What to Expect from HBO’s “Between the World and Me” Special


In a year like this, with protestors taking to the streets, worldwide, in support of Black lives, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ no. 1 New York Times Bestselling book from 2015, Between the World and Me, feels especially timely. The opus serves as a letter to his teenage son about what to expect from the world while moving throughout it in a Black body. “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it,” wrote Coates. These words will come to life Saturday, November 21 at 8:00pm in an HBO special event starring: Yara Shahidi, Jharrel Jerome, Mahershala Ali, Alicia Garza, Janet Mock, Mj Rodriguez, Kendrick Sampson, Oprah Winfrey, and more.

HBO’s Between The World And Me was directed by Kamilah Forbes, an award-winning director and Apollo Theater Executive Producer. Forbes, who attended Howard University with Coates, and is referred to as “Aunt Kamilah” in the book, had a special relationship to the text. After being inspired to adapt it for Harlem’s Apollo Theater stage, she brought the onstage performance to other cities with plans of a tour before COVID-19 struck the world. 

Then, this summer, the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor happened — sparking protests and conversations on a scale larger than many of us have ever witnessed. “It was absolutely a direct response to the protests around George Floyd and the protests around Breonna Taylor,” Forbes tells Teen Vogue. “As a book, it has already been very humanizing of this current movement. How can another manifestation take it a step further? Really be in conversation and dialogue.”

Forbes believes the transformative experience of advocating for Black humanity, on a global level, is something that was worth deeply contemplating. “It’s one thing to read the Bible on your own or whatever your biblical or spiritual text is, but it’s another thing to have a transformative experience within a mass of people. That’s what I’m always interested in. That’s why it was important to find this experience in theater, find this experience in film.”

Inspired by the people and places he encountered while growing up, Coates wrote about these connections to his awakening and understanding of the country he calls home — with one of the most pivotal moments being the killing of his friend and Howard classmate, Prince Jones, by a police officer in 2000. “The book, to me, has always been a call to action,” Forbes says, “Although it’s a very intimate, personal recollection, I think it’s also sort of a call to action for a country to reckon with its history, wrestle with its history, and for people to do the same. But at the same time, we need to recognize our resiliency. I think that mourn and joy happen all in the same breath, so part of a call to action is a bit of that.” 

The behind the scenes work that Forbes spoke of is highlighted in HBO’s Point of Visibility (POV) campaign in which content pieces on some of the voices that transformed Between the World and Me into a television event are shared on the network’s platforms. As a product of WarnerMedia and HBO’s commitment to sharing more stories by women and people of color, POV further showcases the work and perspectives of the diverse crew members who bring stories, like this one, to the screen. 

“HBO POV celebrates the skillset and personalities of the creatives who bring our shows to life,” Jackie Gagne, SVP of Multicultural Marketing at WarnerMedia told Teen Vogue. “We love featuring our talent via content pieces and other experiences because it gives us the opportunity to showcase the level of expertise involved in the making of our programming, but also allows us to show aspiring creatives the myriad opportunities available to them as they hone their craft.”

“I hope young people see themselves, their family’s stories reflected. I hope they gain a sense of resilience and strength from what we individually have always been able to overcome. And also resilience and strength in the movement that they led,” Forbes adds. 

“BLM is a young people’s movement. True change in any culture and society, has always been led by the youth. So for me, this was an opportunity to also celebrate what young people did to change our country for the better, what young people have always done to change our country for the better. ”

Portions of these interviews have been condensed for publication.



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