Black Nativity Cast

Written by by Nathaniel Thomas II

black_nativityIt was the 18th of November (2013), I was afforded the opportunity to be apart of the “domestic” premiere of this new film entitled “Black Nativity”. A visual and audible tapestry of method acting, gradual birthings within each character, a sonically tight musical bed provided through the supervision of Mr. Raphael Saadiq, a meaningful message of redemption through expressed and understood truth, and the gritty and darkened streets of a Harlem winter, all collectively serve to provide much imagery for a story that is headed for a theater near everyone, come Christmas.

It was quite the event, I arrived in time enough to find a seat in the upper balcony, passing the pictures (along the stairway) of past soul/R&B icons (such as Clyde McPhatter and others), I found my seat and settled in for the visual adventure. The first character we’re introduced to is the young and troubled “Langston” (played by Jacob Lattimore), speaking and singing in the 1st person, Langston is the self-designated protector of his overworked/well-intentioned mother (played by Jenifer Hudson). Expressing himself expertly through youthful expressions and a tangible struggle with the state-of-things in he and his mother’s household, “Langston” is faced with a hard instruction from his mother (after losing out on hours at work and bills mounting by the minute), and that is to put away his pride and fear and go to visit his grandparents (who he’s never seen) over in Harlem.

He boards the Peter Pan bus line to Times Square, to be met and taken in by his grandparents (“The Cobbs”), upstanding members of the black upper echelon of respected ministers and minsters’ wives. He is supremely welcomed to the new environment by having his book bag stolen, and thereby placing him in a precarious situation that leads to a short stint in “lockup”, until his grandfather (The Reverend Cobb) can show up to bail him out and take him home. “The Cobbs” (portrayed expertly by Angela Bassett and Forrest Whitaker), besides feeding and doting upon their young grandson, seem a bit uneasy or torn as to how much to share with Langston, who is full of questions and wonder about the distance that’s been placed between his mother and her parents.

And so upon being granted clearance to move about the cold streets, with one instruction from Mother Cobb (Angela Bassett) to “walk like he has a purpose”, Young Langston is off into un-chartered territory in Harlem, NY…Besides constantly taking notice of the young and gifted couple with a baby on the way, he runs smack dab into one of the young men he met in lock-up for a short while. Tyrese Gibson’s character (ever-evolving) provides a much needed reality summation for “Langston” (Lattimore), who blinded with a fear of the un-shared and untold (along with a little colorful youthful angst) seems to be running “wild” in search of money that he believes will cure all that ails his mother (Hudson), and to that end his own strife. The quest to calm the young man is met by a few, including his Grandfather (The Reverend Cobb, played by Forrest Whitaker), he is led (through lecture) through Cobb’s tough upbringing, his honorable involvement in the civil rights movement, the inception and toil in bringing up a congregation in the middle of Harlem’s tough neighborhood, and even poetically waxing over a prized possession afforded him through trial and culture on his “come up” in the world.

Though taken note of, Young Langston absent-mindedly diminishes the worth of the conversation and “gifting” of sorts, and sets upon a new scheme with which to gather the “coins for change”, and entertains a tough-as-nails pawn shop owner (in the person of veteran actor Vonde Curtis-Hall) in hopes of securing the dollars he so needs. He is met with another lecture on the importance of the family that he is so keen on running from, and sent about his business without Curtis-Hall missing a beat, through clenched teeth and good intention. The whole affair is handled with a care sorely missing from today’s ethnic representation of rearing the black family, in film-making. Whitaker takes great pains to present what he feels is inherently important for a young black man that he loves to know and carry with him daily, and as well takes effort not to violate (as the kids say) the well over stood wishes of his daughter, Langston’s mother (who ran off in the face of a youthful and un-prepped and un-respected pregnancy).

From here till the film’s closing we are faced with the basic tenants of accepted Christianity. You get to see the love, the faith through circumstance, the patience through misunderstanding, the hope and yearning for better while living the worse, and an expectancy toward a God we don’t see to help us and guide us to exits and entrance in this crazy life, that many of us have no chance but to walk out and live. I was very much impressed with the technical aspects of this film; the sequences where we are treated to the gifting of vocalists Jacob Lattimore (Langston), Langston’s mom (powerful Chi-Town vocalist Jennifer Hudson), Tyrese Gibson (slowly rising to new heights in his acting, the singing at this point a given), even Forrest Whitaker (who holds a mighty note while in church), all capsulate and flow with the story and make a whole lot of sense, it’s not simply a vehicle for the soundtrack. Soundtrack Supervisor-Raphael Saadiq keeps a tight reign on the inflections and timber of the music, and of course Nasir “NAS” Jones is stellar as the ghetto poet who is always in the midst of things and dropping science in rhyme and meter, a sound and family familiar film for your holiday and for your heart.


—(NYC contributor for Tekoa Gospel Music News., NATHANIEL THOMAS III)


black_nativityIt’s been a long time since there’s been a truly great Christmas musical on the big screen, and Black Nativity is hoping to change that this holiday season.

The Nativity centers on a Baltimore teen named Langston (breakout Jacob Latimore, whose name pays homage to the film’s source material: a 1961 stage musical by poet Langston Hughes), who is sent by his down-on-her-luck mother mother (Jennifer Hudson) to spend the holidays in Harlem with her estranged parents — her Reverend father (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker) and his church choir-leading wife (Oscar nominee Angela Bassett).

Despite having her own Oscar on her mantle, Hudson admits to being blown away by the star-studded cast, which also includes R&B powerhouses Mary J. Blige, Tyrese, and Luke James: “Some of my favorite artists are here,” says the triple threat. “It makes such a fun project and a fun cast.” For his part Tyrese, was drawn to Black Nativity because “this is a film that everybody in the family can go and see together. What makes this movie powerful is that you can relate and identify with somebody in this movie.”

Whitaker said, “In preparing for the roll, I took time to read the scripture, while Bassett, plays the roll of a First Lady.


black_nativityRCA Inspiration is set to release the soundtrack to Fox Searchlight Pictures holiday musical drama BLACK NATIVITY on November 5th. Music From The Motion Picture Black Nativity, Executive Produced by Grammy Award winning artist/producer Raphael Saadiq, features Gospel classics and brand new songs performed by award winning cast members Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, Jacob Latimore, Tyrese Gibson, Mary J. Blige and Nasir “Nas” Jones.

Music From The Motion Picture Black Nativity is currently available for pre-order at iTunes, and select online retailers.

“I loved the experience of working on this film with Kasi Lemons, she is a special friend and talent” said Saadiq, “I most enjoyed the opportunity to work with all the actors and the incredible vocals of Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Hudson, Tyrese Gibson, Jacob Latimore and Luke James. I’ll also remember for the rest of my life watching Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett sing.”

In a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ celebrated play, the Kasi Lemmons-directed holiday musical drama BLACK NATIVITY follows Langston (Jacob Latimore), a street-wise teen from Baltimore raised by a single mother, as he journeys to New York City to spend the Christmas holiday with his estranged relatives Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett). Unwilling to live by the imposing Reverend Cobbs’ rules, a frustrated Langston is determined to return home to his mother, Naima (Jennifer Hudson). Langston embarks on a surprising and inspirational journey and along with new friends, and a little divine intervention, he discovers the true meaning of faith, healing, and family.

Music From The Motion Picture Black Nativity track listing:

1. Be Grateful – Forest Whitaker & Jennifer Hudson
2. Coldest Town* – Jacob Latimore
3. Test Of Faith* – Jennifer Hudson
4. Motherless Child – Jacob Latimore feat. Nas
5. Hush Child (Get You Through This Silent Night) – Jennifer Hudson, Luke James, Grace Gibson & Jacob Latimore
6. He Loves Me Still* – Angela Bassett & Jennifer Hudson
7. Can’t Stop Praising His Name – Forest Whitaker
8. Sweet Little Jesus Boy – Tyrese
9. Rise Up Shepherd and Follow – Mary J. Blige & Nas
10. Fix Me Jesus – Jennifer Hudson
11. Jesus On the Mainline – Forest Whitaker
12. As – Cast

*New original song.


Bishop TD Jake is on a tour across the nation for his new book “Let It Go”, his latest movie “Woman Thou Art Loosed: The 7th Day” has hit limited theaters across the nation, his company executive produced Whitney Houston’s last movie “Sparkle” and now he can add Jennifer Hudson’s portrayal of Winnie Mandela in “Winnie” as well as a movie “A Million Colors” to his repertoire.

Oscar winning actress and Grammy winning singer Jennifer Hudson, plays Winnie Madela in the film, which also stars veteran actor Terrance Howard as Nelson Mandela, Elias Koteas and Wendy Crewson and is directed by Darrell J. Roodt.   According to the Hollywood ReporterBishop Jakes states, “Stories like Winnie and A Million Colours are important historically and socially. Collaborations like this offer us a unique ability to provide the global community a window into African culture through the creation of quality content”.

Bishop Jakes is solidifying his footprint in Hollywood and helping to bring clean entertainment to the big screen.  Let’s support his efforts.

Kim Burrell, long time friend of Whitney Houston, spoke candidly about her on the red carpet at the Grammy Awards with CNN. Kim said she knew the real Whitney and she celebrated her. Kim said that Whitney was her “sister” and she would pay tribute in song at her service “whether it be private or they make it public”. Watch the interview now:

Kim Burrell’s interview with CNN:

Jennifer Hudson performed a tribute to Whitney on the Grammy Awards. She didn’t try to duplicate Whitney but tenderly sang from her heart. Enjoy her tribute:

Jennifer Hudson singing “I Will Always Love You”