Smithsonian Channel and Comcast Premieres Black in Space– A Documentary about the First Black Astronauts

This post about Smithsonian Channel’s Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier is a sponsored post brought to you by Comcast. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

The Smithsonian Channel, Comcast, and the John Heinz History Center welcomed dozens of guests on February 10 for the premiere screening of Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier.

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The race to get to space is long over, but buried in time is the revelatory story of the world’s first black astronauts. For many Americans, the 20th-century Space Race was a Cold War competition over rocketry and technological feats, but the world’s two superpowers were also engaged in another high-stakes race – one whose impact is still being felt today.

BLACK IN SPACE: BREAKING THE COLOR BARRIER examines the crucial moment when America’s history of racial prejudice became a critical vulnerability in the effort to win hearts and minds around the globe. Confronting a Soviet foe determined to show that communism was the face of the future, the U.S. would need a new generation of astronauts. 

The hour-long documentary is a learning lesson for all ages.  But, for someone like me who was too young to experience the turbulent times of racial integration, it was eye opening.

During Black History Month, many students crack open the history books with a specific goal in mind– to learn about the contributions and rich history of African Americans. But, Black In Space: Breaking the Color Barrier is a visual piece for students to seamlessly learn about Black astronauts.

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After the screening, KDKA Anchor/Reporter Lisa Washington lead a panel discussion with Kelli Herod, VP of Post Production, Smithsonian Channel, and Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr., USMC (Ret.), 12th NASA Administrator. Panelists discussed how the documentary was made, and the future of Black astronauts with NASA.

Panel Discussion
Photo by Brian Cook, Golden Sky Media

The 2017 NASA Astronaut Class graduated last month.  The 13-member class includes one Black woman, Dr. Jessica Watkins.

BLACK IN SPACE: BREAKING THE COLOR BARRIER will premiere on Monday, February 24th at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel.

Sweat Equity: Merecedes Williams is ready for her closeup

By Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The first row of the balcony at an advance screening for “Harriet” at AMC Waterfront 22 in Homestead was filled with high school students from Allderdice, laughing and enjoying the evening out.

The laughter settled down once the movie started and the life of 19th-century abolitionist Harriet Tubman unfurled on the screen. They were absorbing the re-creation of a world they had missed by more than 160 years. Still, there was no denying the parts that resonated.

Merecedes J. Williams, aka Movie Scene Queen, looks forward to that moment of recognition. The social media project assistant for Pittsburgh Public Schools is also the movie critic for The New Pittsburgh Courier.

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It was in her capacity as the Courier’s movie critic with access to free advance screenings that it occurred to Ms. Williams to make that opportunity available to Pittsburgh Public School students when it comes to films with educational value.

With the mission of expanding awareness of quality films for young people, Ms. Williams created the Movie Scene Queen entertainment blog seven years ago. Her goal then — as now — is to engage young people in discussions of films and to make free passes available to those in the Pittsburgh Public Schools who want to attend advance screenings.

On evenings when she is supervising a dozen or so students at a screening, Ms. Williams is also thinking about how to approach the movie critically and fairly as a reviewer. She’s both hostess and critic on those occasions, a burden she happily accepts many years into the gig.

The first movie she reviewed for the Courier was “Fruitvale Station,” the 2013 Michael B. Jordan classic about the killing of an unarmed and handcuffed black commuter by cops at a BART Station in Oakland, Calif.

“I thought, ‘Wow, how can I write about this?’” she said, recalling the tears streaming down her face when the movie was over. She fought her way through the sorrow to an evaluation of the film based on its aesthetic merits and social/political implications for African American viewers.

“This is much more than a movie,” she said of the film directed by Ryan Coogler. He would later gain even more fame as the director of “Black Panther,” one of the highest grossing movies of all time. “This is a film about unrepresented people who are being slaughtered by those who are supposed to protect and serve them,” she said.

Just as every superhero movie has an origin story, it was at that moment that Merecedes J. Williams became Movie Scene Queen.

There was so much educational value — painful as it was in a film like “Fruitvale Station” — that she wanted to play a role in exposing young people to that aspect of cinema culture.

“The idea was to stick with black films that predominantly showcase black actors, producers or directors,” she said. Early on, Ms. Williams also decided she had a social responsibility to bring things up in her movie reviews, even though it might cause some people to “look sideways at her” for being too preachy.

“It’s important to me to stay true to myself in every movie review, especially when I’m representing my opinion to a population I’m a part of,” she said of the Courier’s predominantly African American readership. “It’s a burden I’ll live with for the rest of my life as long as I’m black, female and writing.”

Read more at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sweat Equity: Merecedes Williams is ready for her closeup

Pittsburgh’s ‘Movie Scene Queen,’ Merecedes J. Williams, celebrates seven years in business

The New Pittsburgh Courier’s film critic, Merecedes J. Williams, will celebrate seven years in business by being a guest bartender at Stanley’s Lounge in Homewood, 7403 Frankstown Ave., on Jan. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. She will be joined by WAMO 100.1 FM’s Portia Foxx. All tips will directly benefit Williams’ Single Parent Project, an initiative that provides free movies, concessions and transportation to single-parent families, families with incarcerated parents, and foster families.

State Rep. Edward C. Gainey will present Williams with a state proclamation at Stanley’s Lounge to celebrate the business milestone and the corresponding community-based work.

In 2019, Williams distributed more than 4,200 free movie tickets, raised over $2,000 to send local high school students to see the movie “Harriet,” and sent 144 families to the movies via the Single Parent Project.

UPDATE: Movie Scene Queen raised $545 for the Single Parent Project. 

Read more at the New Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh’s ‘Movie Scene Queen,’ Merecedes J. Williams, celebrates seven years in business

Name a better comedy duo than Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. I’ll wait. ‘Bad Boys for Life’ delivers

After 17 years, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence finally grace us with the third installment of the “Bad Boys” series. The infamous Mike Lowery (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) are still chasing bad guys and causing trouble when an old case resurfaces in “Bad Boys for Life.”

I thought Martin Lawrence’s weight gain and Will Smith’s age were going to be a distraction. And clearly, movie makers were thinking the same thing. However, instead of covering up their flaws with great makeup and advanced technology, they made it part of the storyline. Genius!

Each “Bad Boys” installment has been consistent with the right balance of comedy, action, and drama. That’s a testament to the on-screen chemistry Smith and Lawrence have built over the years. In my opinion, there’s no better comedy duo in any film series.

WILL SMITH AND MARTIN LAWRENCE star in the new movie, “Bad Boys for Life.”

The third installment of a film series is difficult to overcome. It establishes whether a movie has longevity and success over an extended time span. A good example of how you can royally destroy a film series is “Home Alone 3” (1997). If Macaulay Culkin, who was 17 at the time, no longer fit the little kid mold, then just let it go. On the other hand, there are great movie series like “Fast and Furious” and “Friday” where the third time really was a charm.

As for “Bad Boys for Life,” it truly delivers in this latest chapter. It is a guaranteed ticket of nostalgia and good entertainment. Many of the stars from the original cast, like Joe Pantoliano and Theresa Randle, have returned, making it that much more enjoyable.

Read more at the New Pittsburgh Courier, Name a better comedy duo than Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. I’ll wait. ‘Bad Boys for Life’ delivers

New movie ‘Like A Boss’ has great chemistry between Haddish, Byrne

Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrne are an unlikely best friend duo in the year’s first comedy, “Like A Boss.” Mel (Bryne) and Mia (Haddish) are in major debt with their cosmetic company when a makeup mogul (Salma Hayek) tries to buy them out and take over the company.

The movie overall seemed to be missing something and I can’t quite put my finger on it. I think the promotion and marketing was grand. Maybe too grand, because I thought that the movie was going to be gut-busting hilarious. In reality, “Like A Boss” gave me a couple chuckles at most. I was definitely expecting more.

Salma Hayek’s character, Claire Luna, was cliché, almost satire. Not only was the character not believable, but it put a huge damper in the storyline. It was a poor attempt at “Devil Wears Prada” (2006). The orange wig and porcelain teeth was too much.

The film’s biggest takeaway was the value of a long-lasting friendship. What seemed like a strange pair, Haddish and Bryne actually meshed well together and brought the key messaging to life. Their chemistry was evident and rubbed off as authentic. Haddish was over the top and loud, while Bryne was bland and reserved. The pair was an out-of-the-box balance.

A small piece of Pittsburgh was in “Like A Boss.” Pittsburgh native Billy Porter plays Mia and Mel’s spicy production assistant, Barrett. He was wonderful. The “Kinky Boots” star almost played himself—bubbly, zesty, and quick-witted.

Read more at the New Pittsburgh Courier, New movie ‘Like A Boss’ has great chemistry between Haddish, Byrne

Dolittle Passes

Dolittle stars Robert Downey Jr. with an ALL-STAR voice cast of supporting actors. After losing his wife seven years earlier, the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle (Downey), famed doctor and veterinarian of Queen Victoria’s England, hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of exotic animals for company.

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The screening will be Saturday, January 11 at 10:00 AM at AMC Waterfront 22. Please comment below with your favorite animal movie. For me, it’s easy! I love Monkey Trouble (1994) and Dunston Checks In (1996).

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Underwater Passes

Directed by William Eubank, a crew of underwater researchers must scramble to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory in Underwater.

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Movie Scene Queen and 20th Century Fox are celebrating the upcoming release UNDERWATER, in theaters January 10th. We are hosting an advance screening of the film on Wednesday, January 8th at the AMC Waterfront at 7:30pm. Please comment below with your interest.

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Like A Boss Passes

Best friends Mia and Mel run their own cosmetics company — a business they built from the ground up. But they’re also in over their heads financially, and the prospect of a buyout offer from an industry titan proves too tempting to pass up. The beauty business is now about to get ugly as the proposal puts Mia and Mel’s lifelong friendship to the ultimate test.

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Calling all my bosses to the Pittsburgh advance screening of Like A Boss next Tuesday on the South Side. Please comment below with your favorite Tiffany Haddish or Billy Porter moment for a link to tickets. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Porter at CMU a few years ago, and he was the sweetest man ever. He let the students sing for him. He took photos. He signed autographs. A real treat!

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

Movie Scene Queen 7-Year Anniversary and Bad Boys for Life Screening

We’re celebrating our seven-year anniversary with a special screening of Bad Boys for Life! Old-school cops Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) team up to take down the vicious leader of a Miami drug cartel. Newly created elite team AMMO of the Miami police department along with Mike and Marcus go up against the ruthless Armando Armas.

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The special screening will be held on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at South Side Works Cinemas. For your chance to join the party, please comment below with your favorite Bad Boys moment. In Bad Boys 2, the date scene where Marcus and Mike interrogate the teenager.

“You ever make love to a man?”
“No!”
“You want to?”
“No sir.”

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen

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