We continue our recognition of 2022 Black History Month with “My Favorite Things,” a collection of lists gathered from participating MEDEX Northwest faculty, staff and students of favorite actors, movies, foods, music, television, books and actors rooted in the Black/African Diaspora experience.
FOODS: I am Eritrean, so by default one of my favorite dishes is injera. I love this dish not only for its flavorful spices, but because it encompasses the importance of family and community. The most authentic way to enjoy this dish is with it served on a large platter, around which people gather and share the plate together. I grew up watching my mother and grandmother put great effort into cooking these dishes, which makes me appreciate our cultural foods so much more.
MUSIC: I love a wide range of music, from old school to new school to Afro-beats. One of my favorite recent projects is The Gift, Beyonce’s soundtrack to The Lion King (2019). It’s a beautiful compilation of both African and African-diasporic talent. My favorite song on the album, titled Brown Skin Girl, highlights the beauty of brown skin despite the challenges faced through complexion. Two of my favorite lines: “There’s complexities in complexion but your skin glows like diamonds,” and “I love everything about you, from your nappy curls to every single curve, your body is natural.” Such a beautiful song, puts a smile on my face every time.
TV: One of my all-time favorite shows is The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This show never gets old for me. Starring one of my favorite actors Will Smith, this show displayed the importance of family, laughter and taught me a few life lessons. I admired how the show displayed so much color and amazing fashion revolved around the Black experience. Some of my favorite styles today are inspired by this show.
MOVIES: The Princess & the Frog (2009) Growing up I loved the Disney princesses. But there was never a princess that I could personally identify with. When the Princess & the Frog was released, I was so excited to finally see a Disney princess that not only I could see myself in but that other little black and brown girls could see themselves in. Not only this, but she was independent, had an amazing work ethic, and wanted nothing more than to make her parents proud. Princess Tiana was portrayed as a strong Black woman. I also love movies that represent Black artists and their stories such as Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Ray (2004), Cadillac Records (2008). I will always be excited and grateful when a biopic is released and is based on Black culture.
TV: Girlfriends. I have watched this show so many times throughout my life, and each time I watch it I think about how amazing it is to watch four beautiful, strong, independent Black women navigate life with all of their struggles and successes. This show is a true testament to how incredibly resilient Black women are.
MUSIC: Growing up I would hear artists such as Luther Vandross, Jill Scott, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Prince, and those artists have stuck with me to this day. Each one of them put their hearts and souls into their music and tell stories that make you want to listen. “Golden,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Hold My Hand,” and many more will forever be staples on my playlist.
MOVIES: Black Panther (2018) was the first superhero movie that was directed by majority Black cast and based off a Black superhero. It revolutionized the way African American/Black people saw themselves on the screen. It was a tribute to all young African American/Black children, giving them something to look up to in the superhero world. It answered what I questioned when I was young: African American/Black people can be superheroes.
FOODS: Southern soul food has so much Black history to it. It is one way the African Americans/Black and Africans roots are still connected. Besides that, it is the most delicious meal ever.
MUSIC: Without any hesitation, I will have to say old school music. I love Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Nina Simone, James Brown, and the list goes on. Old school music speaks to my heart. It is the perfect genre for when you are cleaning, cooking, and even playing spades with your family. I love it when my family and I gather together and can sing along to it, because that is what connects us. This is my family culture and part of Black Culture.
MOVIES: Do the Right Thing (1989) is set in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn in 1989 and focuses on a character named Mookie. Mookie is just a regular guy trying to work and save up money to better his situation. On the hottest day of the year, he is thrown in the middle of situation and must make a choice. What is really crazy about this movie is that its themes are still relevant today. This movie blends culture, humanity and ethics all at the same time. And the star power in the movie? Young Samuel L? Spike Lee with a high-top fade? Buggin’ Out getting his Jordan Cement 4’s stepped on. This movie is a CLASSIC.
FOODS: Everybody knows I love my Caribbean food, but it was always a treat growing up when my dad cooked. Some of my Dad’s favorites were his fried catfish and gumbo.
MUSIC: Nipsey Hussle is my most-played artist every year on Spotify Wrapped. The ambition and grind he raps about has gotten me through many tough times. It’s my go-to pump up soundtrack. My favorite song is “Victory Lap”:
This time around I’m a make it clear, spoke some things into the universe and they appeared.
I say it’s worth it, I won’t say it’s fair, find your purpose or you wasting air.
MOVIES & TV: There are so many Black Cinema classics: Harlem Nights (1989), Hoodlum (1997), The Harder They Fall (2021), but you can’t talk about Black Cinema and ignore Spike Lee‘s contribution or the 70s Blaxploitation era. I watched Ganja & Hess (1973) recently. A current TV show worth mentioning is Love Craft Country. Besides being well done, and providing quality entertainment, the show manages to shed insight on the complexities of the black experience by synchronizing themes, rather than deconstructing them. The show uses magic, science, action, romance, suspense, and comedy to highlight issues in the Black community like passing, sundown cities, suppressed homosexuality, sexism, unspoken family secret, racism, and host of other -isms.
FOODS: I am Nigerian, so I list staple Igbo dishes like rice and stew, goat meat pepper soup, fried plantains, eguisi, oha, okro soups, akara, and suya. Food preparation and the fellowship of dining together is deeply rooted in my household. It plays a significant role in the Black experience because it was one of the only ways families were able to hold on to any semblance of their cultural identities after so much had been stripped away.
ACTORS: Certain names automatically come to mind: Chadwick Boseman, Regina King, Don Cheadle, Denzel Washington, Viola Davis … I could go on and on. They make my list of favorite things because in addition to their body of work, they tell their stories with a level of craftsmanship that humanizes the Black experience. They understand the assignment. In the Black experience, spoken word has been our record keeper for centuries. For some, the arts are our only connection to our history. These actors understand the responsibility they have to the culture in each role they choose to play.
BOOKS: A Taste of Power by Elaine Brown. This book taught me a lot about the unsung heroes among those who played pivotal roles in the Black Panther Party (founded in October 1966). It was a revealing look into the relationships between Black men and women. It was also a disheartening look into the relationship between Black men and women.
MOVIES: One of my all-time favorite movies is actually a mini-series called Roots (1977), which is based on the Alex Haley novel bearing the same name. It is a movie about the determination and faith of an American family that began on the soils of Africa, continued as enslaved people, and eventually became an emancipated people in the United States. This movie is a common staple in the Black American household, as it provides a time for family bonding and an opportunity for discussion/teaching/reflection, especially for younger children. Though Roots does not play as often as it used to on network television, I look forward to watching this mini-series on an annual basis.
FOODS: My favorite foods are the those associated with traditions and holidays. For example, it is a Southern Black tradition to make cornbread dressing with giblet gravy for Thanksgiving. To make the dressing is a tedious process and it contains the love and pride of the preparer. Another traditional holiday is New Years at which we enjoy black eyed peas for peace, cabbage for prosperity, and chitterlings, which symbolize the struggle of the enslaved people who were usually given the leftover scraps and entrails of the pig after everyone else had their share. One of my favorite desserts is buttermilk pie, which is another concoction that reinforces how we as a people have always made the most with a little.
MUSIC: I have chosen my favorite musicians based on the stories told and the feelings they evoke. For example, Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit,” as well as the Nina Simone re-make is haunting song that lays bare the reality of lynching of Black bodies in America, comparing the bodies swinging from trees as the bearing of strange fruit. Nina Simone helped write the soundtrack of Black America with many of her songs, but “Young, Gifted, and Black” and “Four Women” are two that stand out for me. The former let me know that I mattered and was special, and the latter depicted the juxtaposition of the varied lives Black women live in America. I have many artists that I am quite fond of, but no songs move me like these.
TV: One of my favorite TV shows is Martin, which was a sitcom that aired on Fox in the 1990s. The title character Martin Payne, played by Martin Lawrence, was one of the most memorable TV personalities for me during my childhood. Martin played so many different characters, each with their own funny moments. This show was a welcome escape from reality but spoke so much to the Black experience. With all that goes on around us, laughter is needed from time to time.