Cynthia Erivo will perform at the Oscars Governors Ball (233016)
Credit: Contributed

If the documented history is to be believed, the odyssey of the African American began in 1619 with the arrival of the privateer The White Lion, which brought 20 African slaves ashore in the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia 400 hundred years ago! 22 years after that, in 1641 are fates were sealed when the institution was legalized!!! Forced bondage was ingrained into our society. It was another 200 plus years before that was rectified. In perspective, it’s a ridiculous notion that modern society wants to ignore or minimize the reverberations caused by these inhumane practices. That’s why the work of historians, griots, documentarians and artists willing to serve a reminder of that from which we came are of great import.

This week past, we will see if recently revealed works will become pivotal fixtures in the consciousness in generations going forward. The first of these was unveiled at the 2019 UrbanWorld Film Festival. This year, the 23rd annual, saw the UrbanWorld Film Festival, along with founding partner HBO, feature 78 official selections and 7 spotlight selections representing inclusion in the broadest sense, highlighting content from around the globe by creators of color and women.

“Each year we strive to expand our programming slate to expose stories, themes and characters that have been under-represented in our world. This year is no exception,” said Gabrielle Glore, festival director & head of programming, UrbanWorld Film Festival. “What is most exciting to see is the continued elevation of quality manifested across our content creators’ work, as we celebrate their creativity and craft.” The centerpiece of the Festival was undoubtedly the opening night kick off where Focus Features’ debuted the powerhouse film, ‘Harriet.’ The film stars Tony-winning Broadway actress Cynthia Erivo in the Kasi Lemmons directed inspiring biopic about renowned abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and risked her life to lead others to freedom through the network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. Erivo, Lemmons and producers Debra Martin Chase (Black Girls Rock “Shot Caller” award winner) and Daniela Taplin Lundberg were all on hand to present the power women flexed in getting this story to the masses. Lemmons, who also served as this year’s festival ambassador, offered, “I’m thrilled to share Harriet with the UrbanWorld Film Festival audience. The experience of creating this film was life-changing for me in so many ways,” said Lemmons. “We were honored to open this festival and discussing our journey with such a passionate group of film lovers.” The award-winning director, writer, actress and professor’s feature films include “Eve’s Bayou,” “The Caveman’s Valentine,” “Talk to Me” and “Black Nativity.” She is currently directing the first two episodes of the 4-part Netflix mini-series “Madam CJ Walker.” Closer to the crib, New York Times best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates returned to the Apollo stage to kick off the national book tour for his heavily anticipated first novel, “The Water Dancer.” The night was elevated to magical when it was announced that Oprah Winfrey would interview the Apollo Theater’s inaugural master artist-in-residence. In his latest work, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the National Book Award–winning author of “Between the World and Me” and “We Were Eight Years in Power,” brings home the most intimate evil of enslavement: the cleaving and separation of families. Driven by the author’s fierce imagination and striking ability to bring readers deep into the interior lives of his brilliantly rendered characters, “The Water Dancer” is the story of America’s oldest struggle—the struggle to tell the truth—from one of America’s most exciting writers. The banter and chemistry of the pair was worth the admission price alone. Oprah envisioned herself in the story and noted that she would be destined for fieldwork, as she was not ‘Big House’ material. “I definitely wasn’t cut out for the big house. That’s why it feels good to own a big house,” she quipped. The launch of “The Water Dancer” book tour and Coates’s appointment as Apollo Theater’s inaugural artist-in-residence further enforces the nonprofit theater’s commitment to celebrating African American arts and culture, supporting emerging and established artists of color across disciplines, and serving as an artistic, educational, and community resource. As it should. Over and out. Holla next week. Until then enjoy the Nightlife.