Justice. Then, Poetic Justice.

Tricia Nelson
3 min readJun 13, 2020
The breathtakingly beautiful “Daughters of the Dust” by director Julie Dash.

You’ve been crushing your Woke 101 homework. You’re done bingeing When they See Us, Just Mercy, I Am Not Your Negro, Selma, The Kalief Browder Story, Slavery by Another Name, plus all the other #BlackLivesMatter suggestions from your streaming services for extra credit. You even snuck in one more Black Panther viewing … now what?

Consider this: when was the last time you watched a movie with a Black lead or primarily Black cast just for fun that wasn’t …?

  • A biopic
  • About slavery, Jim Crow, crime/wrongful incarceration or the terrorism/abuse of Black People
  • Centered around a white character’s comfort or development
  • Averse to the concept of a fully realized black woman as a romantic lead
  • Trafficking in tokenism, fetishization or lazy exceptionalism
  • The adventures of a Magical Negro™

Hmmm, right?

The story of Black people doesn’t begin and end with struggle and suffering. Nor do we exist to be sassy sidekicks, curvy side chicks, plot devices, talismans or asexual lunks requiring life lessons from nice white ladies. In the face of persistent societal contempt and institutions that constantly betray us, we live. We laugh, we love, we fail, we triumph. We’re corny; we’re complicated; we’re ordinary. We’re human.

Want a more dimensional look at Black life? Start by acknowledging the universality of our narratives and learn to see yourself in them. Get to know or re-watch the films of our canon*. Challenge the concept of #blackfamous**. Start asking why so few movies are made that don’t perpetuate the same tired tropes. And, if you have the influence, do your part to end the scourge of racist silencing, sidelining and stereotyping.

Grab a snack, sit back and harness the beauty of cinema to fight the power.

“To Sir, with Love” was based on E.R. Braithwaite’s 1959 autobiographical novel.


Paris Blues (1961)

To Sir, with Love (1967)

Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

Mahogany (1975)

“Krush Groove” featured a long lineup of artists playing themselves, and was loosely based on the early days of Def Jam Records.


Carmen Jones (1954)

The Wiz (1978)

Purple Rain (1984)

Krush Groove (1985)

Berry Gordy’s “The Last Dragon” is a cult classic.


The Last Dragon (1985)

Hollywood Shuffle (1987)

Coming to America (1988)

House Party (1990)

“Love Jones”: Romance, drama, friends, poetry. New Jack fiyah.


Poetic Justice (1993)

The Best Man (1999)

Love Jones (1997)

Love & Basketball (2000)

“Boomerang” has it all: baby Halle Berry, Eartha Kitt at her friskiest, a nekkid Grace Jones and super-suave leading man Eddie Murphy.

Rom Com/Rom Dram

She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Boomerang (1992)

Waiting to Exhale (1995)

People Places Things (2015)***

Dwan Smith, Lonette McGee and Irene Cara as Sister and the Sisters in “Sparkle.”

Family Affairs

Sparkle (1976)

Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Soul Food (1997)

Eve’s Bayou (1997)

Robert Townsend’s “The Five Heartbeats” featured an original soundtrack with two Top 20 Billboard hits. Also: Leon.


Do the Right Thing (1989)

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

New Jack City (1991)

The Five Heartbeats (1991)

*This thoroughly subjective starter list was compiled by a GenXer and is by no means complete. Ask the Black people in your life — or the Google — for more recent titles. Explore the wealth of niche categories to tackle when you’re ready for more.

** With all due respect to Leon, Frankie Beverly & Maze and Teena Marie (R.I.P.).

  • **An indie film I loved. It isn’t quite canon, but should be.

Want more? Read Part 2.



Tricia Nelson

Native New Yorker Valley Girl. Eclipse-chaser, lightworker, shade-thrower. TriciaNelson.com | @trish2power