Explaining Beyoncé’s public performance of pregnancy and motherhood Reclaiming a positive image for black women amid a history of degradation and slander

They’re here!

Finally, really and truly here — according to news reports.

By “they,” of course, we mean Beyoncé and Jay Z’s twins.

For months, we’ve been lapping up whatever dribbles of details we could find about Queen Bey and her pregnancy, dining on a steady diet of Instagram posts and public appearances as her belly kept growing with two more heirs to the Knowles-Carter empire. And true to form, Beyoncé took the opportunity to give us a spectacle laden with meaning.

Perhaps the most significant thing about Beyoncé’s decisions about how her pregnant body would be publicly displayed was her understanding that no one can define themselves by a series of negatives. Black womanhood and black motherhood are always performed in minute-by-minute assertions, and that doesn’t become any less true if you are married, or wealthy, or well-educated. Just ask Michelle Obama.

It’s not enough to say “We’re not welfare queens or breeding wenches or “subfeminine,’ ” to use Eldridge Cleaver’s word. Telling society what you are not is not the same as defining what you are, as evidenced by the efforts of black clubwomen in the early 20th century. Thanks to, as Mary Church Terrell wrote, “false accusations and malicious slanders circulated against them constantly, both by the press and by the direct descendants of those who in years past were responsible for the moral degradation of their female slaves,” black women learned to present themselves as largely asexual to counter prevailing images of themselves as wanton Jezebels. It’s a legacy that’s continued to affect how we see black women, into the 21st century, as we’ve learned that sexual respectability politicking is just as confining as stereotypes that defined black women as irredeemably lustful.

Rather than be pigeonholed, Beyoncé used her second pregnancy to position herself, and by extension black womanhood at large, as the center of life.


Of course it was all connected.

It turned out that the Feb. 1 Instagram announcement of twins and the library of maternity photos released on her website were a harbinger of what was to come at the Grammys less than two weeks later. A club flyer, if you will.

With her last two albums, it’s clear Beyoncé has become wedded to the idea of letting her work communicate in the aggregate. The whole speaks louder, more concretely, and more decisively than any one individual element. That doesn’t apply just to her music, or the music videos (Beyoncé) or cinematic offerings (Lemonade) paired with it. Beyoncé boasts an unparalleled skill in stretching her artistic statements into multipronged events, taking full advantage of the internet, her performances and even step-and-repeat photo ops to present a consistent narrative.

“I think she was giving us a different vision of what black children’s futures could be.”

Her Grammys performance was a continuation of what Beyoncé was already aiming to communicate with her pregnancy announcement, through a series of photographs that had been art-directed and contemplated quite deeply. Looking back, it now seems like the most visible chapter in a highly curated story: how Beyoncé was not only embracing pregnancy and motherhood, but providing new fodder for what it means.

While some rightfully detected traces of Peter Paul Rubens’ many works depicting the Madonna and child in Beyoncé’s explosion of florals, the kitschy, Sears portrait gallery nature of the photographs referenced something else: the provocative, radical appropriating element of a Kehinde Wiley portrait.

Wiley is known for painting black people in a style that references the old masters, elevating ordinary modern black people to the status of nobility by immortalizing them in the same mythmaking environs as lionized white historical figures. With her maternity photos, and at the Grammys, Beyoncé elected to do the same.

At first glance, Beyoncé’s decision to channel Wiley seemed incongruous. She’s not ordinary at all. This is a woman who is known not just as a mononym but as Queen Bey, and for a time King Bey.

Why install yourself like the subjects Wiley recruits off the street when you’re a woman with the power to turn a man into a “black Bill Gates”? Quite simply, Beyoncé was tapping into a pop cultural black populism. She took the subtext of Lemonade and made it plain with the speech she gave upon accepting the Grammy for best urban contemporary album. In it, she aligned herself with and understood herself to be a stand-in for all black women, especially American black women.

“We all experience pain and loss, and often we become inaudible,” she said. “My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history. To confront issues that make us uncomfortable. … This is something I want for every child of every race, and I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes.”

Instagram Photo

Instagram Photo

This might have been surprising if you only paid glancing attention to Lemonade, and took it as Beyoncé giving a public middle finger to her husband for cheating on her with Becky with the good hair. But the gossip was a lure for a deeper message.

Remember, the Lemonade film included the Mothers of the Movement: Sybrina Fulton, Gwen Carr and Lezley McSpadden, better known as the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, respectively. And so, on the night when Beyoncé was recognized for her work, her decision to depict herself as the madonna, as a multitudinous, many-armed deity, and as the orisha Oshun, was a decision to offer herself as a vessel for black women’s self-love. It was Beyoncé’s way of marrying the messages within Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and Boris Gardiner’s “Every N—- is a Star.”

Three years ago, Beyoncé opened the Grammys with a steamy performance of “Drunk in Love.” Seated on a French cafe chair, she writhed and vamped in fishnets and a black sheer leotard, exulting in the bliss of hot marital sexytimes, eventually joined by her husband. A British newspaper, Metro UK, responded with a headline spitting fire and judgment: “ ‘Whore’ Beyoncé angers parents with raunchy act.”

For Beyoncé to then align herself, and by proxy, black women as a whole, with the iconography of the madonna was significant. When you consider that she did so after releasing a self-titled visual album that was a frank celebration of sex, it’s explosive. Even on Beyoncé, released in 2013, the singer was toying with imagery of the Pietà, casting herself as Mary and a black man as the fallen Christ in the video for “Mine.”

Beyonce portraying “Mary” in the “Mine” video


As with just about everything she does publicly, Beyoncé takes basic ideas and remixes them to great effect to suit her own needs. So of course she did it with a public pregnancy, too. Beyoncé’s pregnancy was political because black women’s bodies are laden with politics, whether we want them to be or not. Such is the burden of history.

Government has long sought to define and characterize black motherhood for its own ends. There are the “greatest hits” we all know and detest, such as legally defining black women as unrapeable in service of a “capitalized womb,” or determining that babies born to enslaved women inherited the status of free or enslaved from their mothers. There’s the Moynihan report’s prescription that black women’s achievement needed to be impeded in service to black men, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan’s use of the mythical welfare queen as a scapegoat, and even former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s attempt to characterize the Affordable Care Act, with its provisions for free birth control and well woman exams, as a governmental “Uncle Sugar” enabling the actions of wanton, morally bankrupt women.

But attacks on black motherhood have also manifested in the form of attacks on their children, something that was visceral in Beyoncé’s inclusion of the Mothers of the Movement in Lemonade. Beyoncé communicated that there was no space between herself and these women. She is the mother of a black child, subject to the same dangers resulting from white fear and white supremacy. There’s no daylight between Beyoncé and, more recently, Diamond Reynolds, the woman whose partner, Philando Castile, was shot to death by a police officer during a traffic stop, in front of her young daughter, who was seated in the back of the car.

It was Beyoncé’s way of marrying the messages within Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and Boris Gardiner’s “Every N—– is a Star.

But while Lemonade, with its opening salvo of “Formation,” references modern attacks on black children and black motherhood, the fear black mothers harbor runs deeper than the past few years. It spans generations. Perhaps no such attack drives that point home like the gruesome 1918 lynching of Mary Turner and her unborn child in Brooks County, Georgia.

After a black man shot and killed a white plantation owner, a lynch mob murdered Turner’s husband as part of a rampage of terrorism and revenge. Turner, 21 years old and eight months pregnant, had the temerity to protest. Upon learning that Turner intended to seek legal recourse for her husband’s murder, the mob came for her.

According to The Mary Turner Project, a Georgia educational collective dedicated to preserving her memory, “ … at Folsom’s Bridge the mob tied Mary Turner by her ankles, hung her upside down from a tree, poured gasoline on her and burned off her clothes. One member of the mob then cut her stomach open and her unborn child dropped to the ground where it was reportedly stomped on and crushed by a member of the mob. Her body was then riddled with gunfire from the mob. Later that night she and her baby were buried ten feet away from where they were murdered. The makeshift grave was marked with only a ‘whiskey bottle’ with a ‘cigar’ stuffed in its neck.”

Simply terrorizing Turner was not enough. It wasn’t just that her husband was considered a threat — so was she, and the black child she surely would have imbued with a sense of justice and liberty had they lived.

Lemonade is partly about defiance and resilience. And arguably, there’s no greater show of defiance than making the decision to bring a black child into this world and shower it with love and pride and joy, knowing the hostility that awaits her or him.

The legacy of our society’s anxiety toward black female bodies are evident in the work of Beyoncé’s artistic predecessors. After Beyoncé’s Grammy performance, Vanessa Williams tweeted, “They never showed my pregnant belly when I sang my nominated “Save the Best for Last” — Oh how times have changed! Kudos Beyoncé!” The vision of a conservatively clothed, pregnant Williams was apparently too controversial for the Grammys in 1993, two years after Demi Moore appeared nude and pregnant on the cover of Vanity Fair.

In her 2003 memoir Chaka! Through the Fire, Khan revealed the angst of male record company executives who worried that her sex appeal would vanish because of a C-section scar cutting its way across her belly.

So what is there to do? How do you find a way to be celebratory instead of huddling in fear? Khan responded by continuing to perform in her trademark itty-bitty stagewear, exposed scar and all. If you’re Beyoncé, you bring the house down at the Grammys. If you’re Erykah Badu, you start ushering in black life.

While there are few public images of Badu pregnant with her children, Seven, Mars or Puma, she appeared in the September 2011 issue of People in a photograph that accompanied a story detailing her work as a doula — a service she provides for free to pregnant mothers, subsidized by her financial success as singer.

Badu appeared with her hair parted in the center. It flows in waves down her shoulders and over her breasts. She’s dressed in a loose-fitting white caftan, accessorized with a long, gold beaded necklace and rings of various sizes on both hands. In her arms, she’s cradling a nude black baby, Marley Jae Taylor, then 2 weeks old, whom she delivered. She’s standing in the middle of a Dallas field, surrounded by tall grass that appears to have parted for her. She called herself the “welcoming committee.”


The Grammys may have been the high point for audience numbers — it was more accessible on network television than Lemonade was on HBO — but Beyoncé’s pregnancy messaging apparatus continued to churn with her public appearances with daughter Blue Ivy and Jay Z at NBA games, when she and Blue Ivy showed up to the premiere of Beauty and the Beast or celebrated Mother’s Day dressed in the high-fashion equivalent of Mommy-and-Me togs.

Instagram Photo

All those images of black fertility and black motherhood rippled across the internet to reinforce the ideas first introduced with Lemonade — and then were reintroduced at the Grammys when Beyoncé deliberately lingered on a line from poet Warsan Shire about the “hips” that “crack” from giving birth.

Even the pink tuxedo Blue Ivy wore communicated a vision of black girl power. When her mother wants to convey messages about female power, she tends to revisit variations on menswear. She did it in the stagewear for her performance of “Love on Top” announcing her first pregnancy. It’s an element in the music videos for “Suga Mama,” “Upgrade You,” and “Haunted,” all of which feature Beyoncé playing with the idea of gender roles.

Blue Ivy Carter and Jay Z during The 59th GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on February 12, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

At the Grammys, Beyoncé, who endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president with a performance in which she and all of her backup dancers wore pantsuits, seemed to echo the most memorable notes of Clinton’s postelection concession speech: “Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world,” Clinton told the little girls of America on Nov. 9.

As she delivered an acceptance and concession speech of her own (if you choose to believe, as I do, that Beyoncé knew before the Grammys that she wouldn’t win Album of the Year), the singer had a similar message.

“It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror — first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys — and see themselves and have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent and capable,” she said, again becoming a megaphone for the desires of all black mothers.

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault mistrial was as much about power as it was about rape Cosby’s silence speaks of his wholesale betrayal

If you ever needed proof that rape is as much about power as it is about sex, a Pennsylvania courtroom just handed it to you. On the day that Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case was declared a mistrial, his spokesperson Andrew Wyatt came right out and proudly preached to the world, “Mr. Cosby’s power is back. It’s back. It has been restored.”

While the blind comedian stood behind him, Wyatt methodically explained, whether he knew so or not, exactly why misogyny and toxic masculinity keep scores of women from never reporting their attackers.

In the words of Huey P. Newton: “Power is the ability to defy phenomena, and make it act in a designed manner.” Wyatt then repeated it. After the aforementioned declaration of the return of Cosby’s power, he continued: “The legacy didn’t go anywhere, it has been restored.”

It’s impossible to forget any of the steps that got us here. The initial accusers. The payoffs. The subsequent accusers. The pound cake speech. Hannibal Buress. All the other shenanigans that Cosby’s lawyers tried to pull to make sure this very trial would never come to light.

Ultimately, Andrea Constand was allowed to confront her accuser and a jury simply couldn’t bring themselves to convict a man who legitimately admitted to violating her when she was unable to move. Cosby was so obsessed with his invasive conquests that he told his accuser’s own mother about what he did to her.

It’s hard to describe what happens to people when they get to control things. Most men live their whole lives not realizing how much opportunity and unjust right they are given to power. But when they get it, they believe they deserve it. Bill Cosby, apparently since the age of 11, has been consumed with controlling women. When he agreed to pay Constand’s school costs, as an offset for his actions, he insisted she maintain a 3.0 GPA. Even in admitting wrong, he had to have some level of say in her choices.

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” were the words of Lord Acton, the 19th-century British politician. Cosby’s world and mind were so incredibly corrupted that he didn’t even believe that what he was doing was wrong. Woven into the fabric of his existence is a world in which women were in his life for the purposes of being his sexual objects. Most men are taught to think this way. He thought this was OK. From the way he talks, as a man of power, he thought it was his right.

I don’t need a courtroom full of people to come to a decision for me to know that Cosby is a scumbag. That was clear ages ago. In a time in America in which the legal system is so obviously perverted toward the maintenance of patriarchal power structures, nobody on earth thought this man was going to be convicted.

The odd irony of the entire thing is that Cosby knows his spokesman is lying. His eyes are failing, not his mouth. He made a living with his voice but would rather let someone else do his bidding at this stage of life. It’s a very cruel twist on rape culture that he should be allowed to be silent when he spent so many years silencing dozens of women who cried out to be heard.

No one man should have all that power. But only men do.

In ‘Orange is the New Black’ season five, the show takes its darkest turn yet ‘Orange’ joins the ranks of shows and films that will come to define the Trump era despite being conceived before it

This article discusses the plot and details of the fifth season of Orange is the New Black in its entirety. Spoilers abound.

Remember the good ol’ days, when Orange is the New Black could insert itself into consideration for the comedy category of the Emmys and, despite its hourlong episode run time, such a move was considered reasonable?

Because after all, it was funny, with its satirical look at a specific type of clueless white liberalism — the kind that subsists on a steady diet of Whole Foods, goop and This American Life. We could all laugh at Piper Chapman’s (Taylor Schilling) naïve assumptions about what life would be like in a minimum-security prison and whom she would be able to trust. Orange is the New Black began as a show that ushered in breakout stardom for Laverne Cox and a national conversation about trans people and the injustices they face. It had a hopeful bent, one that whispered the possibility of one day being able to say, this is how life once was.

Granted, that world ceased to exist the moment Poussey Washington (Samira Wiley) was suffocated to death in a chokehold by a correctional officer at Litchfield in season four. Like the titular character of Poussey’s favorite book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we are down the rabbit hole now. Season five of Orange doesn’t soften the fall either. The inmates at Litchfield can’t see much beyond this time, time and more time behind their bars — any hope of this is how life once was has morphed into this is how life is and will continue to be, far, far further into the future than we ever imagined.

The world of Litchfield worsened considerably as the prison came under the management of MCA, the fictional private prison corporation modeled after the real-life Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Life at Litchfield was never ideal, but once it became a private prison, its crises metastasized thanks to poorly trained guards, many ex-military and all operating under the command of sadistic authoritarian Desi Piscatella (Brad William Henke). Piscatella makes Pornstache (Pablo Schreiber) look like a dancing, toothless bear by comparison: all fright and no bite. Piscatella’s zeal for punishing inmates was what led to the prison uprising in season four to begin with and the cafeteria standoff that resulted in Poussey’s death.

Season five is set during a prison riot that takes place over the course of three violent, chaotic, seemingly endless days. The ladies of Litchfield have taken over the place with the help of a gun, smuggled in by an inept guard known as Humps (Michael Torpey), who is concerned about prisoner retaliation and his personal safety in the wake of Poussey’s death.

The women take the guards hostage and issue demands, although it is the black women who want justice for Poussey who are the most heavily invested in using the riot to change conditions at Litchfield. For others, the first hours of prisoner freedom in Litchfield are a bacchanal. Some women institute a run on the commissary, the kitchen and the pharmacy, while others take the opportunity to simply walk around the campus in the nude, and still others revel in the ability to walk around drunk without fear of repercussions. Flaca (Jackie Cruz) and Maritza (Diane Guerrero) use the opportunity to become YouTube stars and grant makeovers.

After realizing the tampons, cheetos, and takis are a bribe from the governor, rather than an expression of good faith negotiation, the women set fire to them.

But Taystee (Danielle Brooks) and her deputies work to compile a list of the 10 most common requests from the 400 women in the prison:

  1. Fire the current guards and hire ones with proper training
  2. Reinstate the GED program
  3. Better health care (there’s a reference to an inmate who died after guards refused to hospitalize her even though her rotten tooth had gone septic)
  4. Conjugal visits
  5. Amnesty for rioters
  6. An end to solitary confinement and arbitrary cavity searches
  7. Equal treatment regardless of race or celebrity
  8. Internet access
  9. CO Bailey arrested and charged for Poussey’s murder
  10. Free tampons, hot Cheetos and Takis available in the commissary, and more nutritious food in the cafeteria

A couple of women, Red (Kate Mulgrew) and Blanca (Laura Gómez), realize the tactical advantage a prison riot affords them, and they start sifting through guard files in search of evidence that Piscatella is unfit to be working at Litchfield. It turns out they’re right — Piscatella left his last job at a men’s prison after he handcuffed an inmate in a shower and proceeded to scald him to death. Red and Blanca are aided in their mission with the help of pharmaceutical-grade speed, which one of the guards has been smuggling in and keeping in his locker in a bottle marked for energy-boosting vitamins — yet another symptom of Litchfield’s danger and dysfunction.

Despite the deplorable conditions that have led to the Litchfield riot, the writers of Orange is the New Black were not interested in creating pro-prisoner propaganda — far from it. One of the most disturbing aspects of this season is the depth to which it forces us to think about how easily power can corrupt individuals who see themselves as good or, at the very least, not as bad as their tormentors.

Alison (Amanda Stephen), Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore), and Taystee (Danielle Brooks) are committed to seeking justice for Poussey.

JoJo Whilden / Netflix

When inmate Dayanara “Daya” Diaz (Dascha Polanco) gains control of the prison after picking up Humps’ gun and shooting him in the leg with it, it doesn’t take long for the inmates to begin subjecting the guards to the same humiliating treatment they’re protesting. They force the guards to strip down to their underwear, then openly objectify and sexually harass them. When two meth heads get the gun after Daya loses it, they force the guards to amuse them with a talent show dubbed Litchfield Idol, in which one guard sucks up to his captors by going full Magic Mike to TLC’s “Red Light Special.” They force the guards to eat the same prison slop they’re fed day after day, and to relieve themselves in a communal bucket.

To replicate the cruel and unusual hellishness of solitary confinement, known as the SHU (Secured Housing Unit), Litchfield inmates throw the warden, Joe Caputo (Nick Sandow), into the “Poo”: essentially, solitary confinement in the prison’s outdoor porta-potties. The inmates’ actions echo revelations from the Stanford prison experiment and more recently in Mother Jones journalist Shane Bauer’s account of the four months he spent working in a CCA prison in Winnfield, Louisiana.

The worst part of Rogue Litchfield is the way it fails the most vulnerable inmates, namely Suzanne (Uzo Aduba) and Maureen (Emily Althaus), the two most severely mentally ill prisoners there. Suzanne suffers without her antipsychotics and without her regular troupe of protectors, who are busy negotiating the terms of a hostage release with the governor and his aides. Suzanne is left zip-tied to her bunk by the meth heads, who paint her face with baby powder and makeup. Maureen, who was in the infirmary after surviving a vicious lock-in-a-sock attack, will likely die. Her facial wounds are infected to the point of inducing delirium and fever.

Essentially, a private prison system motivated only by profit and shareholder greed created this dangerous environment for inmates and corrections officers alike. It’s what’s set off the chain of events that led to Poussey’s death, the riot, Humphries’ death, Maureen’s likely death and Piscatella’s vengeful spree of inmate kidnapping, scalping and torture.

There was always a moral imperative to Orange, even in its first season. It’s based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, the character on whom Chapman is based, and Kerman is a devoted and vocal advocate for prison reform. OITNB began as a show that had the radical audacity to make otherwise apathetic people question the prison-industrial complex. It added some drama and some sex and got us hooked. Along with Sunday mornings spent with Melissa Harris-Perry, Orange helped us arrive at a point where Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, could vault to intellectual superstardom, where notions of prison abolition began to work their way into the mainstream, and where @prisonculture became a must-follow account on Twitter. Orange began as a reflection of real-life horror stories that President Barack Obama’s administration and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers were at least trying to end with measures aimed at reforming the criminal justice system, such as rolling back mandatory minimum sentences. Obama remains the only sitting president to ever visit a federal prison.

Brad William Henke as Litchfield’s resident villain, Desi Piscatella.

Jojo Whilden/Netflix

But nothing is outrageous anymore. The most disturbing thing Orange could do in its fifth season, and what’s resulted in a show that’s not nearly as bingeable as its more lighthearted early fare, was explore the far-reaching implications of the private prison system’s greed-driven nihilism. Take, for example, the frightening real-life circumstance of one prisoner whom Bauer wrote about in Mother Jones: a man at Winnfield who lost his fingers and both legs to gangrene after officers refused to hospitalize him in an effort to save money because CCA is required to pick up hospital tabs. It’s entirely plausible that a prisoner could die of sepsis in Litchfield.

The most hyperbole OITNB inserted into the show was done by shooting an episode in which Piscatella has sneaked back into the prison in full riot gear as a horror movie, with Piscatella as the monster hunting down and snatching women one by one. After all, Piscatella’s murder-by-scalding shower was another instance of abuse ripped from the headlines — the real-life Florida prison guards who facilitated and oversaw Darren Rainey’s death weren’t even charged for it.

Orange is not the first drama to reveal the ugly underbelly of the carceral state. Don’t forget about Oz, which began airing in 1997 and practically required its viewers to watch from between their fingers, if they even managed to make it through all six seasons at all. But the tales Orange tells are all the more effective thanks to how easy it is to point to their corollaries in real life. Despite CCA’s best efforts to mask the goings-on inside its facilities, we know about them. It’s virtually impossible for the fictional circumstances of Litchfield to be more devastating than the truth of life at Winnfield Correctional and private prisons like it all over the country.

Like Get Out, Beatriz at Dinner, The Handmaid’s Tale and even the second season of Queen Sugar, the many horrors of the fifth season of Orange is the New Black will likely be remembered as emblematic of the Trump era, even though it was written and shot well before the nation swore in its 45th president, or even elected him. Now, the most nightmarish aspects of Orange reflect a reality that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is working to maintain and expand, by rescinding an Obama order ending federal use of private prisons and by revitalizing the drug war. It’s one in which a sheriff who presided over the torturous death of one inmate by dehydration and the repeated rape of another has been elevated to the position of assistant secretary within the Department of Homeland Security. The vision the Sessions Justice Department has for making America great again is precisely the one Orange is the New Black has revealed to be barbaric, dehumanizing, expensive and grossly ineffective.

The latest season of Orange forces us to ask ourselves if we’re still the country of Oprah-as-mentored-by-Maya-Angelou. The place that believes when you know better, you do better? Because we are post-Attica, post-Stanford prison experiment, post-Sandra Bland, post-60 Minutes expose on Pelican Bay. The Blacksonian, in part funded by Oprah herself, was built around one of the guard towers from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, so infamous is its role in American history. Angola is the Lucy in the evolutionary story linking slavery to modern-day mass incarceration, notorious for its long sentences, corruption and reliance on practices such as chain gangs and convict leasing.

Alison (Amanda Stephen), Taystee (Danielle Brooks), and Cindy (Adrienne C. Moore) strategize about what to do with Warden Caputo (Nick Sandow).

JoJo Whilden / Netflix

Part of the legacy of Orange is the New Black is helping us to know better. Because of it, we are able to imagine what life is like in the SHU, and why many consider it to be a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. It’s shown us the many obstacles for released prisoners that lead to skyrocketing rates of recidivism. We know that companies like Victoria’s Secret use prison labor, at a cost of mere cents per prisoner per hour, to manufacture those sexy skivvies we treasure so much. And, thanks to its past two seasons, we know the moral and human costs of treating prison as a corporate moneymaking enterprise rather than a rehabilitative one.

But even when faced with the shameful inhumanity of recent history, even as states such as Louisiana are taking steps toward criminal justice reform, the present and the near future seem to point to a dismal return to a reality we’d agreed was worth ending.

Niecy Nash’s ‘Claws’ is the future of television The veteran actor is flourishing in an unapologetic lane she created for herself

Niecy Nash is having a moment.

Finally. After 22 years of working in Hollywood. After hearing the kinds of feedback that would send even the most confident person into an emotional tailspin — Nash has the lead role in one of the most provocative summer TV series since … well, ever.

In TNT’s new Claws, Nash portrays Desna, the owner of a South Florida nail salon. There are so many sharp curves in the first few episodes, viewers will be grasping — and gagging — for air. The series comes to the network from a team of executive producers that includes Rashida Jones, and critics so far are impressed by Nash’s dramatic range.

“When I entered the business,” said the mom of three in her familiar and melodic voice, “I had challenges with people hiring me because I was chubby. ‘She has a cute face, can’t she lose weight?’ And, I’m like, ‘No, she can’t because she’s about to have three babies.’ The industry was very polite, but they told me: ‘You do sitcom. You’re a sitcom girl. That’s what you do, and that’s your range right over there.’ ”

So Carol Denise Nash worked. And she collected accolades like a daytime Emmy for Style Network’s Clean House (for which she was producer/host), and Emmy nominations in 2015 and 2016 for her role as Didi Ortley in HBO’s Getting On. Nash went after roles — such as her big breakthrough in Comedy Central’s Reno 911! — no one thought she should ever read for. And importantly, the Los Angeles native entered rooms with her head held high, and her self-esteem intact.

Niecy Nash in the show CLAWS

Wilson Webb/TNT

“That’s why it’s called self-esteem, and not them-esteem,” said Nash. “I didn’t need anybody to believe in what I felt like was the call of my life,” she said. “I didn’t need my father to believe it, I didn’t need my friends to believe it, I didn’t need the people who looked at me like,Oh, my God! You bringing three kids to audition? Yes, I sure am, and I’m gonna get it. Watch. Hashtag: Booked it.” She said she often felt bad when people wanted her to get her teeth fixed. But: “Nope, that gap ain’t going nowhere. Nope. Sorry. Too bad. I was unapologetically who I was.”


And now, in the midst of one of the most watched NBA Finals of all time, Nash’s new series, Claws, is premiering. The diverse cast of women she leads is hot with the type of badassery we’ve yet to see from Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James and his crew. “Maybe we could get some men who would never have watched the show otherwise,” said Nash of all of the Claws promos airing during the Finals. “They may be like, ‘What are they doin’ over there?’ We can invite them very politely to our party!”

Set to run at the tail end of this annual celebration of athletic masculinity, Claws is a series about women who go up against men in violent and bold ways. It’s a fantastic and rare dynamic. This is not a role that casting directors, years ago, would have brought Nash in to read for. But Claws — in which Nash rocks sexy looks boldly and unashamedly, and has intense sex scenes with a young lover — is exactly where she’s supposed to be. “She has the heart, and the soul,” said showrunner (and former ER and Criminal Minds producer) Janine Sherman Barrois, “and the humor.”

Niecy Nash in the show CLAWS

Wilson Webb/TNT

The show is a dark and twisted comedy centered on manicurists. Nash’s character is the owner of Nail Artisan of Manatee County salon, and she desperately wants to escape the temporary life of crime for which she’s signed up. She’s hoping for a cash payout that will allow her to take her nail business to the next level, but as these things go, that plan gets remixed. A life of crime ain’t going away anytime soon. Acrylic fill-ins and dope nail art be damned — it’s time for unexpected action in the money-laundering business. “You just don’t see women that are that strong, and provocative, and three-dimensional,” said Barrois. “Normally they’re archetypes. You just don’t see people that are this fierce. She’s everything women strive to be.”

“I didn’t need the people who looked at me like,Oh, my God! You bringing three kids to audition?’ Yes, I sure am, and I’m gonna get it. Watch. Hashtag: Booked it.”

The imagery of this series is powerful and striking. A black woman “of a certain age,” as Nash often says with a cackle, moves in and out of each scene in her tightly fitting, curve-accenting wardrobe, demanding to be heard on matters of all kinds. And she does all this with a diverse band of friends: a conservative ex-con white woman, a black and Asian vixen, a married white woman with two children (one of whom is a black daughter) and a lesbian Latina who drives her current lover so crazy that the lover is stalking her. “These type of characters don’t come along every day,” Nash said. “We’re doing things that typically have been reserved for a male storyline.”

The imagery behind this series is powerful, as well. Two women — Barrois, who is black, and Jones, who is biracial — are calling the shots. And everything from the writer’s room to the extras looks like the world that Barrois, Jones and their producing partners Eliot Laurence and Will McCormack live in.

“When we started casting,” Barrois said, “we wanted to — not in a contrived way, in a real way — show the human experience through five different women from five different walks of life. We believe that that’s real. We’re at a time right now where you’re seeing a lot of women and a lot of people of color in high positions. The more that happens, the more you’ll see more images change, and more stories reflecting that. It’s important. Our point of view is essential. When you have a multiethnic writer’s room, you have all different points of view coming into play.”

Niecy Nash in the show CLAWS

Wilson Webb/TNT

Being on set for this show is unlike anything Nash has experienced. And she loves every bit of it. “I am so tickled when I go to work and I see women leading the charge: Rashida Jones and Janine, and not too long ago we had Victoria Mahoney directing us, which was amazing. It is so completely delicious,” Nash said. “One of the girls who’s my stand-in on the show said to me, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this! I’ve never been a part of something where there are so many black women bossing everybody around!’ ”

Barrois remembers that day well. It was special for nearly everyone around. “That was a very moving day on set. I remember when we were walking across the set with Victoria, people — some stand-ins, some extras — came in and said, ‘You guys inspire me. This is inspiring.’ Because you saw a leading lady, you saw a showrunner, you saw a director, and you saw they were all black women. That’s huge. That’s huge! Mind-blowing,” Barrois said. “We’re trying to make it the norm. The more we normalize it, the more it will continue to happen.”

So perhaps it’s Hollywood that is actually having the moment? Perhaps the industry has caught up to what real people navigating life look like and this series is a direct response to it? “Whenever you’re a woman and you’re a person of color, you’re trying to move up the ladder. Those are the demons you are fighting with every day: being sort of undermined, being counted out and being told you can’t get something. That’s been a theme in my career, and I’ve always said [to] the people who told me no, I’m going to get a yes,” Barrois said. “There has to be some sort of inner belief that’s bigger than the societal belief.”

Nash certainly believes it so. It’s what has guided her all these years. “The three words I’ve always lived by, especially at the beginning of my career, were ‘No Matter What.’ Whatever the price was, I was willing to pay it because I believe what I believe,” Nash said. “And the most important thing for me right now is to continue to raise the bar to challenge myself. To challenge myself in this process. Just to continue to push myself in ways to say, ‘You can do this. You can do that. You can try this.’ ”

‘The Wopsters’ are coming Gucci Mane and Keyshia Ka’oir have a new reality show on BET

Instagram Photo

Considering the year he’s had, Gucci Mane’s life has to be pretty interesting at this point. His comeback star turn has reached epic proportions, and he’s been putting out music the entire time as well. Now, it could take another step toward the top.

On Monday, his fiancée, Keyshia Ka’oir, announced via Instagram that the two would be starring in a new series called The Wopsters on BET, leading up to their wedding on Oct. 17. And for as much as we’re looking forward to more Guwop, the real star here is Ka’oir. This could be the Hollywood come-up she’s deserved for some time. If you don’t know, she’s a serious entrepreneur who, when this all is said and done, can take full credit for Wop’s life now.

She’s a fitness entrepreneur who’s been at it for years. Her “link in bio” game crushes yours. In an era in which the hustle from wherever you are to celebrity is finally being rewarded for black women (see: Blac Chyna and my personal favorite, Cardi B), this should do wonders for Ka’oir. By the way, if you don’t know the full story of how they met or how they managed to keep things together while he was in jail, and how she got him home without a whole bunch of nonsense from cameras, read this. It’s excellent.

A famous black couple on television living healthy lifestyles and enjoying life? Yes, more of that please. And make sure that Zaytoven writes the theme song and plays at the wedding.

The worst-case scenario has developed on ‘The Bachelorette’ It’s clear the producers knew one of the contestants was a bigot because it’s a storyline

Nobody wanted this to happen. Everyone wanted to live in their own fun world of wine, petty beefs, past relationships coming back to haunt them, drunken outbursts in attempts at love and maybe some embarrassing physical challenges that in the end build character for everyone. Sure, it’s not REAL in the sense of Rachel ever going to have to, say, cover for a guy if his debit card doesn’t work on a date, but the emotion is at least feigned enough to get by.

What you don’t want is a situation where an outed bigot is clearly being given a platform to spew his nonsense and practice his weird fetishes of making others suffer via his manipulation. But once it was revealed through social media posts from not long ago that Lee was very much a jerk, the air was already out of the sails a tad. With Monday’s episode, you have no choice but to think that his sole purpose on the show was to effectively ruin the first season with a black woman as The Bachelorette.

We wanted Rachel Lindsay to be good enough for them to consider being able to get through this without some racist stunt just because. And even if it does turn out to be some long story arc of redemption for him, the slime factor is already there and it just feels like another black woman’s chance got mocked, just because they could.

Eric, who doesn’t deserve the vitriol the other guys are dishing out, was spot-on when he said that Lee had snake in his DNA. This kind of sneaky “not-racist-because-I’m-dating-a-black-girl” type of guy has been around since interracial dating became cool, and black girls have been dealing with it since. I’m sure the reason Rachel was crying at the end of this episode was because she realized that she let one of them into her midst.

Many black women have firsthand experience of this. It’s incredibly defeating to think the best of someone and be proven so dangerously wrong. It’s not an exaggeration — Lee is a dangerous guy. He’s the kind of guy who calls the cops on black kids playing outside because they might be a little too loud. The kind who disparages the “thugs” hustling on the corner while telling you how sexy your chocolate skin is, you Nubian queen. Lee is here to prove something to himself. This accusation is a cliché at this point, but for Lee it holds true: He’s not here for the right reasons, and the sooner Rachel figures that out the better, because it’s not fun to watch while he’s still in the running.

During scenes from the next show, this reared its ugly head. It became clear that Lee had turned his sights on Eric for reasons that had more to do with competition. In one clip, a contestant even had to pull him aside and say that calling black people “angry” has a very specific history in this nation, one that is split along racial lines. At one point Lee says that nothing makes him happier than “when I smile and an angry man gets angrier.” Gross.

It’s really a shame, too, because it happened right at the end, soiling the best episode of the season yet.


DeMario came back to beg for Rachel’s forgiveness. It didn’t go well.

Craig Sjodin/ABC via Getty Images

You might recall that at the end of the last episode, DeMario had decided to return to the house to ask for forgiveness and get back in. Rachel, out of curiosity, decided to hear him out. The guys of the house sort of gathered around to watch, and it felt superhokey even for this show.

Then something amazing happened. Rachel listened to him and heard his spiel, which really wasn’t much more than him trying to tweet through it after messing everything up with his girlfriend for blowing up his spot. Then, she told him in a firm but not mean manner that she appreciated his effort but if he’d come with this kind of honesty the first time he might still be there. Alas, he had to go.

DeMario CLEARLY did not expect to take that kind of L for the second time, never mind get dunked on. It was a great moment for fans across America who got to see The Bachelorette dismiss someone who obviously didn’t deserve to be there.

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After that was taken care of, we got to settle into a couple of dates that took us straight to the show’s sweet spot: the dates. Both group dates and the solo date were fun while being a tad ridiculous, which is why we’re all here. On the first one, they went to visit The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It started with Ellen and Rachel watching on a side screen while the lads went through security and Rachel gave her information about each of them. It was perfect.

Alex was the clear winner of the Ellen date, showing off the most moves and comfort with the crowd while showing off his twerk game, then being honest enough to admit he urinated in the pool at the mansion. Don’t worry, fam, we all do it. We just don’t talk about it. Then he talked nerdy to Rachel about eye contact science and ended up getting a well-deserved group-date rose.

The next date was a personal favorite. Rachel rode horses in Beverly Hills, California, with Anthony. Like just walking down the sidewalk. People were gawking and taking pictures, and students were screaming Rachel’s name out of school buses. It was the most ballerific thing we’ve ever seen on the show. They even rode the animals into actual stores, where one proceeded to defecate on the floor. It was an incredible scene.

We also got to learn a few things about Anthony, who came off as a genuinely serious dude when it comes to relationships. He didn’t try to play any sort of wounded fawn angle. He said straight up that he loves his family and looks to continue that tradition as a father, and it’s extremely important to him. She gave him a rose on the spot, and he even afterward was humble enough to admit that he was nervous about putting himself out there from an emotional standpoint, but he was rewarded for it. So much more refreshing than some “I had it in the bag the whole time” reply, which many dudes are wont to do.

The second group date was the best we’d seen on any iteration of this program in a while. With a group that included Kenny, an actual professional wrestler, they added a nice twist: more women. As we saw in the opening episode, Rachel brought along some friends from the Bachelor house where she competed. They all rode a party bus together and got to know each other better. She then fielded their advice when it came to analyzing the guys, which was smart.

You have to get dirty, you’ve got to win, and there’s a showmanship element. Nobody was too cool for school, and no one took it TOO seriously and decided to get crazy and mess up the bit. We can’t even recall who even won the rose, which tells you how entertaining the actual bit was.

Three good dates, three feel-good experiences.


But there were lowlights.

The first was Fred. In the Ellen date, during the “Never Have I Ever” portion, he revealed that he’d once slept with a woman twice his age. Not a smart thing to let loose when you’re already in a weird spot by trying to win the heart of your childhood camp counselor crush. Nobody wants to feel fetishized on national television, never mind till death do them part.

Secondly, he got in his feelings about the fact that he had yet to kiss Rachel after quite a few others had. “I’ve been waiting like 20 years to kiss her, man,” Fred said at one point. Which, coupled with the whole older woman thing, was just really creepy. After that, when he finally did get to sit down with her, he actually asked permission to kiss her, which was just weird in the context of a dating program. So when it finally happened, we were just grossed out by the clunky approach and execution. Fred, get your game together.

Then, we got to experience Rachel shining again. Instead of stringing him along after that shameful performance, she just let him go, telling him openly and honestly that she just didn’t feel the same way about him and there was nothing wrong with that. It was earnest and straightforward, and because they had an actual life connection beforehand she didn’t string him along or lead him on. In short, her classy breakup game is very on point. Bravo.

Lastly and mercifully, the story of Lucas (aka Whaboom) and Blake came to a glorious close. For as much as Whaboom made me laugh, it was clear he was just there to sell shirts, which was fine, except for the fact that Blake took exception to it. Why? Because he actually knows Lucas from real life, which is like showing up to college in the fall only to find out that the ONE person you couldn’t stand from high school is there too, and you’re pledging the same Greek organization.

They got into a spat that ended up going all the way up to Rachel, with Blake making the first move and focusing entirely too much on Lucas. When Whaboom was asked about it, he dropped some off-topic, offensive remarks about something Blake might have done while they were sleeping, and it was clear what Rachel was thinking: Y’all both gotta go. They did.

And in classic Bachelor drama, the two filmed their goodbye interviews with producers across the driveway from each other. Like Cam Newton walking away from his interview after the Super Bowl because he could hear an opponent boasting nearby, Blake got so agitated that he walked over to Whaboom’s stand-up shot and started to curse him out. They then began a rather childlike level of bickering. The sexual tension was off the charts. Clearly these two will be rooming together on the next Bachelor In Paradise. It has to happen.


We had fun this week, but we’re dreading the next episode. With a bigot looming in the mix, and clearly by design of the show, it’s shaping up to be the slimiest episode the franchise has ever seen.

Summer 2017 movies are full of melanin and just plain cool John Boyega, Rihanna, Kevin Hart, Kerry Washington and ‘Tupac’: an opinionated summer film guide

All that hot weather we’ve been wishing, hoping and praying for has finally arrived — so now it’s time to head indoors! Go ahead and pack your snacks — and stuff ’em far down in your purse: Summer movie (and blockbuster) season is upon us. A number of highly anticipated films are finally hitting the multiplex, and The Undefeated Culture team has you covered on which ones are worth ordering online in advance. Now, let’s all go to the movies!


Baywatch | May 25

Frank Masi/Paramount Pictures

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Seth Gordon

Featuring: Dwayne Johnson, Priyanka Chopra, Zac Efron, Ilfenesh Hadera

Baywatch? More like Baewatch, amirite? Either way, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new film surely will be an excellent introduction to summer blockbusters everywhere. At 45, and fresh off so much success of The Fate of the Furious that there’s talk of his own spinoff, Johnson is at his absolute best. He can do big-deal movie thrillers, premium cable TV shows, prime-time network sketch comedy or just about anything else he decides to take on. In this film, he brings David Hasselhoff’s beloved ’90s TV series to the big screen and teaches a new recruit (played by Efron) the tricks of the trade, all in the name of solving a big old criminal plot. We smell what’s cooking.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie | June 2

Studio: DreamWorks Animation and Scholastic Entertainment

Directed by: David Soren

Featuring: Kevin Hart, Jordan Peele, Ed Helms

Kevin Hart already took home an award for Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie — well, sort of. After the animated film’s late May premiere, Hart presented and jokingly accepted the award for “top collaboration” at the Billboard Music Awards with Underpants co-star Helms. In the film, based upon Dav Pilkey’s best-selling children’s novel series, Hart voices fourth-grader George Beard, who teams up with his best friend Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) to hypnotize their cruel school principal, Mr. Krupp (Helms), into believing he’s Captain Underpants, the hero of the comics that George and Harold write together. Peele follows up his critically acclaimed thriller Get Out as the voice of George and Harold’s nemesis: child prodigy Melvin Sneedly. Watch out, Despicable Me 3Captain Underpants might just be the best animated movie of the summer.

Wonder Woman | June 2

Studio: DC Entertainment

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Featuring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright

Some of us have been waiting for a Wonder Woman feature film since Lynda Carter twirled her way into superhero lore back in the ’70s. So, stakes is high (as De La Soul would say) for the first female-led film to flesh out the mythic story of Princess Diana since Jennifer Garner portrayed Elektra in 2005. Israeli actress Gal Gadot, best known for playing Gisele Yashar in the unstoppable Fast & Furious movie franchise, is the perfect behind-kicking, take-no-prisoners crime fighter.

The Mummy | June 9

Studio: K/O Paper Products and Sean Daniel Company

Directed by: Alex Kurtzman

Featuring: Courtney B. Vance, Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella

Courtney B. Vance continues to ride high on his Emmy-winning portrayal of famed attorney Johnnie Cochran in FX’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson. In Mummy month, Vance takes on his newest challenge, starring alongside Cruise, Wallis and Boutella in a reboot of the box office series that Brendan Fraser made an international success (and inspired a roller coaster!). Vance plays a colonel in the film.

All Eyez on Me | June 16

Studio: Morgan Creek Productions

Directed by: Benny Boom

Featuring: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Jamal Woolard, Danai Gurira, Jamie Hector

After years of setbacks and legal dramas, the life and times of Tupac Shakur will hit the big screen in one of the most anticipated films of the year. Shakur’s saga has been the subject of seemingly countless documentaries since his 1996 murder, including a highly anticipated Steve McQueen-directed doc, but Eyez ranks as the first time ’Pac’s story receives the biopic treatment. And, much like the man himself, the film doesn’t come without its share of controversy. Shakur’s family does not support the movie, according to sources. So it’ll be interesting to see how the depiction of rap’s most beloved martyr plays out.

Cars 3 | June 16

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Directed by: Brian Fee

Featuring: Kerry Washington, Owen Wilson, Tony Shalhoub, Chris Cooper

If you’ve got the kids with you, it’s probably best you don’t take them to see All Eyez On Me. However, variety is the spice of life, and while Kerry Washington is the proud mom of Isabelle, 2, and Caleb, 5 months, it’s going to be a while before they understand the significance of mom’s fabled role as Olivia Pope on ABC’s Scandal. That being said, it’s easy to imagine Mama Washington as very happy showing her kids her first animated role. She’ll be playing Natalie Certain. In her words, Certain is the “super-smarty-pants statistician” who “knows everything there is to know about the ins and outs of statistics when it comes to racing.” Vroom.

Transformers : The Last Knight | June 21

Studio: di Bonaventura Pictures and Hasbro Studios

Directed by: Michael Bay

Featuring: Tyrese, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan, Stanley Tucci

C’mon, son. Not another Transformers movie. This is the fifth installment of the series that debuted in 2007 with Shia LaBeouf in the lead. With Michael Bay in the director’s chair, these films are guaranteed to be action-packed, and people love them enough to have turned Transformers into a billion-dollar franchise. But, man, the plots of the past few movies have been absolute struggles, and now Mark Wahlberg is the main character. Meh. Will we go see Transformers: The Last Knight this summer? Probably. Only to support the homie Tyrese, though.

The Bad Batch | June 23

Studio: Annapurna Pictures and VICE Films

Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour

Featuring: Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Suki Waterhouse, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey

So there are cannibals. Yep. From the director of the buzzy “first Iranian vampire Western” emerges a film around a bunch of steroid-abusing weightlifters living in a camp based in what screams dystopian America. There’s a cult leader in another place called Comfort, and everything seems to be a comment on everything going on right now in real life. The film has been called “creepy … savage,” and if that’s your cup of tea, with Lisa Bonet’s husband Jason Momoa on deck as well, then your summer is already made.

Baby Driver | Aug. 11

Studio: Big Talk Productions, Working Title Films and Media Rights Capital

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Featuring: Tyrese, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan, Stanley Tucci

Yasssss to having a tiny bit of anticipation for this film: It’s been described as “an action movie … powered by music.” Prepare yourself for some laughs now, ’cause Driver — though Wright calls it “visceral, darker, more cynical” — is sure to spark an LOL or two or three. We haven’t seen Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey in the same film since Seth Gordon’s 2011 Horrible Bosses, and they had us cracking up, all up and through there. This action-packed “dark” comedy is the fix you need if you like fast cars, crime and humor. It involves a not-well-planned heist that could take a wrong turn at any time. The getaway driver is a kid named Baby who was browbeaten into working for the biggest boss (Spacey, not Rick Ross) in the crime business. Foxx plays the role of Bats, part of the crime crew.

Spider-Man: Homecoming | July 27

Studio: Marvel Studios

Directed by: Jon Watts

Featuring: Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei, Tom Holland, Zendaya, Michael Keaton, Hannibal Buress, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Garcelle Beauvais

Peter Parker just wants to be a normal kid. But we all know he can’t be because of a bite from a genetically modified gangster spider that gives him superhuman spidey qualities. We’re thrilled about this reboot because it’ll be far more multicultural than we’ve seen from this series before — joining the cast are Zendaya as the super-smart Michelle, Buress as a know-nothing gym teacher and Bokeem Woodbine as Shocker, a criminal who is going to give Spider-Man a run for his web. Also in this film are Garcelle Beauvais and Donald Glover. It’s lit!

Wish Upon | July 14

Studio: Busted Shark Productions

Directed by: John Leonetti

Featuring: Sydney Park, Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Sherilyn Fenn

Basically: a super-scary movie about being careful what you wish for. King, who was so great in 2013’s The Conjuring, gets seven wishes from her hoarder dad, and what had been a life of embarrassment and sadness is suddenly all gravy — until it isn’t. The Walking Dead’s Park (formerly of Nickelodeon’s Instant Mom) is in a classic best friend role.

Lady Macbeth | July 14

Studio: BBC Films

Director: William Oldroyd

Featuring: Cosmo Jarvis, Florence Pugh, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank

Having already made its way around the festival circuit to rave reviews, this film, set in Victorian England and focused clearly on “themes of abuse, violence, race and class,” is a summer thriller you can’t miss. Plus, it apparently has “more black characters than all the Austens and Downtons put together.” A racially ambiguous Cosmo Jarvis stars opposite his lover, lady of the house Florence Pugh. Naomi Ackie plays a maid, but this is not The Help. An adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, this film is noir-ish, it’s sexy and, perhaps most alluring of all, it’s quite the opposite of the typical, whitewashed 19th-century period film.

War for the Planet of the Apes | July 14

Studio: Chernin Entertainment

Director: Matt Reeves

Featuring: Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis

Break out your “Rest In Peace Harambe” T-shirts for this one. Our boy Harambe surely would’ve gone down swinging in the epic battle between apes and humans that will be depicted in July’s War for the Planet, the third installment of the Planet of the Apes reboot, which began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 and followed up with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014. It’s tough to pick sides between the apes, led by their intelligent king chimpanzee Caesar, and the humans, led by Col. McCullough, who’s played by the one and only Woody Harrelson. Harambe will be cheering on his homies from heaven.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets | July 21

Studio: EuropaCorp and Fundamental Films

Directed by: Luc Besson

Featuring: Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Herbie Hancock

If you’re into sci-fi flicks where groups of species live in perfect harmony appreciating diverse cultures and experiences until an antagonist threatens to destroy everything with a pulse, this one’s for you. As it relates to Rihanna? The “Needed Me” singer stars as a shape-shifting entertainer named Bubble, and director Luc Besson described her as a complete joy to work with. The futuristic thriller is just the latest in a growing thespian résumé for RihRih. She starred as Marion Crane in the final season of Bates Motel and has a leading role in the new Ocean’s Eleven all-ladies-everything adaptation, Ocean’s Eight.

Girls Trip | July 21

Studio: Will Packer Productions

Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee

Featuring: Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish

We’ve never seen black women on film like this before — sex-positive, carefree and ready for the turn-up. From producer extraordinaire Will Packer, four college friends reunite and head down to New Orleans for the Essence Festival seeking a much-needed reprieve from the melodramas of everyday life. The girls are on tilt: A lot of raunchy, good-natured fun goes down — and we’re all the way here for it.

The Dark Tower | Aug. 4

Studio: Weed Road Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Media Rights Capital

Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel

Featuring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick

Yo, Stringer Bell is back! The fine-as-hell criminal mastermind is not playing with these Dominican and Greek drug lords who are out here trying to mess with his money on the rough streets of Baltimore. OK, that’s a lie. But some of us love The Wire and Idris Elba so much that things like movie plots, co-stars and origin story revelations are completely immaterial. So: all right, fine. Elba plays the last Gunslinger, a heroic savior in Stephen King’s sci-fi multiverse book series of the same name. He’s trying to save the Dark Tower from falling and keep civilization from crumbling, or some such thing. Whatever. Did we mention that Idris Elba is in it and has, like, a lot of scenes in the whole movie? Yeah, some of us are very excited.

Detroit | Aug. 4

Studio: Annapurna Pictures

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Featuring: John Boyega, Jason Mitchell, Anthony Mackie

Please, please, please let this film, which is a kind of behind-the-scenes of the 1967 Detroit riots, be on the up-and-up. Folks were nervous (and rightly so) because, according to the initial trailer and the IMDB credit list, there appears to be an erasure of black women. From the director of Zero Dark Thirty, this film is poised to tell the story of the horrifyingly relevant Algiers Motel Incident that occurred during the 1967 racial unrest in the Motor City, which was then perhaps the most industrially significant city in the nation.

Ingrid Goes West | Aug. 4

Studio: Star Thrower Entertainment and 141 Entertainment

Directed by: Matt Spicer

Featuring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Wyatt Russell and Billy Magnussen

O’Shea Jr. takes on his next big screen task — but this time he’s not playing his famous father. Instead, it’s a supporting role as Aubrey Plaza’s love interest in the dark comedy that won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at this year’s Sundance Festival. Jackson credited his real-life love of Batman, of all things, with helping him land the role: His character in the film is a screenwriter obsessed with the legendary superhero.

Nutjob 2: Nutty by Nature | Aug. 11

Studio: ToonBox Entertainment, Red Rover International and Gulfstream Pictures

Directed by: Cal Brunker

Featuring: Maya Rudolph, Gabriel Iglesias, Will Arnett, Jackie Chan, Katherine Heigl

Listen. Maya Rudolph and all her “funniness” can never steer you wrong, even in animation. Whether you’re planning a staycation with the kids or you want to keep them busy on a random day, this summer movie will do the trick. Nutjob 2: Nutty By Nature picks up with Surly Squirrel and his homies. This time they are battling the evil mayor of Oakton, who is trying to get rid of their home, Liberty Park, to build an amusement park. But these animal friends are not at all here for it. They’re taking back their territory.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard | Aug. 18

Studio: Millennium Films and Cristal Pictures

Directed by: Patrick Hughes

Featuring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman

What we do know is there is a whole lot of profanity in this R-rated buddy movie: Jackson is a superefficient hitman who must be guarded by the exasperated Reynolds. Not every black and white character-driven smart-guy bromance can be the original 1982 48 Hrs. But here’s hoping?

Leslie Jones is hosting the 2017 BET Awards which means it just became must-see TV

Comedian and actor Leslie Jones has had an interesting few years. She was hacked and had nude photos leaked and was insulted mercilessly for being a part of the Ghostbusters reboot. Now, she’ll be hosting the 2017 BET Awards, which means: Watch out.

Personally, I think Jones is awesome. But I genuinely don’t enjoy the fact that every single sketch she’s a part of on Saturday Night Live seems to be a long, awkward commentary on her love life. Maybe that’s picking nits, but it just seems like there’s a whole lot more to be mined in a grown woman’s comedic range than just who she’s sleeping with, in reality or not.

That said, the sketch about her trying to portray President Donald Trump was probably the funniest thing I’ve seen on that show in years. It was a bit of a self-own, considering that SNL seems to have no idea how to incorporate black women into its comedic framework, so much so that people are actually leaving the show. If you forgot, here it is.

“BET was the first place I ever did comedy on TV, so it’s a full-circle moment of coming home where I started. I went out in the world and did what I needed to do and now I can come home to my people and say, ‘Yo! Look what I did!’ ” Jones told People magazine.

As for the show, this is the perfect platform for Jones. She doesn’t have to completely focus on herself as the source and butt of all her jokes and can turn her fire on the celebrity world, which is fantastic. Now that I’m thinking about it, she should probably have her own late-night talk show. And there’s no reason it couldn’t be on BET.

Daily Dose: 5/17/17 Happy anniversary to us!

A year ago Thursday this website was launched, starting a new era in journalism, entertainment and content for the ESPN family. I’m grateful as heck to be here and extremely proud to have built something with my colleagues. Congrats!

Your man James Comey has the receipts. After all this madness surrounding the former FBI director’s firing by the president, it turns out that he kept notes of everything, meaning the threat of recordings from the Oval Office to prove him wrong about whether President Donald Trump asked him to end the Russia investigation takes on new relevance. This is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a complete mess in the White House, and the lack of direction is downright staggering. The Dems say that they need those notes, badly.

There’s been a great new entry in the men’s summer fashion world: rompers. Yep, there’s a Kickstarter effort to make romphims a thing, which, as far as I’m concerned, is great news. The possibility of such a tremendous piece of clothing becoming a popular bit is extremely exciting for your boy. I’d rock a dashiki romper in a second in these streets. And the jokes Wednesday on Twitter about it were full-blown hilarious, as they mocked the constant nonsense that women have to deal with when it comes to their clothing and street harassment. Fun!

I couldn’t live without the internet. It’s where my job is; it’s where my fun is; it’s how I communicate with everyone. And at this point, thinking of the world without it is almost bizarre. There are also times when I think, am I too connected to this plastic/glass rectangle in my pocket? Is this thing actually making me crazy? There are people in the world who live their whole lives nowadays without constant access to it, and I imagine they’re pretty happy people. That’s why in some places, not going online is the new going online.

LaVar Ball really wants his son Lonzo to play for the Lakers. He’s talking about it all the time, says it’d be a perfect fit and claims he can speak it into existence. He just might be right, too. Now that the Lakers have the second pick in the NBA draft, that fantasy can become a reality. Say what you want about LaVar and his antics, but he’s got his kid in a great position to succeed. Now, apparently they’re so dead set on staying in the Los Angeles area that he’s not even going to work out for any other team. Mini-wow, but not really.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Holidays are big driving days, as people head out across the country to see friends and family. Which means a whole lot of traffic all over the place. What it also means is more accidents. Turns out, Memorial Day is the most crash-prone of all holidays. Be careful.

Snack Time: When it comes to traditional images of God and his disciples, etc., the people involved are almost always white. Then a woman painted The Creation of Adam with black women, and people went nuts.

Dessert: Dudes. Don’t be like this guy. At all.

Pots & pans: Those majestic church hats are the crowns our mothers wear Let’s celebrate all mothers on Mother’s Day, no matter their backgrounds, color, religion or headdress

I‘ve long thought of Mother’s Day as a continuation of Church Hat Season in black houses of worship across America, a national pastime that reaches its peak from Easter through Father’s Day.

The women wear their hats with amazing grace. When they bow their heads to pray and tilt their heads to better receive the Word, their hats flutter as if they were azaleas, roses and tulips with a spring breeze dancing upon their petals.

Oh, I know, black church women haven’t cornered the market on faith, good motherhood or even wearing very big hats stylishly. During Saturday’s Kentucky Derby in Louisville, women also sported fabulous hats, but they were emblematic of living the good life: strawberries and cream, champagne and mint juleps.

Women of many faith traditions, or those whose moral compass isn’t located in a religious text or doctrine, have nevertheless enriched and ennobled the lives of us all.

Furthermore, good mothers come in all colors, shapes and backgrounds. And the world has been blessed by the childless women who have championed monumental change, Joan of Arc to Rosa Parks, the mother of America’s modern-day civil rights movement.

Still, long before Mother’s Day became a national observance in 1914, the black church gave generations of black women a place to be beautiful, a place where black mothers could nurture and protect their children, cradled in the hands of their mighty God, safe under the watchful gaze of wise elders.

Before she died in 1977, my mother had gone from demure colored girl to strong black woman. Her faith guided her journey. Her church illuminated her path.

Just 60 inches tall, she never looked more majestic than when she sat in the pews at St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Philly on Mother’s Day, her hat angled slightly on her head as if she sought to wink at fate or misfortune.

Like many black mothers, then and now, my mother went to church armed to combat restless children: tissues, hard candy and an arsenal of expressions that said everything from “just a little while longer, baby” to “don’t mess with me, not today.”

Come Sunday, the nation will celebrate its mothers. They can be found everywhere from the homeless shelters deep in the valley to the mansions high on the hill. I’ll think about the current generation of black church mothers. Some will attend Sunday’s services wearing scarves and headdresses. Others will wear church hats, an homage to generations of proud and beautiful black women who went before them. And I’ll think of my mother, an empress of optimism, especially for future generations of black people.

When I was a child, someone was likely to come up to me after Mother’s Day service and say, “Boy, you look just like your mother, bound for good luck.” I’d smile, not fully understanding how lucky I was.

And my mother, radiant in her hat, would take my hand and lead us from church to face the world.

Happy Mother’s Day.