I grew up on the music of James Brown and his band The J.B.’s.
And I’m pretty sure anyone who grew up in (or is a friend to) Chicago’s black community know The J.B.s songs “The J.B.’s Monorail,” “Make It Funky” and “Pass the Peas” are skating and steppin’ (Chicago Style steppin’, that is) anthems. Whether you’re from the southside, westside or northside, it’s just part of our culture.
So spending a few days in the world of our dearly departed brother, the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in New York City has sparked a few memories for me as well as educated me. Day 1 of this experience began Friday when I interviewed Chadwick Boseman, star of the forthcoming James Brown biopic, “Get on Up.” Chadwick, who many of us became familiar with from his portrayal of baseball legend Jackie Robinson in “42,” opened up about his experience playing the Godfather of Soul, getting those dance moves down and what he learned about James.
“I didn’t know how much of a businessman he was. I didn’t know that he was just a very shrewd businessman and very shrewd in the way that he handled not just his band but the way that he handled the booking agents and the music companies. He was an innovator in that respect, too. I don’t think most people know that,” Chadwick said. You’ll definitely want to check out the rest of that sitdown later this week.
The following day was like being in James Brownland. I hung out in the “Get on Up” Tour, a traveling exhibit featuring James Brown memorabilia like his hair care products (rollers, included!), stage outfits and wardrobe Chadwick wore in the film. I also got a chance to sing along to my favorite James Brown tunes and groove to deejay D-Nice spinning old school classics by James and other artists like Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan. Pretty awesome, right?
Later today, filmmaker Issa Rae, known for her popular web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” and I will participate in a panel discussion with the cast of “Get on Up.” We’ll be handling the social media aspect, sharing comments and questions fans pose via Twitter. “Today” show host Tamron Hall will moderate the panel, which will feature Chadwick, Nelsan Ellis (you know, Lafayette from “True Blood”) and Tika Sumpter. It begins at 11:30 a.m. and immediately following I’ll interview the cast. “Get on Up” hits theaters August 1. Fun times!
XFINITY Celebrate Black TV is serving up exclusive coverage of the 18th annual ABFF. Yep, we’re the go-to destination for all things ABFF–unique behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, exclusive interviews with celebrities such as Gayle King, Phylicia Rashad and Spike Lee and so much more. Be sure to look for #XFINITYatABFF on Twitter, Instagam and Facebook. You’ll thank yourself later!
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