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Ava DuVernay's '13th' Takes A Historical Look At The Link Between Slavery And Mass Incarceration

"We now have more African-Americans under criminal supervision than all the slaves back in the 1850s,” Cory Booker.

There's a scene in Ava DuVernay's documentary 13th that's too much for her to bear.

The grainy, black-and-white archival footage DuVernay calls "the man with the hat" is of a tall, dignified, black man wearing a suit and hat trying to cross the street as a mob punches, kicks, hits and spits on him. The man as DuVernay learned was a journalist who later died from injuries sustained from the attack, yet each time his hat fell he picked it up, dusted it off, put it on and continued walking. The emotional clip appears twice in the nearly two hour doc and for DuVernay it's the moment that stirred up the most emotion for her throughout the transformative film.

The Selma director teamed up with Netflix to create 13th, (out Oct. 7) a film that masterfully connects the dots between the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery all the way to the modern day big business of mass incarceration. According to statistics, America makes up just 5 percent of the world's population but has more than 25 percent of the world's prisoners, and with the help of activist Angela Davis, author Michelle Alexander, Sen. Cory Booker, Professor Jelani Cobb, former New York Mayor David Dinkins and others, DuVernay exposes the link between mass incarceration and free black labor in America.

With the outlaw of slavery, the south was financially bankrupt and to get out of the red, police began arresting newly freed slaves for petty crimes and forced them to work. The film then historically traces the early mentality placed around African-Americans as criminals beginning with the 1915 film release of Birth of A Nation, which doubled as a glorified PSA for the Klu Klux Klan, all the way through the Civil Rights movement to 2016.

At the time of this story, 13 days passed since DuVernay finished the documentary. Although she says it was never her intention to have the doc be released so close to the presidential election, the Queen Sugar director also doesn't shy away from placing both candidates in the film in less than flattering ways.

"I think what's interesting in the doc is that the way in which they appear is not in the context of them being candidates. It's the context of them being public figures who have touched this issues over their time in the public eye," DuVernay said during a roundtable interview following the film's screening at the New York Film Festival.

Footage of Trump calling for the death of the Central Park Five, a group of black and brown teens accused of the brutal 1989 rape and beating of a Central Park jogger is placed in the film. The young men, who were no older than 16 at the time, were all later exonerated due to DNA evidence. DuVernay doesn't let Hillary Clinton off the hook either as she appears in the film while she was the First Lady in 1996 referring to minority youth as "super predators."

DuVernay keeps a running tally of inmates throughout the decades, which dramatically increased during Bill Clinton's administration due to the signing of the 1994 Crime Bill. As it stands today, there are 2.3 million Americans behind bars, and while 1 in 17 white men may go to prison, the chances of a black man being stripped of his freedom is 1 in 3.

DuVernay also doesn't mince emotions, and in one of the film's most poignant scenes intercuts Trump's words with images of black men and women from the Civil Rights era being beaten and harassed as he romanticizes about "the good old days" when "law enforcement acted a lot quicker than this" and people were "carried away on a stretcher."

"It's vital to have him in there, because he's taken this country to a place that is going to be long-studied and have repercussions past this moment, regardless if he's president or not," DuVernay explains.

Aesthetically, 13th proves less is more with many of the interviews having been conducted in abandoned buildings with exposed brick to depict labor. And while the analysts, politicians and historians were all unified on how humanity has been stripped away from African-Americans and replaced with the notion of innate criminality, there was a clear divide on whether or not the public needs to see video of African-Americans being killed by law enforcement to incite change.

DuVernay enlisted her sister Tera to speak with families hit closest by gun violence, and asked their permission to use cell phone footage. Images of Eric Garner, Philando Castille and Tamir Rice's final moments were all in the film to punctuate America's deep rooted issue with race, and as many who attended the screening looked away as Garner said "I can't breathe" DuVernay later admitted she is a proponent for these videos being publicized.

"My opinion of it is, I believe it should be seen in the tradition of Mamie Till and understood that there needs to be a certain witnessing to the trauma in order for that to be an factor in change," DuVernay explains. "Now with body cameras, dash cam social media it's more than usual and there's a real concern about self care, especially for black people there, and it's a sensitive issue and one that I wanted to explore in the film. I come out on the side of I think we need to see it. If our discomfort with it, the damage that it does to us, I feel is worth it for a greater good if we can push past it so that these murders happen less and less."

And while 13th is heavy, DuVernay made it a point to end the film with images of black men, women and children smiling, laughing and loving. "Black trauma is not our life," DuVernay says. "We are survivors, as many different kinds of people are."

13th hits Netflix Friday, Oct. 7.

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Is Expected To Make $64 Million Opening Weekend

Thanks to Us, Jordan Peele has another blockbuster on his hands. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the highly-anticipated horror flick starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, is expected to have a $64 million opening weekend at the domestic box office.

Peele’s sophomore horror film earned an impressive $7.4 million on Thursday (March 21) night previews, and is forecasted to take in about $27 million from Friday sales. The film is also on pace to knock Captain Marvel out of the No. 1 spot at the box office.

Once final numbers are tallied, Us will likely snatch the third-best opening weekend record for an R-rated horror film behind It, which brought in a whopping $123.4 million, followed by Halloween’s $76.2 million opening weekend last year.

Aside from rave reviews and a genius promo run that included simultaneous screenings in major media markets, Us earned a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film, set in the mid-1980s centers around a family of four who set off on a vacation that finds them confronting some familiar faces.

Peele recently spoke to VIBE about casting Duke (our April 2019 cover star) in the role of patriarch, Gabe Wilson. “I have to have somebody voice what the audience was saying,” he said. “In the case of Get Out, it’s Rod, like, ‘How have you not left yet?’ [In Us], Winston is largely that voice. There’s one moment where Lupita [Nyong’o] takes a step into the unknown, where black people [will think], ‘I don’t know.’ But to have Winston say, ‘Aaaand she left. Your mother just walked out of the car.’ That’s all we need.”

Duke also opened up about the intricacies of his character. “His function isn’t to see through the veil. His function is to tell the absolute truth how he sees it,” explained the 32-year-old actor. “He’s sometimes there to say the things that other people don’t want to say, but he’s also there to make fun of things to keep it from not getting too heavy, even though it’s real. That was my job. [Peele] respected that. I like to lean into functions. If I’m going to be your antagonist, I’m gonna really push you. If I’m gonna be your clown, funny guy, I’m gonna do that.”

Click here to read VIBE’s April 2019 cover story.

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Eunetta T. Boone, TV Producer, Writer And ‘One On One’ Creator, Dead At 63

Eunetta T. Boone, veteran television producer and writer, creator of sitcoms One on One and Cuts, and showrunner of Raven’s Home, died Wednesday (March 20), Deadline reports.

Boone died of an apparent hear attack in her home. She was 63.

Boone’s long list of writing, production and story-editing credits include Living Single, My Wife and Kids, The Hughleys, The Parent ‘Hood, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Lush Life, the latter of which co-starred Fresh Prince actress Karyn Parsons. Boone also taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and wrote the film Who Is Doris Payne? about the infamous elderly jewel thief.

Last November, Boone signed on as showrunner and executive producer of the Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven spinoff, Raven’s Home. Production on the sitcom has been shut down for the rest of the week in wake of Boone's death. Series star Raven Symone posted a tribute to Boone on Instagram Thursday (March 21).

“My heart is heavy following the loss, of RH EP, Eunetta Boone,” she wrote. “Eunetta was a pioneer and an inspiration to everyone she met. She was a masterful story teller, an empathetic leader, and a beacon of light to so many. Sending love and my deepest sympathies to Eunetta’s family and friends and all who knew and loved her. She will be missed. Thanks for everything Eunetta.”

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My heart is heavy following the loss, of RH EP, Eunetta Boone. Eunetta was a pioneer and an inspiration to everyone she met. She was a masterful story teller, an empathetic leader, and a beacon of light to so many. Sending love and my deepest sympathies to Eunetta’s family and friends and all who knew and loved her. She will be missed. Thanks for everything Eunetta.

A post shared by Raven-Symoné (@ravensymone) on Mar 21, 2019 at 2:41pm PDT

The Disney Channel released a statement praising Boone for her storytelling and leadership. “She did so well what she enjoyed most — mentoring creative talent,” the network said in a statement, per The Wrap. “Eunetta will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by everyone who knew her. All of us at Disney Channel grieve her passing and send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.”

Boone earned a journalism degree from the University of Maryland, and a Masters from Columba University. She began her career as a sports writer in Baltimore, and became the first black women to cover sports in the city, as well as one of a few black women sports writers in the nation to work for a major outlet.

See more dedications to Boone below and watch the video above for some of her writing tips.

Eunetta Boone. One of our vets. You have seen her work on television comedies from “My Wife and Kids” and “The Hughleys” to “One on One” and “Living Single.” She worked as a screenwriting instructor at UCLA Extension in between gigs. Rest well, sweet lady. Thanks for the laughs. pic.twitter.com/741tpIL4a5

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 21, 2019

She was a few of the black female showrunners during the 80’s & 90’s..once The UPN network shut down it was hard to get a show on the air..#RIP & thanks for your creativity.. Eunetta T. Boone Dies: ‘One On One’ Creator, ‘Raven’s Home’ Showrunner https://t.co/6zTGyEmJGR

— Loni Love (@LoniLove) March 21, 2019

Eunetta was a pioneer in the entertainment industry. https://t.co/YakqIdOkV5

— Shaun Robinson (@shaunrobinson) March 21, 2019

RIP Eunetta T. Boone. pic.twitter.com/yjo1BP3Jfh

— The Black List (@theblcklst) March 21, 2019

My cousin Eunetta T. Boone created the shows "One on One" and "Cuts" and was the first person to welcome me to LA and showed me Hollywood! She was such a good person and genuine soul. Smh. #RIPEunetta

— DJ Steph Floss (@djstephfloss) March 21, 2019

I'm very sad to learn about the passing of Eunetta Boone. When @JohnDBeckTV and I were on our very first writing staff (The Hughleys), Eunetta went out of her way to teach us how to behave in room. I don't think she would call herself a mentor, but I will.

— Ron Hart (@Scatter) March 21, 2019

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‘American Soul’ Episode 8 Recap: The Crossroads

Tessa is back, and not only do we finally get the tea on her backstory, but it’s also a full tea party.

Still focused on reclaiming her dance career before she’s too old, Tessa prepares for an audition and comes face to face with her former best friend and former fiancé—the very people who drove her away from dance years ago. We learn that she didn’t just lose her dance career, she lost an entire life—including a baby. And then, she met Patrick. Over the course of the episode, Tessa has long overdue conversations with Prescott, her former fiancé, and Evelyn (Nikeva Stapleton), her former friend. Even though Evelyn played Tessa back in the day, she drops some gems and asks her if she’s really moving forward, or trying to hold on to what was. Tessa ponders the question and, in response, delivers a final audition routine she created during her old dance life in Germany, updated with moves influenced by the Soul Train Gang—a reflection of her new life. After finally having an honest, vulnerable conversation with Patrick, it seems Tessa is ready to genuinely move forward, whatever that may mean.

JT’s brothers in the Continuous Revolution in Progress offer him a chance to “prove (his) worth,” after Detective Lorraine set him up to look like a snitch (which we still don’t understand). Of course, that means participating in another illegal endeavor. We really don’t like Reggie, nor can we understand why JT feels such a staunch loyalty to him, but peer pressure—and thinly veiled threats—are real.

When JT gets “home,” he faces another course-altering decision. After finding a random street character holding his little sister while his mom is in a mid-drug nod, JT finally makes the difficult call to have her committed. We’d be relieved and excited about what this means for him and his little sister if he hadn’t just become more deeply entangled with Reggie and the CRIPS.

The Clarke siblings are ready to assert their independence. Kendall is taking his John Denver albums and moving out (with Flo? Already?); Simone is bucking up to her mom about JT (Simone, your mama might be right on this one); and Encore gets a surprise half-off deal at the studio to record their demo. We owe JT—who we realize is not a real person—an apology for assuming he was going to lose the studio money. He had it in his sock. Smart man. But holding the money might be the only role JT plays in Encore’s recording. While the Clarke siblings are stanning over Lionel Richie and getting ready to go in the booth, JT is at the hospital with his mom. We have a feeling his path will only take him further away from both Kendall and Simone for the last two episodes of the season.

Brianne comes face-to-face with the old life and dream she buried out of necessity for the life she chose to have with Joseph. At the beginning of the season, Joseph mentioned Brianne’s former singing career to Simone, and Simone was shocked even as her mother deflected. But she clearly never let it go—seeing a reminder of her singing days sends Brianne into a rage. Not because something terrible happened (that we know of, yet), but because she’s still so hurt over sacrificing such a big piece of herself. When Nate asks her if she wants to cut the visit to San Diego and her brother’s nightclub short, she says she needs to do something first. Is Brianne going to let the music back in?

Don already made one choice: Soul Train over his family. Now, he faces a fight for the show to survive against Dick Clark’s Soul Show, which airs on ABC, one of Don’s essential syndication partners. The next decision is whether to trust the protest and boycott methods suggested by his friend Conrad Johnson (Todd Anthony Manaigo) or take a more ruthless route with Gerald. Frustrated when the civil course doesn’t seem to be working quickly enough, Don lets Gerald off the leash to execute an alternate plan. But when he realizes Gerald’s tactic—placing plants at the Soul Show protest to start a fight—Don’s bothered. Especially when Conrad’s method ends up yielding results. Don will always be in conflict because he’s rarely comfortable with his decisions. When he operates in the straight and narrow, he feels like he’s being taken advantage of; when he plays dirty, he worries about his public image. When Don tries to detach himself from Gerald’s antics, Gerald checks him. He’s already peeped Don’s struggle between being the respectable negro and being a street dude when the situation requires. “It ain’t like you didn’t know, you just chose not to.”

Don’s hot-and-heavy relationship with Ilsa has fizzled out, Tessa’s quit, Brooks doesn’t see the big deal about a competitive show, and Gerald’s idea of being supportive is sketchy at best, highly illegal at worst. Don has presumably slayed the Hollywood dragons that tried to take him down and should feel victorious. Soul Train is a hit, is officially greenlit for a second season, and is still his. But Don’s realizing he doesn’t have true, close allies around him (Clarence Avant once said of Cornelius in real life that you could fit all his friends in a phone booth, and still have room). Delores is not only ignoring his phone calls—more phone calls than we’ve seen him make the entire season—she’s busy with plans that involve separate bank accounts. Don calls his wife one more time to plead for their marriage on the brand new answering machine he bought her. As he hangs up and the episode closes, he collapses—an early glimpse of the brain trauma that plagued him for the remainder of this life.

What the episode got right: Conrad “CJ” Johnson represents young Jesse Jackson, who partnered with the “Godfather of Black Music,” Clarence Avant, in successfully pressuring ABC to take Clark’s Soul Unlimited off the air.

What we could have done without: The scene with Gladys and Don in the lounge. While it was great to see Kelly Rowland reprise her role as Gladys Knight, and we recognize that she’s supposed to serve as some kind of conscious/guide/good luck charm/something for Don, that conversation didn’t move the plot forward in any real way.

What we absolutely don’t believe: That a black mother in the 1970s—the old school black mama prototype—let somebody call her daughter an “uppity b**ch,” then let the same daughter get in her face and slam doors in her house without some hands flying, somebody getting cursed out, or that door coming off the hinges.

What we don’t understand: The relationship between Brianne and Private Nate Barker. He’s fine and all, but what’s his purpose? Maybe there’s more to come in the next episodes.

We’re excited to learn more about Brianne Clarke in the next episode; she’s been an underutilized character so far. There’s a lot to cover, still, in the remaining two shows of the season: Is Simone going to pursue a career in NY? Is JT going to get his foolish self arrested or worse? Is Kendall going to end up with another baby he can’t support? (We feel like Flo has more sense than that, thankfully). Is Brianne going to get it poppin’ with Nate? Is Don going to somehow end up on Gerald’s bad side? We do know Don is getting a divorce, we just don’t know when. Let’s see what happens next.

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