Next month, fans of actor Jussie Smollett will have another opportunity to see him on television other than his starring role on hit show Empire.
AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is back for another season of international, independent programming and Smollett has signed on to be the host.
Premiering on Monday, January 18, on WORLD Channel, the series of indie docs about life, art and culture across the African Diaspora is executive produced by National Black Programming Consortium and co-presented by American Public Television.
“AfroPoP’s engaging, real-life tales add to the collection of rich Black stories that audiences are clamoring for and I wanted to be a part of bringing them to national attention,” said Smollett.
Previous hosts of AfroPoP include Idris Elba, Anika Noni Rose, Wyatt Cenac, Gabourey Sidibe, Anthony Mackie and Yaya DaCosta.
“Jussie is an immense talent with a huge heart and a global perspective on issues, making him the perfect choice as host of the series,” said NBPC Director of Programs and Acquisitions and AfroPoP Executive Producer Kay Shaw. “The range and diversity of the content presented appeared to have really resonated with him and he was an informed host, contributing his knowledge of the issues addressed in the documentaries.”
The five-week series takes viewers on a journey of hope through three continents and the Caribbean. Episodes include:
Director Ditte Haarløv Johnsen’s Days of Hope (January 18), a nuanced look at the unflinching courage of three West African migrants who cross the Sahara desert and Atlantic Ocean in a search for opportunity and safety in Europe. The timely documentary, given current headlines about immigration and refugees, follows the brave souls as they hope for a better life for themselves and their families. Will they find a dream or encounter a nightmare?
Directors Jérôme Guiot and Thierry Teston’s Pan! Our Music Odyssey (January 25), a joyful celebration of the melodious steel drum. The film explores the magical instrument from its development in Trinidad to its celebration around the world, as bands from across the globe gather to compete in the ultimate steel band competition: Panorama.
Pablo García Pérez de Lara and Marc Serena’s Tchindas (February 1), which transports viewers to São Vicente in Cape Verde. There we meet Tchinda, a transgender woman who is so cherished that her name has become synonymous with LBGT people in the area. The documentary follows the celebrated character, out and proud since 1998, as she and her cohorts prepare for the beloved annual carnival.
N’Jeri Eaton and Mario Furloni’s First Friday (February 8), which heads to Oakland, California—a city with a reputation as one of the most dangerous in America—as it works to rebrand itself through its successful First Fridays monthly street festival. The murder of a young Black man sends the city reeling, threatening the very survival of this community celebration and, perhaps, the town’s very renaissance.
A shorts program (February 15) celebrating youth and the hope they both possess and inspire—with films from the west and east coasts of Africa. Nosarieme Garrick’s My Africa Is, set in the bustling, modern city of Nairobi, introduces viewers to dynamic youth envisioning a new Kenya—designers, inventors and musicians changing the face of their communities through innovation and entrepreneurship. Terence Nance and Blitz the Ambassador’s Native Sun helps viewers see Ghana through the eyes and dreams of an eight-year-old in search of his father.
(CLICK HERE to read TNJ Senior Editor Sergie Willoughby’s interview with Bobbito Garcia and Kevin Couliau, co-directors of “Doin’ It in the Park,” a basketball documentary featured in 2014’s AfroPop series.)