Spreading 'GOSPEL' During Black History Month
February 1, 2024
Tyrell Bell and the Belle Singers perform “Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus” in Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s “GOSPEL,” premiering on February 12 on PBS.
With Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s “GOSPEL” documentary and “GOSPEL Live!” concert as centerpieces, public media programming showcases the Black experience on-air, in person and on demand throughout February, Black History Month.
GOSPEL, a four-hour documentary on the history of Black spirituality in sermon and song, premieres on PBS and its digital channels February 12 and 13. The CPB-supported film features performances and interviews with clergy, singers, and scholars including Dionne Warwick, U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock, Rev. Otis Moss III, and professor Michael Eric Dyson.
The live concert, GOSPEL Live!: Presented by Henry Louis Gates Jr., premieres on February 9 on PBS. Taped at Oasis Church in Los Angeles, the concert features John Legend, Anthony Hamilton and The Ton3s, LaTocha, Mali Music, Lena Byrd Miles, Tauren Wells, and Sheléa sharing songs and how gospel touched their lives.
Dozens of public media stations, including 16 public radio stations, are holding “GOSPEL” screening events, featuring discussions, programs, and concerts.
Stations holding events throughout February include West Virginia Public Broadcasting (Institute, WV, February 1) and PBS North Carolina and WNCU (Durham, NC, February 1), KTSU The Choice (virtual, February 4), PBS KIXE (Sacramento, CA February 6) Arkansas PBS (Little Rock, February 8) WCTI (Chattanooga, TN, February 8), WOUB Public Media (Athens, Ohio, February 10) and Lakeshore PBS (Gary, IN, February 10), Rocky Mountain Public Media’s KUVO Jazz and 104.7 The Drop (Denver, CO, February 24).
Numerous public media stations are producing local gospel programming, including WHMT Public Media in Troy, N.Y., which premieres a local companion documentary, “Echoes of Praise: Gospel Music in New York’s Capital Region” on February 9; and Detroit Public TV, which presents two “Detroit Performs” episodes focused on Detroit’s gospel history, a special episode of “American Black Journal” on February 13.
Philadelphia classical and jazz station WRTI interviewed gospel/gospel-influenced singers Samara Joy, her father Antonio Charles McLendon, and her grandfather Elder Goldwire McLendon recently at historic Mother Bethel AME Church. Excerpts from the three-generation event air on WRTI in February.
PBS’ third annual Block Party, a streaming collection and social media campaign, features recent PBS premieres such as the Independent Lens documentaries “Racist Trees” and “Razing Liberty Square,” about political struggles of Black communities in Palm Springs, CA, and Miami; the POV documentary “Brief Tender Light,” about four African students at MIT who strive to become change agents in their home countries.
A playlist of episodes of PBS Digital Studios shows on YouTube include:
- The History of the South’s Forbidden Black Burials, from the web series Ritual; Inside the Black and Latino Ballroom Resurgence on Brave Spaces
- How Rice is Preserving History and Rethinking Nutrition Science, on Hungry Planet
- Traitor or Hero? The Black Musician Who Spied on His Own Community, on Rogue History
- How This Aquaponics Farmer is Reinventing Urban Agriculture on Women of the Earth.
WORLD, public media’s multiplatform hub for documentaries, features programming spanning the Black experience during Black History Month, both on the multicast public television channel available in three-quarters of the country and online at worldchannel.org.
Local, USA, airing Mondays on WORLD, features a quartet of premieres in February:
- In the Bubble with Jaime, February 5, following Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison as he challenged incumbent Lindsey Graham for U.S. Senate in 2020.
- FIRSTHAND: Segregation, February 12, on the high cost of segregation in Chicago, produced by WTTW.
- HBCU Week: Beyond The Field, February 19; and HBCU Week: Tradition and Competition, February 26, exploring the athletics, culture and history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Maryland Public Television compiled videos produced by partner public media stations as part of its HBCU Week expansion, with funding from CPB.
In addition, Season 1 of Eyes on the Prize the landmark 1990s PBS documentary on the civil rights movement, airs Thursdays on WORLD beginning February 1.
StoryCorps’ Black History Month collection amplifies Black voices talking about love, joy, and leadership. The collection features a special episode on The Griot of Knoxville, William Lynn Weaver, who recorded a record seven StoryCorps interviews. The special, produced for StoryCorps’ 20th anniversary last year, includes excerpts from the physician’s stories about integrating his high school in Knoxville and how a StoryCorps listener helped him reckon with this traumatic past five decades later.
Lyla in the Loop, an animated PBS KIDS series following the adventures of Lyla, a 7-year-old Black girl, who lives in a big city with her close-knit family and a blue sidekick named Stu, premieres on February 5 on PBS KIDS and its digital properties. “Lyla in the Loop” is funded by a grant from CPB and a grant from the U.S. Department of Education as part of the Ready To Learn Initiative.
, produced by WNED PBS, is airing on public television stations nationwide (check local listings) in February with a premiere on WORLD Channel February 12. The documentary examines the early 20th century debate and conflict W.E.B DuBois and William Monroe Trotter had with Booker T. Washington on how to best uplift the race and secure equality for Black Americans.
Wes Bound: The Genius of Wes Montgomery, a biopic on jazz guitarist and composer Wes Montgomery, told through the eyes of his youngest child, Robert Montgomery, is airing on more than 235 public television stations across the country starting February 1. The film is presented by Indiana Public Media and distributed by American Public Television.
Illinois Public Media is launching Illinois Soul, a radio station amplifying the voices and culture of Black communities in central Illinois, on February 1. The hybrid music/news format can be heard at 101.1 FM in Champaign-Urbana and will stream at illinoissoul.org.
Afropop Worldwide, the weekly music radio show focused on the connections between African and American cultures is offering four archival episodes curated for Black History Month. The collection, distributed by PRX to public radio stations (check local listings), includes episodes on tap dancing, string band music, the banjo and the ringshout, the oldest known form of African American music.
PRX is also distributing Seeing (Me) Is Believing with author Tami Charles, a special episode of Houston Public Media’s I SEE U, to public radio stations across the country. Host Eddie Robinson interviews Charles, a former teacher who wrote the children’s picture book “All Because You Matter” as an affirmation to Black and Brown children. The Houston Public Media program explores cultural identity through the stories of people and places.
A special episode of Live Wire featuring Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, writer Saeed Jones and Ethio-Jazz musician Meklit performing “I Want to Sing for Them All” airs on public radio starting February 2 (check local listings). Live Wire is a public radio variety show hosted by Luke Burbank and taped in front of a live audience, distributed by PRX.
The Stoop: Tales from the Black Diaspora from PRX’s Radiotopia podcast network, starts a new season February 8. In this special season, titled “The Stoop Presents: Love, The Stoop,” creators Hana Baba and Leila Day explore love in all its forms, including great love stories from African legend.
The WNET Group presents Segregation Scholarships, a five-part digital series on African Americans who moved North to pursue advanced degrees when Southern graduate schools were white only, returning to the Jim Crow South to strengthen Black communities and end segregation in the United States. The mini-documentary series is part of The WNET Group’s Chasing the Dream initiative.
NPR Live Sessions, featuring music videos curated by public radio stations across the country, highlights music videos by Black artists all month on its home page and spotlight a Black History Month playlist, led by Rhiannon Giddens performing “At the Purchaser’s Option” and Brian Horton performing “Lift Every Voice.”
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