BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: New films, specials memorialize ‘Black Wall Street’

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By Bill Vaughan

Entertainment Writer

One of the worst incidents of racial violence in American history occurred 100 years ago, May 31-June 1, 1921.  Known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, a mob of white residents set fire to “Black Wall Street” — hundreds of Black-owned businesses and homes in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma — killing an estimated 100 to 300 Black residents, many by aerial assault (a first on American soil) and leaving an estimated 10,000 Black residents homeless.

The tragedy is being remembered and examined in a slew of documentaries premiering this week.  

Up first is “Tulsa Burning: The 1921 Race Massacre” airing May 30 on the History Channel. Executive produced by NBA superstar and philanthropist Russell Westbrook and directed by Peabody and Emmy-Award winning director Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders”) and Peabody and duPont-Award winner Marco Williams (“Two Towns of Jasper”), the doc with a stunning score by jazz giant Branford Marsalis has that sizzle and calls attention to the previously ignored but necessary repair of a town once devastated. 

The following evening, May 31, sees the debut of CNN’s “Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street.”  Executive produced by LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Jamal Henderson and Philip Byron; the doc by director and producer Salima Koroma blends archival media, animation, narrated letters and diary entries, and contemporary interviews with a richly evocative original score. It also examines the findings of the current archeological search for mass graves.

Also that night, PBS’ “Tulsa: The Fire and The Forgotten” looks at this deadly assault in the context of other racial massacres and police killings, including the one-year anniversary of the killing of George Floyd (May 25, 2020).  Washington Post reporter DeNeen L. Brown interviews descendants of Greenwood residents and business owners and today’s community activists. The documentary also explores issues of atonement, reconciliation and reparation in the past, present and future through the historical lens of white violence and Black resistance.

It will be followed by CBS’ “Tulsa 1921: An American Tragedy, a one-hour special presentation from their news division.  

June 1 is the date of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “The Legacy of Black Wall Street – Part 1” with the second episode airing June 8. Deborah Riley Draper (“Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution,” “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” and the upcoming “Coffee Will Make You Black,” serves as director and producer.

Her take tells the stories of the famed district through the lives of five individuals who were present in Tulsa during the 1900s:  Loula Williams, Augusta Stradford, Dr. Andrew C. Jackson, Drusilla Dunjee Houston and A.J. Smitherman; as well as the subjects’ descendants and present-day activists of Greenwood: Venita Cooper, Jerica Wortham, Onikah Asamoa-Caesar, Dr. Jabraan Pasha and Raven Majia Williams.

The documentary will also feature commentary from various experts, financial professionals and iconic historians and professors including Dr. Angela Davis, Dr. Ellora Derenoncourt along with Rep. Regina Goodwin and J. Kevin Ross, both direct descendants of the Tulsa massacre, who bring their stories to life in never-before-seen interviews.

These entries will be joined June 18, by National Geographic’s “Rise Again: Tulsa and The Red Summer,” directed and produced by Dawn Porter (“The Way I See It,” “John Lewis: Good Trouble”), which will additionally commemorate Juneteenth when the last enslaved Black people in Texas received news of their emancipation.  

And in news just announced, MTV has teamed with power couple Angela Bassett and Courtney B. Vance to create a limited series on the subject, which will be written by playwright Nathan Alan Davis.  It should arrive next year.  

CLIPPETTES: Dr. Deepak Chopra has partnered on the launch of a free 21-Day Meditation Experience titled, “Activating the Divine Feminine: The Path to Wholeness,” with Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, producer, author, activist and entrepreneur Alicia Keys. Registration is now open for the 20-minute daily sessions at www.choprameditation.com, and participants can access the experience by downloading The Chopra App  

Bobby Dee’s Memorial Day Weekend Funk Party bringing Cool To The Desert converges May 29 at Rancho Mirage’s Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa with Morris Day & The Time, Original Mary Jane Girls Maxi & Cheri, Yarbrough & Peoples and more  

Macy Gray: 3-Show Livestream Experience begins May 30 with the singer/songwriter digging deep into her song catalogue with a full band performance of her hits. Part two on June 6 finds her singing her favorite covers; with the third part on June 13 introducing songs from her new record “The Reset” with The California Jet Club.  Boxoffice.mandolin.com/pages/macy-gray has the tickets  

Jimmy Smits (“L.A. Law,” “NYPD Blue,” “Dexter,” “Sons of Anarchy,” the “Star Wars” franchise and so much more) is getting memorialized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 2 at 11:30 a.m. in a virtual ceremony. He will next be seen in the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway hit musical “In The Heights” opening June 11  

Eric Roberson’s new record, “Lessons” will be released on June 4 and to celebrate he is hosting a virtual meet and greet for fans with the premiere of his newest video; a look at his creative process; discussion with his wife about how they find the lessons in life, love and marriage; and a special performance. Get your free ticket at hopin.com/events/eric-roberson-lessons-release-event.

TASTY QUIP: “I was doing my little sexy drop down and, boom, I feel air.” – LIL NAS X describing his “Saturday Night Live” wardrobe malfunction on “The Tonight Show” 

TC ON TV: May 28 – “The Shop” (HBO): LeBron James, Jay-Z, Bad Bunny, WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike, Maverick Carter and Paul Rivera discuss confidence on the big stage, parenthood and WrestleMania. “Lavelle Crawford: Comedy Vaccine” (SHO): The funnyman performs his fifth stand-up comedy special in Tempe, Arizona, focusing on COVID-19, mask culture, fatherhood and why 2020 was the best year to fart in public. “Cruella” (Disney+): Academy Award winner Emma Stone (“La La Land”) stars in a live-action feature film about the rebellious early days of notoriously fashionable villain Cruella de Vil. It is set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution; co-stars two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson and Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“The Good Place”); and boasts a soundtrack featuring Nina Simone, The Ohio Players, Ike & Tina Turner, Queen, and Blondie. “One Voice: The Songs We Share” (PBS): “The Sacred” is hosted by Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child with performances by Justin Guarini (“American Idol”) and others.  

May 30 – “National Memorial Day Concert” (PBS): Gladys Knight, Mickey Guyton, Joe Morton, Four Tops, Denyce Graves, Gen. Colin Powell and much more.  

May 31 – “Hell’s Kitchen” (Fox): Must be summer because Chef Gordon Ramsay is all over the screens up first with a landmark 20th season entitled “Young Guns” with all 23 and younger aspiring chefs. “Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted” (NGC): Told you. This is his globetrotting show with a fourth season ordered. “Small Fortune” (NBC): Lil Rel Howery hosts this team competition game show based on a British series.  

June 1 – “The Haves and The Have Nots” (OWN): The final episodes of the scandalous long-running Tyler Perry drama are here. “Mike Tyson: The Knockout” (ABC): Continues with his conviction and prison sentence for raping 18-year-old Desiree Washington, an eventful comeback bout with Evander Holyfield, as well as his addiction to cocaine. The show culminates with previously unaired footage from an interview conducted by Byron Pitts.  

June 2 – “MasterChef: Legends” (Fox): Chef Ramsay (again), Joe Bastianch and Aarón Sánchez are joined by guest-judge Emeril Lagasse for the 11th season.  

June 3 – “Claressa Shields” (ESPN+): A four-part series giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at the Flint, Michigan native’s journey from winning Olympic Gold in London and Rio, to establishing herself as the No. 1 pound-for-pound female boxing champion. Now Shields’ mission is to become the greatest two-sport athlete of all time, by making her debut in mixed martial arts. “Woman In Motion: Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek and The Remaking of NASA” (Paramount+): Civil rights attorney Ben Crump is one of the producers of this doc about TV’s Lt. Uruha and how she championed diversity in our space program. Vivica A. Fox, George Takei and Michael Dorn add insight. “Beat Shazam” (Fox): A fourth season of the interactive music game show hosted by Jamie Foxx with daughter and actress Corinne Foxx as DJ. Since its first airing, they have given away more than $9 million. 

TASTY QUIP: “I’ve been called [n-word] to my face probably five or six times. And fortunately for my psyche, I’ve never been called [that] by a smart person. I grew up with the impression that racists and racism were stupid, and they were easy to get around. I just had to be smarter now while they were very dangerous. I had never looked into the eyes of a racist and saw anything that I perceived as intellect.” – WILL SMITH on “Pod Save America”

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.

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