By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D.
NNPA Culture and Entertainment Editor
Covid-19, Coronavirus or “Rona” as some are calling it has changed the way society typically functions. Some cities have imposed mandatory quarantines while others are encouraging self-control and self-quarantining. Many are complying with official requests for social distancing and eliminating contact with those outside of the household.
Folks are trying to manage how to teach their children at home and fulfill employment obligations while not losing their minds during this new normal marked by disappointments like canceled proms and graduations, rogue relatives refusing to follow the rules and constant news coverage of those who are sick and have passed away.
Despite these challenges there is a silver lining. Just when you were lamenting over failing to follow through on giving up social media for Lent, lots of people are coming together on social media to offer wonderful activities for those at home. Check out a few below:
Free Celebrity Performances on Instagram:
Celebrities are offering outstanding free programming. John Legend was joined by model and partner Chrissy Teigen for a CONVID-19 benefit concert from his living room that played on Instagram. If you didn’t catch John Legend, musical acts as diverse as Luke Bryan, JoJo, Miley Cyrus, D-Nice and Common are offering online concerts via Instagram. All you need is an Instagram account to watch and you’re good to go.
If those folks don’t do it for you, then check out NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series, intimate video performances, recorded live at the desk of “All Songs Considered,” host Bob Boilen. Rising rap star Chika’s performance just dropped and shows her skills and playful side. Other popular performances include The Roots featuring trombonist Jeff Bradshaw and Bilal, Rev. Sekou and The Seal Breakers, Lizzo, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and Omara Portuondo.
Speaking of Instagram, can you say Debbie Allen? The iconic dancer, choreographer and director offered up a free dance class this past Wednesday to lift the spirits of those feeling isolated during the crisis. Thousands checked in and had a blast based on the comments.
Not to worry, if you missed it, she’s offering the dance class every Wednesday at 1 p.m. PST during the COVID-19 crisis. How much would it normally cost to take a dance class from Debbie Allen? Who knows but now you can dance with Allen for free and in the comfort of your home. Allen is also offering a kids class Saturday on Instagram at 11 a.m. PST so set your reminder!
Things for the Kids
If the Debbie Allen kids dance class is not for you, then check out some of the following things your kids might enjoy. Many zoos and museums are putting exhibits online during the COVID-19 crisis. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens is livestreaming several animals and exhibits on their Facebook page.
Cosmickids.com offers yoga, programming and lesson plans to teach yoga and mindfulness to children. Although, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is closed due to coronavirus, they have an app that features highlighted objects from their collection, multimedia and augmented reality and stories exploring their 12 inaugural exhibitions.
If arts and crafts are your thing, Michaels has lots of do-it-yourself projects for children that are easily made with materials around the house. If you’re jonesing for the touch and feel of cotton, then you can order online and pick-up curbside at participating Michaels stores.
Now is a wonderful time to breakout the boardgames like Sorry, Monopoly, Life, Clue, Jenga, Escape Room in a Box and Black Card Revoked, which not only entertain kids of all ages but also offer fun for adults. Not to fret adults, there’s also Spades Plus (virtual), virtual Chess games, Words with Friends and several online Tonk and Bid Whist sites, so you can get back to making blind bids and running Bostons on folks in no time at all.
For parents who have slacked off on watching media with their kids, now is the perfect time to practice media literacy by sitting down and playing video games with your kids so you can see what they’re doing and talk about it in a critically engaged, and fun way. You may just understand why you should think thrice before allowing your kids to play Grand Theft Auto or World of Warcraft.
You can also show them some of your favorite video games which parents may discover they like just as much. Finally, for those who are having anxiety over teaching their younger children academic lessons, check out ABCMouse.com which is offering a free 30-day trial. It’s where learning and fun meet online.
COVID-19 has created the perfect opportunity to binge on television series and film genres that you love. Blaxploitation films are often available On Demand for free via your cable provider. Choose your favorite director like Spike Lee, Gina Prince Bythewood, Ryan Coogler, John Singleton or Ava Duvernay and watch their films until your heart is content. You might also like TV shows from the 1970s and 1980s, many of which are also available On Demand.
If you want to Netflix and chill, check out outstanding programming you may not have had an opportunity to watch yet like Raising Dion, Dear White People (season 3), Dolemite Is My Name, Jezebel and Queen Sono. Netflix’s highly anticipated series Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madame C.J. Walker comes out Friday, March 20, 2020. “Inspired” by the life of Madame C.J. Walker, the first self-made woman millionaire, the series stars Academy award-winner Octavia Butler, Blair Underwood, Tiffany Haddish, Carmen Ejogo, Garrett Morris and Kevin Carroll.
If you’re tired of “Netflix and chilling,” then check out Lena Waithe’s new series Twenties, season 2 of Boomerang or Tyler Perry’s show Sistas on BET. For the black foodies out there, watch Kardea Brown make Gullah inspired recipes on Delicious Miss Brown (Food Network) or Caribbean Pot (Black Life TV) featuring the food of Chef Phil La Rosa.
After eating that delicious food, get up and get moving to the plethora of free workout videos available on YouTube. Follow your favorite YouTube fitness stars Jenelle Salazar (@getbodiedbyJ), Lita Lewis (@followthelita) for workout routines for various fitness levels. You may now have time to finally try Zumba or subscribe to a fitness site like Daily Burn which is offering a 60-day free trial.
Once you collapse on the couch after working out, there are also many web series to watch. Giants follows the lives of three young people chasing their dreams and struggling with various issues of romance, identity and mental health as they come into adulthood. Giants is now an award-winning television series on Cleo TV.
Pillow Talk makes you think and feel and The Punanny Diaries, which is an oldie but a goodie, makes you chuckle and thank God you are no longer in your twenties.
TV One’s Unsung series always satisfies dropping tea about entertainers you grew up with in the 1990s. Don’t forget to watch HBO’s Watchmen, which will not be coming back for Season 2 as of now, so watch it while you can, or forever hold your peace.
As the kids would say, COVID-19 is gonna COVID-19, so we may as well make the best of our time #AloneTogether. Outside of holidays, when do folks really have this much potential time to spend together?
Keep thoughts of isolation at bay by reconnecting with friends and loved ones and making use of what’s available in real time and online. #QuarantineAndChill and enjoy the time you have with those you love.