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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

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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