Brittany Luse as the new host of It's Been a Minute : Code Switch Code Switch's host B.A. Parker, introduces us to our play cousin It's Been a Minute's new voice, Brittany Luse! In Brittany's first two episodes she talks about the representation and contextual history of Black women in politics and Hollywood.

You can follow us on Twitter and Instagram @NPRCodeSwitch, Parker @aparkusfarce, and the new host of It's Been A Minute Brittany Luse @BMLuse!

Code Switch fam! Say hello to It's Been a Minute's new host, Brittany Luse!

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Hey, everyone. I'm B.A. Parker, and you're listening to CODE SWITCH. Now, today, we've got a great treat for you - my pal, and the new host of our play cousin, It's Been A Minute, Brittany Luse. Say hi to the people, Brittany.


PARKER: Hi. Welcome, welcome. I'm so excited to have you in the NPR multiverse.

LUSE: (Laughter) It's good to be here. It's good to be here. I'm so glad that we came on around roughly at the same time.

PARKER: Same. Now - but how's it going so far?

LUSE: Oh, so far, it's going good. I mean, things move fast.

PARKER: They do.

LUSE: (Laughter).

PARKER: They do.

LUSE: Things move fast (laughter). We got two episodes a week every week. But it's been really fun, and I love my team. It's been a good time.

PARKER: I know your team, and they are lovely.

LUSE: They are. They are.

PARKER: Now, I've been a fan of yours for a very long time. I've listened - I think I've listened to the - almost, like, everything you've done from your work on "The Nod" and then work from...

LUSE: What?

PARKER: For sure. Like, your work with "The Nod" and your work on "For Colored Nerds" - like, I've been a very big Brittany Luse fan.

LUSE: Thank you, Parker. That means a lot ;cause you know I'm a B.A. Parker fan - hundred percent...

PARKER: (Laughter).

LUSE: ...Down to the socks.


PARKER: How has your experience on those shows influenced the way that you approach your new role as the host of It's Been A Minute?

LUSE: You know, I think they're actually really similar. Like, the way It's Been A Minute works is to look at, like, the world around us, through, like, news, pop culture, politics. And although "For Colored Nerds" and "The Nod" were specifically mostly pop culture shows - "The Nod" specifically was also a Black culture show - we've covered everything from, like, talking about the newest "Power" reboot and Black female antiheroes on TV to talking about, like, climate crisis and abortion access. Like, we cover it all, you know, between the two of those shows. And I think it's the exact same thing with It's Been A Minute. You know, we can talk about what - the movie that's No. 1 at the box office on a given weekend, but that goes into so many other aspects of conversation whether you get into business, whether you get into how casting works or how studios make money or why a specific topic even, you know, has become a popular film in the first place.

PARKER: What I love about you and your interests is that they do run the gamut. Like, I've seen you and your faithful live tweets of "Married At First Sight" or like, the importance of, like, 1990s Minnie Driver in "Circle Of Friends."

LUSE: That's a good movie.

PARKER: Like, that is iconic. Oh, it's such a good movie.

LUSE: Benny Hogan for life. That's my girl (laughter).

PARKER: Also, then, like, do a story about Black maternal health. I mean, everyone contains multitudes, but you really contain multitudes.

LUSE: Thank you, Parker. I appreciate feeling seen in that way. I mean, you know, the thing is is that I think a lot of times - I think Black audiences are served so poorly (laughter) - like we don't know anything, like we don't have any awareness of anything, like we don't have any interest outside of, like, the most base - most, like, broad, you know, slice of pop culture.

PARKER: Fair, fair.

LUSE: And in actuality, Black culture and Black pop culture is so much more varied than that. And it's so much richer than that. And - yeah, there's so many things that we're interested in. I just - you know - it's always been my goal to show that off.

PARKER: I love that. And I'm seeing, like, all those layers and interests really translate into the Brittany Luse era of It's Been A Minute.


PARKER: For today's episode, I'm excited to showcase some of your talents for our listeners at CODE SWITCH. Your first week on the job, you covered one of the most important gubernatorial races in this year's election. You interviewed Stacey Abrams. She's running for governor in Georgia. Tell us more about that interview.

LUSE: It was - I mean, it was a great privilege to be able to talk to her at this moment in time - I mean, as if there wasn't enough pressure on her in the 2018 gubernatorial election in Georgia. So it was really interesting to be able to get into her head a little bit and see sort of what she's thinking about and how people project a lot onto her as almost this, like, savior that's going to fix American democracy.

PARKER: I mean, haven't you heard? She's going to turn this ship around. She's going to - everything's going to be all right after she fixes it.

LUSE: Right. I mean, it's almost like people think that she's, like - like, it's almost like she's got, like, a Mary Poppins' bag that just has everything in it that's going to, like, give us the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. And it's really too much to put on a person. But the way that she put it, she said that she always - has always rejected the Black girl magic narrative. That was really surprising to me. I think for, you know, someone like Stacey Abrams - and for many also everyday Black women who are in positions where people kind of see them as somebody that they can look to and lean on, I can absolutely see how something like that would be tiring for her. So it was interesting to be able to not just hear about everything that she's thinking about with regard to this upcoming election season, but also just to get an idea of sort of like what it's like to be in her shoes in 2022 because it's very different than 2020 and very different from 2018.

PARKER: This is one moment in your conversation where she really sums up the weight of this election if she wins it.


STACEY ABRAMS: Yes, I will be the first Black woman governor in American history. And what that means in the Deep South is seismic. The governor is an extraordinarily powerful job. Stand your ground was signed by a governor. Jim Crow started and was the product of Southern governors. And so having a governor from the South whose grandfather, my mother's father, was born 25 years after the end of slavery - I carry with me a legacy and a vantage point that says that I'm going to work harder than anyone ever has to live up to the legacy and the opportunities I have been granted.

LUSE: My conversation with her just made it even more clear how consequential this specific race is, and it gave me a lot of insight as to what's at stake for, like, Georgians and Georgia voters. But not even only Georgia voters, but, like, a win for her has the potential to really shake up Deep South politics.


LUSE: So to understand sort of how we get Stacey Abrams - how we get to this specific moment in American politics - I spoke with Dr. Christina Greer. She's a professor of political science at Fordham University, and she has long studied how Black political leaders gain power. And she's actually working on a book right now of how we kind of got to Stacey Abrams and this specific moment that we're having right now, with Black women in American politics who've amassed a decent amount of power. She has really strong ideas about who Stacey Abrams' sort of, like, political forbears are.

PARKER: So for the first part of our episode with you today, we're going to play that conversation between you and Dr. Greer. And Greer starts that conversation by telling you that, to her, Abrams is the culmination of a long history of Black women fighting for influence.


CHRISTINA GREER: If Fannie Lou Hamer and Barbara Jordan had a baby, 50 years later it would be Stacey Abrams.

LUSE: Fannie Lou Hamer and Barbara Jordan - two iconic Black political leaders both from the South and both effective change-makers in radically different ways. Barbara Jordan was an insider who built coalitions first in the Texas State Senate and then as the first Black woman from the South elected to the House of Representatives. Fannie Lou Hamer was an outsider who mobilized grassroots networks to challenge the Democratic Party. For Christina Greer, Abrams is a hybrid - someone who organizes inside and outside the system.

GREER: It's really important also to remember Barbara Jordan was Black American, as is Stacey Abrams, as is Fannie Lou Hamer. As someone who wrote a book called "Black Ethnics," I do actually think about the power of ethnicity. So Shirley Chisholm, Guyanese; Kamala Harris, Indian and Jamaican - right? - Barack Obama, Kenyan and Kansan. So when we think about people who are able to be on this kind of national stage...

LUSE: Right.

GREER: ...It isn't lost on me that they're not Black American.

LUSE: Right.

GREER: If U.S. chattel slavery is the original sin of America, I do think that there is still something about the dichotomous relationship between Black people and white people - Black people who are descendants of U.S. chattel slavery - that is still unresolved.

LUSE: You know, you brought up a really great point, which is...

GREER: Ooh, tell me more.

LUSE: (Laughter) Well, in talking about Barack Obama, Shirley Chisholm, Kamala Harris being not of what I call, like, African American or Black American heritage, Stacey Abrams is.

GREER: The JBs (ph).

LUSE: What did you say - the JBs?

GREER: Like, when people are like, oh, where are you from? It's like, oh, I'm from Detroit. It's like, no, where are you from from? It's like, Louisiana, then Detroit? And then it's like, no, where you from? Like, where are your people from? You're like, oh, I'm just Black.

LUSE: (Laughter) Yes.

GREER: So, you know, in college, we were just - it's like, oh, we're the JBs.

LUSE: The JBs (laughter)...

GREER: We're the just Blacks, all right? 'Cause everyone else is like, Guyana and, you know, Bermuda - whatever it may be.

LUSE: Yeah, and they're, like, bringing the whole extra flags and, like, different music - a whole national cuisine. And I'm just like...

GREER: Yes. Yes. Yes.

LUSE: (Laughter) I'm like...

GREER: Here we are.

LUSE: ...Here I am, JB.

GREER: Here we are. But we also - but here's the thing - we also have our own cuisine.

LUSE: We absolutely do.

GREER: Like, we also have our own customs and traditions. Like, I mean, that's the thing that, like, we can't forget - that the JBs actually are an ethnic group.

LUSE: How does that - like, how does Stacey Abrams being a JB translate to how people read and understand her?

GREER: Well, I think being a descendant of U.S. chattel slavery does give you a perspective on what this country is and what she can be. And so I'm going on the research for my book, "Black Ethnics," but, you know, I asked a question about sort of the pursuit of the American dream and, like, how feasible it was. And I hypothesized that sort of Africans would be the most invested, Caribbeans in the middle, Black Americans the least invested. We've been here the longest, and, you know, that sort of tracks.

LUSE: Yeah.

GREER: But what happened and what I found in my data was that Africans, not surprisingly, the most invested in the American dream - part of that has to do with an exit option. Part of it has to do with length of time, as the various...

LUSE: Sure.

GREER: ...Groups have been here.

LUSE: Sure.

GREER: But then Black Americans were in the middle, and Afro Caribbeans were the least invested in the American dream. And I think what I found with my interviews of Black Americans and the data was that Black Americans are like, we know who this country is. You win some; you lose some. That is literally the phrase that people kept saying. You win some; you lose some. So it's like, hey, you might end up going to a top college and getting a great job at NPR. You might get caught with some weed and end up in jail for five years, and the rest of your life...

LUSE: Right.

GREER: ...Is history. Hey, that's just what this country does. Like, we've seen it. I think the frustration that we're seeing with Caribbean immigrants is that, you know, my data showed - they were like, well, wait a minute. I came here at the same time as someone from Asia, someone from Latin America. Why is it that my life chances are totally different just 'cause I have a Black prefix to my immigration status?

So this is a much larger conversation about the power of Black ethnicity. And so I think a lot of Black Americans, Stacey Abrams included, fundamentally understand who this country is, but they also understand the possibility of this country. And that's why I called Stacey Abrams a pragmatic progressive. I don't think that she's like, I'm building a utopia. I don't think that that's what she's doing at all. I think that she's taking the facts that we have and understands the limitations and capacities of various people within the state of Georgia to move forward. And she's pushing them to think about a different vision. And it's not just whites. It's not just Blacks. It's, like, a holistic vision of, like, what Georgians could look for.

LUSE: You know, you brought this whole, like, pragmatic progressive thing a couple times. At what point do you think Black candidates running for office in the United States - at what point do you think they'd be able to move beyond pragmatism and have that be a central part of their platform?

GREER: As long as there's white racism, I don't think you can move beyond pragmatism. I mean, Black voters are the most strategic voters. We oftentimes have to vote against our own first-choice options because we understand white voters. We understand that the vast majority of white voters see any gains for anyone else as a loss for them. So this is, you know, where you have, you know, people dying of whiteness. Jonathan Metzl had that the great book, "Dying Of Whiteness," where white voters consistently vote against policies for themselves that could help them, whether it's gun violence or health care or the environment - you name it - because they fear that somebody else would get something. It's like, that's not even - that's not how it works, guys. But, you know, again, as LBJ said, if you can convince them that it's going to - for someone else, then you can just keep them under your thumb.

And so I do think that, you know, Black people understand white people. We have to understand white people. We have to know the capacity of white people 'cause that's the only way you survive in this country, let alone thrive. We have to. It is a survival tactic. So you may want something, but you understand the capacity of a white voter, where it's like, well, that's not going to happen. So you vote pragmatically. Like, I don't think that the vast majority of Black voters were like, I love Joe Biden. This is going to be the greatest vote in my lifetime.

LUSE: (Laughter).

GREER: But they're like, you know what, Bernie Sanders? This isn't going to sell. So we understand our mere survival is such that we have to understand our communities but also the capacity of white voters to agree or disagree.

LUSE: So Abrams is not the only Black candidate on Georgia's statewide ballot. In a Senate race, we've got incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock. He's also on the ballot with his divisive opponent, former football player Herschel Walker. There's been some talk that some voters may decide to vote the Democrat Warnock into the Senate and keep the sitting governor, Republican Brian Kemp, who's white...

GREER: Yeah.

LUSE: ...And Stacey Abrams' opponent. Kemp and Warnock have completely different platforms, and yet people are projected to vote for both of them?

GREER: I didn't say voters were rational.


GREER: Not all voters. I said some were...

LUSE: And...

GREER: ...Strategic, not all of them rational.

LUSE: I wonder, what does that split say about Georgia's willingness to elect a Black woman governor?

GREER: Well, I mean, I think, you know, the purpleness of Georgia is happening, and it's real. I think we also have to just be very honest. There are a lot of people who will not vote for a woman, ever. There are a lot of women who won't vote for a woman.

LUSE: We saw that.

GREER: And they'll tell themselves whatever they need to tell themselves. But the mental gymnastics, when someone is explaining to you why they couldn't vote for a qualified woman, is the most interesting series of gymnastics you've ever seen because it's just excuses and musings, you know? And so I think that that's going to be a percentage of the population, where no matter what it is, they just can't do it. And we have to remember, that's women, especially white women specifically, right? White women have always voted for the Republican presidential candidate every single year since 1952, except for two times - 1964, my favorite president, LBJ, and 1996, second election of Clinton. Other than that, white women have voted for the Republican candidate. So we can't just assume that Stacey Abrams is a female on the top of the ticket - that she's going to just get women.

LUSE: Pull the women vote, yeah.

GREER: I think it's also different when someone is an incumbent. Stacey Abrams is not a sitting governor, so...

LUSE: True.

GREER: Raphael Warnock is. So I think being a sitting member of the Senate is also an advantage. And some people do have the common sense to recognize that someone like Herschel Walker does not have the mental capacity to handle some of these hard questions that are asked of a U.S. senator. I think that you are going to have a percentage of people who are like, this is a bridge too far. So either they're going to vote for Warnock, or they're just going to leave it blank. If they can't bring themselves to vote for a Democrat, they might just say, you know what? Herschel Walker can run a football, but that's - I think that's where our talent lies.

LUSE: OK. So I have to ask you - I mean, this is, like, the big summation question. After everything we talked about, the books you've written, have yet to write, are writing currently...

GREER: Now you sound like my editor.


GREER: Tick tock, Greer. Tick tock.

LUSE: Well, I'll say this also. I mean, in addition to Stacey Abrams, there are two other Black women who are also running gubernatorial races - one Alabama, one in Iowa. So we got three.

GREER: To say nothing of the Senate.

LUSE: Speaking specifically, though, about governorship, do you believe that a Black woman will win a governorship in 2022? I see you waffling. Like, physically, you are waffling. You are backing - you are vacillating.

GREER: I would love to see it, but so much of what I teach my students is, you know, differentiating between what you want to happen and what you think will happen. If we are going to see a Black female governor, I think the best chance is encapsulated in Stacey Abrams and her team - right? - her team that understands the full state. They're not putting all their eggs in the Atlanta basket. Like, they fully understand this is a statewide strategy.

LUSE: What are the costs if Stacey Abrams loses again in 2022?

GREER: Yeah. I hope that it doesn't dissuade people who were really galvanized into feeling like, oh, this system is rigged and, you know, there's no need in participating. I really hope that that's not the case. And I know that, you know, obviously, Stacey Abrams has talked to voters about like, hey, sometimes your candidate doesn't win. That doesn't mean that you pack up your marbles and you leave democracy forever, you know, that that's not how it works. But I do - you know, in talking to my students, especially for first-time voters, it's sort of if their candidate doesn't win that first time and that sense of disappointment is so severe, it is really imperative that you sort of capture them to make sure that they don't feel like this has been it because that's sure fire way for nothing to change in the future.


PARKER: We've got to take a break now, but I'm really digging this theme of talking about powerful Black women. So when we come back, we dive into another episode of It's Been A Minute with Brittany, this time about the film "The Woman King." That's after the break. Stay with us.


PARKER: Parker. OK, now you say your name.

LUSE: Brittany.

PARKER: CODE SWITCH. We're back with Brittany Luse, the new host of NPR's It's Been A Minute. Hi, Brittany.

LUSE: Hi, Parker.

PARKER: Even though Brittany's only been on the job a couple weeks, she's already got some greatest hits. And we here at CODE SWITCH thought you've got to share the wealth with our listeners. So up next, you broke down the film "The Woman King." It's a movie that's had a lot of success recently, and it's about an all-woman warrior unit defending a West African kingdom against the slave trade. Now, why did you want to talk about that film?

LUSE: Well, I mean, it was a movie that I had a lot of anxiety about (laughter). The story sounded compelling. I love Viola Davis. The cast was amazing. But also it's, like, a story about a West African tribe in the 1800s told from, like, an African American perspective with, like, a big Hollywood budget. Even though it was based on a true story, it felt like there was so many ways that this movie could have kind of gone totally left. But actually, it was pretty well done. Like, as a movie, it really works. As a cinematic experience, I was really impressed with it. And I really actually found the experience of watching in the theater to be pretty gratifying. But yeah - but initially, I mean, when the film was first announced, I'm not going to lie, I was a little nervous.

PARKER: Yeah, I mean, Hollywood hasn't exactly had the best track record with Black historical dramas. I mean, the closest we get usually is, like, "Black Panther." And this one puts Black women at the forefront in this really interesting way.

LUSE: Exactly. Exactly. And I wanted to dive into that. So I sat down with Maya Cade, who's the creator and curator of the Black Film Archive, and cultural critic Shamira Ibrahim. And I started the conversation by asking Maya how "The Woman King" compares to past Hollywood films by Black American filmmakers about slavery or the slave trade.


MAYA CADE: I think that this film, if I may, fits in nicely to the Black woman's film canon. Like, I wouldn't say that there are many films that discuss this, but if I think about it as a film in the Black women's film canon that pushes past the confines of Black women being powerless and nameless and pushes to gather imagery that we're multifaceted humans, it's Black women directors taking representations that they want to see a Black woman on screen in their own hands and being dynamic with that intention. I also think that when you think about Black women's imagery in film, there's a lack of imagination for what Black woman can be onscreen. And it has to be pigeonholed because if you really think about it, this film in many ways is the first of its kind.

LUSE: I wanted to actually specifically also, like, pitch it towards you, Shamira, because you wrote a really fantastic, well-researched review of the film. Could you please sort of lay out what this conversation is kind of about around the historical accuracy of the Dahomey and their participation in the slave trade? Like, you mentioned that the depiction of slavery in the film was maybe oversimplified. Can you lay that out?

SHAMIRA IBRAHIM: Yeah. I was like, whew, you just gave me an easy task right there (laughter). The Dahomey Amazons have, you know, been known, of course, for their reputation as warriors - right? - but also have established a reputation as part of the biggest slaveholders in the region, being responsible for the second most active slaveholding port - right? - for the Door of No Return. If we're lionizing the Dahomey Amazons and the Dahomey Kingdom, we are by proxy, then, lionizing Africans who were, one, actively participating in and, two, actively supporting the transport of slaves. So as the film actually came out, there was a strong sector of boycott "The Woman King" that came out on opening weekend that said that they were refusing to...

LUSE: I saw that.

IBRAHIM: ...See "The Woman King." I cannot speak to how hefty that trend got. But that was a thing that was happening. And I think it's very easy to say that people are perpetuating myths or perpetuating inaccuracies and not sit in the reality of, this is a history that's been under-told, right? It's a history that is irreconciled on both sides of the Atlantic, right? I've spent time in Ghana. I've lived in Ghana for about six months back in 2010. This is something that's under-told on that side of the Atlantic just because of the amount of pain and, you know, shame that comes with that, because, you know, when people are stolen, those are entire communities back on the continent as well. Like, those are entire villages. So for example, when people talk about the Dahomey as "slavers," quote, unquote, they're talking about the Dahomey capturing Yoruba kingdom. So those are entire Yoruba communities that lost people, right? That's not, like, a mythical, like, vacuum...

LUSE: Right.

IBRAHIM: ...That became African Americans, you know what I mean? So there are entire Yoruba communities that lost ancestors. And when you think about that level of pain that still reverberates on the continent, that's still very visceral for many people. And I think, sometimes, we forget that that was not that long ago. So I think part of the problem that Gina Prince-Bythewood is getting through is that the film does a lot of what, you know, you're expected to do in filmmaking, which is to show, not tell, right?

LUSE: Right.

IBRAHIM: But how do you do show, not tell, when this has not been told, right?

LUSE: Right.

IBRAHIM: I think that's the actual problem and the actual dissonance is that if you are someone with a working knowledge of a lot of this history, you can sit and see, OK, this is what they're alluding to in this scene. And those are kind of the working gaps that tend to come up in something that is as laden as this that affects the entire Black diaspora, where there is such heavy topic matter when we are at a cultural moment, when we are literally fighting American government to preserve our history right here in the United States.

And so, unfortunately, Gina is not just fighting Hollywood, she's literally fighting American history. And that all comes to a fulcrum for her when she's trying to do her magnum opus, which, yes, in an ideal world should give her the liberty to play around and let her take her liberties. This movie was not going to resolve this issue. I don't think it should have been expected to resolve this issue. It should be allowed to exist as a Hollywood film.

LUSE: You know, I'm really glad you brought up that point about history because the thing I keep thinking about is, like, I'd love to go back in, like, a time machine to talk to people before and after "Malcolm X" came out, right? It seems like, so frequently, that stories like this will crest in entertainment and will become these big-budget films before they make it into discourse in any other way.

It's almost like you have to make the story saleable before people will then go back or discourse will then wind back to whatever historical record or research or historians are out there. I'm not saying because people are necessarily uninterested. I think people can see from the response to "The Woman King" that lots of people are very interested in knowing stories like these. But to your point, even from a historian's perspective, this history is not as accessible as other historical narratives are. It's almost like you have to sell the story so that it ends up on a big screen before it can end up in a book.

IBRAHIM: Yeah. And to that point, even if there is text, you know, Hollywood and just, like, white supremacist culture at large is very comfortable with the idea of whatever is constructed for the screen existing as the historical record. The amount of people I know who referred to the "Malcolm X" movie, Spike Lee's movie - which is sourced from, of course, Alex Haley's biography of Malcolm X - right? - as if that is the authoritative record...

LUSE: (Laughter) Yeah.

IBRAHIM: ...Of Malcolm X's life, as opposed to, one, reading Alex Haley's book, which, of course, has been disputed in different parts, because that has been the most, you know, popularly distributed version of Malcolm X's life, right? And it's unfortunate that Black filmmakers are burdened by that, right?

CADE: Stuart Hall said it really well when he was writing about the formation of Caribbean cinema. He talks about this idea that cultural identity is a matter of always becoming. And everything is historical, and so the historical must undergo transformation. And Black people are very deeply rooted in history. White people want to forego it because this idea that, oh, that's in the past. Oh, we don't have to worry about that.

LUSE: Right.

CADE: They can make these fantasies about history, and they just be seen as fantasies. We take our whole selves everywhere we go, and that - all of the baggage that comes with.

LUSE: I want to touch on the valorization of kings and queens. So, like, Black Americans like myself have long held onto images of African royalty as a means of, like, imagined past. And I think that the celebration of royalty and the expansion of empire that the film depicts is very much in line with that. I wonder, like, how the film's celebration of royalty and expansion of empire squares - like, how do you see that squaring with the changing conversations that I think Black people all across the diaspora have been having around the utility and possibly the harm of empires and dynasties and things of that nature?

CADE: Something that I think is that Hollywood would be the last to let go of that framework because it - you know, it works for them. The aspirational, you know, we were kings...

LUSE: Right.

CADE: Like, that is...

LUSE: We was - how is that (inaudible)...

CADE: We was king.


CADE: I think that, you know, honestly, it's a tool that is designed to not get people to contend with the harshness of realities of slavery, of slave trading, of all of us, I think, in the American fabric of slavery. If you could just think, oh, you know, if I think back and I came from royalty, it makes it a little less difficult to imagine, you know, your ancestors' past and the present you're reckoning with because of that past. And yeah, Hollywood's not going to - they're not to let that go.

LUSE: At the end of the day, "The Woman King" is a film.


LUSE: Its main goal is to entertain. And I think we all agree that the film absolutely accomplished that.

IBRAHIM: Absolutely.

LUSE: So my question is, like, what's the best we can expect from a movie like this? Like, when it's a movie that does involve, like, some realities of the slave trade and it's telling or retelling a historical story, like, when is a movie like that - what would it take for a film like that to be considered both a historical success as well as a dramatic triumph?

IBRAHIM: I don't know if a movie from the past would be a fair comparison. I'll think about that. But I'll say that I think twofold, which is, one, wow, I had a great time, and, two, I'd love to learn more.

CADE: Yeah. I think a lot of what we've discussed about the pressures of being a Black director kind of influence that. And I don't know if Hollywood is willing to give Black directors that creative freedom to even pursue that. So it's kind of a golden handcuff situation to me, where it's like, yes, you've got the budget, you've got the one scholar...

LUSE: Yes (laughter).

CADE: ...On your film. That's what we're giving you. We're checking the box. So I think this would have to be an independent work, a work that a filmmaker decided to make on their own and engage with history and understand that films, as we said, are seen as the source of history. And with that understanding that you don't know everything and you cannot know everything, but you want to engage with history fairly, lovingly - all of those things.


PARKER: Thanks, Brittany, for bringing this convo to us with Maya Cade from the Black Film Archive and culture critic Shamira Ibrahim.

LUSE: It was really, really, really fun. It felt like the sort of, like, decompression session that I needed after the film to be able to talk about it with two other Black women in that way. It was great.

PARKER: It's been so fun talking with you.

LUSE: Thank you so much, Parker. It's been so much fun talking with you. I'm so glad that we are work neighbors once again.

PARKER: I'm so stoked.

LUSE: You could walk down the street 'cause I work at home (laughter), record the...

PARKER: Shoot. Fun fact - Brittany lives, like, down the street from me.

And that's our show. You can follow CODE SWITCH on IG and Twitter @NPRCodeSwitch. I'm on Twitter and IG @aparkusfarce. If email is more your thing, ours is And subscribe to the podcast on NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.

This episode is produced by Alyssa Jeong Perry and the It's Been A Minute team, Jessica Placzek, Brittany Luse, Barton Girdwood and Janet Woojeong Lee. It was edited by Dalia Mortada. And we'd be remiss not to shout out the rest of the CODE SWITCH team - Kumari Devarajan, LA Johnson, Christina Cala, Jess Kung, Thomas Lu, Diba Mohtasham, Karen Grigsby Bates, Lori Lizarraga, Gene Demby, Steve Drummond and Veralyn Williams. I'm B.A. Parker. Hydrate.


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