Slavery as Entertainment?


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Tracie Thoms, Gabrielle Carteris and Steve Harper in the web series SEND ME.

Recently TV, movies and web series have turned their attention toward slavery. What’s up with that?

We’ve seen movies like 12 Years A Slave, Django Unchained, TV projects like Book of Negroes and the upcoming re-make of Roots and web series like Ask A Slave and my original series, SEND ME, which premiers next month.

Why is slavery so popular right now? Why would a painful and dark moment in American history be a go-to subject for writers and filmmakers? While I can only speak for myself, it’s clear that there’s a 21st century conversation about race that has exploded. With the rash of police brutality and the dialogue sparked by the #blacklivesmatter movement – there’s a hunger to talk about race and how it impacts relationships. People are compelled to talk about racial tensions – and the enslavement of Black people is, arguably, at the core of that.

And while some people assume that entertainment and slavery don’t mix – that the trend somehow trivializes the history, I disagree. It’s a viable and savvy way to continue the discussion. In my case, I created SEND ME as a way to dive into the kind of dialogue I’m always having in my head about what it means to be Black.

SEND ME, is about a Black woman (Tracie Thoms) who has the power to send Black people back in time to slavery. People want to take the journey – in the same way that people want to sky dive or climb mountains – to stretch their limits and discover new things about themselves. The woman and her husband have sent two people and one never came back. He is now opposed to the idea of sending people back in time – even while people are lining up to go. The tension between these Black people is as important as anything else. My hope is that it sparks personal conversations around cultural/racial identity in the context of American history.

Alongside that, I hope it’s just plain fun. While SEND ME is a drama, there are many moments of humor. The series will launch February 1st with 11 interviews of characters who define their reasons for going. In the weeks that follow, we’ll unveil 6 narrative episodes that are three-minutes each. The cast includes 17 actors (including Jasika Nicole, Jerrika Hinton and Gabrielle Carteris). Lots of territory gets covered in the series and there are a handful of juicy twists and turns.

I’m looking forward to seeing how it lands on an audience. Hopefully this trend of slavery-themed programming will inspire a new clarity around the multicultural issues that are at the core of what it means to be American. Tuning in is the only way to find out.

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