. prison industry.
Did you know that slavery was never fully abolished, a loophole in the 13th Amendment allows unpaid labor of prisoners? The 13th amendment to the constitution makes it unconstitutional for someone to be held as a slave, except if you are convicted of a crime.
Spend 100 minutes to educate yourself on the mass incarceration and oppression of Black Americans. Learn how political authority inflicted unjust laws and tougher sentencing that increased conviction rates. See how brutal law and order have effected Black people for generations. It helps you understand what is at the core of the Black Lives Matter movement.
What is beauty? Beauty is defined as a combination of qualities present in a thing or person that please the aesthetic senses, specifically sight.
What is Black beauty? “Black beauty is strength. It’s one of the first things you notice when you see a human being and that person is Black, you notice the richness of their complexion. That’s Black beauty. Before anything else, you notice the skin.”
Does beauty define your self worth? In Skin, Actress Beverly Naya, travels to her home country of Nigeria to explore beauty. She specifically examines the impact colorism has on society.
Did you know in the 1960s, skin lightening cream was one of the top household products of urban African women? Naya interviews doctors, creatives professionals, and Black women of all ages. She wanted to see through their eyes how they defined beauty based on the color of one’s skin.
American Son (2019)
This film is based on the acclaimed Broadway play by Christopher Demos-Brown, starring the full cast from the stage production, including Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale. The entire story takes place in a police station during one agonizing night.
American Son is a powerful story relevant to the current conversation of police abuse of power and systemic racism. Kendra Ellis-Connor (Washington) and Scott Connor (Pasqual) are an interracial couple whose strained relationship comes to a head when they learn their missing teenage son may have been involved in a police incident where shots were fired. Washington gives a heartbreaking performance of a mother desperate for news on her son. The story hones in on the tensions of racism prevalent in the legal system, the struggle of raising a mixed-race child, and the parental fear of raising a Black boy in America.
They’ve Gotta Have Us (2018)
Documentary Series TV-MA
They've Gotta Have Us explores the effect activism had on the emergence of Black filmmakers who lay the groundwork for Black people to be represented in the film industry. This three-part series traces the history of Black films, featuring candid interviews with Harry Belafonte, Debbie Allen, Diahann Carroll, John Boyega, Whoopi Goldberg, John Singleton, Laurence Fishburne, Will Smith, and more.
Movies on Amazon Prime Video
Fruitvale Station (2018)
Movie Rated R
Fruitvale Station is the true story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by police in an Oakland train station on New Year’s Day 2009. The retelling of this tragedy recounts the events leading up to his traumatic death.
Movies on Disney +
Black Panther (2018)
When Black Panther was released in 2018, it was considered a defining moment for Black America. It was Marvel’s first mega-blockbuster with a Black director and predominantly Black cast. More importantly, it gave young children, who have long been under represented, a Black superhero and African warriors that looked like them.
Black is King (2020)
Movie Streaming Exclusively, July 31st
On July 31st, Beyonce will release a visual film on Disney+ based on the music of the album The Lion King: The Gift. The film was written, directed, and produced by Beyonce. Black King uses the lessons of Disney’s The Lion King movie to tell the story of a young king. The portrayal will echo the Black family’s emotional and cultural journey throughout history.
These films are a fraction of stories that represent Black visual storytelling. I hope you enjoy them and they become recommendations you want to pass on to others. Please feel free to add your own favorites in the comments. Let’s continue to stay connected.