Afros For Days
A new Netflix original series created by Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Get Down serves up late 1970s Afro-American nostalgia. The series depicts the punk, hip-hop and disco movements coming out of SoHo’s art scene, CBGB’s and Studio 54. Set in the Bronx, this musical drama features a group of talented kids determined to transcend their poverty.
Ezekial Figuero (Justice Smith) is a teenage boy with a skill for poetry, and he’s in love with the ambitious Mylene Cruz (Herizen F. Guardiola). Mylene’s passion to become a disco star drives her. Meanwhile, her father, Pastor Ramon Cruz (Giancarlo Esposito) keeps a tight grip on Mylene, making it difficult for her to pursue her dreams.
The teens have to juggle high school and living in the projects. Being assaulted by gangs and adults who just don’t understand helps to shape the artistic ingenuity of the characters.
Wearing some disco fabulous eyeshadow, the English teacher Ms. Green (Yolonda Ross ) is in it to win it. She rides Ezekial hard and demands that he stop cowering in the shadows. She helps her students navigate their adolescent insecurities, while giving them the tough love they need to find their way.
“Your mayor wants my loyalty and my votes and the blood of my people? Then that ten million comes right the fuck here.” Fransisco Cruz is a political boss and advocate of the people, also known as Papa Fuerte (Jimmy Smits). He sports a flashy leisure suit and talks tough on behalf of his rainbow tribe.
Using actual footage from the news of the time, the show deals with the economic and political climate of a bankrupt New York city. Key figures with their various social and political agendas cross paths with the burgeoning art community that seeks to support or exploit one another’s causes.
I’m not sure that most people will enjoy this series. I have a dozen personal reasons to be into it, so it may be my bias that makes me enjoy this series so thoroughly. My parents were Latino activists in the late 1970’s in east Texas when I was a little girl. The black family that helped raise me during those years lived across the way in low income housing. I was heavily influenced by the music, art and fashion of that era—not to mention that the adults around me were dialed into what was happening in the New York art scene.
I can appreciate what it takes to create a good afro. And tough talking, hair combing ambitious Hispanics are my middle name.