BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: Letitia Wright leads Amazon’s ‘Small Axe’ with ‘Mangrove’

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By Bill Vaughan

Entertainment Writer

“Small Axe,” the highly anticipated anthology series created and directed by Academy Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen (“12 Years A Slave,” “Widows”), will premiere on Amazon Nov. 20 with the first film, “Mangrove” starring Letitia Wright (“Marvel’s Black Panther”).

The limited series’ original films are set from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s and tell personal stories from London’s West Indian community, whose lives have been shaped by their own force of will despite rampant racism and discrimination. The title is derived from the African proverb, “If you are the big tree, we are the small axe.”

The four additional films will debut each Friday, including “Lovers Rock” (Nov. 27), starring BAFTAs 2020 Rising Star award recipient Micheal Ward (“Top Boy”) and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in a fictional story of young love at a blues party in 1980.   

“Education” (Dec. 4) features Kenyah Sandy as an imaginative 12 year old caught up in an unofficial segregation policy at his school, and the group of West Indian women who take matters into their own hands.   

“Alex Wheatle” (Dec. 11) follows the true story of the award-winning writer (Sheyi Cole), from a young boy through his early adult years.

Having spent his childhood in a mostly white institutional care home with no love or family, he finally finds not only a sense of community for the first time in Brixton, but his identity and ability to grow his passion for music and DJ’ing. When he is thrown in prison during the Brixton Uprising of 1981, he confronts his past and sees a path to healing.

“Red, White and Blue” (Dec. 18) stars John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) in the true story of Leroy Logan, a young forensic scientist who finds himself driven to revisiting a childhood ambition to become a police officer; an ambition borne from the naïve hope of wanting to change racist attitudes from within.

“Mangrove” and “Lovers Rock” were included in the Cannes 2020 Official Selection, while “Lovers Rock” made its world premiere as the opening night film at the 58th New York Film Festival, with “Mangrove” and “Red, White, and Blue” also featured in the main slate, set to make their world premieres later during the festival.

Up next for McQueen is “The Occupied City,” a documentary about Amsterdam under Nazi occupation during World War II, between the years 1940 and 1945.

CLIPPETTES: City Arts & Lectures with UC Berkeley School of Journalism presents W. Kamau Bell on “Race & Journalism” with Chan’Cellore Makanjuola on Nov. 20 at noon. For tickets: https://bit.ly/3j2MLLp

The evening caps off with Michael McDonald, John Mayer and Sy Smith performing with the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center Student Jazz Band at 6 p.m. for a special virtual fundraising concert. Visit www.pullumcenter.org for details. Smith is also headlining her own show “Exhale Love” on Nov. 21 via Stageit.com

Spike Lee is reteaming with songwriting duo Mark “Stew” Stewart and Heidi Rodewald (“Passing Strange”) for a musical film based upon David Kushner’s 2018 Esquire article “All Rise: The Untold Story of The Guys Who Launched Viagra”

A panel consisting of “Soul Train” dancers Flo Jenkins, Thelma Davis-Martin, James Higgins – better known as Skeeter Rabbit – and the one-and-only Damita Jo Freeman discuss how the show informed Black identity in the 1970s and ’80s and how its impact continues to be felt today in dance, music, fashion and media on Nov. 21 at 10 a.m. as part of the L.A. Phil’s Ford Digital Festivals “Movement/Matters.” Get the details at www.theford.com

Andra Day and Misty Copeland headline Bloomingdale’s Virtual Holiday Benefit for the Child Mind Institute on Nov. 23 at 4 p.m. with tickets through Eventbrite.com … 

“Nurse Heroes Live!” benefits front line workers fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic on Thanksgiving beginning at 4 p.m. with host Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Billy Crystal, Stevie Wonder, Pitbull, The Wailers, Celine Dion, Leslie Odom Jr., Black Eyed Peas and more at live.nurseheroes.org

Kenny Loggins “unplugged” performance in Santa Barbara will be live streamed as a four-day pay-per-view rental on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 26-29).  Additionally, shows by The Charles Lloyd Ocean Trio featuring Gerald Clayton and Anthony Wilson, and more are $15 at the Lobero Theatre’s website.

TC ON TV: Nov. 20 – “Voices Of Fire” (Netflix): In this faith-based docuseries, Bishop Ezekiel Williams builds an inspiring, nontraditional gospel choir with the help of superstar nephew Pharrell. “The View” (ABC): Gloria Estefan  “Ellen” (Syn): Tiffany Haddish guest hosts. “The Real” (Syn): Michael “Killer Mike” Render, Jesse Williams, Eboni K. Williams “Wendy Williams’ (Syn): Joe Morton   

Nov. 21 – “Between The World And Me” (HBO): A gripping adaption of the New York Times No. 1 bestselling book by Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Apollo stage performance of the same name. The tome, now recognized as a classic of the Black Lives Matter era, has been reimagined during a global pandemic against the backdrop of the killing of Breonna Taylor and global protests for Black lives. Anchored by an ensemble performance, including Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Yara Shahidi, Angela Davis, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Ledisi, Joe Morton, Phylicia Rashad, Courtney B. Vance and others, this special embodies Coates’ letter to his 15-year-old son on coming of age in Black America exploring the author’s bold notion that American society structurally supports white supremacy. “Behind Every Man” (OWN): Crystal Smith and her multi-platinum selling husband Ne-Yo.

Nov. 22 – “2020 American Music Awards” (ABC): Taraji P. Henson hosts a performance line-up including Bad Bunny with Jhay Cortez, Billie Eilish, BTS, Dua Lipa, Jennifer Lopez and Maluma, Lil Baby, Megan Thee Stallion, Shawn Mendes and Katy Perry.

Nov. 23 – “I Love New York: Reunited” (VH1): Vivica A. Fox hosts this look back at the reality dating show that focused on Tiffany “New York” Pollard narrowing down suitors and where they are today. “The Neighborhood” (CBS): Wayne Brady guest stars.

Nov. 24 – “A Christmas Tree Grows In Brooklyn” (Hallmark): Rochelle Aytes (“S.W.A.T.”) portrays the planner of a town’s holiday celebration who must win over a firefighter (Mark Taylor) in order to obtain a beautiful spruce tree from his property. “The Haves and the Have Nots” (OWN): Richard Brooks (“Bosch,” “Being Mary Jane”) has joined the cast as a potential love interest for the long-suffering Hanna Young (Crystal Fox). “Hollywood Exes: Reunited” (VH1): Andrea Kelly (ex-wife of R-Kelly), Nicole Murphy (ex of Eddie Murphy), Mayte Garcia (ex-wife of Prince), Shamicka Lawrence (ex-wife of Martin Lawrence), Shanna Moakler (ex-wife of Travis Barker) and Sheree Zampino (ex-wife of Will Smith) gather for a look back at the show that brought them all together, and fill fans in on what has happened since the cameras stopped rolling.

Nov. 25 – “Women of Worth” (NBC): The network is teaming with L’Oréal Paris to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the brand’s signature philanthropic program in a first-of-its-kind television special featuring iconic spokeswomen, including Viola Davis, Eva Longoria, Aja Naomi King, Camila Cabello, Katherine Langford, Andie MacDowell, Elle Fanning and Helen Mirren, as they walk viewers through stories of 10 women making an extraordinary difference in their communities. 

Nov. 26 – “Terror Lake Drive” (UMC): Lamman Rucker, Malik Yoba and Shannon Kane are featured in this six-part limited drama series that follows a single mother from Baltimore who — on the heels of a recent pandemic and growing social unrest — relocates to Atlanta in an attempt to dodge her troubled past.

CAUSE WORTHY: Black AIDS Institute (BAI), the nation’s only think and do tank committed to ending HIV in Black America, has launched its new website in advance of the Dec. 1 annual observance of World AIDS Day.

Timed with the site launch, BAI also inaugurated Black Voices Matter, a video conversation series launching with much-loved celebrity and entrepreneur Tina Knowles-Lawson at blackaids.com.

TASTY QUIP: “When you’re doing positive things in your life that are moving forward, the negative forces try to stop you in many ways. But keep going because the winter always turns to spring.” – HERBIE HANCOCK

As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment columns in the nation, serving nearly one million weekly readers. Bill Vaughan may be reached at tastyclips@yahoo.com, via Twitter @tastyclips, or Instagram @tasty_clips.