The award-winning public television show AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange is now in its ninth season on PBS’ WORLD Channel. The new season premiered on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 16, and will air new episodes weekly through February 15.
Since 2008, AfroPoP has presented documentaries and shorts that, according to press materials, reveal “fascinating stories on contemporary life, art and culture in the African Diaspora” that are produced and directed by Blacks and other people of color.
The show is domestically produced by National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) and co-presented by American Public Television (APT). APT will release the series to other public television stations, beginning in February.
Previous series hosts include Idris Elba, Anika Noni Rose, Wyatt Cenac, Gabourey Sidibe, Anthony Mackie, Yaya DaCosta and Jussie Smollett. NBPC Director of Programs and Acquisitions and AfroPoP Executive Producer Kay Shaw said, “NBPC has been so fortunate to have had great hosts bring their fame to the show and either watch the series or really support the mission of the program.”
Adding her name to that distinguished list this year is actress Nicole Beharie, who recently starred in the hit television show Sleepy Hollow (Fox). She told the MSR in a recent phone interview that she’s a fan of AfroPoP. “Of course — I watch all the films,” said Beharie. “I’ve seen some good documentaries.”
The five-week series “travels from North America to Africa to the Caribbean and back again, taking viewers on a journey of hope throughout the Diaspora,” said a NPBC press release. The episodes include:
- “My Father’s Land” (January 30), about a Haitian gardener who returns to his native land after living in the Bahamas for 40 years to reunite with his 103-year-old father
- “Black Out” tells the story of children in Guinea struggling for education.
- “Pangaea” is about a young girl trapped on the roof of her house during the days following the landfall of Hurricane Katrina (February 6).
- “Omo Child: The River and The Bush” (February 13) is a true story of one man trying to bring a cultural shift in
The first two episodes that aired already were “An American Ascent” (January 16) about the first Black expedition to climb Denali (a.k.a. Mt. McKinley, North America’s highest peak), and “Intore” about how a new generation in Rwanda has survived a tragic past (January 23).
The films “are so balanced, so life affirming,” noted Beharie. “I’d say there are at least three hardcore tear-jerkers. One of them is completely shocking. Some of them are informational and shake you to your [core]. It’s a real powerful season.”
Beharie, who was the first student from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities to be accepted into Juilliard Drama School in New York City (2003-07), trained in England after being awarded a Shakespeare scholarship.
Her breakout film debut was playing lead opposite Alfre Woodard in American Violet (2008). She made her Broadway debut in 2010 opposite Jeffrey Wright and Mos Def in Free Man of Color. She later played in two sports movies: The Express (2008) and Jackie Robinson’s wife Rachel Robinson in 42 (2013), which earned her a NAACP Award Outstanding Actress nomination. Her three seasons as a detective in Sleepy Hollow earned her a second NAACP Award nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Drama.
Beharie stated that hosting AfroPoP was an honor for her. “There are so many people in film-making that don’t necessarily get the attention that they deserve,” she said. “They do really wonderful work. I wanted to do anything to support that work.”
She and the previous fellow hosts share this belief as well: “Everyone can identify on the importance of trying to get these stories out there, and to find audiences to see it and appreciate it,” said Beharie. “It is a big part of why we are actors and storytellers.”
Bringing such films and documentaries that AfroPoP regularly airs to American viewers is very important, continued the actress. “These stories [on the African Diaspora] are happening,” she reiterated.
Her Julliard training has made Beharie a well-rounded performer. She performed five original songs in My Last Day Without You and on its soundtrack (2013). Her Sleepy Hollow character Abbie Mills was killed off after three seasons, which drew the ire from many fans.
But Beharie remains upbeat about the future. “Stay tuned. The best is coming,” she predicted. She will next be seen in a remake of Jacob’s Ladder.
“I plan on doing a little bit of everything — God willing. I’m not somebody who only wants to do film or theater, or just want to do TV. I would like to be working in as many mediums as possible, and collaborate with great people.”
For more about AfroPoP, visit www.blackpublicmedia.org. For viewing information, check local listings (www.tpt.org or www.APTonline.org). Keep up with Nicole Beharie by following her on Twitter at @NikkiBeharie.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.