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lindagray

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  1. 1. Fried Chicken Image via Flickr/stu_spivack Fried chicken is one of the most glorious things ever created. It's one of the few foods that could be served for Sunday dinner, at church functions, or for other special occasions. Though it is beloved by many cultures, there are several bones of contention as to exactly who should get credit for inventing this dish. Whether it was a cook in West Africa, Western Europe, or Southeast Asia, fried chicken has become an African-American favorite. Classically fried in a cast-iron skillet, made Nashville hot, or paired with a waffle, fried chicken has divine status in soul food cuisine. No wonder we've nicknamed it "The Gospel Bird." firstwefeast.com
  2. 4. Peach Cobbler Image via Adrian Miller Peach cobbler can thank technology, in part, for its elevated status over other soul-food desserts. Cobblers were once a seasonal fruit dessert only enjoyed during late spring and the summer months. It typically was made in a large cast-iron pot set over a fire. The pot was filled with any available fruit, some additional sweetener, and some spices, and then the entire thing was topped with a crust made from leftover biscuit dough. With improvements in canning technology, fruit cobblers could be eaten year-round. As ovens improved, soul-food cooks could now add a bottom layer of crust, thus making the dish a little fancier. Peaches, it turns out, were once thought of as an aphrodisiac. This may explain why, despite the existence of so many types of cobbler, peach has captured so many hearts. 3. Macaroni and Cheese Image via Flickr/stu_spivack I know elderly African Americans who believe that mac 'n' cheese is wholly created by soul-food cooks, but that's clearly not the case. The confusion may arise from the fact that enslaved cooks were introduced to this dish outside of an Italian context. Before significant waves of Italian immigrants arrived in the U.S. by the late 1800s, wealthy whites visiting Europe fell in love with mac 'n' cheese and brought recipes back with them. White planters like Thomas Jefferson introduced the dish into Big House kitchens. Enslaved cooks were called upon to prepare the dish, typically on the weekends or when special guests dined on the plantation. After Emancipation, African Americans embraced this dish and made it a part of the culinary repertoire for Sunday dinner. It has retained its special status ever since. 2. Greens Image via Adrian Miller Vegetables get much love on the soul-food plate, and greens (the edible leaves of certain plants) are the most consistent starring attraction. Most African Americans trace their roots to West Africa, a region where greens are a mainstay of many local cuisines. Enslaved West Africans brought a taste for greens with them across the Atlantic. Because they couldn't get the bitter tropical greens they were used to eating, African Americans substituted the bitter greens that Europeans cultivated—the most popular being cabbage, collards, kale, mustard, and turnip greens. Those greens are eaten year-round, but have special meaning on New Year's Day as symbols of prosperity. For those who have discovered collards and kale in the last five to ten years, welcome to the party. We've been eating them for nearly four centuries. firstwefeast.com
  3. 7. Cornbread Image via Getty/Tom Williams There was a time when cornbread was so essential to a soul-food meal that certain foods like greens wouldn't be served unless cornbread was present. Cornbread is just one example of the influence that indigenous people in the Americas have on this cuisine. In addition to making traditional Native American corn-based breads like pone (later called hoe cake), enslaved Africans made familiar breads from West Africa using cornmeal as a substitute. Soul-food cornbread is distinguished from southern cornbread by the fact that it always has some sugar in it. Some misguided souls believe this transforms soulful cornbread into cake. No matter. Whether it's hot water cornbread, Jiffy mix, or spoonbread (a cornbread soufflé), cornbread is the staff of soul-food life. 6. Fried Fish Image via Getty/The Washington Post Traditionally, West Africans made seafood their protein of choice, and African Americans have carried on that culinary tradition. Even during slavery, the weekend fish-fry was a much anticipated event. On a typical plantation, the field work schedule stopped by noon on Saturday, and the enslaved spent the rest of the day doing chores and food-gathering activities like fishing. Catfish gets the most press these days, but any number of fish would be gobbled up depending on what was available: buffalo, mullet, perch, porgy, and whiting, to name just a few. Frying was the preferred way to cook fish because it allowed the food to be enjoyed on the spot. This gives further proof to the old saying, "Fish should swim twice—once in water and once in grease." 5. Red Drink Image via Yelp In soul-food culture, "red" is a color and a flavor. We don't get caught up in discerning whether or not something is cherry, has hints of cranberry, or is a tropical punch. It's just red. The enduring popularity of red drinks is a nod to two traditional red drinks—kola tea and hibiscus tea—that came to the Americas during the Atlantic Slave Trade. Red drink can take several forms, but it is often served as Kool-Aid or as a punch. firstwefeast.com
  4. 10. Chitlins Image via Yelp/Jerome G. Without a doubt, chitlins (a.k.a. chitterlings) are the most controversial choice for this list, since they are the most divisive and misunderstood item on the soul-food plate. People either love them or hate them (count me on the "love" side) because of what they are (usually pig's intestines), or because of how they smell when being cleaned, cooked, or eaten. Regardless of the intense feelings, it's undeniable that chitlins have played an important role in the soul-food story. As early as the Middle Ages, the European gentry savored venison chitlins after a successful deer hunt, and in time, the intestines of domesticated animals like cows and pigs became a food enjoyed by rich and poor folks alike. In the antebellum South, both blacks and whites on the plantation prized chitlins after a fall hog-killing. African-American migrants took a love of chitlin-eating to urban areas outside of the South, and thanks to urban butchers and slaughterhouses, chitlins became a year-around treat. 9. Black-eyed Peas Image via Adrian Miller Black-eyed peas, actually a bean, have legendary status. Though native to West Africa, most people associate black-eyed peas with New Year's Day. Millions of African Americans have borrowed and transformed an old European superstition: that you can attain good luck when someone with dark eyes is the first to knock on your door on January 1st. Though the superstition doesn't have an analog in West Africa, black-eyed peas were traditionally eaten on auspicious occasions like the birth of twins or religious days honoring certain deities. When one gets a taste of some black-eyed peas bathing in a seasoned, smoky broth, one will understand why this dish was once considered a "food for the gods." 8. Sweet Potato Pie Image via Flickr/Southern Foodways Alliance Dessert was a foreign concept in pre-colonial West Africa. Even so, sweet potato pie became a classic soul-food staple. Enslaved West Africans accustomed to a traditional diet that included tropical yams found sweet potatoes to be a useful substitute. In the beginning, the popular dessert choice was a simple whole sweet potato roasted in embers of a dying fire. First, enslaved cooks eventually added some eggs, milk, and spices to mashed sweet potatoes. Once cooked, the new culinary creation was called a sweet-potato pone. In time, a bottom crust was baked underneath the pone. Sweet potato pie has an annual showdown with pumpkin pie as the dessert of choice on Thanksgiving. It's not a problem, though: With African Americans, sweet potato pie is undefeated. firstwefeast.com
  5. Soul food prepared traditionally and consumed in large amounts can be detrimental to one's health. Opponents to soul food have been vocal about health concerns surrounding the culinary traditions since the name was coined in the mid-twentieth century. Soul food has been criticized for its high starch, fat, sodium, cholesterol, and caloric content, as well as the inexpensive and often low-quality nature of the ingredients such as salted pork and cornmeal. In light of this, soul food has been implicated by some in the disproportionately high rates of high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, clogged arteries (atherosclerosis), stroke, and heart attack suffered by African-Americans. Figures who led discussions surrounding the negative impacts of soul food include Dr. Alvenia Fulton, Dick Gregory, and Elijah Muhammad. On the other hand, critics and traditionalists have argued that attempts to make soul food healthier, also make it less tasty, as well as less culturally/ethnically authentic. A foundational difference in how health is perceived of being contemporary is that soul food may differ from 'traditional' styles is the widely different structures of agriculture. Fueled by federal subsidies, the agricultural system in the United States became industrialized as the nutritional value of most processed foods, and not just those implicated in a traditional perception of soul food, have degraded. This urges a consideration of how concepts of racial authenticity evolve alongside changes in the structures that make some foods more available and accessible than others. An important aspect of the preparation of soul food was the reuse of cooking lard. Because many cooks could not afford to buy new shortening to replace what they used, they would pour the liquefied cooking grease into a container. After cooling completely, the grease re-solidified and could be used again the next time the cook required lard. With changing fashions and perceptions of "healthy" eating, some cooks may use preparation methods that differ from those of cooks who came before them: using liquid oil like vegetable oil or canola oil for frying and cooking; and, using smoked turkey instead of pork, for example. Changes in hog farming techniques have also resulted in drastically leaner pork, in the 21st and late 20th centuries. Some cooks have even adapted recipes to include vegetarian alternatives to traditional ingredients, including tofu and soy-based analogues. Several of the ingredients included in soul food recipes have pronounced health benefits. Collard and other greens are rich sources of several vitamins (including vitamin A, B6, folic acid or vitamin B9, vitamin K, and C), minerals (manganese, iron, and calcium), fiber, and small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain a number of phytonutrients, which are thought to play a role in the prevention of ovarian and breast cancers. However, the traditional preparation of soul food vegetables often consists of high temperatures or slow cooking methods, which can lead to the water-soluble vitamins (e.g., Vitamin C and the B complex vitamins) to be destroyed or leached out into the water in which the greens cooked. This water is often consumed and is known as pot liquor. Peas and legumes are inexpensive sources of protein; they also contain important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. wikipedia.org
  6. Soul food originated in the southern region of the US and is consumed by African-Americans across the nation. Traditional soul food cooking is seen as one of the ways enslaved Africans passed their traditions to their descendants once they were brought to the US, and is a cultural creation stemming from slavery and Native American and European influences. Recipes considered soul food are popular in the South due to the accessibility and affordability of the ingredients, as well as the proximity that African-Americans and white Americans maintained during periods of slavery and reconstruction. Scholars have noted that while white Americans provided the material culture for soul food dishes, the cooking techniques found in many of the dishes have been visibly influenced by the enslaved Africans themselves. Dishes derived by slaves consisted of many vegetables and grains because slave owners felt more meat would cause the slave to become lethargic with less energy to tend to the crops. The bountiful vegetables that were found in Africa, were substituted in dishes down south with new leafy greens consisting of dandelion, turnip, and beet greens. Pork, more specifically Hog became introduced into several dishes in the form of cracklins from the skin, pig's feet, chitterlings, and lard used to increase the fat intake into vegetarian dishes. Spices such as thyme, and bay leaf blended with onion and garlic gave dishes their own characteristics. Figures such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Elijah Muhammad, and Dick Gregory played notable roles in shaping the conversation around soul food. Muhammad and Gregory opposed soul food because they felt it was unhealthy food and was slowly killing African-Americans. They saw soul food as a remnant of oppression and felt it should be left behind. Many African-Americans were offended by the Nation of Islam’s rejection of pork as it is a staple ingredient used to flavor many dishes. Stokely Carmichael also spoke out against soul food, claiming that it was not true African food due to its colonial and European influence. Despite this, many voices in the Black Power Movement saw soul food as something African-Americans should take pride in, and used it to distinguish African-Americans from white Americans. Proponents of soul food embraced the concept of it, and used it as a counterclaim to the argument that African-Americans had no culture or cuisine. The magazine Ebony Jr! was important in transmitting the cultural relevance of soul food dishes to middle-class African-American children who typically ate a more standard American diet. Soul food is frequently found at religious rituals and social events such as funerals, fellowship, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in the Black community. Soul food has been the subject of many popular culture creations such as the 1997 film, then turned television series Soul Food, as well the eponymous 1995 rap album released by Goodie Mob. In 2013, American rapper Schoolboy Q released a single titled “Collard Greens”. wikipedia.org
  7. Because it was illegal in many states for slaves to learn to read or write, soul food recipes and cooking techniques tended to be passed along orally, until after emancipation. The first soul food cookbook is attributed to Abby Fisher, entitled What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking and published in 1881. Good Things to Eat was published in 1911; the author, Rufus Estes, was a former slave who worked for the Pullman railway car service. Many other cookbooks were written by Black Americans during that time, but as they were not widely distributed, most are now lost. Since the mid-20th century, many cookbooks highlighting soul food and African-American foodways have been compiled and published. One notable soul food chef is celebrated traditional Southern chef and author Edna Lewis, who released a series of books between 1972 and 2003, including A Taste of Country Cooking in which she weaves stories of her childhood in Freetown, Virginia into her recipes for "real Southern food". Another early and influential soul food cookbook is Vertamae Grosvenor's Vibration Cooking, or the Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, originally published in 1970, focused on South Carolina Lowcountry/Geechee/Gullah cooking. Its focus on spontaneity in the kitchen—cooking by "vibration" rather than precisely measuring ingredients, as well as "making do" with ingredients on hand—captured the essence of traditional African-American cooking techniques. The simple, healthful, basic ingredients of lowcountry cuisine, like shrimp, oysters, crab, fresh produce, rice and sweet potatoes, made it a bestseller. Usher boards and Women's Day committees of various religious congregations large and small, and even public service and social welfare organizations such as the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) have produced cookbooks to fund their operations and charitable enterprises. The NCNW produced its first cookbook, The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro, in 1958, and revived the practice in 1993, producing a popular series of cookbooks featuring recipes by famous Black Americans, among them: The Black Family Reunion Cookbook (1991), Celebrating Our Mothers' Kitchens: Treasured Memories and Tested Recipes (1994), and Mother Africa's Table: A Chronicle of Celebration (1998). The NCNW also recently reissued The Historical Cookbook. wikipedia.org
  8. Scholars have noted the substantial African influence found in soul food recipes, especially from the West and Central regions of Africa. This influence can be seen through the heat level of many soul food dishes, as well as many ingredients found within them. Peppers used to add spice to food included malagueta pepper, as well as peppers native to the western hemisphere such as red (cayenne) peppers. Several foods that are essential in southern cuisine and soul food were domesticated or consumed in the African savanna and the tropical regions of West and Central Africa. These include pigeon peas, black-eyed peas, many leafy greens, and sorghum. It has also been noted that a species of rice was domesticated in Africa, thus many Africans who were brought to the Americas kept their knowledge for rice cooking. Rice is a staple side dish in soul food and is the center of dishes such as red beans and rice. There are many documented parallels between the foodways of West Africans and soul food recipes. The consumption of sweet potatoes in the US is reminiscent of the consumption of yams in West Africa. The frequent consumption of cornbread by African-Americans is analogous to West Africans' use of fufu to soak up stews. West Africans also cooked meat over open pits, and thus it is possible that enslaved Africans came to the New World with knowledge of this cooking technique (it is also possible they learned it from Native Americans, since Native Americans barbecued as a cooking technique). Researchers state that many tribes in Africa utilized a vegetarian/plant based diet because of its simplicity which most African dishes are based upon. This included the way food was prepared as well as served. It was not uncommon to see food served out of an empty gourd. Many techniques to change the overall flavor of staple food items such as nuts, seeds, and rice contributed to added dimensions of evolving flavors. These techniques included roasting, frying with palm oil, baking in ashes, and steaming in leaves such as banana leaf. wikipedia.org
  9. Southern Native American culture (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole) is an important element of Southern cuisine. From their cultures came one of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize) – either ground into meal or limed with an alkaline salt to make hominy, in a Native American process known as nixtamalization. Corn was used to make all kinds of dishes, from the familiar cornbread and grits, to liquors such as moonshine and whiskey (which are still important to the Southern economy). Many fruits are available in this region: blackberries, muscadines, raspberries, and many other wild berries were part of Southern Native Americans' diets, as well. African, European, and Native Americans of the American South supplemented their diets with meats derived from the hunting of native game. What meats people ate depended on seasonal availability and geographical region. Common game included opossums, rabbits, and squirrels. Livestock, adopted from Europeans, in the form of cattle and hogs, were kept. When game or livestock was killed, the entire animal was used. Aside from the meat, it was common for them to eat organ meats such as brains, livers, and intestines. This tradition remains today in hallmark dishes like chitterlings (commonly called chit'lins), which are fried small intestines of hogs; livermush (a common dish in the Carolinas made from hog liver); and pork brains and eggs. The fat of the animals, particularly hogs, was rendered and used for cooking and frying. Many of the early European settlers in the South learned Native American cooking methods, and so cultural diffusion was set in motion for the Southern dish. wikipedia.org
  10. The term soul food became popular in the 1960s and 1970s in the midst of the Black Power movement. One of the earliest written uses of the term is found in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which was published in 1965. LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) published an article entitled "Soul Food" and was one of the key proponents for establishing the food as a part of the Black American identity. Those who had participated in the Great Migration found within soul food a reminder of the home and family they had left behind after moving to unfamiliar northern cities. Soul food restaurants were Black-owned businesses that served as neighborhood meeting places where people socialized and ate together. The origins of recipes considered soul food can be traced back to before slavery, as African (Mostly West African) and European (Mostly British) foodways were adapted to the environment of the region. Many of the foods integral to the cuisine originate from the limited rations given to slaves by their planters and masters. Slaves were typically given a peck of cornmeal and 3-4 pounds of pork per week, and from those rations come soul food staples such as cornbread, fried catfish, barbecued ribs, chitterlings, and neckbones. It has been noted that enslaved Africans were the primary consumers of cooked greens (collards, beets, dandelion, kale, and purslane) and sweet potatoes for a portion of US history. Slaves needed to eat foods with high amounts of calories to balance out spending long days working in the fields. This led to time-honored soul food traditions like frying foods, breading meats and fishes with cornmeal, and mixing meats with vegetables (e.g. putting pork in collard greens). Eventually, this slave-invented style of cooking started to get adopted into larger Southern culture, as slave owners gave special privileges to slaves with cooking skills. Impoverished whites and blacks in the South cooked many of the same dishes stemming from the soul tradition, but styles of preparation sometimes varied. Certain techniques popular in soul and Southern cuisines (i.e., frying meat and using all parts of the animal for consumption) are shared with ancient cultures all over the world, including China, Egypt, and Rome. Introduction of soul food to northern cities such as Washington D.C. also came from private chefs in the White House. Many American Presidents have desired French cooking, and have sought after black chefs given their Creole background. The 23rd President of the United States Benjamin Harrison, and former first lady Caroline Harrison, took this same route when they terminated their French cooking staff for a black woman by the name of Dolly Johnson. One famous relationship includes the bond formed between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Zephyr Wright. Wright became a great influence to Johnson in fighting for civil rights as he saw her treatment and segregation as they would travel throughout the south. Johnson even had Wright present at the signing of several civil rights laws. Lizzie McDuffie,a former maid and cook to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, assisted her boss during the 1936 election simply by making the president more relatable to black voters. With public awareness of black Americans preparing food in the presidential kitchen, this in turn helped to sway minority votes for hopeful presidential candidates such as, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. wikipedia.org
  11. Soul food is an ethnic cuisine traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans in the Southern United States. The cuisine originated with the foods that were given to enslaved West Africans on southern plantations during the American colonial period; however, it was strongly influenced by the traditional practices of West Africans and Native Americans from its inception. Due to the historical presence of African Americans in the region, soul food is closely associated with the cuisine of the American South although today it has become an easily-identifiable and celebrated aspect of mainstream American food culture. The expression "soul food" originated in the mid-1960s, when "soul" was a common word used to describe African American culture. wikipedia.org
  12. 23. DON'T CALL US DEAD // DANEZ SMITH Don’t Call Us Dead is a cathartic series of poems that imagine an afterlife where black men can fully be themselves. Danez Smith's poignant words take heartbreaking imagery of violence against the bodies of black men and juxtapose it with scenes of a new plane, one that is much better than the existence those men lived before. Upon arrival, it's a celebration, as men and boys are embraced by their fellow brothers and are able to truly experience being "alive." Smith's prose sticks, and you will think more deeply about the delicacy of life and death long after you've put the book back on the shelf. 24. THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD // COLSON WHITEHEAD Colson Whitehead brings a bit of fantasy to historical fiction in his 2016 novel The Underground Railroad. Historically, the underground railroad was a network of safe houses for runaways on their journey to reaching the freed states. But Whitehead invents a literal secret underground railroad with real tracks and trains in his novel. This system takes his main character, Cora, a woman who escaped a Georgia plantation, to different states and stops. Along her journey, she faces a new set of horrific hurdles that could hold her back from obtaining her freedom. 25. DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS // WALTER MOSLEY If you're into mystery but don't know Walter Mosley, it's time to catch up. The crime-fiction author has published more than 40 books, with his Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins series being his most popular. Mosley's 1990 debut (and Easy's debut as well) Devil in a Blue Dress takes the reader to 1940s Watts, a Los Angeles neighborhood where Easy has recently relocated after losing his job in Houston. He finds a new line of work as a detective when a man at a bar wants him to track down a woman named Daphne Monet, kicking off a career that will span 14 novels (and counting). mentalfloss.com
  13. 20. THE HATE U GIVE // ANGIE THOMAS Angie Thomas is part of a new crop of African-American authors bringing fresh new storytelling to bookshelves near you. Her 2017 debut young adult novel, The Hate U Give, was inspired by the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. It follows Starr Carter, a 16-year-old who has witnessed the police-involved shooting of her best friend Khalil. The book, which topped the New York Times bestseller chart, is a timely fictional tale that humanizes the voices behind one of the largest movements of present times. 21. NOT WITHOUT LAUGHTER // LANGSTON HUGHES Take it back to where Harlem Renaissance legend Langston Hughes began his novelistic bibliography. In 1930's Not Without Laughter, Sandy Rogers is an African-American boy growing up in Kansas during the early 1900s—a story loosely based on Hughes's own experiences living in Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas. Hughes vividly paints his characters based on the "typical Negro family in the Middle West" he grew up around, he explained in his autobiography The Big Sea. In this way, Hughes paved the way for more storytelling about black life outside of urban, big city settings. 22. SALVAGE THE BONES // JESMYN WARD Jesmyn Ward's 2011 novel Salvage the Bones merges fiction with her real life experience surviving Hurricane Katrina as a native of rural Mississippi. Ward tells a new story through the eyes of Esch, a pregnant teenage girl who lives in poverty with her three brothers and a father who is battling alcoholism in a fictional town called Bois Sauvage. Through this National Book Award-winning tale, Ward writes an emotionally intense and deep account about a family who must find a way to overcome differences and stick together to survive the passing storm. mentalfloss.com
  14. 17. I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS // MAYA ANGELOU If you're going to read anything by the late, great, prophetic poet Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings should be at the top of your list. It provides an in-depth look at the obstacles that shaped her early life. Angelou's childhood and teenage years were nomadic, as her separated parents moved her and her brother from rural Arkansas to St. Louis, Missouri, and eventually to California, where at different times she lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland. Besides the blatant racism she saw unfold around her in the South, a young Maya also faced childhood rape, and as a teen, homelessness and pregnancy. After its release in 1969, Angelou, who was initially reluctant to write the book, became the first African-American woman to have a nonfiction bestseller. 18. BABEL-17 // SAMUEL R. DELANY In 2015, Samuel R. Delany told The Nation that when he first began attending science fiction conferences in the 1960s, he was one of only a few black writers and enthusiasts present. Over the years, with his contributions and the work of others like Octavia Butler—whom he mentored—he opened doors for black writers in the genre. If you're looking for a sci-fi thriller taking place in space and centering a woman leader protagonist, Delany's 1967 Nebula Award-winning Babel-17 is the one. Rydra Wong, a spaceship captain, is intrigued by a mysterious language called Babel-17 that has the power to alter a person's perception of themselves and others, and possibly brainwash her to betray her government. 19. SPLAY ANTHEM // NATHANIEL MACKEY Readers of Nathaniel Mackey's poetry are often intrigued by his ability to merge the worlds of music (particularly jazz) and poetry to create soul-grabbing rhythmic prose. Splay Anthem is a masterful work exhibiting his style. The 2006 collection includes two poems Mackey had been writing for more than 20 years: "Song of the Andoumboulou," about a ritual funeral song from the Dogon people of modern-day Mali; and "Mu." Splay Anthem is woven into three sections, "Braid," "Fray," and "Nub," in which two characters travel through space and time and whose final destinations are unclear. Mackey's nonlinear form is deliberate: "There's a lot of emphasis on movement in the poems, and there's a lot of questions about ultimate arrival, about whether there is such a state or place," he said in A Community Writing Itself: Conversations with Vanguard Writers of the Bay Area. mentalfloss.com
  15. 14. BROWN GIRL DREAMING // JACQUELINE WOODSON Jacqueline Woodson's children's books and YA novels are inspired by her desire to highlight the lives of communities of color—narratives she felt were missing from the literary landscape. In her 2014 National Book Award-winning autobiography, Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson uses her own childhood story in verse form to fill those voids in representation. The author came of age during the Civil Rights Movement and, subsequently, the Black Power Movement, and lived between the laid-back lifestyle of South Carolina and the fast-paced New York City. Through her work, we are reminded of how family and community play a role in helping individuals persevere through life's trials. 15. REDEFINING REALNESS: MY PATH TO WOMANHOOD, IDENTITY, LOVE & SO MUCH MORE // JANET MOCK Janet Mock, an African-American and native Hawaiian transgender activist and writer, began her career in media as a staff editor at People. In 2011, Mock decided to share her story with the world and came out as a transgender woman in a Marie Claire article. She released this New York Times bestselling memoir in 2014. Mock has used her platform to speak in full about her upbringing as a person of color in poverty and her transgender identity. 16. FIRE SHUT UP IN MY BONES // CHARLES M. BLOW In his 2014 memoir Fire Shut Up in My Bones, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow opens up about growing up in a segregated Louisiana town during the 1970s as the youngest of five brothers. In 12 chapters, Blow offers an extensive look at his path to overcoming poverty, the trauma of being a victim of childhood rape, and his gradual understanding of his bisexuality. Although these are hard truths to tell, as Blow told NPR in 2014, he wrote this book especially for those who are going through similar experiences and need to know their lives are still worth living despite painful circumstances. mentalfloss.com
  16. 11. SISTER OUTSIDER: ESSAYS AND SPEECHES // AUDRE LORDE Originally published in 1984, Sister Outsider is an anthology of 15 essays and speeches written by lesbian feminist writer and poet Audre Lorde. The titles of her works are as intriguing as the content is eye-opening. "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power" examines the way people, especially women, lose when they block the erotic—or deep passion—from their work and while exploring their spiritual and political desires. In "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House," Lorde explains how feminism fails by leaving out the voices of black women, queer women, and poor women. Lorde's ideas are still shaping conversations about feminism today, and her writing is well worth revisiting. 12. THE AUDACITY OF HOPE: THOUGHTS ON RECLAIMING THE AMERICAN DREAM // BARACK OBAMA Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope was his second book and the No. 1 New York Times bestseller when it was released in the fall of 2006. The title was derived from a sermon he heard by Pastor Jeremiah Wright called "The Audacity to Hope." It was also the title of the keynote speech the then-Illinois state senator gave at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Before becoming the 44th president of the United States, Obama's Audacity of Hope outlined his optimistic vision to bridge political parties so that the government could better serve the American people's needs. 13. THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS: THE EPIC STORY OF AMERICA'S GREAT MIGRATION // ISABEL WILKERSON During the Great Migration, millions of African Americans departed the Southern states to Northern and Western cities to escape Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and the failing sharecropping system. Isabel Wilkerson, the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in journalism, documented these movements in her 2010 book, which involved 15 years of research and interviews with 1200 people. The book highlights the stories of three individuals and their journeys, from Florida to New York City, Mississippi to Chicago, and Louisiana to Los Angeles. Wilkerson's excellent and in-depth documentation won her a National Book Critics Circle Award for the nonfiction work. mentalfloss.com
  17. 9. THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD // ZORA NEALE HURSTON During Zora Neale Hurston's career, she was more concerned with writing about the lives of African Americans in an authentic way that uplifted their existence, rather than focusing on their traumas. Her most celebrated work, 1937's Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an example of this philosophy. It follows Janie Mae Crawford, a middle-aged woman in Florida, who details lessons she learned about love and finding herself after three marriages. Hurston used black Southern dialect in the characters' dialogue to proudly represent their voices and manner. 10. THE NEW JIM CROW: MASS INCARCERATION IN THE AGE OF COLORBLINDNESS // MICHELLE ALEXANDER The Jim Crow laws of the 19th and 20th centuries were intended to marginalize black Americans who, during the Reconstruction period, were establishing their own businesses, entering the labor system, and running for office. Although a series of anti-discrimination rulings such as Brown vs. Board of Education and the Voting Rights Act were passed during the Civil Rights Movement, Michelle Alexander's 2010 book argues that mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow impacting black American lives, especially black men. In the text, Alexander explores how the war on drugs, piloted by the Ronald Reagan administration, created a system in which black Americans were stripped of their rights after serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. mentalfloss.com
  18. 7. ALL ABOUT LOVE: NEW VISIONS // BELL HOOKS In the 2000 book All About Love, feminist scholar bell hooks grapples with how people are commonly socialized to perceive love in modern society. She uses a range of examples to delve into the topic, from her personal childhood and dating reflections to popular culture references. This is a powerful, essential text that calls on humans to revise a new, healthier blueprint for love, free of patriarchal gender limitations and dominating behaviors that don't serve humankind's emotional needs. 8. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X: AS TOLD TO ALEX HALEY // MALCOM X, ALEX HALEY Throughout 1963, Malcolm X would drive from his home in Harlem to author Alex Haley's apartment down in New York's Greenwich Village to collaborate on his autobiography. Unfortunately, the minister and activist didn't live to see it in print—The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, not long after his assassination in February of that year. The books chronicles the many lessons the young Malcolm (born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska) learned from witnessing his parents' struggles with racism during his childhood, as well as covering his troubled young adulthood with drugs and incarceration and his later evolution into one of the most iconic voices in the movement for black liberation. mentalfloss.com
  19. 5. INVISIBLE MAN // RALPH ELLISON Ralph Ellison's 1952 classic Invisible Man follows one African-American man's quest for identity during the 1920s and 1930s. Because of the racism he faces, the unnamed protagonist, known as "Invisible Man," does not feel seen by society and narrates the reader through a series of unfortunate and fortunate events he undertakes to fit in while living in the South and later in Harlem, New York City. In 1953, Invisible Man was awarded the National Book Award, making Ellison the first African-American author to receive the prestigious honor for fiction. 6. BELOVED // TONI MORRISON Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1987 novel Beloved puts Sethe, a former slave in 1873 Cincinnati, Ohio, in contact with the supernatural. Before becoming a free woman, Sethe attempted to kill her children to save them from a life of enslavement. While her sons and one daughter survived, her infant daughter, known only as Beloved, died. Sethe's family becomes haunted by a spirit believed to be Beloved, and Morrison provides a layered portrayal of the plight of post-slavery black life with a magical surrealism edge as Sethe learns she must confront her repressed memories of trauma and her past life in bondage. mentalfloss.com
  20. 3. THE FIRE NEXT TIME // JAMES BALDWIN James Baldwin is considered a key figure among the great thinkers of the 20th century for his long range of criticism about literature, film, and culture and his revelations on race in America. One of his most widely known literary contributions was his 1963 book The Fire Next Time, a text featuring two essays. One is a letter to his 14-year-old nephew in which he encourages him not to give in to racist ideas that blackness makes him lesser. The second essay, "Down At The Cross," takes the reader back to Baldwin's childhood in Harlem as he details conditions of poverty, his struggle with religious authorities, and his relationship with his father. 4. BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME // TA-NEHISI COATES After re-reading James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, Ta-Nehisi Coates was inspired to write a book-long essay to his teenage son about being black in America, forewarning him of the plight that comes with facing white supremacy. The result was the 2015 National Book Award-winning Between the World and Me. New York magazine reported that after reading it, Toni Morrison wrote, "I've been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates." Throughout the book, Coates recounts witnessing violence and police brutality growing up in Baltimore, reflects on his time studying at historically black Howard University, and asks the hard questions about the past and future of race in America. mentalfloss.com
  21. 1. KINDRED // OCTAVIA BUTLER Octavia Butler's Kindred (1979) is one of a string of novels she penned centering on black female protagonists, which was unprecedented in a white-male dominated science and speculative fiction space at the time. This story centers Dana, a young writer in 1970s Los Angeles who is unexpectedly whisked away to the 19th century antebellum South, where she saves the life of Rufus Weylin, the son of a plantation owner. When Dana’s white husband—initially suspicious of her claims—is transported back in time with her, complicated circumstances follow, since interracial marriage was considered illegal in America until 1967. To paint an accurate picture of the slavery era, Butler told In Motion Magazine in 2004, she studied slave narratives and books by the wives of plantation owners. 2. HUNGER: A MEMOIR OF (MY) BODY // ROXANE GAY In the second entry of her 2017 memoir Hunger, Roxane Gay writes, "… this is a book about disappearing and being lost and wanting so very much, wanting to be seen and understood." The New York Times bestselling author pinpoints deep-seated emotions from a string of experiences, such as an anxious visit to a doctor's office concerning gastric bypass surgery and turning to food to cope with a boy raping her when she was a girl. In six powerful parts, the daughter of Haitian immigrants and National Book Award finalist reclaims the space necessary to document her truth—and uses it to come out of the shadows she had once intentionally tried to hide in. mentalfloss.com
  22. Good Times is an American sitcom television series that aired for six seasons on CBS, from February 8, 1974 to August 1, 1979. Created by Eric Monte and Mike Evans and developed by executive producer Norman Lear, it was television's first African American two-parent family sitcom. Good Times is a spin-off of Maude, itself a spin-off of All in the Family. Synopsis Florida and James Evans and their three children live at 921 North Gilbert Avenue, apartment 17C, in a housing project in a poor, black neighborhood in inner-city Chicago. The project is unnamed on the show but is implicitly the infamous Cabrini–Green projects, shown in the opening and closing credits. Florida and James have three children: James Jr., also known as "J.J."; Thelma; and Michael, whose passionate activism causes his father to call him "the militant midget." When the series begins, J.J. is 17, Thelma is 16 and Michael is 11. Their exuberant neighbor and Florida's best friend is Willona Woods, a recent divorcée who works at a boutique. Their building superintendent is Nathan Bookman (seasons 2-6), who James, Willona and later J.J. refer to as "Buffalo Butt" or, even more derisively, "Booger." The characters originated on the sitcom Maude as Florida and Henry Evans, with Florida employed as Maude Findlay's housekeeper in Tuckahoe, New York and Henry employed as a New York City firefighter. When producers decided to feature the Florida character in her own show, they changed the characters' history to fit a new series that was well into development rather than start from scratch to create a consistent starring vehicle. Henry's name became James, he worked various odd jobs, there was no mention of Maude but it was mentioned that Florida was a maid once before in the episode 'The Checkup' and the couple lived in Chicago. Episodes of Good Times deal with the characters' attempts to overcome poverty, living in a high-rise project building in Chicago. James Evans often works at least two jobs, mostly manual labor such as dishwasher, construction laborer, etc. Often, he is unemployed, but he is a proud man who will not accept charity. When he has to, he hustles money playing pool, although Florida disapproves of this. Main Actor Character Seasons 1 2 3 4 5 6 Esther Rolle Florida Evans Main Main John Amos James Evans Main Ja'net Dubois Willona Woods Main Ralph Carter Michael Evans Main Jimmie Walker James "J.J." Evans Jr. Main Bern Nadette Stanis Thelma Evans Anderson Main Johnny Brown Nathan Bookman Recurring Main Janet Jackson Millicent "Penny" Gordon Woods Main Ben Powers Keith Anderson Main Production Good Times was created by Eric Monte and actor Mike Evans. The series also features a character named "Michael Evans" after Evans who portrayed Lionel Jefferson on the Lear-produced series All in the Family and The Jeffersons. Theme song and opening sequence The gospel-styled theme song was composed by Dave Grusin with lyrics written by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. It was sung by Jim Gilstrap and Motown singer Blinky Williams with a gospel choir providing background vocals. The lyrics to the theme song are notorious for being hard to discern, notably the line "Hangin' in a chow line"/"Hangin' in and jivin'" (depending on the source used). Dave Chappelle used this part of the lyrics as a quiz in his "I Know Black People" skit on Chappelle's Show in which the former was claimed as the answer. The insert for the Season One DVD box set has the lyric as "Hangin' in a chow line." However, the Bergmans confirmed that the lyric is actually "Hangin' in and jivin'." Slightly different lyrics were used for the closing credits, with the song beginning on a verse instead of the chorus. Casting When Ralph Carter was cast as the youngest Evans child, Michael, he was a cast member in the Broadway musical Raisin and the producers of Raisin were initially reluctant to accept Tandem Productions' buyout offer. While Carter's contract was being negotiated, another young actor, Larry Fishburne (later Laurence) filled the role of Michael during initial rehearsals for Good Times. Early episodes of Good Times contain a notice in the credits: "Ralph Carter appears courtesy of the Broadway musical Raisin." Cast conflicts Good Times was intended to be a timely show in the All in the Family vein focused on Rolle and Amos. Both expected the show to deal with serious topics in a comedic way while providing positive characters for viewers to identify with. However, it was Walker's character of J.J. that was an immediate hit with audiences and became the breakout character of the series. J.J.'s frequent use of the expression "Dy-no-mite!" (often in the phrase "Kid Dy-no-mite!"), credited to director John Rich, became a popular catchphrase (later included in TV Land's The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catch Phrases special). Rich insisted Walker say it in every episode. Walker and executive producer Norman Lear were skeptical of the idea, but the phrase and the J.J. Evans character caught on with the audience. As a result of the character's popularity, the writers focused more on J.J.'s comedic antics instead of serious issues. Throughout seasons two and three, Rolle and Amos grew increasingly disillusioned with the direction of the show and especially with J.J.'s antics and stereotypically buffoonish behavior. Rolle was vocal about her hate of his character. In a 1975 interview with Ebony magazine she stated: Although doing so less publicly than Rolle, Amos also was outspoken about his dissatisfaction with the J.J. character, stating: While Amos was less public with his dissatisfaction than Rolle, he was ultimately fired after season three due to disagreements with Lear. Amos' departure was initially attributed to his desire to focus on a film career, but he admitted in a 1976 interview that Lear called him and told him that his contract option with the show was not being renewed. Amos stated, "That's the same thing as being fired." The producers decided not to recast the character of James Evans, instead opting to kill off the character in the two-part season four episode, "The Big Move," with Florida finding out that James was killed in an automobile accident while in Mississippi. Final seasons By the end of season four, Rolle had also become dissatisfied with the show's direction and decided to leave the series. In the two-part season finale, "Love Has a Spot On His Lung," Florida gets engaged to Carl Dixon (Moses Gunn), a man she began dating toward the end of season four. In the season five premiere episode, "The Evans Get Involved Part 1," it is revealed that Florida and Carl married off screen and moved to Arizona for the sake of Carl's health. With Amos and Rolle gone, DuBois took over as lead actor, as Willona checked in on the Evans children since they were now living alone. In season five, Janet Jackson joined the cast, playing Penny Gordon Woods, an abused girl abandoned by her mother and eventually adopted by Willona. Also, during that season, Johnny Brown's character of Nathan Bookman, the Evans' landlord, became more prominent and at the beginning of the fifth year, Brown became a series regular and was included in the opening credits. Ratings began to decline. It was clear to the producers as well as viewers that Rolle's absence had left the series without a much-needed unifying center of attention. Before taping of season six began, CBS and the show's producers decided that they had to do "something drastic" to increase viewership. According to then-vice president of CBS programming Steve Mills, "We had lost the essence of the show. Without parental guidance, the show slipped. Everything told us that: our mail, our phone calls, our research. We felt we had to go back to basics." Producers approached Rolle with an offer to appear in a guest role on the series. Rolle was initially hesitant, but when producers agreed to a number of her demands (including an increased salary and higher quality scripts), she agreed to return to the series on a full-time basis. Rolle also wanted producers to make the character of J.J. more responsible, as she felt the character was a poor role model for African-American youths. She also requested that producers write out the character of Carl Dixon; Rolle reportedly disliked the storyline surrounding the Carl Dixon character, as she believed Florida would not have moved on so quickly after James' death or leave her children. Rolle also thought the writers had disregarded Florida's devout Christian beliefs by having her fall for and marry Carl, who was an atheist. In the season six premiere episode "Florida's Homecoming: Part 1," Florida returns from Arizona without Carl to attend Thelma's upcoming wedding to professional football player Keith Anderson (Ben Powers, who joined the cast for the final season). In a rare uncut version of "Florida's Homecoming: Part 2," after Florida arrives home from Arizona, Willona briefly pulls her aside and mentions Carl, to which Florida sadly smiles and shakes her head, implying that Carl had died from cancer. Florida later mentions Carl one last time when she tells Michael about a book they'd both bought him. Despite changes in the series at Rolle's request and her return, plus the addition of Powers to the cast, ratings continued to fall and CBS canceled the series during the 1978-79 season. In the series finale episode "The End of the Rainbow," each character finally gets a "happy ending." J.J. gets his big break as a nationally syndicated artist for a comic book company with his newly created character, DynoWoman, which is based on Thelma (much to her surprise and delight) and is moving into an apartment with some lady friends. Michael attends college and moves into an on-campus dorm. Keith's bad knee heals due to his exercise and own physical therapy, leading to the Chicago Bears offering him a contract to play football. Keith announces that he and Thelma are moving into a luxury apartment in the city's upscale Gold Coast district. Thelma also announces that she is pregnant with the couple's first child. Keith offers Florida the chance to move in with them so she can help Thelma with the new baby; Florida accepts the offer. Willona becomes the head buyer of the boutique, she walks in and announces that she and Penny are also moving out of the projects. Willona then reveals that her new apartment is in the same apartment building to which Keith, Thelma and Florida are also moving; once again, she and Penny become the Evans' downstairs neighbors. wikipedia.org
  23. The Bernie Mac Show (often shortened to Bernie Mac in syndication) is an American sitcom created by Larry Wilmore, that aired on Fox for five seasons from November 14, 2001, to April 14, 2006. The series featured comic actor Bernie Mac and his wife Wanda raising his sister's three kids: Jordan, Vanessa, and Bryana. Premise The series was loosely based on Mac's stand-up comedy acts. In real life, Bernie "Mac" McCullough was married with one daughter; Mac's character on the show (a stand-up comedian) was married with no children of his own. The pilot episode, aired on November 14, 2001, set up the basic premise for the series: the character Bernie Mac takes in his sister's children after she enters rehab (a fictional premise taken from one of Mac's stand-up routines which was eventually featured in the 2000 film, The Original Kings of Comedy). "In reality, the story is a blend of two real incidents: Mac briefly took in his niece Toya who was an at risk youth and her daughter Monique; while a friend of his had to raise her sister's children long-term." Much of the humor in the show was derived from Mac's continual adjustment to and his unique take on parenthood. A frequent motif of the show was the juxtaposition of Mac's acerbic comments, such as his threats to "bust the (children's) heads 'til the white meat shows," and the deep parental affection he felt towards the trio, which often brought him to the verge of tears during happy moments. Towards the end of the series, Bryana's long-lost father (Anthony Anderson) returns and drops by from time to time to help Bernie and Wanda with the kids. Many of his most emotional scenes occurred in segments in which Mac, while still in character, broke the 'fourth wall' and talked to the television audience, which he referred to as America. This technique was most notably used before an episode during the 2005–2006 season, when Bernie, as himself and wearing a Chicago White Sox cap and jacket, delivered a heartfelt congratulatory message to the baseball organization and its staff on their recent World Series Championship. Bernie, who grew up on Chicago's south-side, was a die-hard fan of the White Sox and was seen at Game 1 of the World Series, in a front row seat. As was also the case during his stand-up routine, Mac habitually addressed the audience as "America" for humorous effect. Mac's character's celebrity worked as a plot device allowing other celebrities to appear on the show as themselves. including Neve Campbell, Don Cheadle, Halle Berry, Serena Williams, Courteney Cox, Chris Rock, Ashton Kutcher, Dom DeLuise, Natasha Lyonne, Billy Crystal, Carl Reiner, Don Rickles, Parker Posey, Angela Bassett, Ellen DeGeneres, Ice Cube, Isaac Hayes, Flavor Flav, Lucy Lawless, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Matt Damon, Wesley Snipes, Charles Barkley, Jon Garland, Jules Sylvester, Sugar Ray Leonard, India Arie, Snoop Dogg, Shaquille O'Neal, Sugar Shane Mosley, Hugh Hefner, and Phil McGraw, and Marcus Allen have all appeared as themselves over the course of the show. Broadcast history by season The series debuted in its time slot on November 14, 2001 with solid ratings in spite of a weak lead-in, Grounded for Life. The show had a very successful first season and in the process won a handful of honors including an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series" and the prestigious Peabody Award. Bernie Mac also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. In fall 2002, the series aired against the Damon Wayans comedy My Wife and Kids which may have hurt the show's momentum in the ratings during the first half of its second season run. Larry Wilmore, the show's creator and executive producer, was fired at this time. In interviews, Wilmore said he was fed up with the network's creative interference with the show, in addition to Fox constantly shuffling it around the schedule. Fox contended that it wasn't happy with the show's direction under Wilmore in the second season, claiming the show "wasn't delivering enough laughs". With The Bernie Mac Show's inability to topple My Wife and Kids in the Wednesday 8 p.m. timeslot, Fox eventually aired the show after American Idol, after which it received its highest ratings ever. The third season was scheduled to start on October 29, 2003, but was postponed due to The O.C. being moved. Instead, the series started the season at the late date of November 30, 2003. The ratings were mediocre, despite the large ratings of its lead-in The Simpsons. In March 2004, the show was moved to Monday nights in a plan to boost ratings for the new show Cracking Up, but the ratings were low for both shows. Cracking Up was canceled and The Bernie Mac Show was pulled from May Sweeps with leftover episodes that aired in June (one of which included an episode about Thanksgiving). The Bernie Mac Show returned to its original time slot on September 8, 2004, to start the fourth season. The production was shut down a month later due to Bernie's sickness. The show returned on January 14, 2005, with new episodes on Friday nights. Although the ratings were low enough that commentators questioned the show's future (especially when it was postponed from May Sweeps again), the show was renewed for a fifth season. The fifth season started September 23, 2005, on Friday nights and beginning mid-season, airings were followed by reruns of the show. The Bernie Mac Show celebrated its 100th episode on February 3, 2006, even though the actual 100th episode was not aired until March 31. Main Bernard "Bernie" McCullough (Bernie Mac) – The show's main character who is loosely based upon the late comedian of the same name. Bernie and his wife took in the three kids when their drug-addicted mother (Bernie's sister Stacy) was no longer able to be a proper parent. Bernie uses tough-love parenting tactics and he can be both strict and comical. He narrates the series, and between scenes he talks to the audience by addressing them as "America." Although he loves all three kids, his favorite is Bryana (whom he affectionately calls "Baby Girl" because she is the youngest), and always finds himself going head to head with teenage Vanessa, the eldest sibling, whose poor attitude always gives him a hard time; though it is revealed in the episode Jac and Jacequline that the only reason he's so hard on her is because she reminds him of her mother and he's determined to keep her from suffering a similar fate to her mother. Wanda "Baby" McCullough (Kellita Smith) – Bernie's loving wife, a very intelligent woman who is VP for AT&T. She loves raising the kids with Bernie, but periodically her patience is tested. Whenever Bernie has a problem, she does her best to help, though her assistance can be stubbornly overbearing and unnecessary at times. Also, it has been stated that most of Bernie's family thinks she's snooty and is not above using seduction to make Bernie to fix a mistake. She plays a minor but important role in the series finale, in which she advises Vanessa to respect her Uncle Bernie by writing an essay on how he has inspired her. Bryana "Baby Girl" Thomkins (Dee Dee Davis) – Bernie and Wanda's younger niece, the youngest child and the half-sister of Jordan and Vanessa. Bryana is a friendly little girl who is sweet, innocent, and quite naive, though she is often more bratty and obnoxious as the series progresses. Bryana is her uncle's favorite (although he loves all three). Bryana is playful and always trusts her Uncle Bernie. Bryana is known for always attacking and successfully beating up her older brother Jordan. Bernie fears that one day she will grow up and end up like Vanessa. Jordan Thomkins (Jeremy Suarez) – Bernie and Wanda's nephew, the middle child. Jordan is very mischievous and peculiar. He is interested in collecting bugs and conducting odd science experiments. He is always getting beat up by his little sister, Bryana; though on minor occasions, he has been able to scare her in retaliation and make her cry. Early on in the series during the first seasons, Jordan would always cry, occasionally vomit and sometimes urinate on himself. As the series progressed, he becomes tougher and more masculine, most notable shown in an episode in which he joins the wrestling team. He took an interest in magic and even began trying to date girls. Although he knows that there is nothing wrong with Jordan, Bernie tries to his best to make him more masculine. Vanessa "Nessa" Thomkins (Camille Winbush) – Bernie and Wanda's elder niece, and the eldest of the three children. Vanessa always purposely gives Bernie trouble with her attitude, most of which comes from the pressure of being the eldest and having to take the parent role with her younger siblings. As the series progresses, she gets along better with Bernie and grows up into a young woman preparing for college. In the final season, she spends most of her time trying to find the perfect college and rejecting Bernie's help with that. wikipedia.org
  24. Family Matters is an American television sitcom that originated on ABC from September 22, 1989 to May 9, 1997, before moving to CBS from September 19, 1997 to July 17, 1998. A spin-off of Perfect Strangers, the series revolves around the Winslow family, a middle-class African American family living in Chicago, Illinois. Midway through the first season, the show introduced the Winslows' nerdy neighbor Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), who was originally scripted to appear as a one-time character, however quickly became the show's breakout character, joining the main cast. Having run for nine seasons, Family Matters became the second longest-running non-animated U.S. sitcom with a predominantly African-American cast, behind only The Jeffersons (11). Having aired 215 episodes, Family Matters is ranked third, behind only Tyler Perry's House of Payne (254), and The Jeffersons (253). History The series was a spinoff from the ABC sitcom Perfect Strangers; both shows aired Fridays nights on ABC's primetime slot called "TGIF"(Thank God Its Friday). Jo Marie Payton played Harriette Winslow, the elevator operator at a newspaper where Larry Appleton and Balki Bartokomous also worked. Reginald Vel Johnson would make cameos on the show as Harriette's husband Carl Winslow, a Chicago police officer. ABC and the producers loved the character Harriette for her great morale and quick-witted humor and decided to create a show that would focus on her and her family, husband Carl, son Eddie, elder daughter Laura, and younger daughter Judy (who appeared until the character was written out in season four). In the pilot episode, "The Mama Who Came to Dinner," the family had also opened their home to Carl's street-wise mother, Estelle (Rosetta LeNoire), usually known as "Mother Winslow." Prior to the start of the series, Harriette's sister, Rachel Crawford and her infant son, Richie, had moved into the Winslow household after the death of Rachel's husband. The Winslows' nerdy teenage next-door neighbor, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White), was introduced midway through the first season in the episode "Laura’s First Date" and quickly became the focus of the show. The popular sitcom was a mainstay of ABC's TGIF lineup from 1989 until 1997, at which point it became part of the CBS Block Party lineup for its final season. Family Matters was produced by Bickley-Warren Productions (1991–1998) and Miller-Boyett Productions, in association with Lorimar Television (1989–1993) and later Warner Bros. Television (1993–1998). As the show progressed, episodes began to center increasingly on Steve Urkel, and other original characters also played by White, including Steve's suave alter-ego, Stefan Urquelle, and his female cousin, Myrtle Urkel. Network change In early 1997, CBS picked up Family Matters and Step by Step in a $40 million deal to acquire the rights to the programs from ABC. ABC then promised to pay Miller-Boyett Productions $1.5 million per episode for a ninth and tenth season of Family Matters. However, tensions had risen between Miller-Boyett Productions and ABC's corporate parent, The Walt Disney Company (which had bought the network in 1995 as part of its merger with ABC's then-parent Capital Cities/ABC, Inc.). Miller-Boyett thought that it would not be a big player on ABC after the network's recent purchase by Disney. In turn, Miller-Boyett Productions agreed to a $40 million offer from CBS for a 22-episode season for both Family Matters and Step By Step (along with a new production from the company, Meego). CBS scheduled Family Matters along with Meego and Step By Step as a part of its new Friday lineup branded as the CBS Block Party and scheduled the family-oriented block against ABC's TGIF lineup, where the two series originated. Although Jo Marie Payton was reluctant to continue and wanted to leave, feeling the show had jumped the shark years prior, she agreed to stay for the first half of the season to keep continuity and, partway through, her part was recast with Judyann Elder. Family Matters, while it continued to lose viewership compared to previous years, was initially a modest success on CBS, beating the show that replaced it, You Wish. Meego, however, was a ratings failure and was canceled after six weeks. Near the end of the ninth season, the cast was informed that a tenth and final season was planned, so scripts and plot synopses were written for the show. After the holiday special season, CBS replaced Meego with Kids Say the Darndest Things, and with that show's child-centered focus, it was placed in Family Matters's 8/7c time slot, with Family Matters pushed an hour later and paired with Step by Step. The ratings for Family Matters fell even further in this later slot, and the entire Block Party except for Kids Say... was canceled in spring 1998, with the remaining episodes burned off in the summer.. Actor Character Seasons 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Reginald VelJohnson Carl Otis Winslow Main Jo Marie Payton Harriette Baines Winslow Main Judyann Elder Main Darius McCrary Edward "Eddie" Winslow Main Kellie Shanygne Williams Laura Lee Winslow Main Jaimee Foxworth Judith "Judy" Winslow Main Rosetta LeNoire Estelle "Mother" Winslow Main Recurring Joseph Wright Julius Wright Richard "Richie" Crawford Main Telma Hopkins Rachel Baines Crawford Main Recurring Guest Jaleel White Steven "Steve" Quincy Urkel Recurring Main Bryton McClure Richard "Richie" Crawford Main Recurring Shawn Harrison Waldo Geraldo Faldo Recurring Main Michelle Thomas Myra Monkhouse Recurring Main Orlando Brown Jerry Jamal "3J" Jameson Recurring Main wikipedia.org
  25. The Cosby Show is an American sitcom television series co-created by and starring Bill Cosby, which aired for eight seasons on NBC from September 20, 1984, until April 30, 1992. The show focuses on an upper middle-class African-American family living in Brooklyn, New York. The Cosby Show spent five consecutive seasons as the number-one rated show on television. The Cosby Show and All in the Family are the only sitcoms in the history of the Nielsen ratings to be the number-one show for five seasons. It spent all eight of its seasons in the top 20. According to TV Guide, the show "was TV's biggest hit in the 1980s, and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC's ratings fortunes." TV Guide also ranked it 28th on their list of 50 Greatest Shows. In addition, Cliff Huxtable was named as the "Greatest Television Dad". In May 1992, Entertainment Weekly stated that The Cosby Show helped to make possible a larger variety of shows with a predominantly black cast, from In Living Color to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. The Cosby Show was based on comedy routines in Cosby's stand-up act, which in turn were based on his family life. The show led to the spinoff A Different World, which ran for six seasons from 1987 to 1993. Premise The show focuses on the Huxtable family, an upper middle-class African-American family, living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York, at 10 Stigwood Avenue. The patriarch is Cliff Huxtable, an obstetrician and son of a prominent jazz trombonist. The matriarch is his wife, attorney Clair Huxtable. They have four daughters and one son: Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy. Despite its comedic tone, the show sometimes involves serious subjects, like Theo's experiences dealing with dyslexia, inspired by Cosby's dyslexic son, Ennis. The show also deals with teen pregnancy when Denise's friend, Veronica (Lela Rochon), becomes pregnant. Pilot The Cosby Show pilot episode uses the same title sequence as the rest of the first season, and is widely regarded as the first episode. However, it contains a number of differences from the remainder of the series. In the pilot, the Huxtables have only four children. Following the pilot, the Huxtables have five children, with the addition of their eldest daughter, Sondra (Sabrina Le Beauf), who is mentioned in episode four and appears first in episode 11. The character was created when Bill Cosby wanted the show to express the accomplishment of successfully raising a child (i.e., a college graduate). Bill Cosby originally wanted Vanessa L. Williams to play the part of "Sondra" due to her college education and background in theater arts. However, Williams was recently crowned the first black Miss America and pageant officials would not permit her to play the role while she was representing the Miss America pageant. Whitney Houston was also considered for the role of Sondra Huxtable, but was unable to commit to the full-time television production schedule in the NBC contract, as she was intending to be a full-time music recording artist. Most of the story in the pilot presentation is taken from Bill Cosby's classic comedy film Bill Cosby: Himself. Cosby's character is called "Clifford" in the early episodes of the first season (as evidenced by his name plate on the exterior of the Huxtable home). His name was later switched to "Heathcliff". Although, in one episode, Clair calls him "Heathclifford". Additionally, Vanessa refers to Theo as "Teddy" twice in the dining room scene. The interior of the Huxtables' home features an entirely different living room from subsequent episodes, and different color schemes in the dining room and the master bedroom. Throughout the remainder of the series, the dining room is reserved for more formal occasions. Conception and development In the early 1980s, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, two former executives at ABC, left the network to start their own production company. At ABC, they had overseen sitcoms such as Mork & Mindy, Three's Company, and Welcome Back, Kotter. The two partners decided that to get a sitcom to sell for their fledgling company, they needed a big name behind it. The career of Bill Cosby, who starred in two failed sitcoms during the 1970s, produced award-winning stand-up comedy albums, and had roles in several different films, was relatively static during the early 1980s. According to a Chicago Tribune article from July 1985, despite Carsey and Werner's connection to the network, Lewis Erlicht, president of ABC Entertainment, passed on the show, prompting a pitch to rival network, NBC. Outside of his work on his cartoon series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Cosby was doing little in film or television, but Carsey and Werner were fans of Cosby's stand-up comedy and thought it would be the perfect material for a family sitcom. Cosby originally proposed that the couple should both have blue-collar jobs, with the father a limousine driver, who owned his own car, and the mother an electrician. With advice from his wife Camille Cosby, though, the concept was changed so that the family was well-off financially, with the mother a lawyer and the father a physician. Cosby wanted the program to be educational, reflecting his own background in education. He also insisted that the program be taped in New York City instead of Los Angeles, where most television programs were taped. The Huxtable home exterior was filmed at 10 St. Luke's Place near 7th Avenue in Manhattan's Greenwich Village (although in the show, the residence was the fictional "10 Stigwood Avenue"). Production notes The earliest episodes of the series were videotaped at NBC's Brooklyn studios (subsequently JC Studios). The network later sold that building, and production moved to the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens. Even though the show was set to take place in Brooklyn, the exterior façade was actually of a brownstone townhouse located in Manhattan's Greenwich Village at 10 Leroy Street/ 10 St. Luke's Place. The pilot was filmed in May 1984, with season one's production commencing in July 1984, and the first taping on August 1, 1984 (Goodbye Mr. Goldfish). During its original run on NBC, it was one of five successful sitcoms on the network that featured predominantly African-American casts. The other sitcoms were 227 (1985–90), Amen (1986–91), Cosby Show spin-off A Different World (1987–93), and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990–96). Five other NBC sitcoms of that time also featured black actors and actresses in lead starring or supporting roles — Nell Carter and Telma Hopkins on Gimme a Break (1981−87); Leonard Lightfoot, and later Franklyn Seales and Alfonso Ribeiro on Silver Spoons (1982−86), Cherie Johnson on Punky Brewster (1984–88), Kim Fields on The Facts of Life (1979−88), and Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges on Diff'rent Strokes (1978–85). Although the cast and characters were predominantly African American, the program was unusual in that issues of race were rarely mentioned when compared to other situation comedies of the time, such as The Jeffersons. However, The Cosby Show had African-American themes, such as the Civil Rights Movement, and it frequently promoted African-American and African culture represented by artists and musicians such as Jacob Lawrence, Miles Davis, James Brown, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miriam Makeba. The show's spin off, A Different World, dealt with issues of race more often. The series finale (taped on March 6, 1992) aired during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, with Cosby quoted in media at the time pleading for peace. During the third season of the show, actress Phylicia Rashad was pregnant with her daughter Condola Rashād. Rather than write this pregnancy into the character of Claire Huxtable, the producers simply greatly reduced Rashad's scenes or filmed in such a way that her pregnancy was not noticeable. Another pregnancy of one of the main stars, that of Lisa Bonet, almost caused the actress to be fired, especially coming in the wake of appearing in the film Angel Heart, which contained graphic sexual scenes with actor Mickey Rourke. Bill Cosby strongly disapproved of Bonet appearing in the film, but she was allowed to retain her role on A Different World until returning to The Cosby Show after her pregnancy. Tensions remained, however, and Bonet was eventually fired from the show in April 1991. wikipedia.org
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