It’s Showtime

It seems like Showtime’s The Chi just premiered yesterday and now the season finale is upon us. When I first heard about the show, I was hype af to tune in because one of my favorite names in Hollywood, Lena Waithe, was the brains behind the show. But I’ve stayed loyal for nine episodes because I’ve fallen in love with a place and with people who are just trying to make it through their day like everybody else.

Kevin, Jake, and Poppa

(right, left, and center)

This group of guys has really grown on me since the first episode. We knew Kevin would be close to the action after the first episode, but the way his two bros, Jake and Poppa, have grown this season has been interesting to watch. Poppa is my fav, a true renaissance man. He’s got the moves, he whittles, and when it comes down to it, he’s a true blue friend.

Jake, Jake, Jake. So young, so misguided, so foolish and the sad thing is, he can’t even help it because his only guardian, his brother, Reg, is just as misled as he is. His boys are trying their best to look out for him but he might just be a little too hard headed to listen.

The Block Boys

Trice: Lieutenant

Trice is established as the HNIC early in the season. Trice’s block is the center of the action of The Chi. In many ways he’s your typical dope boy: flashy clothes, nice car, intimidating but he also likes yoga and apple juice.

Reg: Commanding Officer

Reg might not be my favorite character but as is the case most times, once you get to know him, you can at least begin to understand where he’s coming from. With a dad doing a bid in prison, an absentee mom, and a little brother to look after, that pressure would drive any well-meaning person to desperation.

The Outliers

Ronnie

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What we know of Ronnie from the first episode is that 1) He and Tracy (Jason’s mom) used to talk and refers to Jason as his son on several occasions. For this whole season, Ronnie’s been on a mission to get to the bottom of Jason’s murder, but he just might get himself killed in the process.

Emmett

If you’ve been following the season, Emmett is not the irresponsible, teen father we met in the first episode. He’s still got three baby mommas but when he’s forced to deal with the reality of having a child, after a baby is literally left on his doorstep, he begins to show signs that he has potential to make a great dad someday.

Brandon

The definition of a good kid in a mad city, Brandon, played by Jason Mitchel aka Easy E, is really a light in a dark situation. He’s just lost his brother Coogie, but he can’t let that stop him. Fuck a piece of the pie, he just wants his own thing, but no matter how much he tries to stay out of trouble, it seems to find him anyway.

Quentin aka Q: OG

Q’s back and no one knows why but everybody’s on guard. We don’t know much about Q when he’s introduced other than he used to run the block that Trice now runs and he doesn’t like what he sees.

The Mothers

The women in this show are phenomenal. This show is really a testament to the strength of black women and the integral ways that they hold entire communities together.

Jada: Emmett’s mother

Jada was my favorite from episode one. Not only does she lay down the law when it comes to her knuckle-head son, she’s resourceful, caring, and funny.

LaVerne: Brandon’s mother

Having just lost her son, LaVerne is just trying to start fresh but her biggest challenge is her own son, Brandon. She’s simply doing her best to hold her head up as she goes through the unimaginable reality where her youngest son, Coogie, isn’t with her.

Tracy: Jason’s mother

The murder of Jason Roxboro is the point of entry for the series and the woman left to deal with the fall out is Tracy Roxboro, his mother. She wants answers but has none. She’s searching for

Nina: Kevin’s mother

C’Mon LGBTQ representation! Though Kevin’s moms don’t make many appearances, it is understood that Kevin has two moms. Nina, the woman who birthed him and Karen, his mother’s partner. More than anything, their portrayal on screen goes to show that same sex partners are just as capable of raising smart, well-rounded kids as anyone else.

Ms. Ethel: Ronnie’s grandmother

The only silver lining in Ronnie’s life. She’s the only person that Ronnie’s got left and he looks after her best he can. Ms. Ethel is something of a moral compass for Ronnie, and though he takes the scenic route (i.e the entire season) to get there, he ultimately does right by her and as a result, everyone else in the neighborhood who he’s wronged.

This show is one of the most well-written, well-cast, and straight up well-done shows on television right now. It’s new, it’s refreshing and exciting. For people like me, who grew up in the South and only know of Chicago what I’ve seen on the news, this show is important.

A bullet doesn’t just hit the person it’s aimed at. It hits their families, friends, and community and alters their trajectories forever.

The Chi was renewed for another season earlier this year and I cannot wait to see where these stories go and how these characters continue to grow and evolve. As for season one, we’ve only got one more episode to try and put the rest of the pieces together. Last week’s episode gave us some answers, including who murdered Jason but the fallout of that initial murder has yet to be resolved. It’s been a stand out season for Lena Waithe and The Chi, and regardless of how it ends tonight, they’re just getting warmed up.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

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Today in Black History, I’m honoring Lena Waithe.

Lena’s name first came to my knowing back in 2014 during press for Dear White People, the movie. I was deep into Tumblr back then and there was a lot of buzz around the movie. I watched every interview with Justin Simien that I could find. I was just stunned to see a black guy who wrote and directed his own movie that wasn’t Spike Lee. Justin dropped the name Lena Waithe as someone who was instrumental to getting DWP made in a few interviews before I was compelled to do some research.

Lena Waithe’s been doing her thing for a good while now. She produced for Justin Simien, she’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Gina Prince Bythewood and Ava DuVernay, and now she’s out here leading her own projects.

I remember watching the pilot for “Twenties” on YouTube back in my freshman year of college and thinking “I’d like to see more.” Now three years later, TBS has picked the show up for a fully realized first season. Talk about full circle.

Her “Thanksgiving” episode in the second season of Master of None was groundbreaking. It was the story of her character Denise’s coming out to her mother. Lena later revealed in interviews that she drew on her own coming out story as she was writing that episode.

This episode went on to put everybody else who watched it in their feels and Lena won an Emmy for the episode last year for comedic writing, making her the first black woman to do so. Goals.

Now, she’s at the helm of the Showtime Original, The Chi, which is some damn good television if I do say so myself.

Being from the South, I’ve heard about the situation in Chicago primarily through social media. Artists like Chance the Rapper, who hail from the city, have also shed light on the reality of living in Chicago, specifically the Southside, and the paranoia and violence that plague the youth of that environment.

What’s happening in Chicago is ultimately indicative of discriminatory housing policies targeted at communities of color in inner cities all over the country. But of course, this is a more informed and nuanced understanding of what’s happening in the city of Chicago. Mainstream media will tell you that black folks are just violent and senselessly killing each other just because. To this point, Spike Lee took a particularly tone deaf approach to this very issue with his film, Chi-raq, portraying an oversimplified, bloods-vs-crips example of gang relations. The film caught series backlash from Chicago natives and activists.

But Lena Waithe pays homage to her city in a beautiful, nuanced display of real people living real lives with real problems. Her characters are not static stereotypes of the people of Chicago. Brandon could easily be my brother, Poppa, Jake, and Kevin, my little cousins. Even the dope boys that run the block seem sympathetic at times.

This show is simply amazing!

On top of all this, Lena will be starring in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, coming to theaters on March 29th.

It’s like she doesn’t sleep, y’all.

Lena is my friend in my head. As someone out here doing what I want to do with my career in the future, she is just a well of inspiration. Not only does she just  make consistently good content, she’s a queer, black woman in Hollywood who’s kicking ass and taking names. With every move she makes, she is showing me and young, black creatives all over the world that we have the power to tell our own stories and change the paradigms of what content can do.

I’ve gushed enough. Lena, if you ever read this, I love you forreal. You’re an inspiration, sis.

Lena Waithe is black history in the making.

 

Er’Body Black

I neglected (unknowingly) to mention another show in a previous post.

Lena Waithe’s been on my radar for a while now. From back when Dear White People, the movie dropped. I only knew her to be a producer and later found out through my research into Justin Simeon’s career, that she was also a writer and had made a show called 20s.

Then she pops up again with Aziz Ansari on Master of None and wins an Emmy for her Thanksgiving episode.

Not to mention, she’s been putting in work for a while now behind folks like Gina Prince Bythewood and Ava DuVernay.

Long story short: My bitch is on fye.

The this dropped about a month ago:

Yes, yes, y’all. Lena Waithe’s The Chi is coming to Showtime next year and it looks damn promising.

I’m really excited to see Jason Mitchell in a leading roll. Mitchell is most known to me for playing the hell out of Eazy E in Straight Outta Compton. He bodied that roll. His performance in the Netflix original, Mudbound, was phenomenal as well.

Showtime released the first episode of the series earlier this week and I’m hooked.

Prediction: This will be another stand out year for television. I’ll be rooting for everybody black. Lena Waithe. Justin Simien, Ava DuVernay, Issa Rae, Donald Glover – they’re really proving themselves to be vanguards of this revolution in television and film. Even during one of the darkest hours in American history, they’re here to let you know that one monkey ain’t gone stop the show.

And that’s black excellence.