Category Archives: Film

Telling Her-story

Kelly Rowland as Rosie the Riveter as shot by Derek Blanks.

Rounding out Women’s History Month has been an incredible week for the black female in television and film. Hidden beneath the updates on the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the record-high Mega Millions, you may have missed some the exciting achievements of those faces that represent us everyday on screen. What excited me most was the realization of the diversity of black women being represented. While some news highlights were more on the controversial side, it did please me to realize that the anger of some may mean sisters are making some progress out here!

We can finally transcend this....

First to note was the record high number of black representation on the Season 5 premier of Mad Men. The show has been long criticized for the absence of black characters, but if the first scene is foreshadowing things to come, this may be the season for some radical change. Was I the only person hoping that Lane’s collection of resumes may result in a new secretary at Sterling Cooper Draper Price (because clearly Pete’s assistant, Clara, is not gonna cut it)! I am excited to have a representation of color in the office to challenge resident vixen Joan and her curves this season. **Crosses fingers that Matthew Weiner shares this vision**


The last two weeks in tv land brought in a lot of new brown faces to the little screen, with the premiere of Mary Mary on WE, chronicling the lives of Grammy winning gospel duo Mary Mary. The show looks to bring cameras behind the scenes of their family and show the reality of a Christian household. Judging by their late night talk show visits this week, this series promises some true black woman moments, bringing some realness to reality tv. Vh1 continues to battle with TBS for greatest representation of brown women on a network, with the season premiere of La La’s Full Court Life and the series premiere of Styled by June. The former is a peak behind the curtain of the life of mother, media figure, and actual basketball wife La La Anthony. The show covers La La balancing her family, friends, famous husband, and adorable son. Last week’s premiere reached a ratings high record for the show. It was followed by newbie, Styled by June, featuring celebrity fashion stylist, June Ambrose. As the black equivalent to Rachel Zoe, I really enjoyed watching her remake Mischa Barton. Extra points for the first episode not featuring some stereotypically black rap artist, but instead a beloved Caucasian teen starlet and socialite. I am even more excited for upcoming episodes featuring the sassy black girl as the new intern. Reason #529282 why I’m happy for DVR.

Check out her fashion forward looks on Vh1.

If those three shows didn’t pique your interest, hopefully the mid season premiere of Shonda Rhime’s Scandal will. Starring perennial favorite, Kerry Washington as the head of a crisis management firm. The show is based on the career of former Bush Administration press aide, Judy Smith. This is Washington’s first starring role on a major network’s tv show and Rhimes’ first show centered around a black female lead. Rhimes is no stranger to strong women with her other hit shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice featuring prominent female leads and cast members. Look for it April 5, 2012 on ABC. No seriously, I for one need you to watch it so it stays on tv and I can continue my hopes of seeing Columbus Short shirtless weekly without having to watch Stomp the Yard (not that I own this movie).

Coming up this spring with an extended guest staring role on Glee will be Whoopie Goldberg. Of course after Sister Act we know full well that she is capable of leading high school kids in song, but as a resident gleek I am still looking forward to her arc as a college professor who judges the auditions two major characters. Check her first episode currently scheduled to air May 1. And start the speculation of Whoopies sing along selection now….  Looking forward to shows that were recently greenlit, new shows featuring Megan Goode, Regina Hall, Ne Ne Leakes, the reboot of In Living Color, and a new A&E show based on Rosario Dawson’s graphic novel O.C.T. are coming soon to prime time.

Disney Channels stars: China McSwain, Skai Jackson, Zendeya, & Coco Jones (l-r).

Never one to ignore the achievements of our youngest starlets, this week was a great one for the stars of the Disney Channel. For the first time since 1995, Nickelodeon was knocked from its top spots in youth programming by the mouse-eared channel. Why do I attribute this to the success of black women you ask? Partially due to the amazing talent in actresses China McClain, Zendaya, Coco Jones, and Skai Jackson and the black girl representation on the channel. McClain stars on A.N.T. Farm and Zendaya is one half of the headliners on Shake it Up!, two of the stations most popular shows. New talent Coco Jones is part of the ensemble cast on SoRandom, a sketch comedy show starring the remaining cast members from Demi Lovato’s old show, Sonny With A Chance. My new favorite is Skai Jackson, playing one of the children on Jesse, and always managing to steal scenes away from her costars. If you don’t know them yet, no worries, I know this is not the last of these girls acting days.

Doesn't she make you want to be a kid again?

Also premiering this month was Disney Junior show, Doc McStuffins, an animated show for the youngest set centered on a little girl who plays doctor to her broken toys. Seeing an animated brown girl in her pink lab coat with aspirations to be a doctor almost made my biological clock skip a beat. Looks like Disney is finally trying to make a better showing than Princess Tiana for our young ladies!

The #1 reason I will be seeing this movie.

Another young actress faced a lot of attention this week on a bigger screen. Amendla Stenberg showed true poise and strength after outrage this week about the race of her character Rue, from blockbuster film, The Hunger Games. Many racist morally questionable moviegoers took the web to protest the race of three of the movies characters. Many quotes pulled from twitter were horribly shocking (especially from the mouths of some youngsters) criticizing the film for using black actors. Even more foolish were explanations of the original book text describing characters as having dark brown skin and people saying they were surprised they were black. Stenberg spoke out praising her cast mates and film creators and saying how much she enjoyed the experience. I haven’t had time to finish the book yet, but her movie poster alone is enough to entice me to ignore mixed reviews and support Ms. Amendla. For my fellow movie buffs, she also played young Cataleya in Columbiana alongside Zoe Saldana and for those who saw this movie know she is a future action star in the making for sure. Moving from one ebony action star to the next, I was extra hype for the first footage of Naomie Harris in the next installment of the James Bond saga. This British star underwent lots of training before filming began to play Eve, a field agent. As a big fan of the Daniel Craig Bond movie’s intense action, Skyfall is sure to be a great addition to round out the trilogy.

Major film projects that got some legs this week celebrate lots of black women. The first was the announcement that Kasi Lemmons, director of Eve’s Bayou and Talk to Me, was named director of the film adaptation of Zadie Smith’s award winning novel, On Beauty. This book was my personal favorite of Smith’s work, and is about British/American mixed race family, the patriarch’s academic rival and his Trinidadian family, and the racial/social/familial politics when all collide in a New England college town. More excited are my visualizations of the characters in my head (With the kids being played by Zoe Kravitz, Evan Ross, Chris Brown, and KeKe Palmer in my daydreams… but I’m no casting director). Also in the works is a Queen Latifah produced and starred remake of Steel Magnolias. The Lifetime film will also star Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Jill Scott, Condala Rashad, and Pariah star Adepuro Oduyere. The movie is being described as a contemporary re-visioning with a projected premiere for 2012. Originally, Steel Magnolias starred Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Pardon, Olympia Dukakis, and Darryl Hannah.

What will a black reboot be like?

For young and mature black women, there are sure to be lots of interesting representations and portrayals of our varied experience in the next few seasons. How timely for the announcements to fall on the heels of Black History month and during Women’s History Month, giving us plenty to look forward to in the coming months.

But when are we gonna see another one of these?


The Blacker the Berry….

I have yet to see this documentary, but I am hoping to catch a screening soon.  This trailer just made me shed a tear so I had to share the link.  This doesn’t need any more words.  Just watch. reflect. how did u feel when you finished?

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

Oscar: Not so Black AND White

Last night we of Negronia rejoiced when Christian Bale announced Octavia Spencer’s name as Best Supporting Actress.  I even promised to declare today a holiday if Viola Davis won as well for her role in The Help.  (For those of you who didn’t watch the 84th Academy Awards… Viola did not win… although I am also just as happy for Meryl Streep’s Best Actress win.)  But I was reminded by my twitter timeline… for what roles are Black actors being honored?  Also, why aren’t more blacks aware of other accomplishments from black actors, film producers, directors, and creators that have not earned the gold man.

But first rejoice with me!

I thought back to all the times a black actor has won one of the coveted Best Supporting Actor or Actress nomination.  Growing up those would always be exciting nights in my house.  Then I realized, for as young as most people think I am (even though I do in fact feel quite old), most of these wins have occurred in my lifetime.    When I was forced to realize this fact, I was shocked.

This prompted my internet research, so for you I will give you a little history lesson.  The first Black actor to win the prestigious and most  coveted award in American Film was Hattie McDaniel for her Supporting role in Gone With the Wind.  For those allergic to all films old, she played a maid in the antebellum South.  I have seen the film, and of course, Mrs. McDaniel’s performance does steal the show (this is saying a lot considering the leading stars of the film).  This joyous moment occurred in 1940.

The next win was for Best Actor by the ever respected and beloved Sidney Poitier in 1963 for his role in Lillies of the Field.  This made him the first black person to receive at least two nominations for best actor ever.  In 1982, Louis Gossett Jr. won Best Supporting Actor for his part in An Officer and a Gentleman.   For all the times I have watched that movie, I discovered this fact on Wikipedia this week in my pre- Oscar’s historical research.  Next came Denzel Washington in 1989 for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Glory.  In 1991, Whoopie Goldberg won Best Supporting Actress for her character in Ghost.  Cuba Gooding Jr. followed in 1996 for his supporting role in Jerry Maguire.

In 2001 we all rejoiced and sang that it really was a new millennium when Halle Berry and Denzel Washington took home Best Actor and Actress.  The controversy that was stirred around their roles that year surprised me, because why wouldn’t we have questioned what images of us Hollywood had awarded us for before?  This moment also made Denzel the ONLY black actor to win an award more than once.   Jamie Foxx won Best Actor in 2004 for his starring role in Ray while Morgan Freeman took home Best Supporting Actor for his part in Million Dollar Baby.  We came in twos again in 2006 with Forest Whittaker winning Best Actor and Jennifer Hudson in her breakout role won Best Supporting Actress.  In 2009, Monique won Best Supporting Actress for her terrifying portrayal of the mother in Lee Daniel’s film Precious.  Bringing us to last night when Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress.

That’s It.  Surely, you thought this is just a para-graphical break?  Where on earth are the others?

History has been made. What about the future?

Now think of all the other wonderful black actors and actresses you have ever seen on screen and ponder… where is their golden statue?  I think of this and I am mad for people like Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Ruby Dee.  The old guard of black cinema.  Who are praised by critics and always on the list of great performances one must see.  I think of the often overlooked Don Cheadle, who has played some of the most memorable characters I have seen on screen (and this is coming from a person who owns 300 dvds and has seen all the movies that were ever in the Netflix Top 100 in the past three years). I think of Viola Davis, who I still believe deserved the win for her part in Doubt.

Legends in their own right.

Additionally, only three movies produced or director by blacks have ever been nominated for Best Picture.  They are… wait for it…  The Color Purple, Precious, and The Blind Side.  For Best Director, only John Singleton for Boys in the Hood and Lee Daniels for Precious have even been considered.  [ Spike Lee’s tirade at Sundance is starting to make a little more sense now isn’t it?]  This is when I realized that as much as a I rejoiced at our small victories, there is clearly a bigger issue at hand here.

Now we know why he's mad....

One of my twitter followers said it well last night when she said although she was ecstatic for Spencer and crossing her fingers for Davis, she could not wait for the day where a black person won for being a “normal person”.  Hell, I would take a consistent recognition for positive reflections or images of our culture.   I will stop forcing myself to be excited to see yet another talented black actress regulated to the part of the maid, no matter how touching or endearing the story.  While I understand that it is a historically accurate representation of what many black women did and still do professionally, I refuse to support Hollywood for consistently choosing these stories to tell.

Where are more scenes like this?

There are so many talented blacks in the film business, both ON and OFF The camera that it is time that we make a stronger effort to demand that there be a more diverse depiction of our  culture and ethnicity on the big (and little… don’t think I forgot about tv just because this is about movies) screen.   If we do not make a stronger effort to support independent black films and protest when the typical types of black movies are released, we are simply aiding and embedding the issues at hand.  I urge all of you to do your part and make a point to get out there and support the lesser known or celebrated roles and movies, because you may be pleasantly surprised by what is not being talked about in Hollywood.

Love Viola, but, We are better than this.


Disclaimer: Because I know some person is going to bring up Mr. Madea himself, I would like to say that yes I acknowledge he is a producer of both television and film.  But seeing as he has yet to earn the golden man hmm…I wonder why?  he was not relevant to the article and actually just as guilty for all I talk about here.  So mention at your own risk, but know I do enjoy a healthy debate.

D is for…

For 31 years the Sundance Institute has been “dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences,” supporting brave storytellers across the globe. Since it’s founding the Sundance Institute and it’s founder, Robert Redford have established many creative platforms for film and theatre artists to grow and showcase their talents; namely, the Sundance Film Festival… Held every year in January, the festival selects 200 films for exhibition, from a pool of 9,000 submissions, to be viewed by more than an average of 50,000 people.

This year, Ava DuVernay became the first black woman to win the prize of Best Director!

DuVernay started her career in the film industry building The DuVernay Agency, in 1999. The DuVernay Agency soon became DVA Media & Marketing, an acclaimed marketing and publicity firm, winning awards for the execution of strategized publicity for more than 100 film and television projects; Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood and Michael Mann among many others grace the list of  DVA clients.

With all that exposure to film’s greatest talents it wouldn’t be too long before DuVernay made her feature directorial debut with a critically acclaimed hip hop documentary entitled, This Is The Life. Before debuting her first full length feature film, I Will Follow, DuVernay went on to direct and produce several other music documentaries, including My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip Hop, which aired on B.E.T in 2010.

Ava DuVernay’s current award-winning piece, Middle Of Nowhere, tells the story of Rudy Sexton (Emayatzy Corinealdio) and  her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick), a recently convicted felon. The film portraits the emotions Rudy struggles with the sacrifices,  the shame and the separation  in her new role as ‘prison wife’.

Look out for the release of this film, check out all of Ava DuVernay’s projects and last but surely not least, join me in congratulating Ava on another GREAT success.


The Sundance Rundown

Last week saw the sun rise and set in Park City, Utah at America’s largest celebration of all films indie.  The festival is a showcase of new work and includes many premieres and an intense competition for movies fighting there way to make it to the big screen.  In recent years, it has become the premiere venue for those films that are still looking for backing and stuck in theatrical release limbo.

To get the opportunity for consideration in the competition, artists submit films for selection.  For many directors, this is the best venue for them to shop their films to distributors in hopes of getting studio backing, which can make or break a movie’s ultimate success.  In the past it was typically known for highlighting little known or upcoming filmmakers, but has grown to represent a much wider spectrum of artistry.  The 2012 festival had many great moments to celebrate.

U.S. Directing Award:Dramatic prize went to Middle of Nowhere

This year, close to 8000 short films were submitted, with just 64 selected for showings at the festival, just to put into perspective how stiff the competition gets.  Leading up to this year’s festival there was a lot of anticipation for many black films.  The blogs of negronia were ablaze speculating Spike Lee’s pet project Red Hook Summer, the film LUV starring and produced by Common, and Middle of Nowhere by upcoming filmmaker Av DuVernay.  Ten days later, 2012 proved to be a bigger deal for blacks in film that Sundance 2011 (for those who missed it… Pariah and Kinyurwanda were big hits here last year).

The film LUV stars entertainer/actor Common

At the close of Sundance 2012, three  films on our radar had won key awards, many others got distribution meaning we will get to see more of them coming soon to a theater near you, and the internet went viral with a tirade from none other than the OG of black film himself, Spike Lee.  One of the most exciting results was Ava DuVernay being named the first black woman to win the Best Director Prize for her sophomore film, Middle of Nowhere.  For those unfamiliar with her work, she also produced the BET documentary “My Mic Sounds Nice” and the feature on the Essence Music Festival in 2010 on TV One.  DuVernay’s first film, I Will Follow, has also garnered much critical acclaim and won Best Screenplay by the 2011 African American Film Critics Association.

Ava DuVernay speaking at Sundance 2012

For those like me who did not get the opportunity to make it to Sundance this year, it may be a wait for us to be able to see Middle of Nowhere in theaters.  While it was picked up by Participant Media and AAFRM, it is unclear at this time what release is planned.   The film’s plot centers around a woman navigating her life and marriage during her husband’s 8 year prison sentence.  Participant has backed many recent major films like The Help, Contagion, and An Inconvenient Truth.  AAFRM backed last year’s Sundance favorite Kinyurwanda, so I look forward to seeing Middle of Nowhere get its theatrical release soon.

Scene from Grand Jury Prize Winner, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Also taking home the Grand Jury Prize and a cinematography honor was the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was the undisputed critic favorite. This mythical tale was the first film from Benh Zeitlin.  The movie is set in the Southern delta at the end of the world and explores the survival and relationship of a girl and her father, welcoming the cutest new child star, Quvenzhane Wallis as 6 year old Hushpuppy. It was acquired by Fox Searchlight and is rumored for a summer release.  Previous Sundance films that were bought by Searchlight were very successful, like (500)Days of Summer.  The documentary “Detropia” was honored for US Documentary Editing.

Chris Rock as a family man in 2 Days in New York

Some movies that were not honored or eligible for award, but still picked up for distribution were: The Words starring Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana, 2 Days in New York starring Chris Rock, and the documentary “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap”.  Films that are still waiting for distribution that were heavily praised are the documentary “Under African Skies“, An Oversimplification of her Beauty (A Complex Exploration of the Dance Between Id, Ego, & Super Ego), and  1/2 Revolution.  Additionally, despite the controversial reviews and attention toward Spike Lee’s collaboration Red Hook Summer, I am still eager to see the film simply because word on the street is it features and not so hidden shot at Madea himself.

Lee during his now infamous tirade...

In the end, Sundance 2012 leaves us with a heavy promise of some great upcoming features with stories, directors, and actors that show a diverse depiction of the aspects of black culture.  If distribution goes well, this should be a great year for black cinema at the the movies.  I for one will be ready with popcorn in hand.

A Day to Celebrate like a KING

People nationwide joined in collective celebration of one of our world’s great heroes yesterday, commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr.  As I am sure there is no need for a history lesson right now and if you need to be informed about who this great man was… you need more help than this post will ever provide.  As we at All Black Everything spent our days of service reaching out in our communities, it was hard not to ponder the influence Dr. King’s actions and words have had on the fields of art and design.

For our supporters in and around the New York City area who want to tap into the spirit of the day, be sure to check out the acclaimed Broadway play, The Mountaintop. The story is a fictional retelling of the the night before Martin’s tragic assassination, with the entire play set in the Room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel. Written by playwright Katori Hall,  the UK production won the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Play.  This was monumental as Hall was the first black woman to win in history.  Add to all this that the Broadway production stars Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset, who could resist?  There are discounts for ticket purchases this week, so don’t miss out… the show closes on January 22!

MLK has also been the inspiration for many other influential design moments. Its only been a year, but Spike Lee’s moving commercial for Chevrolet from last years King Day Celebration still moves me.   With their whole Table of Brotherhood campaign ad, Chevrolet was one of the major advertising accounts that helped solidify Spike DDB, the firm that resulted when Spike Lee opened a joint venture with DDB Needham Worldwide.  They are one of the more noted black advertising firms to land some major accounts like FinishLine.

Turning our head to the built environment, there were many other memorials and buildings that came long before the newest addition to the Washington Mall.  One of the lesser known design gems to feature the words and evoke the spirit of Dr. King’s work was the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, ALby architect, Maya Lin.  The fountain includes a timeline that ends with Martin’s untimely death.

Another King inspired fountain can be found in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Gardens.  The site was designed by architect, Joseph de Pace and sculpted by artist Houston Conwill.  The fountain is the largest fountain on the Western Coast of America.

Moving further up the Western Coast is the Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Seattle.  Inspired by the “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop” speech, the site is set into the landscape of the park surrounding a reflection pool and statue honoring the event.

Another site that uses the inspiration of Martin’s words to commemorate a site is the former Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Campus in New York City.  After the original high school was closed in 2005, sculptor William Tarr created a steel sculpture matching the new campus’  facade on the site in homage to the school.

Moving to Atlanta, most people have done the historic  tours to Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Vistor’s Center to see his tomb, but there may be a new stop on the MLK tour soon.  Designed by the Freelon Group and HOK, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will create a space for the study, celebration, and education of the struggle for equality for all.  The building’s shape is based on the idea of interlocking arms.

You may remember early last year when we covered the announcement of the final design of the now completed MLK Memorial in Washington DC. Recently, a lot of controversy was sparked regarding one of the quotes chosen for the Stone of Hope, the cornerstone of the memorial’s design.   Many visitors have spoken out regarding the paraphrasing of a quote from Dr. King’s and have asked the designers and people managing the memorial to change the inscription on the stone.  The controversial quote is “I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness” which has been adapted from Martin’s original words, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Looking at the way Dr. King’s life, vision, and legacy have inspired other artists and designers in their creation of unique works is inspiring. We at All Black Everything challenge you to look to his words and message and find a way to champion it into your own creativity. And because there is no better way for it to be said….

“And we all know everything that he stood for time will bring for in peace our hearts will sing thanks to Martin Luther King…”

All Black Everything: Holiday Gift Guide

With the holiday season quickly approaching, we here at All Black Everything thought we’d offer up some fun suggestions for the artist or designer in your life, with our very own Africana twist.  2011 was a great year for the black creative mind and created some wonderful books, exhibits, shows, albums, and products. Sure to bring a smile to all!


African Metropolitan Architecture by  David Adjaye| $100   ISBN # 978-0847837168

This is the latest book from the world renown architect.  It documents contemporary African architecture and cityscape in vibrant photographs.  The book was personal project for the author/designer, who spent the last decade visiting and documenting all the major cities in Africa, fifty-three in total.  The collection comes in 7 volumes and is sure to be hit with the photographer, urban planner, or designer in your life.

available here

  One Day It’ll All Make Sense by Common and Adam Bradley| $25  ISBN # 978-1451625875

This is the memoir of the actor and emcee Common aka Rashid Lynn.  It chronicles his life from his childhood on the Southside of Chicago to  his current life of premieres, movie sets, and performance.  Known for his conscious hip hop style, the book provides a great introspective into the mind of the artist.  This is Common’s first book for adults.  Perfect gift for anyone who is a lover of music or film.

available here

   The Legends of Hip Hop by Justin Bua| $34.99   ISBN #978-0061854972

Justin Bua is better known for his vibrant art pieces utilizing his unique urban look.  This book takes his genius and goes one step further, cataloging the great masters of this musical art. It profile fifty hip hop icons, each with a biography and a portrait completed in Bua’s iconic style.  If you know any true fan of hip hop, graffiti, or street art, this book will be a great addition to their coffee table.

available here

New African Fashion by Helen Jennings| $35    ISBN # 978-3791345796

From the editor of ARISE Magazine, the premiere publication in the world of African fashion come New African Fashion.  The book serves as a guide to honor the new wave of high fashion designers coming out of the country.  It covers the history of African fashion and how it has influenced the modern designer, highlighting the current artists ripping the runways and pages of the fashion world.  The book includes lines and products that are African inspired and African made.

available here

  200 Something by Tiffany Millner| $10    ISBN # 978-0615448947

Tiffany Millner is a registered architect currently practicing in Philadelphia.  The book is a collage of memoir, journal, and inspiration; chronicling the authors thoughts and emotions on her career path.  The title references the number of African American female architects practicing in the United States.  This is a great gift for the architect, artist, or feminist who is finding her voice. This is Millner’s first book.

available here


   Undun– The Roots| $12

This is the latest release from perennial favorites the Roots.  As the first conceptual album from the alternative rap band, undun is the fictional narrative of Redford Stephens, a hustler.  The story chronicles Stephens’ life in reverse from his ultimate demise to his birth navigating themes of morality and vitality.  True to form, it is a sonic vacation, highlighting the many musical talents in the group.  This is the Roots 11th studio album.

available here

   The Dreamer, The Believer– Common| $12

Set for a December 20, 2011 release, Common’s ninth album arrives just in time for the holidays.  Produced and c0-written by hailed producer No I.D. The first single from the album, Ghetto Dreams, featued Nas and was released during the summer of 2011.  In interviews Common has said this album was inspired by his life.  Fans can look forward to appearance by Maya Angelou and crooner John Legend.  Dates for the album’s tour have recently been released.

available here

  Chamber Music Society– Esperanza Spalding|$14

For those who haven’t heard of Esperenza Spalding, your time has come.  The  27 year old musician made headlines in 2011 when she won for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, becoming the first Jazz artist to win the prestigious honor.  Her impressive musicianship is expertly performed across an array of instruments, her music a modern myriad of jazz and neo- soul with influences from classical and Latin music.

available here

   Break of Dawn– Goapele| $9.99

R&B songstress Goapele’s latest album has been two years in the making.  The fourth release from the singer marks her return to the music scene after a 5 year hiatus.  Look to expect a more grown up sound, with the content of this record conveying a much more seductive and suggestive vibe.  Reflected by the cover art, Goapele is not holding anything back this time around and its sure to move all who listen.

available here

  The Dreamer– Etta James| $10.99

The latest studio production from the icon will also be her last.  In the twilight of her over 50 year career, the blues singer delivers more of her moody, soulful sounds.  The collection of covers represents a ride array of genres and eras of music, showing that at 73, James is still up on the times.  One highlight on the album, is James’ rendition of Otis Reading’s “Ciggarettes and Coffee” guaranteed to make you sink into the depths of your own emotions along with her.

available here


  The Black Power Mixtape; MPI Home Video| $25

This documentary was a hit at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.  The film is and in depth look at the evolution of the black revolutionary movement within the black community.  The footage was by Swedish filmmakers and had been lost for year, beautiful edited by Swedish director, Goran Olsson.  Look forward to video featuring Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, and Eldrige Cleaver.  The movie also features commentary from many black icons.

available here

   Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest; Sony Pictures Classic| $30.99

This film is a portrait of one of the most famous rap groups in history.  Directed by Michael Rapaport, the documentary features interviews with all of the members of Tribe Called Quest.  Following the group during their 2008 reunion tour, giving a behind the scenes look at the group dynamics and journey during the year.   The documentary is an in your face and realistic portrait of the group members showing their progression as artists and ultimate differences.

available here

  Hidden Colors: The Untold History of People of Aboriginal, Moor, and African Descent; King Flex Entertainment| $30

This informative documentary looks at the history of the African Diaspora around the world.  An often overlooked and under told story of people of Africa descent in regions like Asia and Europe.  Featuring commentary and interviews by many of the premiere scholars voices in black studies, this dvd is the perfect gift for the suppressed revolutionary, history buff, or great thinker.  It is sure to foster strong sentiments of black pride and open eyes to some rarely shared information.

available here

   Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child; New Video Group| $30

An homage to the great artiste, The Radiant Child features a real look at the gone to soon Basquiat.  The documentary provides an introspective into his radical life as well as the New York art scent of 1980s. Its authenticity comes from the lost footage of Basquiat covering all aspects of his life.  The film moves chronologically, so you see his evolution as both a creator and a man, commemorating his short life.  Its has this raw, pure energy, allowing viewers to really see the legend’s human side.  This dvd is sure to  inspire the inner artist in us all.

available here

   Mooz-Lum; Vivendi| $20

This indie fan favorite got a lot of press when its marketing went viral in the past year.  Written by new director, Qasim Basir and produced by Danny Glover, the story follows a college bound young man, Tariq, who has been raised as a strict muslim in the time around 9-11.  Starring Evan Ross, in a critically applauded role as the title character.  It provides an interesting perspective on the often misunderstood religion.  The film was the winner at the 2010 Urbanworld Film Festival.

available here


   FELA! The Musical National Tour| dates and prices vary

After an exciting year on Broadway, the acclaimed musical is now headed to a city near you!  The show’s success led to a London production and Tony wins for Best Choreography, Best Costume Design for a Musical, and Best Sound Design for a Musical.  The show follows the life of activist and performer Fela Kuti  in 1977 when the Nigerian government was trying to cease his performances.

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  Alvin Ailey Contemporary Dance Theater National Tour| dates and prices vary

The modern dance company, known for its groundbreaking choreography, is currently in its 53rd season.   The 2011-12 season marks the first year for new Artistic Director, Robert Battle.  Features include 6 new pieces, as well as fan favorites like Revelations and Night Creatures.  Sparking a new era for the company, it is sure to provide something new for seasoned Ailey supporters and impress those new to the amazing talents

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  Pariah, Focus Film Features| dates and prices vary

This contemporary drama premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and is slated for its US release on December 28, 2011.  It was awarded for its Excellence in Cinematography at the festival.  The film is an extension of a 2007 short film by the writer/director Dee Rees and was executive produced by Spike Lee.  The plot follows Alike, a 17 year old Brooklyn teen as she embraces her sexual identity as a lesbian.  The lead actress, Adepero Oyure was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead.  The film also Best Independent Film and Best Breakthrough Performance for Oyure at the African-American Film Critics Association

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   Kinyarwanda| dates and prices vary

Also premiering this year at Sundance was Kinyarwanda, the first film from Alrick Brown.  The film one the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award.  Based on the true accounts of muslims in Rwanda during 1994 genocide, the films tells the story of hope and human compassion during that time.  Weaving six stories together, the movie gives a more comprehensive and real narrative of the lives of many Rwandan’s during that tragic time in their history.

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Essence Festival 2012 Weekend Passes; July 6th- 8th, New Orleans, LA| $120- 750

Every summer, music fans flock to the Big Easy for one of the largest black musical festivals in the United States.  With sessions, events, and parties for all, it is well worth the vacation days to check it out.  This year Weekend passes went on sale before the Christmas Rush, making them the perfect gift for a romantic getaway, reunion with old friends, or fun loving girls weekend trip.

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   Beats Colors by Dr. Dre| $350

The ever popular headphones are now available in an array of colors, so you can have a pair of Beats to match every outfit.  The SOLO model features high-definition and noise canceling audio clarity.  Its super deep bass make it perfect for catching every nuance of a great hip- hop meat, the trance inducing baselines of a complex jazz composition, or the electronic hype of a dance beat.

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  Scratch Art Artists Trading Cards by Scratch- Art| $7

Keep up with the latest trends by giving the gift of these artist trading cards.  Traded like baseball cards, they came out of the mail art movement.  Today they are wallet sized pieces of extraordinary art.  Combined with the elementary fun of scratch art, this activity provides an opportune moment for revisiting your inner child.

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    Lami Li Traveler’s Journals| $28- 43

These colorful journals are ideal for the writer, sketcher, poet, traveler in us all.  Handmade in Nepal from the bark of the Lokta tree, these eco-friendly journals help support rural economic development in the country.  Great for those who strive to live more sustainably or have an altruistic streak focused on social justice.  They include 150 bound pages of handmade paper that are acid free  and perfect for archival ink.

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   Obama 2012 Holiday Ornament|$40

Show that you are in for the long haul with your support of the 44th President in his re-election campaign with this festive Holiday ornament.   The rhodium features the names of the President and Vice Pres in an intricate design.   Find this and more at the Obama 2012 store to display your political stance in style.

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Charter Membership to the National Museum of African American History and Culture| $25- 1000

Slated for it 2015 opening, the much anticipated addition to the Smithsonian campus and National Mall is being designed by some of the world’s premiere black architects.  Help it become a reality by contributing to the campaign to raise the $250 million needed to build by becoming a Charter Member.  For your efforts, you get your name listed on the electronic wall at the museum and to say you contributed to a piece of history.

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Hope this extensive list has you rethinking some of your last minute gift ideas for that creative presence in your life!  From the ABE Staff, we would like to wish all of our readers and their families a Happy Holidays… we look forward to bringing you exciting new content and features next year!