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JoJo Whilden

Review: Netflix's 'Seven Seconds' And The Value Of Black Bodies In America

Just four episodes into Seven Secondsthe tension, darkness, grittiness, everyday micro-aggressions and rampant sexism that peacefully co-exists within our legal system are uncomfortably visible. The Netflix original series centers around the racial injustices that take place within America's police departments, and exemplifies the country's chronic disease of dropping unarmed black bodies into the hands of morally corrupt enforcers.

Directed by Veena Sud, the 10-episode program chronicles the precarious process that assistant prosecutor K.J. Harper (Clare-Hope Ashitey) and detective Joe “Fish” Rinaldi (Michael Mosley) are left with when 15-year-old Brenton Butler dies after a hit-and-run by Peter Jablonski (Beau Knapp). The Jersey City police officer ran over the teen while rushing to attend the birth of his child, and left him laying in the snow at a park.

Brenton’s family—consisting of his mother Latrice (Regina King) and father Isaiah (Russell Hornsby), two average working class church-going African-American folk—is left devastated and hungry for answers. But unfortunately they fail to get them, as the corrupt cops who work with Jablonski do everything they can to cover for him.

While the plot is based on Butler’s death, the intricacies of being a person of color in America are heavily showcased through the rest of his family, and Harper along with her fellow Latino co-workers.

Harper, a black woman, is boggled down by life. Her aura is gloomy, stoic and jaded. Viewers get the sense that she’s tired of doing this kind of work, or for that matter, tired of seemingly being unable to deliver justice where it's due.

In one poignant scene, she attempts at reducing the time a black teen is locked up in a juvenile detention center during a court hearing. But as his parents watch helplessly, a Latino judge denies her offer and he is sentenced to a lot more time than anticipated or deserved. It’s a far too common story that continues to feed the narrative of mass incarceration within the black community.

Underneath it all, Harper struggles with alcoholism and becomes victim of her co-worker’s lewd comments and racist notions. Amid the hardships of being a black woman that works in a system that isn’t made to protect her, she also grapples with being a black woman who has to face telling black parents justice isn’t being served albeit it's being deserved.

“She doesn’t want to be the face of that situation because she feels like she can’t do it,” Ashitey says of her character’s conundrum over the phone. “She knew she would fail in that situation especially knowing the legal system the way she does.”

“It must be very hard to be a prosecutor or DA of color,” she continues. “They don’t want to be in a situation where people look at you like you have to fix something all the time because you’re part of this community, and you could prosecute this person, but you don’t because you don’t really have that power.”

Within the series, white privilege is also, of course, highlighted. There’s a joke about Puerto Ricans needing legal status, when they are granted U.S. Citizenship at birth. Brenton’s father shows up at the police precinct, and ends up getting beaten and arrested simply for being inquisitive about his son’s death. It’s like attempting to find godly redemption inside a devil’s playground.

Author Ta-Nehisi Coates breaks down the turbulent chasm that exists between black people and law enforcement in America by referencing the killing of Michael Brown in his book, Between the World and Me.

“Michael Brown did not die as so many of his defenders supposed. And still the questions behind the questions are never asked,” he writes. “Should assaulting an officer of the state be a capital offense, rendered without trial, with the officer as judge and executioner? Is that what we wish civilization to be? And all the time the Dreamers are pillaging Ferguson for municipal governance.”

As the series trickles down, the investigation leads to a catholic school girl named Nadine (Nadia Alexander) whose heroin addiction leads her to trick to support her habit. Her presence in the series adds to the heroin epidemic conversation that’s steadily infiltrating mundane American backyards. Essentially, everything leads to a big court feud between the plaintiffs and the defendants. But in the end you question if this was really a triumph.

Peter didn’t kill Brenton because he is black. However, his life is devalued because he is black. Amid the importance of seeking justice, the real message becomes very clear: black lives matter until law enforcement decides they don’t. Toni Morrison questions the double edge sword of what a black body means in society in The Origin of Others, “Once blackness is accepted as socially, politically, and medically defined, how does that definition affect black people?”

In Brenton’s case, Peter had seven seconds to define his worth.

Seven Seconds premieres February 23 on Netflix.

 

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John Singleton In Coma After Suffering From A Stroke

John Singleton is reportedly in a coma after suffering from a major stroke, TMZ reports.

The Boyz N the Hood filmmaker has reportedly been in the ICU since last weekend. According to legal documents obtained by TMZ, Singleton's mother, Sheila Ward, is asking a judge to appoint her temporary conservator of his work because he is "unable to properly provide for his personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter." Singleton was reportedly working on several projects and preparing to sign a lucrative settlement agreement at the time of his stroke, according to Ward.

As previously reported, Singleton suffered a stroke on April 17, after returning from Costa Rica. After experiencing problems with his legs, he reportedly checked into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles where he suffered a stroke in his hospital room.

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Goodbye Costa Rica... one of my new favorite places in the world.... so much to see so little time...

A post shared by JOHN SINGLETON (@johnsingleton) on Mar 6, 2019 at 1:07pm PST

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'Empire' Makes History By Airing First Black Gay Wedding On Network TV

Wedding bells have just made their way into the history books. Last night (April 25), FOX's Empire became the first network television show to air a black gay wedding. Jamal and his fiancé Kai (Jussie Smollett and Toby Onwumere, respectively) jump the broom and swap vows in the episode titled "Never Doubt I Love."

As an added treat, Empire even tapped the legendary Chaka Khan to perform at the fictional star-studded wedding (Mario and Wood Harris even showed up) which, as evidenced by the episode BTS video, was a moment for everyone right to the stars of the show themselves. “Today’s wedding is special and controversial,” Khan said of using her voice for this particular cameo. “But my answer to all that is just love is love.”

Cast members Taraji P. Henson and Gabourey Sidibe agree that Jamal and Kai's wedding might have just become the best Empire wedding.

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Lizzo Will Appear In 'Hustlers' Alongside Cardi B And Jennifer Lopez

Lizzo continues to make waves as a musician, instrumentalist, body-positivity icon and booty-shaker extraordinaire. The artist– whose major-label debut Cuz I Love You is receiving praise from listeners and critics alike– will have a chance to put her twerking skills to the test.

According to reports, the Minnesota transplant is set to join the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B and Keke Palmer in the already-stacked lineup for the upcoming film, Hustlers. Deadline reports that this is Lizzo’s first live-action film, and her second film overall. She’ll be voicing a character in the upcoming animated musical film, Uglydolls.

Hustlers, which is set to be released by September 2019, is inspired by an article published in New York Magazine in 2016, which “follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients.”

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