Between “American Fiction”, Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut, “The Color Purple”, “Rustin”, and “The Last Repair Shop” there is no shortage of award-winning (and award-worthy) Black cinema playing in theaters around New York City and across the country right now.
While we honor these works of art in line with Black History Month, the impact and influence of distinctly Black stories deserve recognition year round. But movies are not the be-all and end-all of storytelling.
From fiction to nonfiction, albums to podcasts, television series to collected essays, this Black History Month, why not turn to recommendations directly from amNY Metro and PoliticsNY’s Black Power Players list honorees?
Isabel Wilkerson is the author of “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” and “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”. The latter was recently adapted into the biographical drama, “Origin”, written and directed by another artist frequently recommended by honorees on the Black Power Players list, Ava DuVernay, the Academy Award-winning director of “13th”.
Both of Wilkerson’s books are recommended time and again by this year’s Black Power Player honorees.
Dr. Philip Ozuah, president and CEO of Montefiore Einstein, said “I believe everyone should read “The Warmth Of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson. It details an often-overlooked chapter in American history – Black Americans’ migration out of the southern United States from 1915 to 1970. Wilkerson tells the story through the lives of three individuals who make journeys north to escape Jim Crow. The title of the book is taken from a poem by novelist Richard Wright who left Memphis for Chicago in the 1920s.”
Another highly recommended piece was Nikole Hannah-Jones’ ground-breaking longform journalism endeavor “The 1619 Project”, now available in-print and adapted into a television series on Hulu. Lorraine Stephens, CEO of the Jewish Child Care Association of New York, called “The 1619 Project” a “landmark summary of the Black experience in America.”
But the honorees had many more exciting nonfiction recommendations. Larry Scott Blackmon, CEO of The Blackmon Organization, suggests reading “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein and Amalgamated Bank CEO Priscilla Sims Brown recommends “Black Love Letters”, an anthology of letters and illustrations on the subject of Black love and in celebration of Blackness, written by Cole Brown, her son, and Natalie Johnson.
Congress Member Yvette Clarke suggested a compelling and insightful cultural history, “Say Anarcha” by J.C. Hallman. She said, “Throughout U.S. history, Black women have been the hidden figures behind advancements in science, math, and so much more. I recommend “Say Anarcha” – a compelling nonfiction reckoning with the birth of women’s health that illustrates the world-changing sacrifices of a young Black woman, who should be recognized as the centerpiece of the creation story of modern women’s health care.”
Rory Christian of the New York Public Service Commision said a book he often returns to is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me”. He said, “It’s an introspective look on the Black American experience that is thought provoking to read, exploring the nature of the American Dream and efforts for achieving social justice.”
In the seemingly limitless world of streaming options, a few of our nominees had exciting and off-the-beaten path fiction and nonfiction recommendations available for at-home-viewing.
“High on the Hog”, streaming on Netflix, comes highly recommended by Rodney Capel of Charter Communications and Candis Tall of 32BJ SEIU. Capel said the show “tracks the historical path of African Americans in the U.S. and the food legacy they carried through their journeys from the Middle Passage to the Great Migration. It has two seasons but is a fascinating watch on the influence Black culture has made on American cuisine”.
Rujeko Hockley of the Whitney Museum of American Art and Lupe Todd-Medina of Effective Media Strategies both recommend Charmaine Wilkerson’s “Black Cake” streaming on Hulu. Hockley poignantly began her response, “Every month is Black History Month in my house.”
Elijah Hutchinson, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice, offered an incredible recommendation paired with the delightful gift of a fresh perspective: “Watching ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’ through the lens of urban renewal, capitalism, and Toontown being a disadvantaged community with limited land rights is fascinating!”
February is by no means the only month to seek out Black stories and art, but it is often the case that the most inspiring leaders were once inspired themselves. The interviews and recommendations from the Black Power Player honorees reveal how a lifetime of different influences create an inspiring group of leaders across all industries
You can read more about each honoree and find all of their recommendations in amNY Metro and PoliticsNY’s 2024 Black Power Players list.