20210209-Streamings got you for Black History Month
CNN  — 

A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Pop Life Chronicles newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here. Tell us what you’d like to see more of in the newsletter at entertainment.newsletter@cnn.com.

Let’s be clear right from the top — celebrating Black stories and Black creators should be a to-do 365 days a year.

Of course, it’s February. So what better time to learn the history of Black excellence than during Black History Month?

Amid America’s reckoning on race, streaming platforms are putting Black storytelling front and center. And it’s not just your typical historical fare like the hit “Roots” or “Selma.”

When it comes to Black history, it’s important to recognize the traumatic struggle Black people have faced for centuries — and continue to face even in 2021. But as my CNN colleague John Blake has pointed out, there are so many slices of Black life that are filled with beauty and joy.

So if there is one change you can make in your streaming selections this year, be intentional in seeking out both the stories of systemic racism and the trauma-free moments.

There is plenty to watch in honor of the culture. Here are a few options to get you started.

Daniel Kaluuya stars as Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in "Judas and the Black Messiah."

“Judas and the Black Messiah”: Shaka King’s new film illustrates the life of Fred Hampton (played by Daniel Kaluuya), the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, through the eyes of William O’Neal, who is recruited to infiltrate the Panthers as an FBI informant and obtain information that results in Hampton’s death.

CNN’s Brandon Tensley wrote about why the power of the Black Panthers still endures today and some of the misconceptions people have about the group.

The film is streaming on HBO Max, which is a unit of CNN’s parent company, WarnerMedia.

Spike Lee (center) is shown on the set of his film "Do the Right Thing."

“Do the Right Thing”: Every time I’ve watched this Spike Lee film, I get chills thinking about how this unapologetic portrait of racial tension in America remains relevant after more than 30 years.

The 1989 comedy-drama depicts the hottest day of the summer in a Brooklyn neighborhood and highlights police brutality against Black people. At the time, critics said “Do the Right Thing” would provoke violence. Instead, it started conversations about race in America.

The movie is streaming on Hulu Premium and available to rent on Prime Video.

Zendaya (left) and John David Washington (right) star in "Malcolm & Marie."

“Malcolm & Marie”: The black-and-white film follows the events of a tumultuous night between a director named Malcolm, played by John David Washington, and his glamorous girlfriend Marie, played by Zendaya, that ultimately decides the future of their relationship.

If you’re looking for a romance that centers itself on two strong Black leads, this movie is just for you.

“Malcolm & Marie” is streaming on Netflix.

(From left) Jason Alexander, Paolo Montalban, Brandy, the late Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, the late Natalie Deselle Reid and Veanne Cox led the cast in "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella."

“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella”: Fairy tales have their place in Black History Month, too.

In 1997, this modern-day take on the story of Cinderella was ahead of its time. Few and far between did I see Black actors hold leading roles in movies and shows — let alone a Black princess.

So when I watched Brandy in a light blue dress as she makes her grand entrance at the prince’s ball … plus Whitney Houston looking fabulous and playing a fairy godmother making dreams come true … plus Whoopi Goldberg as a Black queen … plus Paolo Montalban as an Asian prince … the diverse representation within the cast meant a lot to this Black and Vietnamese girl who rarely saw people like her on her TV screen.

The children’s musical is streaming on Disney+.

(From left) Jill Marie Jones, Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks and Persia White star in "Girlfriends."

“Girlfriends”: Need a dose of nostalgia to binge-watch? Look no further than “Girlfriends.”

Starring Tracee Ellis Ross, Golden Brooks, Persia White and Jill Marie Jones, the TV comedy that premiered in 2000 follows a group of best friends living in Los Angeles and reminds us what true friendship looks like. Last summer, Netflix acquired the show along with six other classic sitcoms led by Black actors as part of its Strong Black Lead programming.

And with eight seasons, these friends are sure to keep you laughing.

For your weekend

Three things to watch:

‘I Care a Lot’

Rosamund Pike stars as Marla Grayson in Netflix's "I Care a Lot."

There is a twisted side to me that loves a good dark thriller, so here’s to hoping “I Care a Lot” does not disappoint.

A crooked legal guardian, played by Rosamund Pike, defrauds her elderly clients, trapping them under her sinister care. She meets her match, though, when her latest victim becomes quite the challenge.

“I Care a Lot” streams on Netflix Friday.

‘Young Rock’

Adrian Groulx (left) as the 10-year-old Dwayne Johnson and Matthew Willig (right) as Andre the Giant star in "Young Rock."

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is getting real about the good old days, and those days weren’t all good.

The NBC sitcom “Young Rock” focuses on Johnson’s younger years. The show delves into Johnson’s sometimes rebellious ways and what he describes as his “complicated” relationship with his wrestler father, Rocky Johnson.

The first episode premiered this Tuesday.

‘Amend: The Fight for America’

Will Smith is shown on the set of "Amend: The Fight for America."

First there was Ava DuVernay’s compelling documentary “13th.” Now, Netflix is taking it up a notch and devoting a six-part series to the 14th Amendment.

“Amend: The Fight for America,” produced and hosted by Will Smith, features a mixture of techniques, stars and historians to present the history and connect it to the present.

The docuseries is streaming now.

Two things to listen to:

Singer Ariana Grande attends the Billboard Women in Music 2018 event in New York City.

Because one album wasn’t enough, Ariana Grande is dropping a deluxe edition of “Positions.”

The pop diva loves the game of mystery and has been keeping fans on full alert with tweets teasing to the project.

Grande last month released the remix of her song “34+35” with Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat.

The deluxe edition is out Friday.

The late Cicely Tyson spoke at the 47th AFI Life Achievement Award gala tribute honoring Denzel Washington in 2019.

Keeping with the theme of Black excellence, take some time to listen to the great Cicely Tyson’s audiobook “Just as I Am.” Tyson, who died January 28, released her first memoir chronicling her life and career just days before her death.

The award-winning icon was a force on the stage and screen, breaking barriers for Black actresses with dignity and grace — the makings of a true queen.

“Just as I Am” is available now.

One thing to talk about:

Demi Lovato speaks at the Teen Vogue Summit 2019 on November 2, 2019, in Los Angeles.

My CNN colleague Sandra Gonzalez says it best: Demi Lovato is under no obligation to share the deeply personal story of her struggle with mental health and addiction with the public. But she’s choosing to do it on her own terms.

Lovato released a trailer for a new four-part YouTube documentary, “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil,” that previews her journey before and after her overdose in 2018. The singer reveals she suffered multiple strokes and a heart attack.

Mental health is a topic so many of us still struggle to discuss. Perhaps with more celebrities like Lovato sharing their truth, we can get to a place where we can be comfortable with reaching out for help.

“Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” premieres March 23 on YouTube.

To get help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a crisis text line. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

Something to sip on

Chris Harrison is the host of "The Bachelor" franchise.

“The Bachelor” and its problematic history with race is back in the spotlight, and this time host Chris Harrison is taking the heat.

CNN’s Chloe Melas and Pop Life Chronicles’ very own Lisa Respers France wrote about Harrison’s announcement to step aside as the show’s host after defending a current contestant who was photographed at an antebellum plantation-themed fraternity formal in 2018.

The franchise, which first aired in 2002, has made significant strides when it comes to diversity representation as of recently. This season’s Matt James stars as the show’s first Black male lead. And Rachel Lindsay, who is also Black, became the first person of color featured as the lead for “The Bachelorette” during the 2017 season.

But a “first” here and a “historic” there can only satisfy for so long.

Pop back here next Thursday for all the latest entertainment happenings that matter.