It is that time of year again and, all things considered, I suppose one would have to acknowledge there was progress made by America designating February as Black History Month. It only took 50 years to graduate from “Negro Week.” This first commemoration was set up in the month of February to honor the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. I like to believe the expansion of the week to a full month was to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., and not (as some might say) because February is the shortest month of the year.
In keeping with “the season,” Hulu is releasing The United States Vs. Billie Holiday, while Da 5 Bloods from director Spike Lee is on Netflix, along with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Malcolm & Marie. Amazon is presenting Regina King’s somewhat disappointing directorial debut, One Night in Miami (and while you are at it, see Ms. King’s considerable acting “chops” in the previously recommended, very excellent/off-center HBO limited series Watchman, which has the Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre of a hundred years ago supplying context). Judas and the Black Messiah can also be found on HBO.
There is a gaggle of Spike Lee movies being featured, and if you haven’t seen Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, the documentary Four Little Girls, or BlacKkKlansman, you owe it to yourself to do so. And, as to retrospective viewing, check out director Steve McQueen (not the blonde guy in the green Mustang… the other one) and view 12 Years a Slave, as well as his series for Amazon, Small Axe.
If you are up to it, you might want to run through some of the racist material blacks have had to endure at virtually each and every trip to a movie and you might want to begin with the granddaddy of them all (Birth of a Nation). You could then matriculate to one of the most successful films of all time (Gone with the Wind), but the reality is you can see almost any Hollywood film ever made, and with only a modicum of sensitivity to the subject, readily “get” the stereotyping that is so much a part of what most of us call “The American Dream.”
Before COVID it would have been an interesting February exercise to go out to a movie several times with the mental “fix” of doing all you could to see a movie… any movie…while imagining you are a Black American. Maybe next year.
This all brings me around to something I am currently reading…and now commending to you: CASTE, by Isabel Wilkerson. It is both important and impressive. Please read it before you even think, let alone say out loud, something like “this has nothing to do with me…no one in my family ever owned slaves.”
A link to the best article I have read in years is pasted below. I urge you to click on the link and to read How Slavery Sowed the Seeds of American Collapse. Here is that link:
We come now to the section known as self-serving puffery. What I have been watching of late is my old television series…no, not Cagney & Lacey, but rather The Trials of Rosie O’Neill.
It has just been re-released and I most heartily and unabashedly commend it to you. It is 30 years old, but the issues we covered are still fresh, the dialogue still smart, and my wife…the fabulous Sharon Gless, ladies and gentlemen…is drop dead beautiful and the clothes we had designed for her should have become a line all their own. There are 34 episodes and only a couple of stinkers in the group. Episode 15 in the first season is a complete hoot with Rosie and her pals (Tyne Daly and Carole King) gathering with others for a fictional high school reunion. It is a standalone, fun episode. The triptych we made in the second season with RJ Wagner is damn good television as well. Dawn Prestwich & Nicole Yorkin, who wrote, and executive produced The Killing (now available on Netflix) got their career start on this series while Carol Mendelsohn, the creator of the unbelievably successful NCIS series on CBS, was a big part of our season two staff of writers.
Along with Daly, King and RJ, other guest performers included Helen Hunt, Brenda Vaccaro, and Ed Asner. The ensemble surrounding Sharon in the title role, includes Ron Rifkin, the late Georgann Johnson, Dorian Harewood, Lisa Banes and Lisa Rieffel…all wonderful additions to any series. The most amazing thing (at least to me) is that Sharon is watching them with me and having a great time doing so. Ms Gless is one of those actors who NEVER watch themselves on screen. She has made an exception for this show and is happy she has.
The Trials of Rosie O’Neill is circa 1990-91 and can be viewed on Apple TV and/or Amazon Prime. I like the former better than the latter and, by way of explanation, David Handman, my son-in-law for the past three decades was (before he became “My Prince”) one of the editors on the series. He explained to me, “Apple TV displays a much sharper image than Amazon Prime which is especially helpful for analog shows like ‘Rosie O’Neill.’” I am not all that sure I know an analog from any other kind of fireplace fuel, but I do know (at least on my TV) that there is a qualitative difference between what I am seeing/hearing twix Apple TV and Amazon Prime that makes the former the Apple for my eye.
For those of you who like streaming best… use the following link for THE ARCHIVE:
However you watch it, enjoy!
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To purchase “Cagney & Lacey and Me” click or go to:
As expected, all my questions about Black History Month were answered by Barney with his extensive knowledge of movies, TV programs, and eye-opening news articles. Of course, his self-serving puffery, in this instance praise of the TV series, “The Trials of Rosie O’Neill” is valid. The show was excellent at the time and worth watching again, now that it is available. Sharon Gless is superb as Rosie, as she is in every role she has played. Dena Stewart