Afropop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange Released 15th Season


( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) The First Episode Introduces Bill T. Jones’s Film

ENSPIRE Contributor: Gabrielle Maya 

The documentary series ‘Afropop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange’ is back for its 15th season. Season 15 was released on April 3rd and can be streamed via Black Public Media (BPM), GBH’s WORLD Channel, and YouTube channels. ‘Afropop’ informs the United States audience about African Diaspora culture, entertainment films, and modern life. Some of the greatest icons in this season include music icon and activist Angélique Kidjo, octogenarian artist Bill Traylor, traditional dancer Atanásio Nyusi, and jazz legend Thelonious Monk.

The first episode introduced a film about a giant icon in dance, Bill T. Jones. He is a Bessie and Tony Award-winning choreographer. The film is called Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters and it sucks viewers back into the 80s around the height of the AIDS pandemic. When Jones created a masterpiece of dance, it helped heal the losses in his dance company because of HIV. The audience gets to look into the Loyola Marymount University studio of the film’s co-director and dance educator Rosalynd LeBlanc. LeBlanc teaches Jones’s piece to current-day students who have difficulty connecting to the earlier times of dance. Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters was rated 100% on Rotten Tomatoes during its theatrical release. ENSPIRE had the pleasure of interviewing the director of the ‘Afropop’ series, Denise A. Greene, to discuss the impact Afropop has on audiences, the episodes themselves, and what we can expect in the future with this series.

Bill T. Jones Film

What do you want the United States audience to retain while learning about the African Diaspora culture?

The AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange audience is just as diverse and global with a sizable percentage representing the Afro-Diasporic community within the US. For the global Black community, I hope they see aspects of their culture being uplifted and recognize the connections in African culture across the Black communities that we are celebrating. Each year, as we grow our audience, the ability of stories to foster respect and appreciation excites us. We curate each season with the primary hope of our audience retaining the common note of humanity over anything else that can be learned. 

AfroPoP starts season 15 strong with Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters by Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz, explain the thought process of why this film was chosen as the first episode of this new season and Bill T. Jones’s influence?

Yes! LeBlanc and Hurwitz’s film, Can You Bring It, is a celebration of life–resiliency, togetherness, creativity, and release. These themes perfectly frame the entire season in celebration of AfroPoP’s 15-year journey. Launching the season with Can You Bring It was easy given the two storylines spotlighting two generations. In one storyline, Can You Bring It follows the creativity and genius of renowned choreographer Bill T. Jones as he makes the monumental piece, D-Man in the Waters, during one of the most trying times in American history. In the second storyline, we are on a journey with a younger generation grappling with their connection to D-Man in the Waters as an artist in a different space and time. For our team at Black Public Media, the two storylines gave the film the incredible potential to speak to our loyal audience and bring in younger viewers together around art.   

‌Briefly discuss the other episodes such as Queen Kidjo, Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts, The Sound of Masks, and Rewind & Play; what about these four other icons has brought them on this new season?

We selected arts to mark the 15th birthday of AfroPoP because, like a good story, artwork can tap into emotions and foster connections – the makings of a fun celebration. In looking at our longevity, we wanted to recognize our artists who help us reflect, heal, grow, and imagine to carry on. It was important to us that we spotlight a range of arts of dance, music, visual arts, and more to express our appreciation for collective creativity. When we curated this season, we sought out films on various art forms. We not only found a great collection of works, but we landed on films featuring our icons such as Angélique Kidjo and Thelonious Monk, and lesser-known heroes like Bill Traylor.

‌What can we expect going forward from AfroPoP, how has this documentary series evolved from the first season to now?

We are already in the early stages of planning for the next season of AfroPoP. It would be great to continue to frame each season with a theme like we did this season with the arts. It’s more difficult in that it narrows our choices. But, I think it’s more satisfying for the viewer to have a connective thread between episodes and to think of each episode contributing to a larger conversation. Looking to create a larger conversation around the films presented in AfroPoP is not far from the goals for our initial season and over the years. Audiences might notice, however, that Season 15 includes a historical documentary, Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts, as opposed to strictly contemporary stories of the African Diaspora. We may also open the series up to include narrative films. Overall, we are looking to spotlight the global Black experience through stories, something that has been the goal of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange since its first season. 

Watch ‘AfroPop’ by streaming WORLD Channel or BPM. For more information and updates go to the WORLD Channel Instagram or BPM Instagram. To view the snippet trailer of the first episode about Bill T. Jones, click here.

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