Exploring black history on airwaves this month Programming: Old movies, new dramas and oral histories are among the offerings on radio and TV.

On the Air

February 02, 1997|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

If you plan to use Black History Month to learn more about the African-American experience, keep your eye on the TV schedule. All sorts of networks have all sorts of special programming lined up. Here's just a sample.

On the local front, WMAR (Channel 2) will air the Arena Players' production of "Killing Memory," by local playwright Kim Moir, at 7 p.m. Feb. 22. The story, which won WMAR's 15th annual drama competition for African-American writers, is the story of a 1990s African-American who becomes the conduit for the vengeance-seeking spirit of a black man lynched during the 1950s.

WBAL (Channel 11) will air a pair of its own productions: "By River, By Rail" (1 p.m. Feb. 8), with host Kweisi Mfume, about the 20th-century migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North; and " 'Til Earth and Heaven Ring" (12: 30 p.m. Feb. 9), which follows the Morgan State University Choir on its 1995 tour of Southern states and then to a performance at New York's Carnegie Hall.

WJZ (Channel 13) will pitch in with a series of 30-second vignettes, airing throughout the month, honoring educator Marva Collins, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the late Rep. Barbara Jordan, Beatrice Foods chief Reginald Lewis and Gen. Colin Powell.

Black Entertainment Television offers a free peek at the new BET Movies/Starz!3 network, which was launched yesterday as cable's first station devoted entirely to African-American films.

The preview kicked off Saturday with Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" and continues with Denzel Washington in "Cry Freedom" Feb. 8, Wesley Snipes in "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar" Feb. 15, and Damon Wayans in "Major Payne" Feb. 22. All the movies begin at 8 p.m.

Other programming slated to air on BET includes "Teen Summit's Young History Makers" (noon Feb. 15), highlighting the contributions of young African-Americans in a number of fields; "The Legacy: Dreaming & Living Success" (noon Feb. 23), a production of BET news that looks at successful African-Americans and the parents who inspired them; and "Black Caricature" (6 p.m. Feb. 12), which examines the historical image of African-Americans as portrayed in the media and the effect those images have had on public perception.

Both American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies are dusting off some wonderful films that reflect Hollywood's perspective (or lack thereof) on the black experience in America.

AMC's offering, a five-day film festival running tomorrowthrough Friday, will include such classics as 1954's "Carmen Jones" (8 p.m. and midnight tomorrow, 11 a.m. Tuesday), with Dorothy Dandridge starring in an updated version of Bizet's "Carmen," set in a black army unit during World War II and featuring songs by Oscar Hammerstein (Marilyn Horne provides Dandridge's singing voice), plus supporting performances from Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte and Diahann Carroll, and the incomparable Lena Horne in 1943's "Stormy Weather" (8: 30 p.m. and 12: 30 a.m. Wednesday, noon Thursday), joined by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and Dooley Wilson.

The AMC festival also includes Sidney Poitier's film debut, as a medical intern in 1950's "No Way Out" (8 p.m. and midnight Friday), and the only surviving film of pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, 1926's "Body and Soul" (8 p.m. and 1 a.m. Thursday, 5: 30 a.m. Friday), a silent with Paul Robeson playing both an evil preacher and his God-fearing brother. On Wednesday evenings through the month, TCM offers "The Black Experience in Cinema," featuring both famous and obscure films from African-American actors and filmmakers.

Among the films on display will be "Cabin in the Sky" (11 p.m. Feb. 5), director Vincente Minnelli's 1942 all-black musical with an extraordinary cast, including Lena Horne, Eddie Anderson, Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong; "Intruder in the Dust" (8 p.m. Feb. 5), based on a novel by William Faulkner, about an innocent black man trying to prove he didn't commit a murder in a small Southern town; "Cotton Comes to Harlem" (4 a.m. Feb. 13), with Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques as undercover detectives tracking some stolen money; and "The World, the Flesh and the Devil" (8 p.m. Feb. 19), from 1959, with Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer alone in Manhattan, the last survivors of a nuclear war.

On Feb. 26, TCM will air "A Separate Cinema," five films that offer a fascinating look at rarely seen black films of the 1930s and 1940s. The films include "Murder in Harlem" (1935), "Blood of Jesus" (1941), "Souls of Sin" (1949), "Juke Joint" (1947) and "Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A." (1946).

Radio images

WJHU-FM (88.1) will commemorate Black History Month with "Images of America's 20th Century," a four-part series airing from 7: 30 a.m. to 8 a.m. every Sunday. Phylicia Rashad is the host of these oral histories that offer people the chance to recall significant events of the past 97 years.

Today's first part, "Visions of a New Day: Turning the Century Confronting the Question of Race," will have people reacting to W. E .B. DuBois' 1903 prediction that the question of color would be a major problem this century (I think he was onto something).

Next week, "From Swastika to Jim Crow: Jewish Refugee Scholars Teach at Historically Black Colleges" tells the story of Jewish scholars from Germany and Austria who fled the Nazis and migrated to the South, taking jobs at historically black colleges.

On Feb. 16, "Fighting Two Fronts: Integrating the Armed Forces in the Post-War Years" deals with efforts to end segregation in the military. And on Feb. 23, "Stewards of the Earth: A Century of Farming in Mississippi's Black Belt" deals with a farm community in the Mississippi Delta and the African-American families living there who underwent the transition from sharecropping to owning their own farms.

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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