Can you imagine being a young, female African-American partner at a law firm whose associate just can't take no for an answer?  Can you imagine that associate turning out to be the leader of the free world?  I'm sure Michelle Robinson didn't either.  Luckily for America, she said yes and we have been fortunate enough to have a front row seat at one of the most romantic love stories in American history between two beautiful, intelligent and culturally stimulated individuals - who just happen to be the President and First Lady ...oh yeah, and in case you didn't know they're black.

"Southside With You" chronicles the first date between President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.  It’s the answer to the age-old question couples often get asked when out in public for the first few dates - How did you meet? What was your first date like?  Who doesn’t relate to love and all the juicy details that go along with it?  I know I do and was totally sucked in by the first moment.

Tika Sumpter in the title role of Michelle Obama is direct, stunning and totally smitten by a young Barack Obama portrayed spot on by Parker Sawyers.

How did these two virtually unknowns land these roles?  First of all, Tika Sumpter is barely "unknown".  I met her when she was Series Regular on the now defunct ABC-TV Soap "One Life to Live"  in Florida at a "SuperSoap" convention.  Currently, she's wreaking havoc on Tyler Perry's hit nighttime drama "The Have and Have Nots" on OWN.  In addition, she's also one of the film's producers.

When the 32-year-old Sawyers, who was born and raised in Indianapolis and now resides in London, sent in his first audition tape, he was doing a pitch-perfect impersonation of the President at 54, rather than at 28.  Luckily for him and for us, casting director, Twinkie Byrd convinced the film’s director, Richard Tanne to watch Sawyers tape again, but turn down the volume and just watch his performance.  Needless to say, the rest is history.

Sundance Q&A with cast & Director Richard Tanne

During a Q&A after the screening, when asked if the Obamas had seen the film, Tanne said "the president and first lady are aware of the film...and a little baffled by its existence.”  Well, I'm not and neither were the hundreds of people in the audience who along with me, gave a hearty round of applause and standing ovation. Two of my favorite moments were them walking through a museum featuring the artwork of Ernie Barnes.  Barnes' work was featured prominently on the  CBS sitcom "Good Times".

The soundtrack featuring a mix of hits from 1989 ranging from rap to Stevie Wonder kept my toes tapping while being enthralled by the performances of every actor onscreen and not just the leads.

It came to my attention that the film received mixed reviews, which is not a surprise.  The Obamas have received mixed reviews since they crossed the threshold of 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue.  However, what I know for sure is that those who DO see it will love it and walk away with a smile and glow at how beautiful love can be when it happens with "the right one".  It really is a marvelous emotion to experience and my wish is that everyone can find that everlasting type of mutual, love, admiration and respect in a relationship that spans a lifetime.

Thanks Tika for following your gut and your passion in getting this story told....


Straight Outta Compton

IMG_0816 March 3, 1991,  in Los Angeles, South Central resident Rodney King was repeatedly beat by numerous LAPD officers.  The incident was captured by video and broadcast nationally.  However, when the cops were tried by the courts...they were all acquitted.  Sound familiar?

Gangsta rap was in full effect and a west coast group called N.W.A. (NIggas With Attitude) were at the forefront of the controversy along with many of their cuts including F*&k the Police!   N.W.A. was made up of Compton teens Ice Cube, Dr. Dr,  Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren, who at the time had no idea that they were changing the trajectory of hip-hop music for a whole new generation.


They spoke up and out, which thrust them into the spotlight making them the poster children (along with west coast rapper Ice-T, and his controversial hit Cop Killer) for gangsta rap and any negative stereotype associated with black men, violence and gangs.   Unfortunately, like most groups, money was at the forefront of their demise and the label they formed - Ruthless Records.

Straight Outta Compton is smacking you in the face with the realities of being a young black man in America (especially South Central LA), AIDS (being a disease that was striking straight men, women and gays), the ugly side of the music industry and how escaping the choice of being a gang-banger or being an inspiration for these kids to move in a more productive direction.

Paul Giamatti is having a great year in film and this is the second time he has played a smarmy music manager.  However, he easily takes what could've been a one-note performance and layered it like one would do to stay warm in a winter storm.  Brillance at its best - for sure!

O'Shea Jackson (Ice-Cube's son) bears an uncanny resemblance to his Dad and is a natural actor in his first feature film.


But, it is the performances of Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E and R. Marcos Taylor as Suge Knight that are going to be the talk of tinsel town.  They are equally stupendous in their respective roles and it would be nice to watch these brothas get their props come awards season. Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre and Lisa Renee Pitts as Dr. Dre's Mom are letting us have too!!  Their scenes together are simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-warming, as a mother and son trying to defy the odds of what society dictates where their lives should be.

The film has already grossed close to 56 million dollars and has aided Universal Pictures in already securing 2 Billion dollars for 2015, making it the most successful film to have an August release in quite some time.  Not bad for a film that police across the country were positive would insight rioting and gunfire.  Too bad...too sad for them.  Sorry...not sorry.

In addition, Dr. Dre is donating all of the proceeds from his latest release Compton:   A Soundtrack by Dre toward the completion of a performing arts center for the City of Compton. iTunes reported album garnered more than 25 million downloads n its first week of release.

So, the next time you see a group of young black men hanging out on a corner or on a stoop...don't be so quick to judge and typecast.  Not all black men are a threat to society.  Many of them during the course of history have made America a better place like Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesse Jackson, Julius Bond, Roland Martin, Bryant Gumble and of course The President of the United States...Barack Obama.

N.W.A. may have been unorthodox in their tactics to express their message, but it was heard and people listened.  We are still listening and waiting for a change to come.

Check out my video review blog, as well as, the trailer for Straight Outta Compton