42 is a great film centered around baseball-star Jackie Robinson (played by Chadwick Boseman). This movie takes place during a time when segregation and racism were very prevalent. Disregarding the opinions of others, the Brooklyn Dodgers manager, Branch Rickey decided to sign Robinson onto the team. This was frowned upon by a lot of people, but Rickey saw great talent in Robinson and knew he would be a great addition to the Dodgers. Robinson works hard and tries not to let the negativity bring him down. His efforts made way for equality in sports and he was seen as a great hero.
Princess and the Frog is and important historical change because it was the first Disney movies to feature a black princess. The movie retells the famous fairytale The Frog Prince, with the setting changed to New Orleans, LA. Tiana is working hard as a waitress to save up to buy her own restaurant. She meets Prince Naveen who has been turned into a frog by a conniving voodoo magician, and kisses him. Surprise- Tiana is also transformed into a frog and With the help of a trumpet-playing alligator, a Cajun firefly, and an old blind lady who lives in a boat in a tree, Naveen and Tiana must race to break the spell and fulfill their dreams.
Disney princesses have been the love of young girls everywhere, and The Princess and the Frog breaks all the previous molds that a Disney princess has to be white. Tiana is a very important character and role model for kids to look up to, and we look forward to more movies from Disney that showcase people of color.
Starring: Denzel Washington (need we say more???)
This must-see movie is based on a true story (don’t you just love true stories?), Remember the Titans recounts the tale of an African-American high school football coach and his newly integrated team during the 1971 season. Not without conflict, the team begins to realize that they have more in common than they thought and that football connects them more than color separates them.
12 Years a Slave takes place in New York during 1841. The main character, Solomon Northup, was a free black man with a wife and two children. Being a violinist, Solomon was offered a job with a theatrical company. What he thought was a good opportunity ended up being a trap. Solomon gets captured and forced into slavery for 12 years of his life. He is determined to stay alive and endure whatever is to come until he can be freed and reunited with his family.
Eleven year-old Akeelah Anderson's life is not easy: her father is dead, her mom ignores her, her brother runs with the local gangbangers. She is a smart girl, but her environment threatens to strangle her aspirations. Responding to a threat by her school's principal, Akeelah decides to participate in a spelling bee to avoid detention for her many absences. Much to her surprise and embarrassment, she wins. Her principal asks her to seek coaching from Dr. Larabee, an English professor, for the more prestigious regional bee. As the possibility of making it all the way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee looms, Akeelah could provide her community with someone to rally around and be proud of. First Akeelah has to overcome her insecurities, her distracting home life, and the knowledge that there is a field of more experienced and privileged fellow spellers.
This is a message of positivity that is sometimes not found in movies starring Black Americans. Akeelah struggles with overcoming stereotypes of who she is, and how she can truly be herself. The tagline of the movie is “changing the world…one word at a time”, and it couldn’t be more true in this case where Akeelah can transform herself by participating in a grade school spelling bee.
*Photo courtesy of IMDB.com
Barbershop does a solid job of introducing the world to the unique culture of barbershop life. This movie depicts a day in the life of a neighborhood barbershop located on the South Side of Chicago. A burdened Calvin (Ice Cube) decides to sell the barbershop he inherited from his father, but as the day goes on, a more reflective Calvin realizes that the barbershop offers the community a lot more than just a place to get a haircut.
The Golden Age of the barbershop was the 1880’s through the 1940’s. Barbershops not only offered men a place to get a shave and haircut, but also a place for socializing, making connections and keeping up on local news. Most men visited their barbershop weekly if not more during this time. The advent of the safety razor provided men with a convenient and economical alternative to the need for frequent barber visits. At-home haircutting kits, the Depression, casualties from WWII and the Korean War, as well as trends in men’s hairstyles all contributed to the decline of the popularity of the barbershop.
Directed by Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained tells the story of a slave named Django. A man, Dr. Schultz, buys his freedom so that he could become a bounty hunter. Django was separated from his wife and devises a plan with Dr. Schultz to try to get her back. His wife, Broomhilda, was sent to work on a plantation under the control of Calvin Candie, a reckless and powerful man. Calvin and his assistant Stephen are not ones that can be easily tricked, which means that Django and Dr. Schultz must take extra caution. Django is determined to be reunited with his wife and will do anything he can to make that happen.
In celebration of Black History Month, we will highlight films that were groundbreaking in some way, shape or form in changing the face of Hollywood to include more diversity amongst cast, storylines, etc.
One such film would be Soul Food, which came out in 1997, and became an instant classic. Set in Chicago, it stars Vivica A. Fox, Mekhi Phifer, Nia Long, Vanessa Williams and Jeffery D. Sams.
It's importance lies in the fact that it celebrates middle/working class African American families. This is a subject seldom portrayed before this movie, and it paved the way for future films with a similar subject matter, such as Madea's Family Reunion, Johnson Family Vacation, and Red Hook Summer.
*Photo courtesy of IMDB.com
2014 was a fantastic year in diverse graphic novel storytelling. The following 2014 graphic novels can be found at Harper Library.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator) is now on its fourth collected volume. Landfallian Alana, a race with insect wings, and Marko of the Wreath, horned or antlered people who can wield magic, are two soldiers from opposing armies in a never-ending galactic war find love and struggle to raise their newborn daughter while on the run from bounty hunters, ghosts, aliens, and a royal family with robot heads.
Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe (author) & Roc Upchurch (illustrator). The Rat Queens are a bar-brawling, monster-killing group of battle maidens-for-hire. This darkly comedic high fantasy series stars Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric, and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief.
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson (author) & Adrian Alphona (illustrator). Kamala Khan is a normal Muslim teenager in Jersey City dealing with parental and social pressures. She accidentally acquires shape-shifting superpowers, and must reconcile her new super identity.
Pretty Deadly Volume 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue Deconnick (author) & Emma Rios (illustrator). A violent macabre tale that mixes folklore with the American western. Sissy and her guardian, the blind Fox, travel through canyons and frontier towns telling the legend of Ginny, the skull faced the daughter of Death, who can be summoned for acts of revenge.
Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley is a stand alone graphic novel by the author of Scott Pilgrim. Young chef Katie is approaching thirty and dreams of opening her own restaurant, but progress on that goal runs into problems and her life gets complicated when her ex-boyfriend shows up, an affair with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt at work. She is given the chance to remake the past when a mysterious girl gives her wish granting mushrooms.
The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen (Author) & Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator). Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as human pop and rock stars, lasting for only two years before they die. Readers enter this world through the eyes of Laura, a super fan of these mythological celebrities.
All-New X-Men Volumes 1 through 5 by Brian Michael Bendi. Professor Xavier’s original five mutant students, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Iceman, Angel, and Beast, are transported to the present and meet their future X-Men selves and see the state of Professor Xavier’s dream of a peaceful coexistence between man and mutant.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang (author) & Sonny Liew (illustrator). Created in the 1940s, the Green Turtle was the first Asian American superhero. The comic had a short run before lapsing into obscurity, but Gene Luen Yang has revived this character in Shadow Hero, a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the Green Turtle.