|The Chi Cast|
By Mwabi Kaira
Chicago was known for deep dish pizza, the greatness of Michael Jordan as a Bulls player and the once upon a time genius of Kanye West until gun violence took over as its focal point. Some have suggested that the National Guard and The United Nations step in to help gun violence in the city. Two Chicago natives have had enough of hearing about the ills of their beloved hometown and have done something about it.
Emmy award winner Lena Waithe co-wrote the new Showtime series The Chi, and Grammy award-winning rapper Common executive produced it to show a different narrative. Lena got the inspiration for the show after watching yet another news report about gun violence in the city. The Chi follows four working-class families on the South Side of Chicago as they face their highs and lows. Crime constantly threatens to destroy their worlds.
Despite Chicago’s issues Lena knows it as the place that molded her and has fond memories of her childhood. The Chi is not autobiographical for Lena and humanity is at its core. She explains,
“My mission is to show that these young black men are not born with a gun in their hand. These are kids who come out with all the promise and hope that any other kid does. I wanted to humanize them and show that their lives are valid. But I don’t paint us in a perfect light at all. My hope is that I can show us in an honest way. That’s it. Not bad. Not perfect. Just accurate.”
Common has been painting Chicago’s diversity in music for decades and knows that seeing it on the screen will have a different impact. He says,
“We need to understand that Black people are human beings who love, cry and get angry and love their families and love God. We get scared to talk to girls at times. To be able to tell a story that is very specific to Chicago and the universal struggle of Black life is important to me.”
The Chi’s first episode aired on Sunday night and we were introduced to a working class mother, grieving parents, an aspiring chef, a sneaker-loving teen father and a wide-eyed pre-teen with puppy love on his brain while navigating the mean streets of Chicago. Although The Chi is not the first show based in Chicago, it is one that is closest in hitting the mark about the black experience.
|Cast of The Chi|
Even though the premiere episode of The Chi aired at the same time as The Golden Globes, 1.68 million viewers tuned in and gave Showtime its best premiere since Billions. The Chi is off to a great start and looks amazingly promising. Tune in to The Chi at 10 PM on Sundays on Showtime.
Is The Chi on your radar?