MMT April 2017 Netflix Picks

What’s new MMT Fam! I have to be honest, between catching up on work-related projects, taking care of home tasks, the MS Walk campaign, and watching a few of my TV faves – Underground, American Crime, Feud: Bette and Joan, Shots Fired, Black*ish, Empire, and Greenleaf have all had my full attention ūüėČ – I didn’t watch anything new on Netflix this month. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any recommendations for you to check out, and it doesn’t mean I haven’t been on the service…raises hand slowly to admit I started re-binging the Netflix Celia Cruz telenovela and completely re-binged the first season of Queen Sugar¬†now on Hulu! ūüôā

The first thing I want to acknowledge is the passing of celebrated writer/producer/director Mr. Jonathan Demme, whose seminal works include hit films like Philadelphia, Rachel Getting Married, and the harrowing psychological thriller The Silence of the Lambs – the latter of which won him the Academy Award for Best Director, as well as introduced us to Anthony Hopkin’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (a character first seen in the 1986 Michael Mann film¬†Manhunter) and Jodie Foster’s equally lauded Academy and Golden Globe award performance as Clarice Starling.

Although I wish all of the aforementioned Demme films – in addition to the movie adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved starring Oprah Winfrey, Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise and Danny Glover – were on Netflix, they are not. However, there are two films – one drama and one concert feature – directed by the iconic director currently streaming on the service.

So, the first pick from this month is The Manchurian Candidate, the 2004 remake of the 1962 classic starring Denzel Washington,¬†Liev Schreiber, Meryl Streep and Kimberly Elise. The movie follows Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington), a Gulf War veteran who¬†finds himself having terrible nightmares years after his squadron was ambushed. He begins to suspect everything he previously remembered from that event – which includes squad-mate Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), now a vice-presidential candidate, being a hero. As Marco’s doubts deepen, and his clarity sharpens, Shaw’s nears his political goal and Marco must figure out the truth and stop and diabolical plan against immeasurable odds.

Similar to experiences I have with the films Philadelphia and Silence of the Lambs, when I catch this political thriller in syndication anywhere I feel compelled to watch – no matter that I own them all either in physical or digital copy.

My next pick is the Demme directed 2016 performance film Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids. This entertaining movie highlights Timberlake’s energetic Las Vegas show, which was the culmination of his two-year 20/20 Experience tour. Filmed over the final nights of the tour, Demme gives a 90-minute look at both the background players and the man of the hour, as well as the final dynamic stage result.

My last pick ties into those previously mentioned TV faves, since the first season of the OWN series Greenleaf is now streaming! The series follows the lives of the fictional, Memphis mega church owning Greenleaf family, centering on the story of Grace – who returns home after a 20 year absence to mourn the tragic loss of a younger sibling. Betrayals and abuses are uncovered, and hidden secrets are revealed throughout the season.

Now in its second season, the season one premi√®re of this show drew 3.04 million viewers – more than any other show on the OWN network at that time. It really is “must see” TV viewing and I caution you not to start it unless you have time for another episode or two. ūüėČ

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the last episode of another fave mentioned earlier – Shots Fired¬† which airs on the FOX network on Wednesday nights – was directed by the late Jonathan Demme, who passed on the same day it aired. I call that providence. Rest in Peace Sir.

Until next thought, Thomasena







Remembering a Gospel Great: Lecresia Campbell


I was extremely saddened earlier this week to learn of the passing of acclaimed gospel vocalist/actress Lecresia Campbell.  A powerhouse singer and worship leader, with a beautiful spirit to match, the Chicago native succumbed last Thursday to a pulmonary embolism.

Campbell was known for several gospel hits, including¬†her feature on ‚ÄúPerfect Praise (How Excellent)” with Walt Whitman & The Soul Children of Chicago , and her 2008 hit “Even Me.” ¬†A previous background vocalist for the legendary Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Campbell also shared the stage as a solo artist with many singers – including Donnie McClurkin, Mary Mary, the late Gerald Levert, and Stephanie Mills.

I consider myself fortunate to have met Ms. Campbell, back when she was on tour for the David E. Talbert stage play, His Woman, His Wife. I’d attended the production in Philly, and was blown away by her showstopping performance of the song “Rediscover Yourself.” I’m telling you she ushered in the Spirit, not only in the Merriam Theater where the play was being held but all of Center City!

After later discovering we had a mutual friend, I travelled to New York city to see the show a second time and was introduced. Ms. Campbell graciously welcomed me, as I babbled on about how uplifting the performance was. I can’t remember if I expressed it – articulately that is – but she really motivated me to pursue my passion at a time when encouragement was few and far between. To have called her ministry a God send is an understatement. Just take a listen for yourself…

I wish to extend my condolences to Ms. Campbell’s family and friends. Rest well Ms. Campbell.

Respectfully, Thomasena


MMT Recommends: Bounce TV to Air Muhammad Ali Procession and Memorial Service Live on Friday

Farewell to the Greatest (Bounce TV)

Bounce TV will carry Muhammad Ali’s farewell procession through the streets of¬†Louisville and his memorial service live, uninterrupted and commercial-free this Friday, June 10.

Bounce TV’s coverage will begin at 9:00 a.m. ET with the procession, which will take Ali on a final journey through his beloved hometown of Louisville, passing memorable landmarks in his life, including his childhood neighborhood and the Muhammad Ali Center.

Bounce TV will also air the memorial service scheduled for 2:00 p.m. ET, which will include eulogies by President Bill Clinton,Bryant Gumbel and Billy Crystal.

Between the procession and the service, Bounce TV will present The Greatest, the 1977 motion picture in which Ali stars as himself. A dramatization of Ali’s life, The Greatest begins with Cassius Clay winning gold at the 1960 Olympic Games and then follows his stunning victory over Sonny Liston, his conversion to Islam and name change, Ali’s refusal of the military draft on religious grounds and subsequent nearly four-year long court battle to fight again. Ali wins the legal victory and then returns to the ring and takes part in what many consider some of the greatest boxing matches of all time.

Bounce TV will also include several special tributes to the late icon and his tremendous impact on boxing throughout the telecast of Premier Boxing Champions ‚Äď The Next Round Sunday night, June 12 starting at 9:00 p.m. ET.

Remembering Royalty: Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016)

Prince Rogers Nelson

Last Thursday, I was devastated at hearing the news of the passing of Prince Rogers Nelson. A co-worker interrupted a few of us conversing and laughing at lunch, and completely changed the tone in the room. Silence. Shock. Disbelief, as I quickly grabbed my phone to hop online and dispute this nonsense that must be some kind of hoax…but unfortunately ended up confirming the truth. A legend had left us too soon.

It’s taken me three days to try to put words to paper and reflect on why I am so distraught with this. I have been a Prince admirer for most of my life, and own a significant amount of his catalog, but if I am honest should admit that he isn’t in my top three when I list my musical influences/favorites. Yet, I was extremely saddened and mourning immensely at the news of his death. Until it dawned on me that Prince is one of the musicians/performers/artists who completely shaped the soundtrack of my life and was a comfortable constant to say the least.

Tell me why at 8-years-old, I was singing along to Prince’s Controversy and completely feeling his frustration with innuendos, rumor and the need for folk to let him be and be himself. I heard the freedom cry and proclamation that he, like everyone else, was a child of God.

I think of one of my childhood besties, Aaliyah, who is the consummate Prince fan and whose Aunt Muffin – who may or may not have had too much to drink at one of our Chesapeake Bay dinner runs – decided to turn the car radio up to full blast when “Controversy” came on and proceeded to elicit a car party down the Roosevelt Boulevard. You know the type of car performances where the passengers in every vehicle you pass look over like, “What are they listening to?” except in this instance they actually heard it!

And don’t get me started with the movie Purple Rain! It is absolutely an all-time fave, can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen it, and the titular song is my favorite Prince tune. I cannot watch the movie without reliving the joy and excitement I felt as preteen Thomasena – watching Prince and the Revolution, Apollonia 6, The Time and those amazing performances on the big screen for the first time.

Prince gave me refuge and therapy through the radio in middle school and high school, encouraging and motivation to avoid life traps and keep it moving with tunes like Let’s Go Crazy, Pop Life, and Sign O’ The Times. He literally dropped an album during each of my college undergrad years – and I became more appreciative ( ūüėČ ) of his more sensual offerings. And he dropped those gems I adore (no pun intended) – Diamonds and Pearls and The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.

There’s so much I can write – so much I’ve left out, including the Batman soundtrack – OMG, I had the cassette tape and must have popped it, I played it so much! ¬†I can talk about never seeing him live, until he presented Tamar (not Braxton) back in 2006 at the Electric Factory in Philly – and how I was so hyped thinking he would sing at least one song – yeah he did…and it was Partyman! I mean I dug the Batman soundtrack and all, but not Purple Rain? LOL, even though I was crushed, I saw him live, up close and in the flesh and I’m so grateful for that opportunity.

There have been many pieces written about his life, death, artistry and musicianship since Thursday – and I must have consumed at least a good 3/4th of them as I sorted out my feelings on his transition. Out of all the things I’ve learned, the most impressive – and I dare to say the most important – was the life of service Prince secretly lived and the contributions he offered to many. For those who were die-hard fans, or even to those who weren’t but were mindful of his lyrics and his spiritual lifestyle like myself, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Prince was putting into practice what he often – and sometimes subtlety – preached in many of his songs.

Scripture tells us to whom much is given, much is expected. I pray that Prince is at peace and has been greeted with a well done at his resting place.

Thank you Prince for the beautiful memories, and the motivation to do and be better – not just for myself, but to and for others. What a gift you were to this world.



Remembering a Music Master: Maurice White (1941-2016)


The music world has loss giants thus far in 2016. I was first saddened by the loss of a musical fave – Ms. Natalie Cole – on New Year’s Eve. To me she was elegance, music and melody personified, yet I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. But I had to briefly put pen to paper and gather my thoughts on the loss of the musical maestro that is Maurice White.

Promotional portrait of American singers Maurice White Natalie Cole embracing for Cole's television special, 1978. (Photo by Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images)
Promotional portrait of American singers Maurice White Natalie Cole embracing for Cole’s television special, 1978. (Photo by Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images)

Like Ms. Cole, Mr. White and the band he founded – the legendary soul, funk, jazz collective known as Earth, Wind & Fire, also fondly called “The Elements” by die-hard fans like myself – formed the soundtrack of my childhood, and have remained in “constant” rotation throughout my adult years, along with other treasured favorites like Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, and the late, great Michael Jackson.

I summed up my thoughts on Mr. White today on Facebook by stating that I had no problem believing I was a shining star, and knew to keep my head to the sky through any adversity because of Maurice White. He created universal anthems and music to feed the soul.

And for his part, White collected seven Grammy awards, was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame – with brother Verdine White, Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn and Al McKay – in 2010, and added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000¬†– along with his EWF band mates.

Earth, Wind & Fire were also recently selected as lifetime achievement honorees for this year’s Grammys. It will be wonderful to see a fitting tribute to the band and especially its founder – so I’m hoping if a tribute is offered that it’s done well. But personally, I’ve been blasting a musical¬†tribute since the sad news of Mr. White’s death broke Thursday, and it has been bittersweet listening to say the least. On the one hand, it hurts that so many of our greats are leaving. Yet on the other hand, how fortunate we are to have been blessed with the musical legacies they each have bestowed.

My prayers are with Maurice White’s family, friends and band mates during this time. Be encouraged and be ever wonderful.

Until next thought, Thomasena


The ‘Life Celebration’ of radio legend and activist E. Steven Collins

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The last day of summer here in Philadelphia was bittersweet.  With a picturesque sky ushering in the end of the season, hundreds gathered inside of Sharon Baptist church as Radio One hosted a memorial service to celebrate the life of radio legend and community activist E. Steven Collins.  He passed away suddenly on September 9 at the age of 58, and is survived by his wife Lisa and two sons, Rashid and Langston.

Collins, remembered by many during the service as hardworking, compassionate, and an advocate for educating others, worked in radio/media for 40 years. ¬†He most recently served as Radio One‚Äôs director of urban marketing and external relations and the host of “Philly Speaks,” a weekly broadcast that featured several distinguished local and national guests who opined and debated various topics.

The most poignant thing that was apparent, during his memorial service, was the unity that was promoted by E. Steven Collins and his way of living.  I have not witnessed many that can bring together so many persons of varying political affiliations/opposing views in celebration, yet the life E. Steven Collins lived displayed just that.

Radio One and TV One founder and chairperson Cathy Hughes said what she would most remember about Collins was his commitment to education and educating others.  In his honor, she and Radio One have started a memorial scholarship fund at his alma mater Temple University. Donations can be made here or by mailing to the E. Steven Collins Memorial Scholarship Fund, Temple University, P.O. Box 827651, Phila., PA 19182-7651.

An official proclamation was given by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who declared Saturday, September 21, 2013 to be E. Steven Collins Day.  In addition to the gallery above, which includes beautiful photos by talented photographer/writer Craig Carpenter, please check out my Examiner article with dynamic color shots by Monica Lyons (Sista Pics) here.  You will also be able to read remarks by other celebrities and dignitaries regarding friend, colleague, and family man E. Steven Collins.

Celebrate the memory of radio legend and civic activist E. Steven Collins

Celebrate the memory of radio legend and civic activist E. Steven Collins

Join Old School 100.3, Praise 103.9, Hot 107.9, and the City of Philadelphia as they proclaim Saturday, September 21 “E. Steven Collins Day.” See details above or go to for more information by clicking on flyer.

On Monday, September 9, 2013 shortly after midnight, legendary Radio One-Philadelphia personality E. Steven Collins suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at Chestnut Hill Hospital.  He was surrounded by family and close friends. E. Steven Collins was a fixture in the Philadelphia community and was no stranger to the national spotlight.

Collins was a contributor on a variety of local and national media broadcasts¬†including CN8, Comcast Newsmakers and Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia. During the 2008 Presidential election, Collins appeared numerous times on MSNBC‚Äôs Hardball with Chris Matthews as well as MSNBC Weekends. He also appeared on CNN Midday, CNN‚Äôs American Morning with John Roberts, CNN Weekend and PBS News Hour.

Collins worked more than 30 years at Clear Channel Broadcasting (WDAS-FM) prior to joining the Radio One-Philadelphia family as the host of “Philly Speaks” heard on Sunday Mornings on Old School 100.3 in Philadelphia. ¬†Mr. Collins, or E. as he was affectionately known, spent the last 10 years of his career with Radio One-Philadelphia. ¬†Countless lives were impacted by his compassion and concern for the common man in the community. ¬†His positive influence was widespread, garnering respect from state and city officials, clergy and local citizens for whom he became a voice. ¬†E. Steven Collins was often called the ‚ÄúUnofficial Mayor of Philadelphia‚ÄĚ as his influence and friends included U.S. Congressmen, governors, senators, city council, and more.

A memorial scholarship fund has been set up in the name of  E. Steven Collins and contributions can be made by clicking here.


The Family That Prays – A Tribute

Hey there music movie family. ¬†I write tonight with a bit of sadness in my heart, as my family was faced with the task of burying one of our matriarchs, my aunt Marion, on last Saturday. ¬†Aunt Marion was a tough woman (her sisters say “she didn’t mince words”) with a kind heart, and I learned a great deal from her. ¬†She was the first one on the dance floor at our family functions and there wasn’t a wobble, cupid shuffle or electric slide that made it pass her! ¬†I am blessed to have known and shared time with her, but even more blessed that I come from a family that rallies together and celebrates life during the toughest of times.

Even though our heart breaks at the thought of my uncle losing his wife of 44 years to a disease as terrible as cancer, we celebrated aunt Marion’s life with such vigor, laughter and lively conversations last week that a passerby may have wondered, had it not been for the condolences, floral arrangements or the occasional tears,¬†if it was just a regular family get together . ¬†During this experience, I realized when you give your all while a person is yet living the heart rejoices in that fact, and it allows you to grieve but not be overcome by grief. ¬†I witnessed my aunts and uncles rotate and travel up North for months as my aunt battled cancer, and I know they gave more than their all. ¬† As my family prayed at my aunt’s hospice bedside on the night of her passing, I thanked God for the lives she had touched and that theme continued throughout the week as family and friends travelled in to say their final goodbyes at her homegoing service.

I also thank God for all of the the well wishes I received this past week, and for my music movie family and your continued support of this blog. ¬†I offer some music choices below to celebrate my aunt, ¬†family and you all. ¬†And if I may ask a favor? ¬†Please take the time to tell your family and friends what they mean to you. Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today :). ¬†For those celebrating, ¬†Happy Resurrection Day and a blessed Passover holiday.

PS – the 2012 Trumpet Awards will air Easter Sunday night at 8pm EST on TV One and honorees include Earth Wind & Fire, Tyrese, and posthumously the Reverend C. L. Franklin (whose award will be accepted by his daughter, the legendary Aretha Franklin). ¬† Check your local listings to confirm viewing in your area. ¬†Also premiering Sunday is Oprah’s Next Chapter episode with T. D. Jakes, whose new film Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day, starring Blair Underwood and Sharon Leal, will be released in theaters next week on April 13th.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

These Three Words РStevie Wonder, Jungle Fever Soundtrack, 1991 Motown:

Happy People РR. Kelly, Happy People/U Saved Me, 2004 Jive:

(for Aunt Marion) Cupid Shuffle РCupid, Time For A Change, 2007 Atlantic:

The Voice Silenced – Whitney Houston (1963 – 2012)

For weeks I have been making references to this year’s Grammy award show. ¬†Never could I have imagined that many would be tuning in this evening to pay collective homage to one of the greatest singers of our time – the one, the only, THE VOICE, Ms. Whitney Houston, who passed away yesterday at age 48. ¬†Like other people to whom I’ve spoken, I am still in shock from the news of her untimely passing. ¬†I literally watched CNN for hours last night, trying to make sense of it all by listening to the video tributes, the breaking reports, and remarks from colleagues and friends. ¬†But none of it helped to settle the unease I was feeling.

That unease, very much like if not equal to that which I’d felt when Michael Jackson passed, comes from losing yet another music legend I’ve adored since I was a child. ¬†You see, there is a Whitney song I can reference for mostly every major period in my life. ¬†And though I’ve never met, or even seen Whitney Houston live in concert, her music and voice are so comfortably familiar it is quite hard to imagine a life without her. ¬†Even more disheartening, I was anxiously awaiting the premi√®re of the Sparkle remake, ¬†which I anticipated to be a huge vehicle for her return to film; and if early reports of Whitney’s phenomenal performance are accurate it most certainly would have been. ¬†And speaking of film, Terry McMillan can just stop the press as far as bringing¬†Getting to Happy, the sequel to Waiting to Exhale, to the big screen. ¬†I mean, how can we accept anyone else but Whitney Houston returning as Savannah?

Ken Erlich, Grammy’s executive producer, reported to CNN last night that Jennifer Hudson would be performing the tribute to Whitney Houston on tonight’s show. ¬†Like many of her contemporaries, Jennifer cites Whitney as one of her biggest influences and I remember how excited she was when Whitney presented her with the Grammy back in 2009. ¬†I’ve also read that Chaka Khan will be doing a tribute, but am not certain how accurate those reports are. ¬†It would make sense that Chaka Khan would be allowed to do so, considering Whitney sang backup for her as a teen and paid tribute to Chaka at the end of her cover of I’m Every Woman.

I cannot even begin to touch all that Whitney Houston accomplished in this post and do it fair justice. ¬†I really cannot believe that I am writing this about her at all. ¬†My prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to the Houston family, especially to her daughter and mother. ¬†I share the You Tube link below for Whitney’s My Love is Your Love video in which she boldly sings “if I should die this very day, don’t cry, ’cause on earth we wasn’t meant to stay.¬†And no matter what the people say, I’ll be waiting for you after the Judgement Day.” ¬†I will miss you Ms. Houston. ¬†Rest in Peace.

Until next thought family, Thomasena.

My Love is Your Love (Whitney Houston, 1998 Arista):

Remembering A Jazz Blues Legend: Etta James (1938 – 2012)

Etta James in 1990

She was¬†called a “gospel prodigy” because she sang at church and on radio at the tender age of five.¬† She was one of the pioneers credited with fusing¬†rhythm & blues and rock and roll.¬† And she kept the good times rolling right up until she was not able to,¬†her last album being released¬†just last November to warm reviews.¬† I am¬†speaking (of course)¬†of the legendary,¬†often emulated, yet¬†incomparable Etta James,¬†who passed away Friday¬†at age 73¬†from leukemia¬†complications. ¬†Although her¬†career was both blessed with¬†success and plagued with controversy, Ms. James was still about her business and managed to carve out many¬†achievements including her collection of six Grammy awards, including one in¬†2003¬†for Lifetime Achievement,¬†and her 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.¬† She¬†also was¬†ranked 62 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s¬†2004¬†“100 Greatest¬†Artists of All Time”¬†list.

Had she lived, Ms. James would have celebrated her 74th birthday in four days (January 25th).  I pray her soul is at peace and that she will be celebrating with all those musical friends and family members who have gone home before her.  Rest in peace Ms. James :(.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

At Last (live performance; recording copyright 1999 MCA/Chess):