Photo via filmsor.net
By Mwabi Kaira

In the ongoing conversation about skin hues and how uncomfortable the world seems to be with dark skin, Academy award winner Lupita Nyong’o has fared well and seems to have come through pretty unscathed since emerging in the public eye back in 2013. Other than former NBA player Gilbert Arenas dumb remarks about Lupita only being cute with the lights off, Lupita is a media darling and well loved and accepted. She is a red carpet favorite and always makes the best dressed lists. She has been on the cover of multiple magazines including Vogue, Elle, Essence, In Style, Marie Claire, Glamour, and was even named one of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful while making the cover. She is the face of Lancome ads, and has dolls made in her likeness. Her poise and classiness are bar none and the fact that she has accomplished everything while celebrating her natural beauty make her the epitome of black girl magic.

Lupita will team with Simon & Schuster to write her debut children’s book “Sulwe."

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The picture book is aimed at readers between the ages of 5 and 7. “Sulwe,” means “star” in Luo, Lupita’s native tongue and is the story of a 5-year-old girl growing up in Kenya. Sulwe has the darkest skin color in her family, a fact that makes her uncomfortable and determined to find a way to lighten her skin. As the story unfolds, Sulwe embarks on a whimsical adventure in the night sky that, coupled with advice from her mother, helps her see beauty differently.


Lupita was not always the self-confident Goddess we know now and gave a speech about it in 2014 at an Essence Women in Hollywood Luncheon. The speech went viral and was a pivotal point for young girls who thought lightening their skin would make them feel more beautiful. She encouraged them by saying,
“I hope that my presence on your screens and in magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel validation of your external beauty, but also, get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside.” 
 The speech going viral is where the idea of “Sulwe” was born explains Lupita,
“I felt really grateful that it had this impact and at that time it occurred to me that there was an audience that this was resonating with, but the age group that really needed to hear this wouldn’t necessarily hear the speech.”
Dark skin is not just an issue in predominantly African countries; South America, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, and South Korea are all countries who sell skin lightening creams. The sad untrue belief is that lighter skin gives you a better life. Sulwe’s story will resonate with children from all over the world and teach them that self love and acceptance are the key. Children learn life lessons at an early age and books are a huge way in which they learn.

“Sulwe” will hit the shelves next January. Will you buy it?

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 athttp://africanbeautifulme.blogspot.com/
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/
Taraji P. Henson
By Mwabi Kaira

When I first saw the Proud Mary trailer over the holidays I knew that this would be the movie that would take me back to the theaters. I hadn’t been to the movies since Girl’s Trip back in the summer. The trailer showed Taraji P. Henson being a badass, the poster was shaped like an afro and all I could think of was that this was going to be the updated female blaxploitation like Foxy Brown, Coffy, and Cleopatra Jones.

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I took my friend out to dinner for her birthday Friday night and the plan was to see Proud Mary after, but the drinks began to flow and we had a lot to catch up on so we decided to see the first matinee Saturday instead. We got our popcorn and drinks and settled in to our comfy seats ready to be entertained and feel like badasses too.

Taraji P. Henson is Mary, a hit woman working for an organized crime family in Boston- led by Benny (Danny Glover) and his much-appreciated eye candy son Tom (Billy Brown). Her life is completely turned around when she meets Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), when a professional hit goes bad. In helping Danny, Mary makes a decision that changes the entire trajectory of the crime family and her life.

Taraji & Jahi Di’Allo Winston
Proud Mary holds your attention and the entire cast commands the screen, but the clear scene stealers are the maternal scenes between Mary and Danny. If Danny looks familiar it's because he played the young Ralph Tresvant in BET’s New Edition biopic last year. Mary and the above-mentioned Tom have just broken up and the sexual chemistry has not gone anywhere. Even though this is a crime family, it is nice to see a black family running things and doing normal things (outside crime) like the beyond bourgeois 65th birthday dinner for the matriarch of the family.


I enjoyed the movie and give it a solid B. The storyline was lacking in some areas and you could fill in the blanks too easily. Taraji’s wig game was on point and it was ever changing. I was expecting more action in the form of some kick ass fighting scenes but was okay with the action I got. Any black woman toting 2 guns, assassinating bad guys and still looking fabulous in the process wins in my book. It is clear by now that no matter what role Taraji is given to play, she will shine and make it her own.

Taraji not only stars in Proud Mary but executive produces it as well. It is directed by Iranian-Swedish film director Babak Najafi who directed London Has Fallen in 2016. Proud Mary was not heavily marketed and promoted and Henson has been critical of this suggesting that the movie’s predominantly black cast played a role in the lack of promotion. Despite all of this Proud Mary still brought in $12 million in its opening weekend.

Proud Mary is not an immediate classic but it is worth your time. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Have you seen Proud Mary? Share your thoughts!
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/

Yara Shahidi & the cast of Grown-ish
By Mwabi Kaira

Fans of the Johnson family on ABC’s hit show Black-ish now have Grown-ish to fall in love with. The oldest of the Johnson clan, Zoey played by Yara Shahidi, is off to college and a spin off is born just like Denise Huxtable of the Cosby Show. Denise went to Hillman, a fictional HBCU school in A Different World and Zoey goes the Higher Learning route (shout out to Malik, Deja and Fudge) and goes to California University of Liberal Arts where she is in the minority.

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Yara Shahidi
I was excited to watch Grown-ish. I haven’t been a college student in decades and seeing what life for college millennials was like intrigued me. My son is on his way to college so there’s that too. College for me was at Freaknik’s heyday and although racism and microaggressions were part and parcel of it, folks still hid behind their white sheets and mostly smiled in your face and hated you for your melanin otherwise. It’s a new day and if Grown-ish was going to give me an insight to this new world then I was here for it.

Grown-ish follows Zoey as she navigates her new surroundings. She quickly finds her crew; Nomi the Jewish-American bisexual, Jazlyn and Skylar the track star twins from the hood played by singers Chloe and Halle who are signed to Beyonce and also sing the show’s theme song, Aaron the woke bae, Luca the dread loc’ed free spirit, and Vivek the first generation Indian trying to be the next Drake but doubles as a drug dealer pushing pills on campus because his engineering degree will take too long to get and he needs money now. Millennials through and through.

Chloe & Halle 
Much like Black-ish, Grown-ish tackles issues head on with laughter infused here and there. The twins are carrying their race on their shoulders just like the black superstar female athletes that came before them and they don’t want to disappoint their neighborhood by being failures. Nomi can’t come out to her parents because she doesn’t want to be their bisexual Jewish daughter. Vivek has deep issues with his father that none of his friends can understand; he calls his father a bum because he has been a cab driver all these years and lacks the ambition his son feels he should have. Vivek is that immigrant who is born and grows up in America and wants everything American forgetting the sacrifices made by his parents for him to have this life.

Trevor Jackson & Yara Shahidi
Other than dealing with her father not adjusting to her being gone, Zoey has the ideal family life. It’s her time management, friendship and deciphering come-ons from woke bae skills that are lacking. Does she have to go to every social event she is ‘invited’ to and does she have to follow woke bae around like a lost puppy hoping he will declare his love for her? Can she learn to be a better friend to her roomate? And will the accessible drugs and alcohol lead to her downfall? Grown-ish will answer all these questions as the season progresses and I can’t wait to see it play out.

Grown-ish airs on Wednesday nights at 8 PM on Freeform. 

Are you watching Grown-ish?
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/