1940s Bronzeville was a cultural and business epicenter for Black Americans. With the great migration, thousands of African Americans moved north from the south, hoping for better opportunities and quality of life. Known as the “Black Metropolis,” Bronzeville was a neighborhood rooted in culture and community. Black-Owned businesses, banks, hospitals, and stores lined the streets. The Chicago Defender newspaper was a staple in black households, and the community used their voting power to demand politicians to meet the needs of their community. It was the home of a lively nightclub scene with famous clubs and dance halls filled with jazz and the blues. Residents would put on their finest clothing and head out for a night on the town. It was our “Gold Coast.” Bronzeville was home to cultural icons such as Louis Armstrong, Ida B. Wells, Katherine Dunham, Richard Wright, and more.
Chicago native actor Larenz Tate, his brothers, and their production company, Tatemen Entertainment, teamed up with Oscar-nominated actor Laurence Fishburne and his production company, Cinema Gypsy Productions, to bring the breakout podcast drama “Bronzeville” to listeners. In a homage to the old radio dramas our grandparents listened to, “Bronzeville” chronicles the lives those involved in the policy numbers game. Policies were an illegal lottery operation played by residents in Bronzeville and other poor communities. The mafia eventually took over the numbers operations. Tate and Fishburne produce, act and direct this series.
Written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Josh Olson, the audio drama debuted in 2017 and has garnered over 20 million listens on audio streaming sites. “Bronzeville” follows the Copeland family and the empire they have created running policies in the neighborhood. Their power is vast. They are politically connected and have members of law enforcement in their pockets. These gangsters still operate under a code that limits the violence in the neighborhood. They want to see Bronzeville flourish and do everything to ensure that chaos does not come to the community. However, that is not always possible as a gang. Tate plays “Jimmy Tillman,” a young man from the south who heads to Chicago after getting in some trouble in a heated altercation. He starts to work with the Copeland family and becomes a trusted member who also has a thing for the college-educated Copeland sister, played by Tika Sumpter. Fishbourne plays Curtis “Eyeball” Randolph. Considered an “OG” in the numbers game, he commands respect in the community. He is a voice of reason and authority.
This stellar audio drama pays tribute to the beauty and pain of this Southside neighborhood. A conversation with another former Chicagoan, Quincy Jones, inspired Larenz Tate in creating this series. Rejected when they attempted to develop “Bronzeville” as a TV series, the Tate brothers linked up with Laurence Fishbourne and produced the audio drama. “Bronzeville” enjoys a star-studded cast, including Mekhi Phifer, Lavar Burton, Lalah Hathaway, Harrold Perrineau, and more.
The second season of “Bronzeville” debuted March 16 and continues where season 1 left off. Audiences will continue to follow the Copeland family as they deal with the fallout of a family member’s violent death and its effect on the community. “Bronzeville” paints a beautifully nuanced picture of the historic neighborhood. Listeners will enjoy captivating performances, drama, and intrigue in this well-written story.
The “Bronzeville” series transports audiences back in time and leaves you eagerly anticipation the next episode.
The series is rich in the neighborhoods history of a community that was self-sufficient, rich in culture, art and rich in crime, mob and gang activity, and political corruption.
Turn the TV off and “podcast and chill” with this well-written, incredibly acted audio drama every Tuesday on Spotify, Apple Podcast, or other audio streaming platforms. For more information on the Bronzeville podcast, visit their website at www.bronzevilleseries.com.
Danielle Sanders is a journalist and writer living on the Southside of Chicago. Find her on social media @DanieSandersOfficial.