Epix released “The Godfather of Harlem” in September and it’s been getting rave reviews. The series reimagines the story of he infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson during the 1960’s after he spent a decade in Alcatraz. Johnson comes back to his beloved Harlem to find that the neighborhood he once ran was in shambles.
Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker transforms himself into Bumpy Johnson, a polarizing figure. On one hand, he pumped drugs through Harlem. On the other, he rubbed elbows with civil rights icons like Malcolm X and gave money to those in need. To say this series is juicy, is an understatement.
The show shines a light on Harlem’s changing landscape. Once Bumpy returned he saw struggling Black businesses, an influx of drug use and dealing, the civil rights movement and more. It was up to him to take back Harlem in the midst of the tug of war between seeing Black people thrive versus maintaining the corruption and crime that kept his underworld empire afloat.
ESSENCE was invited to the red carpet premiere of the historic series and got the chance to ask the cast about a very interesting line from the show. When talking to Congressman Powell (played by Giancarlo Esposito), a white politician says, “You’re a Black supremacist, I’m a white supremacist. We have more in common than you think.”
Does Black supremacy actually exist?
We asked the cast to confront this idea and many of them had to consider the topic. Forest Whitaker said, “That was when Malcolm and all of them were talking about separatism and separating themselves from the nation. Going back to Marcus Garvey when he was going back to Africa. When Malcolm was saying that…separate, not integration. They [white supremacists] had philosophies that were somewhat similar as far as separating races. The TV show explores the polarity between what’s happening right now with the nation being separated the way it is.”
Check out the video above to see what everyone else thinks about Black supremacy.