The BlackStar Film Festival, also known as “Black Sundance,” is the nation’s premier fest for Black, Brown and Indigenous filmmakers. And it’s centered in Philly! On this episode of Love + Grit, hear from local directors screening their work at the 2021 festival. West Philly neighbors and respected filmmakers Raishad M. Hardnett and Aidan M. Un teamed up to produce a short film about Harriett’s Bookshop in Fishtown for the 10th annual festival’s “Stories in Place” series about small businesses. And Nasya Jenkins discusses her short documentary From Digital Divide to Digital Equity about Philly activists leading the fight for digital equity in education.
You can’t talk about Philly’s hip-hop scene without mentioning Lady B and Bri Steves. These two women are essential to the city’s place in the music industry. One of the first female rappers, Lady B recorded her first single, To the Beat, Y’all, in 1979. The “Godmother of Hip-Hop” has been blazing trails ever since as a performer, DJ and podcaster, paving the way for stars like Bri Steves. East Falls native and Temple University grad Steves has opened for H.E.R., Mary J. Blige, Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar, and landed a BET nomination for her song ANTI QUEEN. Her debut album drops July 30, 2021.
Ask anyone to name the most iconic Philadelphians and Questlove is top of the list. The West Philly native is the drummer for The Roots and musical director of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon; cofounder of digital music and media platforms Okayplayer and OkayAfrica; a James Beard Award-nominated cookbook author; plant-based cheesesteak maker and more. He joins Love + Grit to talk about his career, health and his latest project, Summer of Soul, debuting in theaters and on Hulu on July 2, 2021. With the new film comes a new look: A dramatic weight loss that Questlove attributes in part to better sleeping and breathing. Tune in for a rare discussion of the music icon’s deeply personal journey.
As the birthplace of a new nation, Philadelphia sees independence not just as a single day, but a full season that bridges the celebrations of Juneteenth and July 4th. The guests on this episode of Love + Grit have devoted their careers to centering the stories of African Americans and the African Diaspora. Ivan Henderson is the vice president of programming at The African American Museum in Philadelphia, who has curated Juneteenth events that will join the City of Philadelphia’s 2021 Wawa Welcome America Festival. The expansion of events will explore the historical significance of the two holidays and their themes of freedom and liberty. Kamau Ware brings the Black Gotham multimedia project to Philly, joining a series of walking tours, events and art collections that aim to celebrate the history and culture of African American and Black communities in Philadelphia.
Philly’s music scene is one of love, authenticity and community, with people like Kenny Gamble, Dyana Williams and Patti LaBelle supporting and producing unforgettable beats created in the City of Brotherly Love. Today’s hitmakers keep it real. West Philly’s Beano French and North Philadelphia’s Brianna Castro join the Love + Grit hosts in this episode to talk about their burgeoning music careers as Philly — and the nation — celebrates Black Music Month. Both artists are part of the Love + Grit Concert Series Presented by VISIT PHILADELPHIA®, an original series streamed exclusively on BlackStream Live, a new Twitch channel delivering curated live programming focused on Black culture, premiering June 1, 2021.
Two inspiring creators representing Latinx communities join this episode of Love + Grit to discuss their work, their influences and the challenges of turning major artistic experiences into virtual events. Nayara Lopes got her start in Brazil before eventually moving to Philadelphia to join the Pennsylvania Ballet, where the first soloist has starred in The Nutcracker and Cinderella, and is currently filming a new season of original performances for digital audiences. Also going virtual this year: the 10th annual Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, led by Marángeli Mejía Rabell. The Puerto Rican-born arts and culture organizer and cofounder of AFROTAINO has turned PHLAFF into an international event that elevates U.S.-based Latinx and Latin American stories.
Dine Latino Restaurant Week is a way for Philadelphians — and all who visit — to support the growth of local businesses and taste the flavors of Colombian, Mexican, Dominican and other cultures. More than 20 restaurants offer deals for the spring 2021 edition of Restaurant Week, and the guests on this episode have dedicated their careers to supporting the work of Philadelphia’s Latinx communities and food businesses. Jennifer Rodríguez, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, shares details of the many incredible restaurants serving authentic Latin flavors and discusses her work advocating for the 22,000 Latinx-owned business in the Greater Philadelphia region. One of those restaurants is Sazon, Chef Judy Suzarra-Campbell’s Venezuelan spot that makes amazing arepas as part of an almost entirely gluten-free menu.
Poet, recording artist and native Philadelphian Ursula Rucker has created a legacy for herself in print, in the studio and even in augmented reality. Whether she’s leading vocals for DJ King Britt, collaborating with The Roots or releasing her own book of haikus, Rucker is always advancing the city’s arts and culture scene. She’s now the virtual reality host of OverTime, an augmented reality app from public art and history studio Monument Lab, which allows users to tour portions of Philadelphia using their phones. On the musical side of things, Orrin Evans continues to make Philly proud. The City of Brotherly Love-raised jazz pianist has more than 25 albums to his credit, his own record label and a focus on helping young, innovative musicians. Any Philly music history lesson is incomplete without Rucker and Evans.
If there’s one thing you need to know about Philly’s food scene it’s that the space is full of people who use their culinary talents to give back. Look no further than Michael Carter and Muhammad Abdul-Hadid of Down North Pizza. Their North Philadelphia pizza-and-wings joint serves delicious, inventive pies and exclusively employs formerly incarcerated individuals as part of its mission to reduce recidivism rates in Black communities. Dustin Vitale also knows a thing or two about using food for good. The middle school history teacher turned his love of cheesesteaks into a Philly-wide effort to help his mom achieve something big. He chats with hosts Justin, Rachel and Laiya in this episode all about two things Philadelphia does best: food and community.
Debra Powell-Wright has a long history in Philadelphia of elevating Black, Brown and African-descended women’s voices. As the founder of the city’s first female spoken word ensemble, a published essayist and social justice artist, Powell-Wright is credited with building a sisterhood. She joins the Love + Grit hosts to talk about her career and her latest work, For Women: In Tribute to Nina Simone, a collection of short stories and poems. In keeping with the theme of community and healing, hosts Laiya, Rachel and Justin also welcome Kiki Aranita. The Poi Dog Philly founder brought local Hawaiian cooking to Philly, but had to close her beloved restaurant in the face of COVID-19. She recounts her story about pivoting to ecommerce as a way to support herself and continue sharing her history.