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How have you been celebrating Black History Month? Each February we have an opportunity to expand our cultural horizons and explore the vast and rewarding cultural contributions Black Americans have made over the years. While this kind of artistic appreciation should be a year-round endeavor, there’s nothing wrong with making an extra effort during BHM to add more works created by Black artists into your media diet. Here’s some recommendations on our favorite films, records, and books made by Black American creatives.
On The Page
Rio Salado College’s library staff has put together an informative guide to Black History Month that offers an array of fascinating resources to give you more context and knowledge about Black American history and culture. The Library Resources section in the guide includes a top 40 list of essential fiction and nonfiction books written by Black authors. We’ve included a few additional titles that didn’t make the list that are nevertheless very much worth your time.
- Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed. One of the classic works of 20th century American literature, Reed's freewheeling novel looks at history through a mythic lens. As funny as it is scathing in its insight.
- Black Boy Joy by Kwame Mbalia (editor). A collection of 17 inspiring Young Adult stories from Black authors about Black boyhood.
- Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford. A stirring and profound coming-of-age memoir about the author’s experiences growing up with an incarcerated father.
- Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. A Man Booker Prize winning author, this is the first book in James' fantasy trilogy that imagines a rich and vivid world based on African folklore.
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a woman's desperate escape from the horrors of slavery.
- The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. A unique take on dystopian fiction, Butler presents a vision of the post-apocalypse that feels eerily close to our own reality.
On The Big Screen
Black Americans have made significant contributions to film since the dawn of cinema. In fact: did you know that one of the most prolific independent filmmakers of the silent era was a Black director named Oscar Micheaux? If you’re looking to put together a BHM movie night, here are a few classic works by Black filmmakers:
- Chameleon Street (dir. Wendell B. Harris Jr, 1989). Neglected on its release, this film about an ambitious con artist (based on a true artist) has gotten a much-deserved critical reappraisal over the years.
- Malcolm X (dir. Spike Lee, 1992). A sweeping, historical epic anchored by one of the greatest performances ever captured on film.
- Daughters of the Dust (dir. Julie Dash, 1991). This groundbreaking film turned heads for its stunning cinematography, non-linear storytelling, and focus on a community of people whose stories have rarely been told in any media before.
- Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (dir. William Greaves, 1968). A mind-bending and surprisingly funny experimental film that starts as a documentary about the making of a film and becomes something else entirely.
- Widows (dir. Steve McQueen, 2018). A thrilling heist film led by an ensemble cast of some of our best actresses.
On The Turntable
Looking to add some new tunes to your playlist? Check out some of these works by Black artists. We’ve picked two records for each genre to represent a wide variety of sounds.
- Everything's FIne by Jean Grae and Quelle Chris
- Haram by Armand Hammer
- I Against I by Bad Brains
- Diaspora Rock by Soul Glo
- Purple Rain by Prince
- Lemonade by Beyonce
- There’s a Riot Goin’ On by Sly and The Family Stone
- Mothership Connection by Parliament
- The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman
- In These Times by Makaya McCraven
- Superfly by Curtis Mayfield
- Here My Dear by Marvin Gaye
- Sound Ancestors by Madlib
- You’re Dead by Flying Lotus
- Keyboard Fantasies by Beverly Glenn-Copeland
- Vol. 1: Femenine by Julius Eastman
- The Centennial Collection by Robert Johnson
- The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier by Terry Callier
Don’t forget to join us Feb. 9, 1-2:30 p.m., for Rio Salado’s Black History Month Celebration. The event will be held live on the Tempe campus and virtually for an online audience. Rio Salado College Faculty Chair Dr. Wanda Tucker will share her research, journey, and her experiences traveling back to Angola and being part of the 1619 Project.
Watch a video about Dr. Wanda Tucker's Journey Home.
Article by Austin Brietta