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'Luke Cage' is the blackest show on TV, and I am totally here for it.

A spoiler-free review of the power-packed Netflix original.

'Luke Cage' is the blackest show on TV, and I am totally here for it.

Before this weekend, I didn't know I needed Luke Cage in my life.

The latest superhero TV drama, airing on Netflix, stars Mike Colter as Luke Cage, an escaped fugitive living in Harlem who has had greatness (in the form of superpowers) thrust upon him. Now he's using abilities to right wrongs in his community.

Luke Cage (Colter) surveys some damage. Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.


I'm now halfway through 13 episodes of bone-crunching, gun-bending, superhero content from the same universe that gave us "The Avengers," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and "Jessica Jones." And so far, I have no complaints.

Before this weekend, I didn't know I needed a show that is blacker than black.

"Luke Cage" isn't "sassy black friend" black. Nor is it "consult a magical negro" black. It's "playing chess in a barber shop" black. It's "history lessons on Crispus Attucks while being mugged" black.

This show is truly, deeply, proudly black.

Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

Between kicks and punches, "Luke Cage" addresses issues like the criminal justice system, fatherhood, and the n-word. It name-drops writers like Donald Goines and Chester Himes in one scene and cuts to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it nod to famous New York street photographer Jamel Shabazz in the next.

"Luke Cage" is not blackness for the masses. It's blackness for black people. And if you don't get it? Too damn bad.

This blackness is no accident, either. It's by design.

"I’m not one of these people that says, 'Oh, Luke Cage happens to be black,'" creator and show runner Cheo Hodari Coker told Vanity Fair. "No, he’s black all day because I’m black all day. There’s just no way around that."

Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

Before this weekend, I didn't know I needed a show that centered on Harlem not as a setting but as a character.

Even after only one episode, we're shown a full and diverse Harlem community: political leaders, business owners, parents, seniors, kids on basketball courts, and dudes in barber shops. Not just black people, but Asian-Americans, too. And Latinx and a handful of white gentrifiers. There are families who've been in Harlem for generations and those just settling in. This is the real Harlem.

Luke Cage (Colter) and Claire Temple (played by Rosario Dawson). Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

The characters seem to know each other. They know their mamas; they know the parks they hang out in. This is important because Harlem is not just a setting for an action show. Harlem is a character, commentary, and changing world. Harlem shows that these are real people affected by the larger-than-life supervillains of any Marvel outing and also by the low-level street toughs.

Plus, characters on all sides are fighting to take their community, Harlem, back. Cops, criminals, and politicians (and even Cage himself) think they know the best way to do this. Only unlike other shows or characters with similar goals, this time we recognize clearly exactly what and who they're fighting for.

"I don't believe in Harlem," Cage says in one scene, "I believe in the people who make Harlem what it is." When Cage believes, we believe too.

Before this weekend, I didn’t know I needed a show with women who kick ass and take names.

The women of "Luke Cage" are more than sex objects or empty motivators for our hero to act. They are complex, highly capable, talented, and driven.

Detective Misty Knight (played by Simone Missick) is a familiar face from the original Luke Cage comics, and while she's not fighting sharks (yet!), she's a badass detective and a hero.

Missick as Misty Knight. Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

Councilwoman Mariah Dillard (played by Alfre Woodard), is a complicated character who wants to reclaim her community for the black families who've always called it home. But her vision for a New Harlem Renaissance comes at a heavy price, and we see Dillard weigh these consequences against a future she desperately wants for herself and her constituents.

Woodard as Mariah Dillard. Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

And you can't forget Dr. Claire Temple, Connie Lin, or Reva. No matter how often or how long they're on screen, these women do more than just serve male storylines. And it's about damn time.

Before this weekend, I didn’t know I needed a show with a bulletproof black man wearing a hoodie.

But I did. I really, really did.

After a summer with too many bullet-ridden bodies, it was satisfying to watch a character like Luke Cage own the screen.

Image from Marvel's "Luke Cage," courtesy of Netflix.

He's the son of a preacher, a stand-up man who doesn’t swear. He reads voraciously, works two jobs, knows how to make a damn good cosmo, and he somehow never gets ashy. I'm pretty sure he's one of the "strong black brothas" En Vogue sang about in "Free Your Mind." Bullets bend and ricochet off his body, leaving tears in his clothes but never on his smooth brown skin.

Luke Cage has strong arms and a stronger character. He cracks bones and twists guns in half not for the hell of it. He does it for his neighborhood and his chosen family. And he does it all in a hoodie (yeah, that's no accident either).

GIF via "Luke Cage."

After too much injustice in our world and too many deaths, I as a black woman just needed to feel like I was on a winning team. Even if it was just for a few hours from the comfort of my couch. "Luke Cage" gave me something to cheer about. It reminded me just how strong we already are.

Before this weekend, I didn't know I needed "Luke Cage."

And I don't need Luke Cage the way I need water or air. But I do need him the way you need to remember the lyrics to a song you once knew, a song that made you dance with abandon.

"How does it go?" you ask no one in particular. It's inescapable, unresolved. And then, suddenly, when you least expect it, there it is. Like an old friend. And you wonder how you managed without that missing piece, however small, for so long.

I didn't know I needed Luke Cage. But I really, really did.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

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True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

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Rep. Raskin provided an honest answer to that question in a way that is both heartbreaking and perfect. In a statement published on Medium, Raskin and Bloom shared the details of Tommy's life so beautifully, it makes anyone who reads it feel like we knew him. It also exemplifies how to talk about a loved one who is taken by mental illness.

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