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Basic Black; Directors


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Basic Black
Program Number


Series Description

THe series was formerly known as Say Brother. Series title change as of 1/8/1998. This series is black produced and is one of public television's longest-running series that is rooted in and reflects the culture, concerns, achievements and history of people of African descent. Also includes controversial issues, African American artists, and events of special interest to the African American community.

Series release date: 1/8/1998

Program Description

Debbie Allen has produced and directed major motion pictures with some of the biggest stars in the business. Don Mays is working on his first film, a low-budget project he wrote, directed, and produced. Lois Roach, an established playwright, also turns her talents to directing. BASIC BLACK profiles the very different careers of Allen, Roach, and Mays.

Actor, dancer, director, and producer Debbie Allen has been directing for nearly two decades, since the film The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh and the television series Fame and A Different World. She talks to BASIC BLACK about her career, racism she encountered as a young girl and throughout her life, and producing the feature film Amistad—a project that took twenty years to bring to fruition. "Success is going forward with who you are, and not being challenged by somebody telling you ‘no’…not being threatened by that statement because there are people who will tell you ‘no’ all the way," she says.

Playwright Lois Roach’s work has been performed in Boston for many years, and she had established herself as a director of her plays and others’. But it was in Northern Ireland—the setting for her play Mothers of Gods, Mothers of Wars—that her career as a director took off. She tells BASIC BLACK how directing Mothers of Gods in Ireland led to other opportunities here and abroad. In 1998, she gave up the safety net of her "day job" at WBZ television to work full time in theater. "I like working with all the different actors and characters and what the words are saying…I love putting all those pieces together," she tells BASIC BLACK.

Same Difference, the first film for Rhode Island writer, director, and producer Don Mays, explores violence, drugs, AIDS, and loss in black and gay communities in New York and Providence. "It’s not the entire gay community just as it doesn’t deal with the entire black community," says Mays. "It’s just a segment of those individuals who chose to put themselves at risk." Mays talks about his career as a director, his vision for Same Difference, and the process of bringing a low-budget film to life. "I am sure that this [film] is going to be the thing that moves me from a struggling director into a working filmmaker," he says.



Asset Type

Broadcast program

Media Type


Race and Ethnicity
Social Issues
Chicago: “Basic Black; Directors,” 06/17/1999, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed January 23, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_811FB10928764D7E970BA848ED9788F4.
MLA: “Basic Black; Directors.” 06/17/1999. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. January 23, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_811FB10928764D7E970BA848ED9788F4>.
APA: Basic Black; Directors. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_811FB10928764D7E970BA848ED9788F4
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