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With three weeks left in Black History Month, there is still plenty of dedicated programming to be found on television and the streaming services that spotlight Black stories and highlight issues of particular relevance to the community.
ABC Owned Television Stations
The eight stations (in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno) will each air local premium content for Black History Month.
ABC7/WABC-NY New York, No. 1 in the nation for 17 straight years, has a near-daily slate of programming on such subjects including medical mistrust (Feb. 9), Black pandemic frontline workers (Feb. 11), a gospel salute (Feb. 14), next-gen activists (Feb. 18) and women (Feb. 28). The channel’s Here and Now, the longest-running African American public affairs show, is also featuring virtual Black History Month events from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Meanwhile, ABC7/KABC-TV Los Angeles is doing profiles on the African American Board Leadership Institute, the L.A. chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, the California African American Museum and Paul Revere Williams, the first licensed Black architect in California.
And the television group’s lifestyle network Localish will premiere hyperlocal stories touting Black culture, such as a spotlight on L.A.’s oldest Black-owned businesses, in addition to reposting and promoting long-form and short-form content across its platforms.
Regina King’s One Night in Miami, Steve McQueen’s film anthology series Small Axe, Stacey Abrams documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy and period romance Sylvie’s Love are all streaming now alongside Amazon originals from previous years including the second season of Homecoming (starring Janelle Monae) and the Donald Glover/Rihanna trip Guava Island.
Amazon’s free streaming service, IMDb TV, is also making available originals such as Top Class: The Life and Times of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers, which follows the team stocked with some of the nation’s most elite high school basketball players (among them Bronny James, Shy Odom and Zaire Wade).
Back in January on MLK Day, the Worldwide Leader in Sports launched the Black History Always initiative to declare its commitment to Black stories beyond one month a year. Powered by the company’s The Undefeated, which explores the intersections of sports, race and culture, highlights of the initiative across ABC and ESPN’s platforms include:
The Undefeated Presents: A Room of our Own: ESPN will air the hourlong special, about the relationship Black athletes have to music, on Feb. 28, followed by a repeat airing on ABC on March 7. An EP featuring some of the sounds from the special, “Music For the Movement/Black History Always,” will be released Feb. 26 on Hollywood Records.
First Take: Every Wednesday in February, the morning debate show will showcase a different HBCU each week, with students lobbing hot take subjects at panelists Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman. Smith’s own alma mater, Winston-State, was first on the hot seat Feb. 3, and it will be followed by Howard (Feb. 10), Morehouse (Feb. 17) and Jackson State (Feb. 24).
SC Featured: On Feb. 28, SportsCenter’s longform storytelling brand will air “Black Diamond,” a segment about the 1973 formation of the National Brotherhood of Skiers, whose goal is to place a member on the U.S. Olympic team. Michigan teenager “Flyin” Brian Rice is their most promising prospect yet.
The platform will present Forward: The Future of Black Music, a series of four conversations between established and emerging artists: Yara Shahidi and Neelam (Feb. 16), John Legend and D Smoke (Feb. 19), Erykah Badu and Tobe Nwigwe (Feb. 23) and Chance the Rapper and Taylor Bennett (Feb. 26).
Fox Nation, Fox News’ subscription-based streaming service, is premiering specials on Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece Alveda King (Feb. 11), Jackie Robinson and other Black baseball pioneers (Feb. 23) and Sgt. William H. Carney, the first Black American to receive the Medal of Honor (Feb. 24).
Fox Soul, Fox Television Stations’ OTT platform for Black culture, will debut a new weekly hourlong program highlighting short films from Black filmmakers. Fox Soul’s Screening Room will premiere Feb. 18 and feature one to four shorts, each followed by an interview between the filmmaker and the episode’s celebrity host, starting with Vivica A. Fox.
Meanwhile, Tubi, Fox’s free streaming service, has curated a week-by-week playlist of content to binge on all month. Highlights include documentaries such as I Am Not Your Negro and Believe: The Barack Obama Story and movies from Spike Lee’s Get On the Bus to Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls.
The streaming service has launched a “Black History is Our History” spotlight page showcasing a range of content across genres and for all ages from HBO’s library. Highlights (as categorized by HBO Max) include:
Our Past (docs, biopics and original films): 4 Little Girls, Amistad, Being Serena, Bessie, Between the World and Me, Black Art: The Absence of Light, Harriet, Just Mercy, Ray, Red Tails, Roots, Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality
Our Joy (classic comedy series, films and stand-up specials): A Black Lady Sketch Show, Chris Rock: Bigger and Blacker, Dave Chappelle: Killing Them Softly, Insecure, Key & Peele, Lil Rel Howery: Live in Crenshaw, Love and Basketball, Love Jones, Purple Rain, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (and its reunion), The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, The Photograph, Yvonne Orji: Momma, I Made It!
Our Future (groundbreaking series and films): 2 Dope Queens, Above the Rim, Beasts of the Southern Wild, David Makes Man, Euphoria, Flight, He Got Game, Industry, I May Destroy You, Lovecraft Country, Native Son, New Jack City, Queen and Slim, Random Acts of Flyness, The Color Purple, The Last King of Scotland, The Little Things, True Detective, Watchmen
Our Imagination (animation): Black Dynamite, gen:LOCK, Laser Wolf, Static Shock, Steven Universe, Teen Titans, The Boondocks, Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, Vixen, Young Justice
Moesha, Sister Sister and other beloved classics were added to the streamer’s permanent Black Stories hub, which features subcategories including LGBTQ+ Black, Black Leads and Black creators. Hulu Original film The United States vs. Billie Holiday will also premier on the service Feb. 26, in the thick of awards season.
Meanwhile, Hulu’s docuseries Your Attention Please returned for season two on Feb. 5 with weekly episodes and podcasts featuring Black innovators including NFL assistant coach Jennifer King, stuntwoman Jazzy Ellis and archaeologist Justin Dunnavant. The 12 spotlighted creators also have selected nine nonprofits that will receive donations from Hulu, including GirlTrek, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Plant It Forward Farms. Finally, the Craig Robinson-hosted franchise is also getting Hulu’s first-ever virtual concert, Your Attention Please: The Concert, on Feb. 18 featuring artists including 24kGoldn, Joy Oladokun, Kiana Lede, Lil Yachty and Swae Lee.
The entertainment networks have selected “History Made. History in the Making.” as its theme for this year’s Black History Month, creating a collection of original content, on-air spots, vignettes, interstitials and bumpers. Highlights include:
NBC: Each week, the network will air a new installment from its “Candid Conversations about Representation” series featuring interviews with its stable of talent, including Sterling K. Brown and Susan Kelechi Watson (This is Us), Dwayne Johnson (Young Rock), Chris Redd (Saturday Night Live), Akbar Gbajabiamila (American Ninja Warrior), Miranda Rae Mayo (Chicago Fire) and Jocko Sims (New Amsterdam).
Syfy: In partnership with content creation platform Tongal, the cable network has tapped six Black animators and filmmakers—Brannick Green, Jeremy “Protails” Kowsloleea, Sky Shields, Eric Stine, Leonardo Viotti/2P and Adante Watts—to create video shorts that will air on Syfy and be promoted on its website and social media accounts throughout the month.
In addition, the news group’s plans include the Changemakers series, which includes town halls, feature stories, digital profiles and interviews across multiple programs all month:
Today: Led by Craig Melvin, Al Roker and Sheinelle Jones, the morning show will take deep dives on such topics as 2020 (Feb. 11), faith (Feb. 15) and the Detroit Underground Railroad (Feb. 22)
Nightly News: The Lester Holt-anchored program will interview such icons as athlete-activists John Carlos and Nneka Ogwumike, ballerinas Misty Copeland and Erica Lall and astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison (and aspiring scientist Taylor Denise Richardson).
CNBC: The financial news network is borrowing its entertainment sisters’ theme to air reports on the racial wealth gap, with anchor Shepard Smith exploring Black-owned businesses, race and policing and diversity in healthcare. In addition, popular reality franchises The Profit, Shark Tank and Undercover Boss will air marathons featuring Black business owners and entrepreneurs all month.
Peacock: The streamer is also getting into the action with segments about people and issues relevant to the Black community on its news programs such as The Choice, Zerlina. and The Mehdi Hasan Show, along with “Black Changemakers” docs and highlights in the daily Trending section.
Quincy Jones’ music-focused SVOD service has curated a Black History Month playlist featuring concert videos from American legends including Gil Scott-Heron, Nina Simone, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Sun Ra, and African greats such as Les Amazones d’Afrique, Salif Keita and a tribute to Fela Kuti. The platform’s curators also have released 66 rare videos, recorded by France’s Audiovisual Institute in the 1960s and ’70s, featuring personal anecdotes from Jones and spotlighting the refuge that Black American jazz artists found abroad during that era. The entire catalog is available for free to educational institutions through the Qwest TV EDU initiative.
Samsung TV Plus
The ad-supported Smart TV video service offers more than 160 free channels, many of which are celebrating Black History Month:
Maverick Black Cinema has more than 900 features from Black filmmakers across a variety of genres, including action, thriller, comedy, inspiration, romance and horror.
Vevo will air 72-hour music video marathons spotlighting iconic artists.
Whistle TV is offering two documentaries about two iconic athletes: Muhammad Ali: Fighting Spirit and Tiger Woods: Back.
Revry will air the documentary short I Can’t Breathe, about the Los Angeles protests following George Floyd’s murder.
PlayersTV will air the documentary feature Olympic Pride, American Prejudice, about the 17 forgotten Black U.S. Olympians who competed alongside Jesse Owens in the 1936 Berlin Games.
Cheddar will produce a special edition of All Hands called “Race Toward Inclusion,” spotlighting the highs and lows of race and business.
IGN will host a charity livestream on Feb. 19 featuring gaming and conversation on the history and progress in the video game industry.
MovieSphere is a classic movie channel that this month will feature Madea’s Tough Love.
Throughout the month, the cable provider is rolling out special On Demand categories, including Black Musicians (Dreamgirls, Hustle & Flow, Mo’ Better Blues), Black Heroes (MLK/FBI, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, 12 Years a Slave), Social Cinema (Fruitvale Station, A Raisin in the Sun, Lee Daniels’ The Butler) and Black Comedians (specials and movies from Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish).
On Feb. 22, the ViacomCBS-owned brand will premiere the documentary Reclaiming History: Our Native Daughters, which chronicles the 2018 recording session among musicians Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russel and Amythyst Kiah for the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings album Songs of Our Native Daughters.
Byron Allen’s digital news community’s “Black History Amplified” content includes the relaunch of podcasts Dear Culture and What’s In It For Us? with Black History Month-themed episodes, as well as video series Here’s the Deal with April Ryan (featuring the political analyst and White House correspondent) and How Hollywood Highlights Our History, which reports on Black creators and the impact of media narratives on the Black community.
The Comcast-owned channel has launched Black Experience on Xfinity, a content destination curated by the African American Film Critics Association available to all Xfinity customers at no additional cost. In addition to films and TV series that have been recognized by the AAFCA, Black Experience will also combine programming from across Xfinity’s roster of networks, streaming video and music providers including TVOne, Cleo, AspireTV, REVOLT, Afro, KweliTV, The Africa Channel, BET, Bet Her, Impact, Up Faith & Family and OWN. Classic movies that are part of the collection include Pursuit of Happyness, Jumping the Broom, Poetic Justice, Two Can Play That Game, Death at a Funeral and Guess Who. What’s more, the Black Experience will continue to receive additions from new Black content creators even after Black History Month draws to a close.
On Feb. 26, YouTube Originals will premiere the special Black Renaissance, a showcase of Black artists, creators and storytellers across dance, music, fashion, photography, literature and more, featuring Barack and Michelle Obama, Jason Reynolds, Killer Mike, Desus and Mero, Jemele Hill, Shantell Martin and Tobe Nwigwe. Created in partnership with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Howard University Graduate Film Program and NAL Media, the special will feature vignettes by young Howard film grads Raafi Rivero and Naomi Merlan. Black Renaissance is the latest special from the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund, which also presented last fall’s HBCU Homecoming 2020: Meet Me on the Yard.
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