What Black History Month Programming Is On Demand?February 02, 2012

What Black History Month Programming Is On Demand?

Media savant T Tara Turk goes deep inside cable TV to reveal Video On Demand's Hidden Gems so even the busiest of our readers can get the most out of On Demand TV. Tell Tara what VOD shows you think deserves her attention.


Black History Month - On Demand

By T. Tara Turk


I generally celebrate being black 365 days a year since, well, I’m black and that’s who I am. But having a designated (albeit short) month to celebrate usually calls for the customary cards, parades, and customized television program on some channels. The TV part is my favorite because then we get to peruse some classics that usually go unnoticed in mainstream “Best Of” lists since some tend not to think outside of the regular classics box.

If you’re in the mood to add some culture to your February or you just want to take a dance down memory lane, I found a few titles available on Black Cinema on Xfinity On Demand this month that may help.

For the Beginner:

ROOTS: THE MINI SERIES - One of the most popular mini series of all time. Pre-dvr/vhs/on demand days, folks would actually plan their TV week with TV Guide and this was one series that scored high ratings across the board in the 1970s. And, since we’re spanning the first few hundred years of slavery, every black actor in Hollywood was able to get a job. -

RAY - Jamie Foxx appears to have an out of body experience playing famed musician Ray Charles. This performance was so good, Jamie continued to channel Ray in a Kanye West song. But seriously, not many people know the story of Ray Charles but most seem to benefit from it.

THE COLOR PURPLE - I don’t have a group of friends in my life that doesn’t, in some way, quote from this movie. While Alice Walker’s book about a black girl in the south who grows up beyond expectations touched so many lives, the movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, mad a lasting impression with its stellar cast which includes Danny Glover, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery and the late great Adolph Caeser.

MALCOLM X - For a long time, Malcolm was and has been misunderstood as a minister of hate but thanks to Spike Lee’s epic production and the genius of Denzel Washington, this should shed some light on the life of Malcolm while being hugely entertaining to watch.

DREAMGIRLS - Who doesn’t love a little retro glamour, a little heartbreak and some amazing singing from the likes of Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx,Anoki Rose and - GASP - Eddie Murphy! The long running Broadway story rumored to based on Diana Ross and the Supremes, finally made a huge dent at the box office and came away with a few Grammy nods.

For the Experienced:


THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND - Before this movie, you had to be an avid news watcher or historian to know who Idi Amin was. His atrocities towards the country of Uganda are played out in this remarkable movie with the performances of James MacAvoy and Forest Whitaker. MacAvoy plays Amin’s (Whitaker) personal physician and recounts the horrors he witnesses during Amin’s reign.

BIGGIE & TUPAC - Nick Broomfield’s doucumentaries always go a step further as he’s able to use his foreigner status as somewhat of a calling card to step into the stories he is interested in. In this documentary, Broomfield investigates two of the most impressionable murders in the hip hop community, that of Notorious BIG and Tupac Shakur, and how they related to one another.

THE LOVING STORY - Hard to believe that in 1958 it was illegal for a white person to marry a black person but it’s indeed true and this documentary captures the life of the couple who dared to break the law to marry each other. Richard Loving, white, and his wife, Mildred, black, had their marriage decreed illegal by the state of Virginia but they fought back.

For the Aficionado:

- Comprised of a ridiculously amazing soundtrack (courtesy of Questlove from The Roots) and lost footage from a 1970s Swedish news expedition, this documentary captures the raw and heightened emotion of what it meant to be black and culturally conscious after the Vietnam War.

BE INSPIRED: THE LIFE OF HEAVY D - Many hip hop fans are still in shock about the recent loss of one the most positive, prolific and talented rappers we ever came across. It was rare to find a rapper who could make us happily dance, sing, rap and learn at the same time.

A SOLDIER’S STORY - Long before Redtails and the like, Denzel Washington, late greats Howard Rollins and Adolph Caseser, Robert Townsend, Pattie Labelle and a young David Alan Grier. The story is of an Army investigator sent to look into the murder of a black sargent at the end of World War II. Originally a play, this 1984 film is absolutely one of the high standards of black historical military story telling.

GET ON THE BUS - The Million Man March seems ages ago but I remember it being a BIG deal not just with political-minded black men but black men of all backgrounds. Spike Lee takes this monumental national event and focuses on one group of black men, all vastly different, on one bus as they head to the March. Emotional, funny and entertaining, this is probably one of the best ways to view a situation some will never encounter.

This list is a small sample in a sea of amazing picks to choose from. One of the bonuses of modern progress is that we are seeing a great many types of shows and films from so many different cultures on a day to day basis that the need for special programming, while still important, is becoming less vital or critical.

Additional Black History programming can be found on the Diversity On Demand Initiative with Facebook (www.facebook.com/DiversityOnDemand). "Like" the page for programming updates and links to trailers and be alerted to various entertainment and blogger giveaways during the promotion.


This will be an online destination where anyone interested in multicultural shows and movies can join to engage with others in the community, and learn more about what Diversity on Demand has to offer. If you’ve been dying to catch up on Braxton Family Values, some docs about the Tuskegee Airman or Lena Baker and a few features, this is your chance.

You officially have several more chances to up your cool factor during the month of February. You’re welcome.

- T. Tara Turk

T. Tara Turk is a novelist/playwright/screenwriter, living in LA with her boyfriend and dog - all three successful TV addicts. You can find her at www.ttaraturk.com or follow her on Twitter @ttaraturk.
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