1. “Invisible Man,” Ralph Ellison
“If you only read one book”….let it be this one. The imagery is breathtaking. The metaphors….The unnamed protagonist of this classic can’t really fairly be called an “action hero” but his showdown with Ras the Destroyer at the finale of the book must be considered one of the great “set pieces” in literature. If you’ve never read it, it’s a must read. If you have, can’t hurt to read it again. I always feel smarter when I do.
2. “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” Malcolm X and Alex Haley
I don’t know what the young kids are into today, but there was a time that this was the one book every black man read. Just on storytelling merits alone, it’s as good as the New Testament.
3. “Standing at the Scratch Line,” Guy Johnson
This is without a doubt the most kick ass book about ass kicking in the pantheon of black literature. It’s like an incredibly well written blaxploitation movie. In fact, there’s so much foot-to-ass action in this book you get tired, like you were the one opening all those cans of whup ass. And the nice thing about it is there’s a sequel, so when you start jonesin’ for more, it’s there for you.
4. “Mumbo Jumbo,” Ismael Reed
If you’re a George Clinton fan, this is the literary equivalent of P.Funk. It’s a Romare Bearden painting in prose. It’s about a voodoo detective and a beat so funky it might take over the world. What more can I say?
5. “Wild Seed,” Octavia Butler
A genius science fiction novel about slavery and mastery and love and power.
6. “The Tipping Point,” Malcolm Gladwell
An invaluable book about how to get good at things.
7. “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander
A brilliant document that explains why black people can’t get ahead, despite our best efforts.
8. “The Death of Rhythm and Blues,” Nelson George
A crucial piece about our cultural colonization.
9. “Soul City,” Touré
A playful collection of short stories that play with black cultural archetypes.
10. “Faces at the Bottom of the Well: the Permanence of Racism,” Derrick Bell
Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell teaches legal concepts using science fiction fables.
11. “Nat Turner” Kyle Barker
One of the greatest cartoonists tells the powerful story of a legendary slave revolt.
I think everyone should make a top ten list of their favorite moments of the year. It makes you realize you got more done than you remembered, and keeps your focus on positive things. Doesn’t matter if they are large or small, the point is they are good memories to inspire you. Here’s my top ten moments.
1. BLACK PANTHER and INFINITY WAR PREMIERES
Reginald Hudlin and Christopher Priest after the INFINITY WAR premiere. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Black Panther, but Priest reinvented him and built out the world of Wakanda. Then I continued what he did, and achieved what no one else had done…how to make the book sell. His popularity with fans created a demand for him to have a movie of his own. The movie reflects his take on the Panther.
My son Alexander with Letitia Wright, who was fantastic as Shuri. I knew when I created her she would be a break out character and she is. She was so wonderful when I introduced myself. “I know who you are!” she exclaimed.
This was my first time meeting Ta-Nehisi Coates in person. We were at the BLACK PANTHER after party. My son Alexander is peeking out behind me.
My son Alexander with Michael B. Jordan at the Black Panther after party. Michael B didn’t just take a picture; he stopped and talked to my son about the importance of hard work and other good stuff. I really appreciate that he went that extra mile. As you can see, my son was getting sleepy. It was way past his bedtime.
My name in the BLACK PANTHER and INFINITY WAR credit
Later this year I was asked to speak at a local Jack and Jill chapter about Black Panther. I saw this standup of my character and it really brought it home that the coolest Disney princess is a black girl who is a scientific genius. Mission Accomplished.
2. THE PRODUCTION OF EMPEROR
I produced a movie this summer called EMPEROR, co-written and directed by Mark Amin. It’s a hell of a true story about this badass brother who escapes from slavery and has a series of amazing adventures, leading to his meeting with Fredrick Douglass and John Brown!
We shot the movie in the summer in Savannah, Georgia, which is as hot as it gets.
This beautiful, moody shot is by Brad Carter, one of the stars of the film.
There’s something about the sight of a black man on horseback that has incredible power. Especially on a plantation.
You know thangs are getting ready to jump off when you see this coming.
2. THE LAST OG
Showrunner Saladin Patterson and his assistant T’era Montgomery. Saladin is an MIT grad from Alabama who made a name for himself writing on big mainstream shows like CHEERS and BIG BANG THEORY. This is our third time working together, after THE BERNIE MAC SHOW and PSYCH. We are like alternate universe versions of each other, down to first-born daughter and younger son family configurations.
Tracy and I have known each other for a long time. I remember when he was performing at the Uptown Comedy Club wearing a beanie with a propeller. Now he’s a major comedy star and he deserves it.
I had not worked with Tiffany Haddish before THE LAST O.G.but we had a great time together.
I love everyone in this picture. Method Man and I hadn’t worked together since GREAT WHIITE HYPE, Cedric and I have done a couple of movies together but meeting the rest of the cast was a treat and can’t wait to work with them again!
Me and Talib Kweli. We had never met before, but had a great time together!
I’ve known writer Angela Nissel since she arrived in LA years ago. So great to see her thriving in this industry.
Matthew Cherry is an ex-NFL player turned director turned executive. He has a huge future ahead of him.
3. BLACK MONDAY
This great new show launches at the top of the year. I think you can see the first episode online NOW so go check it out. I did two episodes that I think will be the 4th and 5th.
I finally got to work with the brilliant Don Cheadle, who is so talented I think he’s taken for granted. Drama, comedy, writer, director, funky ass bass player, humanitarian…he does it all. Not pictured is Regina King, who is also pretty damn amazing. Also the executive producers of the show, the entire cast and crew…yeah. Love them.
4. SHOWTIME AT THE APOLLO
This year I got to produce a show on a major network, with my man Steve Harvey, who I have worked with for decades now on all kinds of projects, from award shows to Burger King commercials.
I also got to book old friends like Kid N Play, Big Daddy Kane and Rob Base on the show.
We also added new flavors like master magicians like Penn and Teller, shown here levitating an audience member under the marquee outside of the Apollo Theater.
5. COMIC BOOKS THIS YEAR
I was honored to write one of the Jack Kirby tribute stories on his 100 anniversary. I instantly came up with a story with Shilo Norman, the young black man who was Mr. Miracle’s apprentice, and the Black Racer, the New God of death. Can the world’s greatest escape artist escape death itself?
We got great reviews and it’s the lead off story in the compilation. Thanks to Christopher Priest for the help!
Also, Marvel collected every Black Panther story I wrote and compiled them into three huge books, BLACK PANTHER: The Complete Reginald Hudlin, volumes 1-3. Wow.
When Marvel did a special annual with the three most prominent Black Panther writers, my story was reprinted in another paperback this year. So that’s a lot of comic books!
I did stuff in front of the camera too. I was asked to do commercial honoring black animators.
I also was the special guest at an event celebrating black business.
Wren Brown and I in conversation.
I also did an interview about diversity with Jeff Chang for his PBS digital series “We Gon Be Alright”.
7. ALEX AND LACROSSE
My son Alexander discovered lacrosse two summers ago at camp and loved it. So we found a local league and he’s prepping for the upcoming season! He’s also doing great in school. Alex has always been a good student, but his level of focus upped this year and it shows.
8. HELENA AND DEBATE
So I took my daughter to the Academy Awards and the Governor’s Awards where the Academy gives out honorary Oscars, and every star in the world is there because it’s the start of award season. She wowed the room with her poise and charm. I was very proud of her.
I take her to stuff like that because this is her at 6am stopping at Starbucks before she goes to a debate tournament in Long Beach that will take all weekend. These can be 13-hour days that are longer than basketball tournaments.
As long as she keeps excelling in her debates, often against kids several grades above her, she gets a gown and an invite to the fancy events.
9. CHRISETTE AND I GET FUNKY
For my birthday, I noticed that George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic were playing on my special day. I immediately bought tickets. My wife enjoyed the show a lot more than I thought she would and I appreciate her getting on the One with me. We dealt with a lot of challenges this year and we got through it all, which I am grateful for.
10. ALEXANDER AND HIS GRANDMOTHER
Looking back, it was a very good year but I’m even more excited about 2019. Most of the projects mentioned will debut then, and several more under wraps will also be popping up this year. Plus big deals will be announced. It’s going to be great!
We lost a lot of great people this year. Here’s a few of many who meant a lot to me.
1. STAN LEE
He actually got the acclaim and applause he deserved. He built the modern comic industry which became a serious business and creative template that influenced generations. Among his many achievements is creating the first dignified black characters in comics…Gabe Jones, Black Panther, Robbie Robertson and many more.
Personally he was always lovely to me. We met several times, most notably when he did voice work for The Black Panther animated series, and when I did a panel discussion celebrating him a couple of years ago. I can’t find photos or video of either. He also sent me a Spider Man tie on my birthday, which I treasure.
2. ARETHA FRANKLIN
I once complained to a top music critic that this generation of music artists did not have a singer equivalent to Aretha Franklin. He rightfully told me that was an unfair standard since a talent like Aretha Franklin only happens once a century. And he was right. There’s too much to say about Aretha, but I would strongly require everyone to see AMAZING GRACE, the document of her recording the biggest selling gospel album of all time. To once again see Aretha at her peak, focused, in her element, is a revelation.
3. NANCY WILSON
My dad loved jazz…especially big band. Except for Stevie Wonder, he didn’t have much use for all 70s soul music his kids were jamming. He would tolerate what we were playing, and we would do the same when he was jamming his Duke Ellington, Nancy Wilson and Louis Armstrong.
So after a couple of years in college, a little older, a little more sophisticated, I come home looking for all those records to make copies of because my dad gave me the gift of good taste…it just took a little time for it blossom.
As an adult I became obsessed with Nancy Wilson. Her beauty, her sincerity, her sheer vocal power entranced me. I got everything I could on CD. A told a friend about it, who said “have you heard MIDNIGHT SUN yet?” The search continued…and man, it was worth it. What a song!
Her liner notes also impressed me. They talked about her political commitments. That was the era when you could not just be a singer. I miss that too. And liner notes.
4. STEVEN BOCHCO
Steven is one of the greatest creators in the history of television. Not just because he made one hit show after another, decade after decade, but because he kept pushing the form with new storytelling innovations. He was an artistic pioneer, a great businessman, and a loving husband and father.
He mentored me throughout my career, from teaching me how television is done at the gold standard level, to helping me get the directing job for my latest movie, MARSHALL. He also taught me how to handle success and failure in Hollywood, and encouraged me to marry my wife, which was a great idea indeed.
His memorial service was full of top producers, directors and studio chiefs. Considering his career stretched from episodes of COLUMBO to his own shows like HILL STREET BLUES, LA LAW, DOOGIE HOWSER, MURDER ONE, COP ROCK, NYPD BLUE and many, many more, it was appropriate. I was asked to speak, which was a great honor. I talk in public a lot, but this time I really nervous. I kept hearing his advice to every director who does one of his shows – “don’t fuck it up”.
5. HUGH MASAKELA
I didn’t think of Grazing In The Grass as African music, or as jazz. It was just a JAM. Then I discovered the MASAKELA album, which got endless play in our house. It was the afro-jazz equivalent of Public Enemy’s IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS album. The lyics, the grooves continue to inspire me even though I can’t find the complete album in reissue. Once, while I lived in Harlem, I saw Hugh Masakela on the A train heading down. I told him what that album meant to me. He turned to his companion and had some kind of “I told you so” conversation. Thanks for one of the greatest concerts I’ve ever attended. Even the way he played the cowbell was genius. Thanks for fighting apartheid.
6. KIM PORTER
I’ve known Puffy for a long time, since he was an intern at Uptown Records. But I didn’t get to know Kim. But everyone who knew Kim said she was a wonderful, lovely lady. Her passing is a tragedy. My heat goes out her children, Sean, Al, and everyone who loved her.
7. WYATT T. WALKER
Wyatt T. Walker was one of the geniuses who worked with MLK and made the Civil Rights movement happen. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and helped circulate “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” one of the most significant documents of the civil rights movement.
For 37 years, he was also the pastor of Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem and was instrumental in establishing church-sponsored affordable housing, housing for the elderly and Harlem’s first charter school, the Sisulu-Walker Charter School named for Brother Walker and the South African anti-apartheid leader Walter Sisulu all before his retirement in 2004.
He also served as the first chairman of the National Action Network led by Rev. Al Sharpton and chairman of the Freedom National Bank.
8. OLIVIA HOOKER
Oliva Hooker is a Superwoman. Not only was she one of the last survivors of the 1921 Tulsa race riots that destroyed the Tulsa neighborhood known as “Black Wall Street”, she also was the first African-American woman to join the U.S. Coast Guard as a member of the Semper Paratus program, or SPAR, in which she prepared discharges for guardsmen returning from the war and rejoining civilian life
9. ANTHONY BOURDAIN
He traveled the world and never felt condescending to anyone anywhere. He told the story of each people…not just their food but the culture that made it. The only travel show I’ve ever watched.
10. LYRIC MCHENRY
The daughter of film producer Doug McHenry and model Jennifer, this bright young Stanford graduate with a bright career in show business died tragically young.
One of the coolest days this semester was on October 30, when the comic book class I’m co-teaching was held in the university library. We had the students watch an episode of Black Panther, the television series, written by Reginald Hudlin.
The majority of the class (65 people) had somehow not previously heard of that version of Black Panther, so my co-teacher and I came off as the village champions by introducing students to the series. It was cool watching the episode in the library, as people passing by came over and watching with us. Good times.
I was especially excited to show and discuss Hudlin’s Black Panther (he also wrote a comic book series of the title) because he was born and raised in the area. I’ve been mentioning him and his work all semester to the students, highlighting that a bonafide major comic creator has roots in our region.