We’re doing something a little different this week, both because we’ve been too anxious, heartsick, angry, and exhausted to watch much K-drama, and also because we believe strongly that the media we watch never exists in a vacuum, and our experience of the world always interacts with it—and vice versa. If you follow us, that’s probably something you already know (and hopefully appreciate) about our approach. So this week we wanted to share what we have been watching, both to be authentic to the Weekend Drama Report, and to encourage y’all to check out some media starring and centering around the experiences of Black people.
These aren’t issues we’ve suddenly begun to think about, and we’re mindful that although there is huge potential in this moment, we’ve also seen things return to the status quo too often in similar situations before. Consuming media is certainly no substitute for doing the unglamorous daily work of anti-racism, but it does have a huge impact on who is humanized and dehumanized in our societies (recall how very many cop dramas we watch, in the US and globally, and then reflect on who Black and brown people represent in these narratives about law, order, justice, and heroism).
We’ve also shared some links to resources at the bottom if you’re interested to learn more about structural racism, white supremacy, and how we can all begin to work towards being anti-racists in our lives.
To our Black listeners and readers: We love you. We stand with you. Your lives are precious. We will pray, fight, and use our voices and our platform to support you in whatever small ways we can. Please feel free to let us know if we let you down in any way, or if there’s something you’d like to see us discuss on the podcast. ❤︎
I didn’t watch this solely because of the revolutions happening in our streets—although of course it’s impossible not to have those on my mind, and, as I referenced above, it’s the last thing I watched before my media diet switched over entirely to news coverage and cellphone videos of protests. Just Mercy has been on my to-watch list since it came out last year, so when we finally had the chance for a family movie night last week, it was the perfect chance to see it.
The movie tells the true story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), who founded the Equal Justice Initiative to fight for the release of death row inmates who were betrayed by grossly unjust trials, because they were Black, poor, or both. The film focuses on the beginnings of his career in Alabama, and his first true reckoning with the way poor Black people are swallowed, silenced and murdered by the criminal justice system. It really throws into relief all the mundane, daily injustices that add up to an impenetrable wall of bigotry that left these prisoners with no escape. It’s the moving origin story of one of our modern American heroes, and I’m so glad that you can stream it for free until the end of June on a bunch of platforms. I encourage you to watch this instead of The Help—it’s honestly embarrassing that the latter has been number one on Netflix.
Honestly I just want to co-sign all of Saya’s great words below. Watch this movie. It completely transformed how I thought about race in the post-Civil War era.
It’s been an intense and exhausting couple of weeks here, and race/racism has featured heavily in just about every conversation I’ve had. When a friend of mine asked for guidance about how to educate and deprogramme herself, it took me into a deep dive of research and re-education. So…I haven’t really had a lot of time or mental energy to watch the usual drama fare, but I wanted to share a small selection from what I have been watching instead.
13th is a blistering, eloquent and painful presentation of post-Abolition Black history and the systematic criminalisation of Blackness since. It features the voices of prominent activists, writers and historians such as Angela Davis and Bryan Stevenson, and the fact that it is still 500% relevant to our present moment is a shameful tragedy.
The first time I watched Ava DuVernay’s award-winning documentary back when it released in 2016, it was like seeing history being ripped open by the belly and realising that actually it was a fat-suit of lies and selective facts, and it was the truth that climbed out. Though the specifics vary between the US and my own country, it lays bare the frameworks of an intentionally constructed, institutionalised racism, which makes it easier to recognise it in its more covert iterations, such as in the UK.
It’s an honestly chilling watch, in the way only unvarnished truth can be. Even if you’re not American, I think this film is absolutely essential viewing—and Netflix agrees, since they have made the entire film free to watch on youtube. (Also available are some full episodes of Explained, with Ava DuVernay’s Selma soon to follow.)
See You Yesterday
See You Yesterday is director Stefon Bristol’s first feature film, produced with his mentor Spike Lee. It’s a sobering homage to Trayvon Martin, and an examination of the mindless circumstances of his death. In the film, CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and her best friend Sebastian (Dante Crichlow) are science nerds who cook up a time machine for their school science project, but a tragedy sees them end up using it in a way they never imagined. It’s such a raw look at family, love, friendship and what we do when faced with loss, and even though it’s been a while since I’ve watched it, I still think about it and try to make sense, not just of what happened, but what choices a set of unacceptable circumstances leave you with. And that’s the core of it, really, isn’t it? Looking for sense in the senseless.
But: THIS is how you make a time-travel film. To go K-drama for a moment, if you were ever a fan of Signal, you should watch this. Just like Signal presented as a time travel thriller, but is actually about power, corruption, lives that don’t matter and the price of justice, so is See You Yesterday.
Talk Shows and Videos
Trevor Noah on George Floyd, the Minneapolis Protests, Ahmaud Arbery & Amy Cooper
YouTube-cruising and the discomfitingly eerie accuracy of its algorithm has actually brought some really excellent videos to my feed. It has been strange seeing late night show hosts break down into tears, but the piercing commentary and grave silences of Trevor Noah, from his undecorated, socially distanced edition of The Daily Show, spoke to me more.
In case you somehow missed the Amy Cooper incident (which I find hard to believe, but still), here is Baratunde Thurston, author of How to be Black, on Amy Cooper and the power of white supremacy, offering a solid gameplan on how not to be an Amy.
Patriot Act: We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd
Hasan Minhaj does a Patriot Act special, addressing his own fellow brown folk and tells them not to be racist and not to be complicit, and calls our communities out on being willing to align with Blackness only when it benefits them. It’s the most angry and impassioned I’ve ever seen him, and you know, for all his big talk, he’s a chill bro. But not for this.
For Muslims specifically, Sheikh Omar Suleiman also did a similar callout even before recent events: Meaningful Solidarity, on recognising what American Islam owes to the Black community, and how to be allies and not oppressors. Same points as Hasan, but less swearing, more hadith, lol.
Want To Understand Why Racism Won’t Go Away
You know, the image of Russell Brand lounging in a simple tunic, somewhat bare-chested—a bit anorexic Jesus?—is hardly one to take seriously, but I’ve learned this man has a razorblade of an intellect. He has a way of getting to the heart of an issue and asking very good questions, to which his guest Kehinde Andrews, Professor of Black Studies at a UK university, gives some deep answers, and describes the connection between colonialism/empire, racism and capitalism.
Robin DiAngelo on “White Fragility”
You can believe I hesitated (feared, even) to include this one because I’ve been programmed my whole life not to make (white) people—and by extension, myself—uncomfortable. But here is a real moment for change, and damn we need it too much for me to worry about how uncomfortable I or you or anyone else feels. So please start that journey of self-awareness, dear readers who are white, and embrace your discomfort. You can do it! Fighting!
George the Poet on youth violence, representation, and limitations of government
I admit I hadn’t heard of George the Poet until my (younger, more hip) sister sent me some videos. George has an award-winning podcast, ‘Have You Heard George’s Podcast’, that examines social injustice. In this interview, he overturns within minutes just about every stereotype that traps a young black man. His sharp intelligence comes wrapped in a poetic diction, with nothing vague or unformed about his thoughts. He talks about rage and disadvantage, and how he made the decision to go to battle for his own fate. This interview is more about everyday and immediate realities of being Black in a white world, and as an inner-city Londoner who grew up in very similar circumstances, there’s a lot that resonates with me personally. I wish so much that more voices like this could rise, instead of suffocating in the pigeonhole of “ethnic” or “fashionably topical”.
Bryan Stevenson: There’s a Direct Line From Lynching to George Floyd
Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy (the book that was the source material for the film adaptation Anisa writes about above), is a voice of utter clarity and his account of how the machinery of racial oppression was put into place is as disturbing as it gets. He covers a lot of ground on how the government broke the contract with black people in its carefully hidden commitment to white supremacy. The more I learn, the angrier I am about what I was (not) taught in school. And you should be, too.
But not angry without end. To quote Bryan himself: “We cannot succeed if we become hopeless. Hopelessness is the enemy of justice.”
You can also listen to his TED talk, We need to talk about an injustice.
Spotlight on some amazing Black YA authors, by our friend Sara
How Much Do We Need the Police, an interview with Alex S. Vitale, author of The End of Policing
Today, Yesterday and Always, Anisa’s reflection on how Asian Americans can do better about recognizing and combating anti-Blackness in our communities