The Chi episode still
Parrish Lewis/SHOWTIME

'The Chi' Recap: On Ep. 6, There's No Singular Black Experience, No Matter The Outside Perception

Last week on The Chi, Brandon and Kevin bonded over a haircut and the very different ways they grieved losing a father, displaying the multitude of the black man’s character. Both are affected by death—one sheds tears, the other remains stoic, and yet they are both genuinely black.

This dynamic black experience becomes central to Ep. 6 within the first few minutes. Keisha runs through the different parts of Chicago in her track uniform, passing black people of all ages before ending her route in the bathroom to change and get dolled up for her new boyfriend. For a city pejoratively dubbed “Chiraq” by national media, comparing the city’s gang warfare to that of a war-torn country like Iraq, Keisha’s casual run sheds light on the diversity of blackness in Chicago that gets routinely homogenized in bloodshed.

To elucidate this point, The Chi consciously places its black characters with similar looking life situations in scenes together before making it clear how different their lives are. Emmett and Brandon work in the same food truck and are both young black men struggling to make their futures work. Inside the truck, Emmett complains about the mothers of his children requesting that he provides the child support they deserve. Once Emmett mentions to Brandon about wishing he had a mature, stable woman like Brandon has in Jerrika, their experiences diverge.

Emmett really is the catalyst for the most profound reinforcements of the varying black experiences. In one scene, Emmett declares he is “grown” and says his absent father is one to talk when his father dismissively tosses the letter from the child support office towards him. That small jab at his dad reinforces in our minds that the two characters are different versions of the same black absentee father. Emmett’s father literally gives his son two options on how to deal with his child support situation—either lie to the system or work with it. Those two choices can eventually lead him down two different paths to be two different types of fathers.

The stigma of absent black fathers has been permeated throughout film and popular culture for decades. Seldom are their complexities explored, even if they’re more rooted in reality than the stigma. According to a 2015 paper from National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black fathers who did not live with their children were nearly twice as likely to bathe and dress their children than their white counterparts. So, when Emmett and the three mothers of his children come to a child support agreement outside of the system, it becomes a testament to how black families are not monolithic arrangements of misery.

Then, Jerrika comes face to face with the same Alderman Bonner (Phillip Edward Van Lear) who chastised her for working with Ms. Brown and excluding affordable housing from Brown’s new property. This time, they meet outside a protest on Ms. Brown’s private property, which Jerrika accuses the alderman of manufacturing. Jerrika advises Ms. Brown businesswoman against calling the police against the protestors because of how police treat protests in Chicago. However, when speaking to Bonner, she calls those same protests “rental riots,” showing how the same black woman can be both for and against the people, depending on her audience.

But, it’s not until the alderman’s insidious plan is revealed that we see that the he and Jerrika are two sides of the same coin. Bonner, who is depicted as a champion of the community and paragon of righteousness by his dismissal of Jerrika and Ms. Brown’s decision , uses black protests as a way to extort money from Jerrika, a woman he thinks is not helping the community. However, to complicate matters, the money he wants is for a community center.

The people of Chicago have had to deal with the moral ambiguities of their elected officials for decades. Chicago has had 30 aldermen convicted of crimes in 47 years, with the most recent conviction of South Side Ald. Willie Cochran over misuse of campaign funds occurring less than two months before this week’s episode aired.

At one point in the episode, Jake is accused by his teachers and the principal of posting a standardized test and its answer key online. Using the street smarts he says he acquired from the TV show The First 48, he knew to ask for a lawyer since they needed his confession to resolve the issue. Small caveats like these don’t just simply sustain an episodic theme, but also help broaden our understanding of The Chi’s characters as well as the black experience, in general.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Getty Images

Chris Rock, Megan Thee Stallion Sign On For ‘SNL’ Season Premiere

Chris Rock is returning to Saturday Night Live as host of the upcoming 46th season. The 55-year-old comedian will helm the season premiere next week with Meghan Thee Stallion as the musical guest, NBC announced on Thursday (Sept. 24).

Airing on Oct. 3, the season premiere marks SNL’s return to its headquarters at Rockefeller Center since March. The long-running sketch comedy show went virtual last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The show will also be Megan’s first time performing solo on the SNL stage (she previously made a guest appearance with Chance the Rapper last November).

October. [email protected] @theestallion

— Saturday Night Live - SNL (@nbcsnl) September 24, 2020

Rock, who has hosted the SNL three times, was a cast member from 1990 until 1993. After SNL, Rock joined the cast of In Living Color, and embarked on a successful career in stand-up comedy.

But he's not  the only In Living Color alum heading back to SNL this season. Jim Carrey has signed on to play former Vice President and presidential hopeful, Joe Biden, on the show.

Continue Reading

‘Antebellum’ Star Janelle Monáe: ‘This World Owes Black Women So Much’

For us Black folk, the fight for social justice in America continues to be a long and arduous fight. Since the day our African ancestors set foot on this land, we’ve endured the chains and whips of systemic oppression and marched arm in arm for our civil and economic rights. Along the way, we’ve witnessed the senseless killing of our Black brothers and sisters at the hands of police brutality and white supremacy.

Let’s face it. Today, 400 odd years later and in the midst of an anxiety-inducing pandemic, being Black in America is still exhausting. Our Black brothers can’t go for an afternoon jog without running into the armed, confrontational, and self-appointed neighborhood watch. Or question their arrest before being handcuffed and forced to lie face-down, while gasping for air under the pressure of a police officer’s knee on their neck. The most disheartening of all is that our Black sisters can’t rest peacefully in their beds without trigger-happy police officers raiding their homes with a fatal shower of bullets.

The gut-punch of it all? Justice for Black bodies is far and in between. And the group less likely to see any form of justice? Black women. The women who’ve carried and birthed nations. The women who’ve fearlessly aided and led historic uprisings while fighting on the front lines to spark social change. In the upsetting case of Breonna Taylor, one of the officers responsible for her death has been indicted on “three counts of wanton endangerment” for endangering the lives of those in a neighboring apartment.

One activist who has been vocal about the lives of Black people in America is eight-time Grammy award-nominated artist Janelle Monáe.

“I feel like this world owes Black women so much. At the very least, it owes us peace...I have to actively fight for my own peace,” shared the actress in a recent sit-down with VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle. “It's tough, especially when you see your brothers and sisters, that look like you being murdered and killed, all you can really feel is rage. And when that festers in you, it's hard to shake it. It's hard for me to unwatch the videos I watched of Sandra Bland, of Trayvon Martin, of Jacob Blake, thinking about Breonna Taylor, it's difficult. So, you have to actively fight. I have to actively fight for my own peace.”

In the newly released thriller Antebellum, Monáe plays Veronica Henley, a best-selling author and outspoken sociologist. After speaking on the marginalization of Black people in America at an event in New Orleans, Veronica wakes up as Eden, an enslaved woman working on a Louisiana plantation in a Civil War era. As Veronica experiences the past life of slavery, she (Eden) finds her strength and voice to plan and lead fellow slaves to freedom. Even if she fails over and over again.

“I used to say, ‘Black women are superheroes.’ That's not what I say at all. It's not our job to be superhuman. It's not our job to clean up systemic racism or dismantle them,” pointed out Monáe.

“This film [Antebellum] is a look at what it is like for a Black woman to carry the burden of dismantling and deconstructing white supremacy every single day. We persevere through it. We are triumphant, but we shouldn't have to carry that emotional labor and that heaviness every single day.”

This same weight of responsibility can be seen in today’s oftentimes women-led social movements and calls to action in the streets of America. You can see how it’s cinematically embedded as a theme in the twisted Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz co-directed film. But there’s one thing that must take precedence during any physically and mentally demanding mission for change: rest. And those of us protesting for equality should have loved ones around to serve as a reminder of joy and lightheartedness. For self-care is an underrated superpower.

“I think that it's important to surround yourself around people that if you are doing heavy lifting, if you're out there on the front line, if you’re just having a difficult time, [you can] go watch some comedy films,” encouraged Monáe. “Just be around people that make you laugh. That's really important. I think laughter is something that we can do a lot more of together.”

Watch the full interview with Janelle Monáe above. Also, catch our chat with Antebellum's co-directors Bush and Renz where they talk about how one nightmare inspired the film’s premise.

Antebellum, co-starring Gabourey Sidibe, Kiersey Clemons, and more, is available now on premium video-on-demand platforms.

Continue Reading
Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

The Game Reboot Lands At Paramount+ Streaming Service

A revival of the BET’s The Game is officially in development under the ViacomCBS digital subscription streaming service Paramount+, which was originally branded as CBS All Access.

The series reboot was announced on Tuesday (Sept. 15), along with a list of original and rebooted shows headed for the streaming outlet which includes a limited series chronicling the making of The Godfather, a new edition of VH1’s Behind the Music, and the true crime docuseries, The Real Criminal Minds. The programming will join CBS All Access’ list of more than 20,000 episodes and movies across BET, MTV, CBS, Comedy Central, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, and more.

Although no details have been released about The Game revival, the series will fall under BET’s Paramount+ programming from CBS Television Studios and Garment Productions. It’s unclear if any of the show's original cast members like, Tia Mowry, Pooch Hall, and Wendy Raquel Robinson, will be involved in the new installment.

The hit sports series was created by Mara Brock Akil, as a spinoff of her other hit sitcom, Girlfriends. Akil recently inked an overall deal with Netflix to develop new projects for the streamer. The company also acquired the rights to Girlfriends, Sister, Sister, Moesha, and The Parkers.

Continue Reading

Top Stories