In the final installment of Fors Marsh Group’s Black Culture Curation Series honoring Black History Month, the DIVE Committee and the Black@FMG Affinity Group present Songs and Stories. This last installment of the series shines a light on Black excellence in music, TV, and movies.
Music and imagery capture Black life and experiences in a unique way, telling vital stories of American history. Sonic and visual depictions of Black joy, resilience, love, strength, pain, and power have served to connect, entertain, and enlighten us all for centuries. Rhythms, melodies, and instruments once used as tools of survival by Black communities have birthed entirely new genres of music and inspired generations of artists.
Black film and television pioneers have brought Black stories to the big screen, often breaking barriers for representation—both on-screen and behind the camera—along the way. Increased recognition in the entertainment industry has allowed Black creators to exercise creative control in framing, story development, and cinematography, adding nuance, dignity, and pride to this artistic expression. Increasingly, Black creators and industry leaders are featuring Black actors and stories in their art—and, crucially, determining how those stories are told.
Black people continue to build on the community’s rich legacy of creativity. Increased power over their narrative and the ability to tell their own stories via music and motion pictures has resulted in more recognition and representation, but there are infinite numbers of stories and sounds yet to be shared with the world. Check out some of our favorite music, TV shows, and films centering on the Black experience:
Curated playlists featuring songs of empowerment and pride are a great place to start. Here’s a full list of Spotify’s Black History is Now playlists.
More Black music and artists worth exploring:
- Jamila Woods honors the contributions of Black American legends on her album Legacy! Legacy!
- Noname, a Chicago lyricist, explores the effect of media hysteria and fear-mongering in her first music video: Blaxploitation.
- A Tribe Called Quest, an influential American hip-hop group, discuss social issues that Black people face and the strength required to overcome them in Whateva will be.
- Anderson Paak released Lockdown last year, a song inspired by last summer’s protests that erupted during quarantine.
- If you are interested in hearing some of the classics, you can’tgo wrong with this playlist.
- Searching for newer artists? Here are a few to look out for: UMI and Durand Bernarr.
Black people have come a long way in terms of representation in front of and behind the camera:
- Strong Black Lead on Netflix shines the spotlight on Black stories and experiences ranging from scripted dramas to documentaries. Here are a few titles we recommend:
- Insecure and Atlanta, two critically acclaimed shows focusing on Black relationships, friendships, career aspirations, and setbacks, infuse Black culture into every creative decision, from background music to wardrobe choice, making the depictions familiar yet powerful.
- Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar, based on a book by the same name, follows a family of Black farmers in rural Louisiana tackling topics such as discrimination, generational wealth, culture, class, gender, and perseverance.
- RuPaul’s Drag Race is another hit competition series, created by one of America’s most recognizable drag queens, RuPaul.
- Explore the world of ballroom culture via Pose and Legendary, one a drama series and the other a reality competition show that you can stream on Netflix or HBO Max.
When it comes to movies, Black creators have been pushing boundaries since they started making films for the Black community and by the Black community. Here is a list of the Best Black Movies of the Last 30 Years, and here are others we’d recommend:
- Coming to America is a classic comedy about finding love in New York.
- Jordan Peele has reinvigorated the demand for Black horror with films like Get Out and Us. HBO has also had a recent hit on their hands with Lovecraft Country, another nod to American horror.
- The Color Purple, originally a novel by Alice Walker, has been adapted into several movies and a musical. This powerful story depicts the lives of Black women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia.
- Spike Lee Joints, including: Do the Right Thing & School Daze.
- Interested in the history of space exploration? Watch Hidden Figures!
- Last but certainly not least, here are more Black and BIPOC Trans Filmmakers you should know of and support.
To conclude our Black Culture Curation Series, we present Still I Rise, a poem by Maya Angelou that captures the beauty, power, and indomitable spirit of the Black community. Watch her perform this groundbreaking work here.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Explore the rest of FMG’s Black Culture Curation Series here. To learn more about FMG’s DIVE Committee, the Black@FMG affinity group, and our commitment to a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace, visit our Culture page.