Nafessa Williams, Cress Williams, China Anne McClain
By Mwabi Kaira

It's been a long time since black audiences have had an actual variety of shows led by an entirely black cast or lead black actors to choose from. It feels like a 90’s resurgence right now and boy, does it feel great! These two shows are off to a great start and they are MUST SEE TV.

Cress Williams is 'Black Lightning'

Black Lightning

Confession: I know nothing about Marvel and DC Comics and the superheroes in them so I wasn’t sure I would be lost watching CW’s Black Lightning which premiered Tuesday night. I know die-hard fans who know everything about these fictional subspecies of humans born with superhuman abilities known as metahumans. Black Lightning is a metahuman created in 1977 by DC Comics.

I settled in with 2.31 million other viewers and was thrown into the complex lives of the Pierce family. Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams and yes he played our beloved Scooter on Living Single), is the principal of Garfield High and the brother who would do anything to invest and protect the kids in the neighborhood. His daughters Anissa (Nafessa Williams) and Jennifer (China Anne McClain - remember her from Daddy’s Little Girls?) are night and day in personalities. Anissa is woke and proudly protesting injustice while fiercely protecting her little sister and working as a teacher at Garfield. Jennifer is sick of being compared to her father and sister and doesn’t want to be the goody-two-shoes of the family so she makes questionable teenage choices with huge consequences.

The premiere episode of Black Lightning gave us protesting, driving while black blues, gang violence, sibling strife, and drama free co-parenting between Jefferson and his ex-wife Lynn (Christine Adams). Jefferson Pierce happily put the superpowers of Black Lightning to bed a decade ago as a promise to Lynn but must now resurrect him to save his girls and keep his neighborhood from harm. 
 


Husband and wife duo Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil (The Game, Being Mary Jane) created Black Lightning and it airs on Tuesday nights at 9 PM on The CW.

NEXT UP....
Connie Britton, Angela Bassett & Peter Krause 

9-1-1

I only needed one name to tune into Fox’s 9-1-1 when it premiered on January 3rd; Angela Bassett. Not just any Angela Bassett, but Waiting to Exhale Bernadine Harris hair Angela Bassett. 9-1-1 explores the lives and careers of first responders; police officers, paramedics and firefighters, and 911 phone operators. These first responders put their lives on the line every day to save others and draws from real-life, high-pressure experiences. So far we have seen a young man thrown from a rollercoaster ride, a baby rescued from being flushed down a toilet, a yellow python wrapped around its owners neck, and how first responders deal with medical emergencies of their own.

Angela Bassett plays Athena Grant, LAPD patrol sergeant keeping her head above water as her marriage to Michael (Rockmond Dunbar) is ending. 9-1-1 focuses on the firehouse where Athena’s friend Henrietta “Hen” Wilson (Aisha Hinds, who you may remember doing a fantastic job as Harriet Tubman in Underground) is a firefighter/paramedic. Scenes between sister-girls on the job being supportive and loving are much welcomed in comparison to the “we can’t get along” narrative usually shown. Cocoa Brown playing Carla Price, caretaker to 911 operator Abby Clark’s Mom, is much needed light heartedness in storylines so heavy. Rounding out 9-1-1’s cast are Peter Krause, Oliver Stark, Kenneth Choi and Connie Britton.

9-1-1 is created by 'American Horror Story' creator Ryan Murphy and had a record 15 million viewers tune in to the premiere episode. On January 16 it was announced that 9-1-1 had already been picked up for season 2 after only 2 episodes.

9-1-1 airs on Wednesday nights at 9 PM on Fox.

Have you checked out either of these shows?
Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/

The Chi Cast
By Mwabi Kaira

Chicago was known for deep dish pizza, the greatness of Michael Jordan as a Bulls player and the once upon a time genius of Kanye West until gun violence took over as its focal point. Some have suggested that the National Guard and The United Nations step in to help gun violence in the city. Two Chicago natives have had enough of hearing about the ills of their beloved hometown and have done something about it.

Emmy award winner Lena Waithe co-wrote the new Showtime series The Chi, and Grammy/Emmy and Oscar-winning rapper Common executive produced it to show a different narrative. Lena got the inspiration for the show after watching yet another news report about gun violence in the city. The Chi follows four working-class families on the South Side of Chicago as they face their highs and lows. Crime constantly threatens to destroy their worlds.

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Lena Waithe
Despite Chicago’s issues Lena knows it as the place that molded her and has fond memories of her childhood. The Chi is not autobiographical for Lena and humanity is at its core. She explains, 
“My mission is to show that these young black men are not born with a gun in their hand. These are kids who come out with all the promise and hope that any other kid does. I wanted to humanize them and show that their lives are valid. But I don’t paint us in a perfect light at all. My hope is that I can show us in an honest way. That’s it. Not bad. Not perfect. Just accurate."
Common
Common has been painting Chicago’s diversity in music for decades and knows that seeing it on the screen will have a different impact. He says, 
"We need to understand that Black people are human beings who love, cry and get angry and love their families and love God. We get scared to talk to girls at times. To be able to tell a story that is very specific to Chicago and the universal struggle of Black life is important to me."
The Chi’s first episode aired on Sunday night and we were introduced to a working class mother, grieving parents, an aspiring chef, a sneaker-loving teen father and a wide-eyed pre-teen with puppy love on his brain while navigating the mean streets of Chicago. Although The Chi is not the first show based in Chicago, it is one that is closest in hitting the mark about the black experience.

Cast of The Chi
Even though the premiere episode of The Chi aired at the same time as The Golden Globes, 1.68 million viewers tuned in and gave Showtime its best premiere since Billions. The Chi is off to a great start and looks amazingly promising. Tune in to The Chi at 10 PM on Sundays on Showtime.

Is The Chi on your radar?

Mwabi Kaira is an African girl navigating her way in an American world.  She is of Zambian and Malawian heritage and moved to the USA in 1993.  Writing has been her passion since she could put a sentence together on the page. Mothering her sons is her pride and joy.  She has been an avid runner since 2013 and has run 10 half marathons and a full marathon.  Keep up with her at http://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/