Monday, January 21, 2008

We Shall Overcome...Or At Least Get Close

It's MLK Day! While most people, myself included, will spend today watching TV, staying warm, shopping, drinking or crying about the Packers (seriously why???), Martin Luther King Day should be a day on not a day off.

So if you're not volunteering in your community or single-handedly uplifting a people, at least take the time to learn a little Black history. Here's the TV version...abridged.

1928: The Amos 'n Andy radio show premieres. The show features white actors mocking voicing African-American characters for comedic value. The program is later turned into a TV show featuring Black actors. While it was one of the first shows with an all-Black cast, the show was still highly derogatory.

1956: Nat King Cole becomes the first African-American TV host.

1965: Bill Cosby stars in NBC's action-thriller I Spy. Cosby's the first African-American to have a leading role in a drama series.

1968: Diahann Carroll plays a widowed nurse in the breakout hit Julia. While the show featured a professional African-American woman, her boss and other figures of authority were still primarily White.

1971: Young people get an alternative to American Bandstand when Soul Train premieres.

1980: BET launches on January 25. A channel so innovative uplifting is now our source for Hell Date.

1989: Family Matters, a loose spin-off of Perfect Strangers, premiers. Not ground breaking, but Steve Urkel starts a trend of hilarious Black geeks, providing self confidence and kneeslapping idols for kids like me everywhere.

1990: Kenan Ivory Wayans and half of his family start In Living Color, a popular sketch comedy show. It launches the careers of Jim Carey, Damon Wayans and J-Lo. Kenan Ivory Wayans has yet to apologize for that last one.

1999: Eddie Murphy creates a claymation show about a Black family living in the projects called The PJs. It sets Black History back decades.

2005: Aaron McGruder's popular comic strip, The Boondocks, is turned into a TV show for Cartoon Network's late-night adult block of programming. One episode tackles what would have happened if MLK had lived. Like most of the episodes, it was very smart and hilarious but Al Sharpton got pissed. Not surprising.

More to come in February for Black History Month. Don't act like you're not excited.