What’s Worth Watching this Black History Month

Kathleen Newman-Bremang brings us what’s Worth Watching: The Black History Month edition. “It is full of stories of Black history and of resilience, but also JOY.”

# 1: The Porter

Already making buzz for unapologetically being Canada’s largest Black-led TV series, the eight episodes (ensemble cast) series tells and celebrates the untold stories of the Black train porters and their families in the early 1920’s who played an essential role in shaping Canada into the multicultural country it is today — and for creating the first Black labour union in North America (which in real life took place in Winnipeg).

The series also epitomizes how Canada often ignores our own history of slavery and instead likes to tell the one heroic story of the underground railroad when there are so many other complex histories that don’t get discussed. Such as the stories told in The Porter that go beyond the topic of slavery: from the unique pan Black Canadian experience that’s  distinct from the African American history, colourism, and Black excellence/ambition.

The period piece takes place after the First World War in Little Burgundy, which was dubbed “Harlem of the North.” It follows two former soldiers who find work as railway porters, which was one of the few jobs available to Black men at the time. They worked long hours and endured abusive treatment for scant pay. That led to a civil rights fight across Canada and the U.S., and the creation of a union: the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.  The story of Black porters is the subject of Cecil Foster’s 2019 book They Call Me George.

An entirely Black-Canadian creative team is making The Porter with Canada’s first all-Black writers room.The directors and executive producers are Charles Officer and R.T. Thorne. The writers and showrunners are Annmarie Morais and Marsha Greene.

(World premiere in Canada on CBC beginning Monday, Feb. 21)

# 2: Abbott Elementary
A group of dedicated, passionate teachers—and a slightly tone-deaf principal—are brought together in a Philadelphia public school where they are determined to help their students succeed in life. This show is being called a Worthy Successor to The Office.” The paper company sales office is replaced by an underfunded and fictional public elementary school in South Philadelphia, where Brunson plays a second-grade teacher trying to fix a broken system. It’s her second year of teaching, and she’s been there long enough to discover the harsh realities but not so long that she’s given up hope.

Though the public-school realities presented in Abbott Elementary are, at the end of the day, rather depressing, the show works as a comedy thanks to Brunson’s sharp writing and the terrific ensemble cast, who play a wide range of strong and distinct characters.

The pilot debuted back on December 7th.

# 3a: Women of the Movement
Created and written by Marissa Jo Cerar and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, this American historical drama miniseries that chronicles the murder of Emmett Till, and his mother’s turn to activism in the wake of that horror. Her fight to make sure he would not be forgotten and to get justice for him would ultimately help to spawn the civil rights movement.

The series is based on the book Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement by Devery S. Anderson. The title actually signals this story as the first in what’s intended to be an anthology devoted to different women who played key roles in the movement.

Women of the Movement premiered on Jan. 6 on ABC.

# 3b: Sisters in the Struggle
This documentary features Black women active in politics as well as community, labour and feminist organizing. They share their insights and personal testimonies on the double legacy of racism and sexism, linking their personal struggles with the ongoing battle to end systemic discrimination and violence against women and people of colour.

Frank, lucid, and insightful; this film is a must-see for anyone who is interested in the challenges and rewards of oppositional politics. It is also a useful resource for courses in women’s/gender studies and feminist theory. Concretely explores issues surrounding multiple oppressions facing racialized women and the failure of feminist and antiracist politics to represent this group

It was made in 1991 by produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

# 4: Next Stop
Next Stop is a Canadian anthology comedy series that chronicles the lives of Black Torontonians struggling to stay afloat and sane in the sprawling city. Energetically paced and richly visual, the show charts a course through chaotic, surreal, and hilarious vignettes of Toronto ‘yutes’ confronting the challenges of life in a competitive, expensive and rapidly changing city. Its created by Jabbari Weekes, Tichaona Tapambwa, and Phil Witmer.

It has 2 Seasons so it’s good if you are in the mood to binge watch!

# 5: National Champions 
A star collegiate quarterback ignites a players' strike hours before the biggest game of the year in
order to fight for fair compensation, equality, and respect for the athletes who put their bodies and health on the line for their schools. This 2021 American sports drama film is directed by Ric Roman Waugh. It is based on the play of the same name by Adam Mervis and stars Stephan James, J. K. Simmons.

This released last December as well.