“I’m telling you this in your fifteenth year,” the narrative begins, delivered by a who’s who of Black celebrities, including Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Joe Morton, Wendell Pierce, Yara Shahidi, Courtney B. Vance, Susan Kelechi Watson (also one of the producers) and Oprah Winfrey.
Coates speaks of the “cosmic injustice” of the Black experience, and tells his child, “You do not have the privilege of living in ignorance” — a warning that possess additional clout with Oprah presenting it.
Connecting the past to the present, Coates talks about a Howard student he knew who was killed by the police — drawing a line through the long and painful history that has built to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The system makes your body breakable,” Coates writes to his son, adding, “This is your country … And you must find some way to live within the all of it.”
Despite the limitations of shooting under Covid conditions, Forbes has brilliantly deployed the talent, sometimes simply showing their melancholy expressions while the voices of others play. Set to an affecting score by Jason Moran, the production approximates a theatrical experience, bringing the dialogue to life in a deeply intimate manner.
The last five years have only made Coates’ arguments more relevant, and this provocative special timelier — issuing a call that says anyone who entertains the desire for progress no longer has the privilege of living in ignorance.
“Between the World and Me” premieres Nov. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.