Award-winning actor, filmmaker and activist Taraji P. Henson guest hosts the all-new episode of “Soul of a Nation” which explores Black joy. Throughout history, Black people have used humor and music to get through hard times, making cultural or political statements while simultaneously giving others tremendous joy. This provocative episode examines comedy, film and music within the Black community and how each is a vehicle for Black joy. Henson, ABC News’ Sunny Hostin, Janai Norman and Alex Perez lead the hour which includes a spoken word performance and art by Academy Award®-winning director Matthew Cherry. The episode features a profile of and performance by actress and singer Cynthia Erivo, interviews with comedian Michael Yo and Derrick “D-Nice” Jones, and takes an in-depth look at sketch comedy throughout the years.
This episode includes the following stories and conversations:
• Throughout 2020, Black comedians and musical artists took the pain of the pandemic, the economic downturn and racial reckoning and delivered memorable performances. Perez takes viewers through some of these defining moments and sits down with Yo, who, after a tough battle with COVID-19 and coming close to death, has made his way back on stage to bring audiences laughter. Meanwhile, DJ D-Nice discusses how he got the country dancing during the pandemic and making joy with his “Club Quarantine.”
• Norman sits down with Erivo to discuss the life and story of Aretha Franklin, previewing Erivo’s role as the icon in the upcoming National Geographic bio-series “Genius: Aretha.” Erivo also performs her hit song “Stand Up.”
• From hit shows such as “The Richard Pryor Show” and “In Living Color” to the successes of today including “Key & Peele” and “A Black Lady Sketch Show,” ESPN’s “The Undefeated” takes an in-depth look at the trailblazing comedians of television and the shows that have launched the careers of major Black comedic talent. Viewers will hear from Deon Cole, Kim Coles, Tommy Davidson, Domonique Foxworth, David Alan Grier, Soraya McDonald, Sylvia Obell and Justin Tinsley.
• Hostin moderates a provocative recurring conversation called “In the Kitchen,” where each week, a group of talkers and thinkers join her for a candid discussion on current events and the theme of the week. This episode features Black comediennes Michelle Buteau and Erin Jackson.
• Boston Globe columnist Jeneé Osterheldt, who wrote about how there can be joy even during times of Black resistance, contributes an exclusive piece on the meaning of Black joy.