News Brief

John Ridley's 'Guerrilla' Gets Slammed for the Absence of Black Women in the Series

John Ridley's new series set to premiere on April 16 has been receiving heated criticism that black women are being erased from the series.

Guerrilla, a six-part series written and directed by John Ridley (screenwriter for 12 Years A Slave) based on Britain's Black Power movement of the 1970s, is set to premiere on Showtime April 16. The series tells the story of a politically active interracial couple whose relationship and values are tested when they liberate a political prisoner and form a radical underground cell in London.

Ridley initially intended to have San Francisco be the backdrop of the drama, according to The Guardian.

“My initial reaction was that my story just didn’t feel like a British story,” Ridley says in his interview with The Guardian. “But after speaking with Darcus [Howe], Farrukh [Dhondy] and Neil [Kenlock], I began to see that there were elements that were very, very similar. The struggles, the small indignities, the sense of a collective working together. As an American we tend to look at the UK as being so progressive and elevated with Windrush, and that is true to an extent, but beneath that there were troubles, issues, disregard and disenfranchisement.”

Ridley and the actors starring in the film—Idris Elba (who's also an executive producer of the series), Babou Ceesay and Freida Pinto—have been promoting the series as of late with pressers and attending screenings, but at the premiere held in London on April 6, the Q&A portion of the program was a tense moment of attendees addressing their concerns of the series, especially the perceived erasure of black women from the storyline.

Ridley was asked repeatedly as to why he decided to make the main protagonist an Asian woman, as well as why there are so few black women in the episode, especially knowing the many black women who were at the forefront of the movement including Althea Jones-LeCointe, Barbara Beese and Olive Morris. Only one black actress—Zawe Ashton—is included in the cast credits, who plays Omega, "a strong, respected leader in the black community, but doesn’t believe her opinions will be taken seriously by the white establishment," according to Showtime. "She enlists Kent to represent the moderate, considered side of the movement to the press, and does her best to keep him in line."

Watch the Q&A in the three clips below:

Although it does not appear that the women who took Ridley to task were unaccepting of his answers, it instead seems like he was getting defensive instead of actually answering their valid questions. Reactions on social media also show that they're not really buying it either:

It may be too early to deduce the intent of the erasure of black women from this series just from episode one, but first impressions matter. Hopefully we'll see the much needed and accurate representation of black women leaders as the series continues.

Photo: Jolaoso Adebayo.

Crayon Is Nigeria's Prince of Bright Pop Melodies

Since emerging on the scene over two years ago, Crayon has carved a unique path with his catchy songs.

During the 2010s, the young musician Charles Chibuezechukwu made several failed attempts to get into a Nigerian university. On the day of his fifth attempt, while waiting for the exam's commencement, he thought of what he really wanted out of life. To the surprise of the thousands present, he stood up and left the centre, having chosen music. "Nobody knew I didn't write the exam," Charles, who's now known to afro pop lovers as Crayon, tells OkayAfrica over a Zoom call from a Lagos studio. "I had to lie to my parents that I wrote it and didn't pass. But before then, I had already met Don Jazzy and Baby Fresh [my label superiors], so I knew I was headed somewhere."

His assessment is spot on. Over the past two years Crayon's high-powered records have earned him a unique space within Nigeria's pop market. On his 2019 debut EP, the cheekily-titled Cray Cray, the musician shines over cohesive, bright production where he revels in finding pockets of joy in seemingly everyday material. His breakout record "So Fine" is built around the adorable promises of a lover to his woman. It's a fairly trite theme, but the 21-year-old musician's endearing voice strikes the beat in perfect form, and when the hook "call my number, I go respond, oh eh" rolls in, the mastery of space and time is at a level usually attributed to the icons of Afropop: Wizkid, P-Square, Wande Coal.

"My dad used to sell CDs back in the day, in Victoria Island [in Lagos]," reveals Crayon. "I had access to a lot of music: afrobeat, hip-hop, Westlife, 2Face Idibia, Wizkid, and many others." Crayon also learnt stage craft from his father's side hustle as an MC, who was always "so bold and confident," even in the midst of so much activity. His mother, then a fruit seller, loved Igbo gospel songs; few mornings passed when loud, worship songs weren't blasting from their home. All of these, Crayon says, "are a mix of different sounds and different cultures that shaped my artistry."

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