29 Days Of Black History – Day 29: When They See Us

a/k/a Central Park Five

Release Date:  5/31/19; Limited Series – Netflix
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  TV-MA
Director:  Ava DuVernay
Studio(s):   Forward Movement, Harpo Films, Participant Media, Tribeca Productions, Netflix

Cast:  Jovan Adepo, Chris Chalk, Justin Cunningham, Freddy Miyares, Jharrel Jerome, Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Chris Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury.

Story:  Four-part limited series about the Central Park Five, a group of teenagers from Harlem — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise — who 30 years ago were wrongly convicted of rape.  The series will span 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.

Ava DuVernay, who created and directed the film, said in a statement, “In 1989, five black and brown teen boys were wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit and branded The Central Park Five, a moniker that has followed them since that time.  In 2019, our series gives the five men a platform to finally raise their voices and tell their full stories.  In doing so, Korey, Antron, Raymond, Kevin and Yusef also tell the story of many young people of color unjustly ensnared in the criminal justice system.  Sources:  TV Line; Coming Soon; IMDB; Deadline; Variety.



29 Days Of Black History – Day 28: Fruitvale Station

Release Date: 7/12/13
Genre:  Drama/Biography
Rating:  R
Running Time: 85 mins.
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Director: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan (Oscar Grant)
Melonie Diaz (Sophina)
Octavia Spencer (Wanda)
Kevin Durand (Officer Caruso)
Chad Michael Murray (Officer Ingram)
Story:  Based on the events leading up to the death of Oscar Grant, a young man who was killed in 2009 by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale district station of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system in Oaklandrue.

The movie begins with the actual footage of Oscar Grant and his friends being detained by the BART Police at the Fruitvale BART station in Oakland on January 1, 2009, at 2:15 a.m. right before the shooting.  The film shows Grant and his girlfriend Sophina arguing about Grant’s recent infidelity. It later shows Grant unsuccessfully attempting to get his job back at the grocery store and attends a birthday party for his mother. He agrees to take the BART train to see fireworks and other New Year’s festivities in San Francisco since she is worried about him driving.

On the return train a fight breaks out and the BART police respond to the scene. Grant is among the passengers the BART police attempt to arrest. While being restrained by officers Caruso and Ingram, Grant is shot in the back by Ingram. He is rushed to the hospital, where he dies in surgery.


Title cards at the end describe the aftermath: Grant’s killing sparked a series of protests and riots across the city and that the incident was recorded by several witnesses, either by cell phone or video camera. The BART Police officers involved were fired and “Ingram” (the officers’ names were changed) was later tried and found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, claiming he mistook his gun for his Taser, and served an 11-month sentence. There is also footage of a gathering of people celebrating Grant’s life on New Year’s Day 2013 with the real-life, older Tatiana (Grant’s daughter) standing among them.  Source(s):  Wikipedia; IMDB.

29 Days Of Black History – Day 27: Southside With You

Release Date:  8/26/16
Genre:  Biography/Romance
Rating:  PG-13
Running Time:  84 mins.
Studio(s):  IM Global, State Street Pictures
Director:  Richard Tanne

Parker Sawyers as Barack Obama

Tika Sumpter as Michelle Robinson
Vanessa Bell Calloway as Marian Robinson
Phillip Edward Van Lear as Fraser C. Robinson
Deanna Reed-Foster as Bernadette
Jerod Haynes as Tommy
Gabrielle Lott-Rogers as Rafiqa
Tom McEloryn as Avery Goodman
Taylar Fondren as Janice
Donn Carl Harper as Curtis
Preston Tate, Jr. as Kyle

Story:  Set in 1989, Harvard Law School student Barack Obama, while working as a summer associate at a Chicago law firm, tries to win the heart of Michelle Robinson, a young lawyer and his supervisor at the firm.  Filling time before a community meeting, they visit an Ernie Barnes exhibit at a local art center, attend a community organizing meeting where Obama gives a speech, view a screening of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, and have their first kiss outside an ice cream parlor in what winds up being their first date.  Source(s): The Chicago Tribune: The Wrap.


29 Days Of Black History – Day 26: Confirmation

It only takes one voice to change history

Release Date:  4/16/16; HBO
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  TV-14
Running Time:   110 mins.
Studio(s):  ABC Signature Studios, Groundswell Productions, HBO Films.
Director:  Rick Famuyiwa
Cast:  Kerry Washington (Anita Hill), Wendell Pierce (Clarence Thomas), Erika Christensen (Shirley Wiegand), Zoe Lister-Jones (Carolyn Hart), Greg Kinnear (Joe Biden), Grace Gummer (Ricki Seidman), Jeffrey Wright (Charles Ogletree), Eric Stonestreet (Ken Duberstei), Kimberly Elise (Sonia Jarvis), Jennifer Hudson (Angela Wright), Alison Wright (Virginia Thomas).

Story:  Confirmation, the HBO original movie, details the 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings.  Anita Hill, a law professor at Oklahoma University, is contacted and questioned about Clarence Thomas. Hill, a former employee of Thomas, is prompted to speak about his workplace treatment. Her allegations of sexual harassment are leaked, and a media frenzy ensues. A hearing takes place at which Anita tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that, among other things, Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her 10 years prior.  Afterwards, a series of events unfolds as the Committee tries to determine who is telling the truth, with the world watching.

Kerry Washington portrays law professor Anita Hill, who accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.  With Wendell Pierce as Judge Thomas, Greg Kinnear as Democratic Senator Joe Biden, who presided over the hearings as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  Jeffrey Wright plays Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree, Professor Hill’s lead attorney during the hearings.  Kimberly Elise plays Sonia Jarvis, a civil rights attorney on Anita Hill’s legal team. Jennifer Hudson portrays Angela Wright, another Thomas accuser.  Erika Christensen plays Shirley Wiegand, Hill’s close friend and Alison Wright portrays Ginni Thomas, Thomas’ wife.  Source:  Shadow and Act; Tamaratattles.com; IMDB; crossthenetflixstream.blogspot.com; Wikipedia.



29 Days Of Black History – Day 25: The Hate U Give

Release Date:  10/19/18
Genre:  Drama
Rating:  PG-13
Director:  George Tillman, Jr.
Studio(s):   Fox 2000 Pictures, State Street Pictures, Temple Hill Entertainment,
Twentieth Century Fox.
Running time:  133 mins.
Cast:  Amandla Stenberg (Starr Carter), Regina Hall (Lisa Carter), Russell Hornsby (Maverick Carter), Common (Uncle Carlos Carter), Lamar Johnson (Seven Carter), TJ Wright (Sekani Carter), Issa Rae (April Ofrah), KJ Apa (Chris), Sabrina Carpenter (Hailey), Anthony Mackie (King).

Story:   Starr Carter is a 16-year-old American girl who lives in the fictional, black neighborhood of Garden Heights, but attends a predominantly white private school Williamson Prep.  After a gun goes off at a party Starr is attending, Starr is driven home by her childhood best friend, Khalil.  While driving home, they are stopped by a police officer for failing to signal a lane change. The officer barks orders at Khalil, such as to roll down the window and turn off the music. Khalil disagrees with the officer, who instructs him to exit the car. While outside the car, the officer retrieves Khalil’s drivers license and instructs him to not move while the officer checks his ID in the police car. Khalil reaches through the driver-side window and he picks up a hairbrush. The officer shoots and kills Khalil. As Starr mourns over Khalil, the officer realizes that he was holding a hairbrush, not a gun.

Khalil’s killing becomes a national news story. Starr’s identity as the witness is initially kept secret from everyone outside Starr’s family—leaving Starr’s two best friends, Hailey Grant and Maya Yang, and Starr’s boyfriend, Chris, who all attend Williamson Prep together, unaware of Starr’s connection to the killing. Having to keep this secret weighs on Starr, as does her need to keep her Williamson and Garden Heights personas separate.

Starr agrees to be interviewed on television and to testify in front of a grand jury after being encouraged by a civil rights lawyer. While defending Khalil’s character during her interview, in which her identity is hidden, she names the King Lords, the gang that controls her neighborhood, lead by King who is widely feared in the neighborhood. The gang retaliates by threatening Starr and her family, forcing them to move in with her Uncle Carlos who is a police detective.

After a grand jury does not indict the officer, Garden Heights erupts into both peaceful protests and riots. In reaction to the decision, Starr takes an increasingly public role, including speaking out during the protests, which are met by police in riot gear. Her increasing identification with the people of Garden Heights causes tension with Starr’s school friends, and especially with her boyfriend Chris.

Starr gets trapped in a grocery store, which is fire-bombed by King and his gang.  She escapes but when the police arrive, Starr’s younger brother Sekani points a gun at King. Starr manages to defuse the situation and the community finally stands up against King, who goes to jail.  Starr eventually promises to keep Khalil’s memory alive, and to continue her advocacy against police violence by “any means necessary.”  Source(s):  Wikipedia; IMDB; Colourlessopinions.com.


29 Days of Black History – Day 24: Just Mercy

Release Date:  1/17/2020
Genre:  Drama/Biography
Rating:  PG-13
Director:  Destin Daniel Cretton
Studio(s):   Netter Productions, Warner Bros.
Running Time:  Unknown
Cast:  Michael B. Jordan as Bryan Stevenson; Jamie Foxx as Walter McMillian; Brie Larson as Eva Ansley; O’Shea Jackson, Jr. as Anthony Ray Hinton; Tim Blake Nelson as Ralph Myers; Rob Morgan as Herbert Richardson.

Story:   A powerful and thought-provoking true story, Just Mercy follows young lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Jordan) and his history-making battle for justice. After graduating from Harvard, Bryan might have had his pick of lucrative jobs. Instead, he heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned, with the support of local advocate Eva Ansley (Larson). One of his first, and most incendiary, cases is that of Walter McMillian (Foxx), who, in 1987, was sentenced to die for the notorious murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite a preponderance of evidence proving his innocence and the fact that the only testimony against him came from a criminal with a motive to lie. In the years that follow, Bryan becomes embroiled in a labyrinth of legal and political maneuverings and overt and unabashed racism as he fights for Walter, and others like him, with the odds and the system stacked against them.

The film’s epilogue notes that Bryan and Eva continue to fight for justice to the present day. Walter remained friends with Bryan until his death in 2013. A follow-up investigation into Morrison’s death confirmed Walter’s innocence and posited that a white man was likely responsible; the case has never been solved.  Source:  Rotten Tomatoes; IMDB; Finance.yahoo.com; Wikipedia; Shadow and Act.