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'The Chi' Recap: Ep. 8 Prisons Can Be Made Out Of Homes, Schools And Chicago Itself

Anywhere can be a prison, depending on the circumstances. The job with the salary that keeps your kids fed but comes with a racist boss can be a prison. The gang-riddled neighborhood you’ve never left because your family lives there can be a prison. This week’s episode of The Chi, makes some of the characters come to terms with the metaphoric bars they’ve been held captive behind this whole time.

The most depressingly unfair prison is usually the one made out of your own home. When your shelter makes you a target, you become imprisoned by your own livelihood, and that’s no way to live. Watching community members in Jerrika’s house recall grievances of being evicted for minor infractions carried the episode’s heaviest emotional weight. One woman was evicted because she let her spouse stay with her for a few weeks while he stayed overtime at work. Another woman was evicted because of a family member’s arrest for later dismissed drug selling charges. All they did was live and without other knowledge or consent became prisoners of forces beyond their control.

Jerrika mentions how she’s heard of unjust evictions from a real estate organization known as CHC. In reality, a recent report from local housing advocacy organization Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing concluded landlords in majority-African American neighborhoods filed evictions four times as much as landlords in mostly white neighborhoods. In The Chi, the CHC possibly is evicting people in order to not pay to relocate all of the tenants of buildings they wish to renovate and sell to private developers. In reality, real estate company Pangea has filed more than 9,000 evictions in Chicago since 2009, under the duplicitous guise of revitalizing neighborhoods wrecked by the recession. These people on The Chi and in the Chicago we all know have done nothing wrong but live in circumstances where existing in their homes is a hindrance to a faceless company’s economic gain.

One person from The Chi who can attest to feeling trapped by someone else’s economic gain is Brandon, who is a prisoner of his ambition and a circumstance he unwittingly put himself in with Otis “Douda” Perry (Curtiss Cook), the head of the 63rd Street Mob. He accepted Perry’s offer to invest in his taco truck business, an offer similarly deceptive as the CHC’s evictions. Once Brandon realizes Douda is connected to the gang (and by extension, so is he), he tries to cut ties before the mob boss informs him in doing so, Brandon would have to pay back six-figures he knows he doesn’t have yet. Money and ambition is, to an extent, a prison of our own making but, The Chi explores how the city itself can force people to walk into those prisons even after confronting them.

Douda offers to expand Brandon’s taco business from a few trucks to a brick and mortar restaurant across the street from Brandon’s old boss. Similarly to the new truck and $50,000 Douda gifted Brandon in previous episodes, the restaurant would more than likely be another way to help Douda launder his illegally obtained money. Then, just as you can see Brandon’s morality battle with his ambition behind his concerned eyes, Douda asks if he wants to be on a taco truck in February in Chicago. Using the same Chicago weather that killed three people during this year’s polar vortex as a way to make the offer seem like a lifeline for his ambition is one that could ensure Brandon never leaves Douda’s insidious grip.

But, not everyone succumbs to their circumstances. Some on The Chi break out of their cells. Precocious Chicago North Side Academy student Malcolm Whitman (Cayen Martin), who lives in the same south side Chicago neighborhood as Kevin, travels to his prestigious school before the sun rises every morning. Malcolm is what would happen if Kevin had a tethered version in Us that is as eager to discuss shark facts he learned at his school as he is to sell marijuana at that same school, which is largely populated with affluent white students. Malcolm lives in a violent neighborhood and goes to school where he is the only black person, leading him to, admittedly, have no friends. But, he doesn’t succumb to either setback and instead leverages the benefits of both—streets smarts and kids with disposable income—to break free.

While Malcolm traveling miles away to simply go to school is liberating, there’s an inherent depressive quality to the fact a child has to travel that far to get better schooling. Data on more than 24,000 eighth-graders enrolled in Chicago Public Schools in the fall of 2008 demonstrated that 25 percent of those children traveled more than four miles from their home to go to school. In contrast, students from affluent neighborhoods during that same period never traveled more than four miles to school.

As the second season of The Chi near its conclusion, it’ll be interesting to see who remains trapped by their situations, who escapes from them, and who finds themselves in ones they never knew existed.

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Yara Shahidi Cast As Tinker Bell In Live-Action ‘Peter Pan’

Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi will portray Tinker Bell in Disney's forthcoming live-action version of Peter Pan, Deadline reports. The cast of Peter Pan and Wendy, directed by David Lowery, includes Oscar-nominated actor, Jude Law, as Captain Hook.

The casting of Shahidi, who is Black and Iranian, marks the first time that a person of color has portrayed the character, previously played on the big screen by Julia Roberts in Hook, a 1991 live-action reimagining of the classic fairytale.

Peter Pan & Wendy will be Shahidi’s second major feature film behind 2019’s The Sun is Also a Star. The 20-year-old actress scored her breakout role in ABC's Black-ish prioer to landing the spin-off Grown-ish. Additionally, Shahidi has appeared on several other hits TV shows such as Scandal, Family Guy, and Wizards of Waverly Place.

The release date for Peter Pan and Wendy is unclear but the film will reportedly debut in movies theaters versus an on-demand release.

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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 pic.twitter.com/J8KUYWngaL

— 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.

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‘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.

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