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Summer Watch List: 10 Of The Latest Must-See Black Films & Shows

Whether new or returning for new seaons, these diverse picks are for all the cinema or TV lovers.

Culture & Entertainment

You gotta love a good show or movie with a strong black lead and story you can get lost in. Since we're no longer obligated to stay at home, you might find yourself ready to indulge in a little big-screen escapism---social distancing guidelines in place, of course. Even if you might be among those still putting a pause on sitting in a theater or joining a watch party, we've got something for you. (Hey, we don't blame you sis.)

Check out these 10 must-see films and shows featuring black leads, from horror, to comedy, to thrillers and beyond.

HORROR: Lovecraft Country

Jordan Peele (Get Out) is one of the executive producers of this HBO series set to debut in August. Based on a novel by Matt Ruff, it follows a man's journey through 1950s Jim Crow South in search of his missing father. If you're thinking, 'Well, where's the quirky, thought-provoking twist Peele is known for?' you can find it in the inclusion of forest monsters and strange zombie-like characters. The star-studded cast includes Courtney B. Vance (Cork'd, Law & Order: Criminal Intent) Jonathan Majors (White Boy Rick, The Last Black Man in San Francisco), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Underground, True Blood) and Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire, Empire).

DRAMA: Greenleaf, Season 5​

We can't get enough of this Memphis megachurch drama, slated to see its final season on OWN this summer. The bishiop (Keith David) and his wife (the never-aging Lynn Whitfield) return with other mainstays Deborah Joy Winans, LeToya Luckett, Lamman Rucker, Merle Dandridge, and Kim Hawthorne. Oprah's also set to make an appearance, and there are reports of Patti LaBelle and Rick Fox showing up as well. (A spin-off is also reportedly in the works.) If you haven't caught up to all the drama, scandals, and secrets, all four previous seasons are available on Netflix, so go ahead and get your binge on if you haven't already. Be sure to catch the latest episodes of the final season airing on OWN Tuesdays at 9pm.

MYSTERY: Antebellum

Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae. Janelle Monae. Need I write more? OK, well, if she didn't already wow you in Hidden Figures, at least intrigue in in Homecoming, or have you enjoying the luscious fabulousity of a being a black woman via her 2018 album Dirty Computer, I almost don't know what else to tell you. This psychological mystery, which will be available in theaters if all is back to normal by August 21, centers on an author who is transported into an alternate reality of Get Out vibes and Roots travesties. The thought of being placed back into slavery as a woke woman of the 2000s is already horrific within itself, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

THRILLER: Tenet

An espionage agent who can bend time, wear the hell out of a tailored suit, survive beatings and near car crashes and doesn't have the name Bond? Yep, that's this film. (We love James Bond by the way, so that wasn't a dig.) John David Washington stars in this flick, set to hit theaters July 17. I'll go ahead and leave out the comparisons to the Original Mo' Betta Blues-giving, Equalizer-fighting, Malcolm X-swagged Zaddy out of this. (I mean, Denzel is his daddy, sis.)

NOLLYWOOD: Merry Men 2

If you like films like Ocean's 11, or Takers, you'll like this action-comedy available for streaming on Netflix. It showcases the glitz and glam of the Nigerian elite in an international adventure to fight corruption, steal from the rich, and give to the poor. Nigerian host and comedian Ayo Makun and musican-actor Falz star in this film along with other Nollywood vets including Ramsey Nouah, Ireti Doyle, and Jim Iyeke. This sequel takes things to the next level with a fierce female mercenary crew who give the four leading men a run for their money. This isn't your typical three-DVD soap opera drama you'd typically enjoy while getting those Marley twists redone at the braid shop, sis. (Though we love those, too.)

COMEDY: The High Note

Tracee Ellis Ross stars as a Hollywood superstar singer (a great nod to her real-life mom Diana Ross) and faces a career and life dilemma when her manager (played by Ice Cube) presents her with an interesting opportunity. If not for the fashion and endearing goofiness of Ross, you'll want to check it out just to see if the (musical) apple doesn't fall far from the entertainment royalty tree.

DRAMA: The Chi, Season 3

This Lena Waithe hit returns with the inclusion of new faces including RHOA's Kandi Burress, who plays the love interest of the show's gangsta lead Douda (played by Curtiss Cook). Actors from the previous season including Common (who plays Selma), Jacob Latimore (who plays Emmett), Yolanda Ross (who plays Jada), and Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine (who plays Ronnie). Waithe makes cameo appearances, along with Luke James and La La. It looks like there will be a quite a few plot twists but one is no surprise since Tiffany Boone (who played Jerrika) and Jason Mitchell (who played her chef bae Brandon) won't be returning this season. Tune in July 5 via Showtime.

DARK COMEDY: I May Destroy You

British actress Michaela Coel is back with an eyebrow-raising depiction of how a woman deals with the aftermath of being slipped a date-rape drug. The series explores sexual consent, contemporary dating, and reevaluating life choices as a woman in London, and if you liked her quirky Netflix series Chewing Gum, you might be able to give this HBO series a chance.

DRAMA: Miss Juneteenth

This film, which was a Sundance Film Festival selection and a hit at SXSW, centers around Turquoise Jones (played by Nicole Beharie of Sleepy Hollow fame), a single mother and former beauty queen. She goes on a journey in getting her rebellious daughter to follow in her footsteps and how she navigates love, parenthood, forgiveness and redemption in the madness. The film is debuted June 19, the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, via multiple streaming platforms. You'll see a familiar face in Insecure's Kendrick Sampson (Issa's halfway-boo Nathan) who plays Jones' love in this film.

COMIC ACTION: Falcon & The Winter Soldier 

Disney+ is debuting this series, starring Anthony Mackie as Marvel Comics' Sam Wilson AKA "Falcon". He's joined by actress Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) for this classic interpretation of the comic, and stars alongside Sebastian Stan (who plays Bucky Barnes AKA The Winter Soldier). Samuel L. Jackson is also rumored to return as Nick Fury in the six-part series set to debut in August. Each show will be released weekly versus all at once, so you'll get to hold on in suspense to see what will happen with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
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