Brief Comments About Eps. 1-3 of PBS’ “Fight The Power: How Hip Hop Changed The World”

The small clips of Sista Souljah and Afeni Shakur, the examination of Afeni’s son Tupac, hiphop’s sexism and Danyel Smith’s and Ice-T’s discussion comparing New York to L.A. in Episode 3 almost save this, but if executive producer Chuck D can’t connect the historical-cultural dots for us, then all is lost. 😦

No discussion of COINTELPRO. No connecting national police brutality to the edicts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s J. Edgar Hoover.

No connecting the history of L.A. police brutality to the SWAT teams, units created to destroy the Oakland, California-based Black Panther Party and other Black revolutionary groups.

Nothing on the obvious African cultural roots of hip-hop.

Nothing about South African apartheid or the anti-apartheid movement!!!! (Okay, those super-brief clips of Winnie Mandela in Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First” are in here.)

Nothing on New York’s Black radio, the communication power of Black deejays nationwide and New York’s Black news-talk radio!!!!!!

Nothing on *why* the early 1970s hiphop artists *publicly* ignore artists shown (Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, etc.)–the aftermath of the brutal, public repression of New York groups like The Panther 21, the Black Liberation Army, etc.

Nothing about early white corporate ownership and the shaping of hiphop. But Episode 3, however, at least starts the later discussion, at least, and it gives some justice to C. Delores Tucker.

Nothing on the more radical/Muslim/nationalist hiphop artists of the ’80s–X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, etc.

Gee….. 😦

FEBRUARY 21TH UPDATE: It’s kinda sad on Malcolm X Assassination Commemoration Day to see such a light touch on hip-hop’s contradictions. (Where was the “dick-riding Obama” clip from “The Boondocks?” 🙂 ) Episode 4 should have been called “How Hiphop Didn’t Change The World.” This story, which somehow turns Eminem into (Black/hiphop) America’s hero (?), would have worked much better as two episodes.

P.S: Tupac Shakur has been dead for almost 30 years now.

P.P.S. We really need a big, full bio of Jesse Jackson Sr.

My Five Screen Portrayals of Nelson Mandela, From Best To Worst


I had tried to avoid seeing BET’s “Madiba,” because I was afraid of it being really, really bad. I caught parts of it last night and was pleasantly surprised. Laurence Fishburne will die giving some great performance somewhere.

(Dear BET: I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but the little I saw last night made up for six hours of “New Edition” 🙂 Yes, I will relectantly admit it was a supergroup, but still….. SIX? LOL! I turned it off after the group sang “Can You Stand The Rain.”)

Anyway, the little I saw of “Madiba” last night was the Mandela that I had read about.

It made me think about how many times I’ve seen Madiba portrayed on screens big and little over the last 30.

Here are my five Mandela portrayals, from best to worst, with small commentary:

  1. Idris Elba in “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom:” No shade on Larry, but I wish he had been in this BET one! His movie did not really deal with the socio-political aspects of his story, but he did a LOT with what he had.
  2. Sidney Poitier in “Mandela and DeKlerk:” A cable TV film that should be seen more. (So, shhh…check it out :))
  3. Danny Glover in “Mandela:” Another forgotten cable TV film. (Shh…. :)) I remember falling in love with Alfre Woodard and Winnie Mandela at the same time because of this production. It’s important to point that this film was made during the Reagan administration, when The Powers That Be publicly considered Mandela a terrorist and many of the anti-apartheid protesters thought he would die in prison, sparking a South Africa race war.
  4. Morgan Freeman in “Invictus:” In a way, this should be higher, because Freeman’s portrayal of Mandela the reconciliation president matches the actor’s on- and off-screen assimilationist persona.
  5. The worst of the Nelson Mandela depictions was not hard to figure out. Beyond a shadow of the doubt, it would have to go to Terrence Howard (!) in “Winnie Mandela,” an extremely flawed film based on an extremely flawed book. (However, Jennifer Hudson’s extraordinary performance as the title character almost salvages the flick.) I struggled not to laugh out loud watching Howard, who, to be fair, was giving it his best.