Our goal was to honor Black History Month in an unexpected and creative way.
Black movies are a big part of Black culture. Only the youngest generations have lived in an America where Black content creators have been celebrated at this level. Most Black people have lived in a world where there are a handful of films with a few famous Black actors and a few more Black-famous actors. So when a film was released by a Black director, with Black actors and Black subject matter, there was massive support from the community. Decades later, we TheGrio, a Black-owned media company, understand that these films are part of us. Celebrating iconic scenes through our interpretation of improv and sketch comedy is theGrio’s way of saluting these films.
Our Black History Month strategy for “Dear Culture,” a podcast from theGrio Black Podcast Network, was to examine some significant moments featured in iconic Black cinema in an unforgettable, hilarious way.
By enlisting the support and voices of preeminent Black thought leaders like Michael Harriot, Shamira Ibrahim, Monique Judge, Dr. Chrstina Greer, and Damon Young (among others) and celebrities Ice Cube and Kyla Pratt, we created mockumentary-style episodes capturing these key significant moments, Tru’ish Black Stories, and ensuring these stories live on forever.
Ice Cube joined us to retell the story of Ricky Baker, who died in the streets of south-central Los Angeles in the early ’90s. Most people know Ricky’s story, but we’re taking a look at what it meant for the Black community at large and what it was like for those who grew up with Ricky and Doughboy and some of the other Boyz in the ‘Hood.
(Episode 33 - Boyz in the ‘Hood, The Death of Ricky Baker)
We also looked at one of the most important voices of all time Randy Watson, from Jackson Heights, Queens. His rendition of Whitney Houston's song, "The Greatest Love of All," is iconic, perhaps one of the most incredible singular performances of all time. Is it? People there and some who heard from afar discussed the import of Randy Watson and Sexual Chocolate to the more significant conversation about Black music and the Black community in "Coming To America."
(Episode 34 - Coming to America’s Randy Watson)
It is also important to talk about scholastic achievement; we examined how 11-year-old Akeelah Anderson’s achievement of co-winning the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee created a pathway for today’s Black Excellence wave. Did Akeelah’s win push a whole new group of young, Black children into not only spelling bees but bees of all sorts? Maybe she did. We definitely can’t say that she didn’t. We’ll discuss her Mae Jemison-like role as a first in Black History.
(Episode 35 - Akleeah’s Spelling Bee Co-Win)
Last but not least, we ventured into the world of Los Angeles’ street dancing scene, where a young group of Black boys got served one day by a white crew from Orange County. Did that loss set the Black dancing world back? Was the Black community let down? And what did their eventual win mean as a redemption story, but … at what cost? Each story in our community that comes with a win also comes with a personal loss, and that’s to be examined in You Got Served.
(Episode 37 - The You Got Served Betrayal)
Each episode pays tribute to Black movies and celebrates the talents and contributions of Black filmmakers Tru’ish Black Stories is an original, creative, funny limited series about Black History.
The Tru’ish Black Stories series was among the most popular Dear Culture with Panama Jackson episodes. Downloads increased by 42% in February. As a show team, we stretched our imaginations into new possibilities of what Dear Culture is and can be as a podcast. The Tru’ish Black Stories concept allowed us to showcase different individual skills and talents and create and collaborate differently within the team and the organization. We believe it will also create future collaborations with stakeholders outside of theGrio.