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Historian Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s writings on antiracism rose to mainstream prominence last summer amid a widespread social reawakening about continued racial injustice in the nation, with four of his books landing on the New York Times bestseller list.
Now Netflix is partnering with the author and academic, who is the founding director of Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research and one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2020, to adapt his scholarship for the screen with three different projects intended to reach audiences of different ages.
Stamped from the Beginning will be a hybrid documentary/scripted feature based on Kendi’s 2016 book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which made him the youngest winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction. The project traces the roots and evolution of racist concepts in the United States in order to better understand today’s society, which isn’t as post-racial as some may believe. Roger Ross Williams, the first Black director to win an Oscar (for the documentary short Music by Prudence), will direct and produce through his One Story Up banner, with Kendi and veteran showrunner Mara Brock Akil (Girlfriends, Being Mary Jane, Black Lightning) executive producing. Kendi is represented by Ayesha Pande Lit. Williams is repped by attorney Andre Des Roche. Brock Akil is repped by attorney Stephen Barnes, and all three are represented by WME.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, like its No. 1 bestselling namesake (co-authored by Jason Reynolds), will be aimed at the YA audience. Also directed and produced by Williams, with Kendi executive producing, the documentary will serve as a companion to Stamped From the Beginning that will explain how racism in America originated and has persisted, in hopes of learning how to counter it.
“Stamped From the Beginning and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You are powerful and essential pieces of literature that clearly outline how deeply rooted racist ideas are in the United States,” said Williams, who also has won two Emmys and the Sundance directing award for his documentary Life, Animated, in a statement. “I hope these films crystallize Dr. Kendi’s message that ‘the only thing wrong with Black people is that they think something is wrong with Black people’ and encourage everyone to fight for a more equitable society. I am thrilled to be partnering with Netflix to bring Dr. Kendi’s incredible work and crucial insights to a broader audience.”
Finally, for the very youngest set, Antiracist Baby will adapt Kendi’s No. 1 children’s bestseller as a series of musical animated shorts, executive produced by Kendi and someone who is no stranger to inclusive programming for preschoolers: Chris Nee, creator of the Peabody-winning Disney Junior series Doc McStuffins. “I feel deeply honored to have a chance to help deepen the impact of Dr. Kendi’s work,” said Nee, who is repped by UTA and attorney Kenneth Weinrib, in a statement. “We are living in tumultuous times, and it is incumbent on all of us to use our platforms to make the world a better place. Antiracist Baby aligns perfectly with the values of my company, Laughing Wild, and Netflix as a whole, and we are excited to be a vehicle through which it can continue to influence the world for the better.”
The music videos will focus on the nine steps to being antiracist as outlined in Kendi’s 2020 board book (illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky), which already has been featured in Netflix’s preschool series Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices.
“I’m elated these projects landed at Netflix. What a wonderful partner. I’m elated to work with Roger Ross Williams, Mara Brock Akil and Chris Nee. They are such ambitious, innovative and passionate creators who are committed to racial justice,” Kendi said in a statement. “But I’m really elated for the viewers, for the adults and children who will be captivated, informed and transformed by these projects.”
Jan. 15, 10:48 a.m. Added reps for Ibram X. Kendi, Roger Ross Williams and Mara Brock Akil.
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