Summer of Soul Passes

Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was never seen and largely forgotten–until now. SUMMER OF SOUL shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ray Baretto, Abbey Lincoln, and Max Roach.

Movie Scene Queen is hosting a special screening of Summer of Soul on Monday, June 28, 2021 at 7 PM in the Waterfront. Please comment below with your favorite song. I’ll start. One of my favorite songs is “A Song for You” by Donny Hathaway (1971). I know the song is before my time, but it’s such a s beautiful, timeless piece.

Much Love,

Movie Scene Queen™

February 2014 Throwback Movie of the Month: Betty and Coretta

“They refused to let tragedy defeat them!” -Ruby Dee

betty-and-coretta film poster

Legendary actress and civil rights activist, Ruby Dee, provided beautiful narration for Lifetime’s movie, Betty and Coretta. The wives of late Civil Rights leaders, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. joined forces after their husbands were assassinated in the 1960s. In alignment with Black History Month, the movie has perfect timing. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X are easily associated with coining and strengthening the Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. Betty Shabazz (Mary J. Blige) was left with 6 girls after her husband was assassinated in 1965. Many speculations were made surrounding Malcolm X’s murder, but Dr. Shabazz focused on her small tribe of girls and furthering her education. She received her doctorate degree and began working as a professor at Medgar Evers College. In 1997, after 23 days in the hospital, Dr. Shabazz died from burn complications of a house fire that was set by her grandson, Malcolm Shabazz.

Only three years after Malcolm X’s assassination, Coretta Scott King (Angela Bassett) became a widow too when Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot on a Memphis hotel balcony. Both Betty and Coretta were determined to carry on their husbands’ legacies through service, hard work, and campaigning. Coretta fought the nasty allegations that surfaced from the FBI’s surveillance and wire tapping of Dr. King and petitioned for the government to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. While, Dr. Shabazz tried to change the minds of people who believed her Malcolm X was a traitor or trouble maker.

Coretta Scott King passed on January 30, 2006 after respiratory failure due to complications from ovarian cancer. Both women rest peacefully next to their husbands.

Mary J. Blige and Angela Bassett didn’t quite win me over as Betty and Coretta, but there were hesitantly believable moments. I have never been a fan of Mary J. Blige as a actress or dancer, but Betty and Coretta might be her best work. On the other hand, I am positively an Angela Bassett fan. She’s always plays the more serious roles, and Ms. Bassett is known for playing non-fictional people. Ironnically, she’s played Dr. Betty Shabazz twice, once in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X (1992) and then on a smaller scale in 1995’s Panther. Bassett has also played Rosa Parks, Michael Jackson’s mommy, Catherine, and Notorious BIG’s mother, Voletta Wallace.

Malik Yoba had a shocking resemblance to Dr. King. I was pleasantly surprised by his presence. Yoba has kept a relatively low profile since his hit Fox sitcom, New York Undercover. But, he was handsome, brilliant, and captivating.

According to a February 1, 2003 Washington Post article, Malcolm X’s third daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, Rev. Bernice King spoke out about the imprecisions in the biographical film. Both daughters wish the women TV network would have consulted all of the children before filming. Shabazz’s cited her mother’s portrayal as the biggest inaccuracy, claiming the movie is ”fiction.”

The reality is that the movie, accurate or not, made viewers ponder on the already established legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. More importantly, it made us focus on two widows who for so long stood behind shadows. Admittedly, I never knew how many times Malcolm X was shot (21 times), that the FBI tried to incriminate Martin Luther King, Jr. with surveillance, and specific details of Dr. Betty Shabazz’s death. Of course, I was aware of the historical events, but the movie prompted me to do more research.

3 Stars: It is difficult to produce a made for TV movie, it’s even more difficult to convey a true story. Similar to VH1 and TLC, the Lifetime Network created a movie that was based off of facts and perceptions. Ultimately, the movie played the best role by being both informative and entertaining.

I urge you to learn one new Black History fact, for it’s not just “Black” History…but History!Betty-and-Coretta

bc widows
Civil Rights Widows
From left to right, Dr. Betty Shabazz, the late wife of Malcolm X, Coretta Scott King, the late wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Myrlie Evers-Williams, the wife of the late Medgar Evers

Black Nativity

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Fox Searchlight Pictures and Eve’s Bayou Director Kasi Lemmons retells Langston Hughes’s beautiful story, Black Nativity. The remake stars Jennifer Hudson, Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, and Tyrese Gibson.

Young Langston (Latimore) is forced to leave his mother, Naima (Hudson) in Baltimore to relocate with his estranged grandparents (Whitaker and Bassett) in New York City. Falling into some bad habits, it is up to Langston to restore his broken family, bring some clarity to his mother’s misfortune, and find out the truth about his biological father. Through spiritual songs and creative movement, Black Nativity celebrates and retells the illuminating birth of Jesus Christ.

I enjoyed the complexity and complicated work of Kasi Lemmons’ previous projects such as Eve’s Bayou. However, Black Nativity lacked general flow and understanding. A very long church scene included distorted points of view. The audience will be confused as the movie transitions from dream scenes to present situations. There was no clear delineations between musical numbers and when the movie switched from fantasy to reality.

Since What’s the 411?, I have been an avid Mary J. Bilge fan. But I questioned her and rapper Nas’ existence in Black Nativity. Both musicians made me question their connection to the overall story-line.

As Christians, we too fall short of the glory of God. Naima’s family was torn as a result of her teenage pregnancy. Furthermore, the parents ostracized her for failing to uphold her preacher’s daughter image. Also, it is not our role as onlookers to past further judgement on others, yet we are to forgive them for their transgressions and empower our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to live righteously (James 4:11).

2.5 STARS: Black Nativity had strong moments. But, overall, the movie did not collectively meet my expectations.

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