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Culture » The Last Poets and Melba Moore Honor Television Pioneer Ellis Haizlip

The Last Poets and Melba Moore Honor Television Pioneer Ellis Haizlip

Ellis Haizlip and Amiri Baraka Photo Courtesy of the Haizlip Family


Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo

Sometimes history bares itself open for unsung glory. One such recent revelation has been the rediscovery of the groundbreaking 1968-1973 PBS series, “SOUL!” The show’s now deceased host, Ellis Haizlip is the subject of an upcoming documentary, “Mr. Soul!: Ellis Haizlip and the Birth of Black Power TV,” which will launch with a reception at the National Black Programming Consortium in Harlem on Monday Sept. 24. The event, which is free and open to the public, includes special guests such as Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan (The Last Poets), singer Melba Moore, actress Dr. Loretta Young and more.

The film pays tribute to Haizlip’s first “Black Tonight show,” which featured discussions about socially relevant topics, the arts, culture and the first televised appearances from Al Green, Ashford and Simpson, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni among others. According to Haizlip’s niece and the film’s co-producer, Melissa, “The film will highlight Ellis Haizlip’s groundbreaking accomplishments including how he gave voice to the struggles and successes of the African American community and launched the careers of many of the African American icons of the 20th century. … We also hope to illuminate the journey of black representation in media — how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go to achieve fairness in the battle for diverse images in media. It’s time to revisit and reintroduce this fascinating moment in black media history that’s still relevant today.”

It’s been 40 years since the series ended and for Oyewole, it has yet to be matched in its ability to address controversial topics and its ability to provide arts and culture programming. “It is a big commercial madhouse. They are so concerned about money as opposed to the wellbeing of human beings and we don’t have anything that addresses humanity on this level,” he says. “I would like to see another show like ‘SOUL!’ because we need something exclusively black and powerful at this time.”

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