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‘Queen Sugar’ Cast Discusses Sadly Relevant Topic of Driving While Black In Season Premiere

“Queen Sugar” cast at ABFF with moderator Nischelle Turner from ET (Left to Right): Timon Kyle Durrett, Nicholas L. Ashe, Dondre Whitfield, Omar Dorsey, Tina Lifford, Kofi Siriboe, Dawn-Lyen Gardner and Rutina Wesley. (ABFF)

Coming on the heels of the nonconviction of the Minnesota cop who stopped and killed Philando Castile, Micah’s “Driving While Black” moment in the second-season premiere of “Queen Sugar” hit a strong nerve. “Queen Sugar” creator Ava DuVernay recognized it as well with the tweet: Reading #QueenSugar #GimmeSugar hashtags. Funny. Sassy. Clever. But the ones about this scene… heartbreaking.

That Black-people realness is the primary reason “Queen Sugar” became a must-watch program when it debuted on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Sept. 6, 2016. In the Q&A session that followed the exclusive preview of the second-season premiere at the American Black Film Festival in South Beach Miami Saturday, June 17, days ahead of the first of its two-episode premiere on June 20, moderator Nischelle Turner, best known from “Entertainment Tonight,” did not shy away from the conversation.

With the majority of the “Queen Sugar” cast (Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, Kofi Siriboe, Tina Lifford, Omar Dorsey, Dondre Whitfield, Timon Kyle Durrett and Nicholas L. Ashe) onstage, Turner brought up the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez and tied it into Micah’s “DWB” storyline.

“It’s heavy and sensitive, kind of hard to find language around it,” said Nicholas L. Ashe, who plays Micah West, the teenage son of Charley Bordelon West and Davis West who is detained by a cop while driving his shiny birthday gift. “I’m sure everyone in this room has a personal relationship to this story and the countless stories that we’ve been hearing. And, to bring it back home to ‘Queen Sugar,’ that’s why we tell the stories that we do to decide how to move past injustice.”

Ashe hinted that Micah would be doing just that throughout the second season. “In the series, what’s looming over Micah is the fact that he got to live past it,” he said. “That is the reality check, that there are people who are a lot less fortunate and it ignites the need in Micah to spend the rest of his life advocating for the others, people who may not be as lucky or may not have the tools or the parents to get them out of that situation.”

Dondre Whitfield, who plays Remy, love interest to Charley West, chimed in about why “Queen Sugar” tackling “DWB” and other difficult topics like police corruption and the incarceration of young, Black boys from the first season was so noteworthy.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I’ve never been a part of something so powerful. Every hue is represented on this stage and how beautiful we are as Black folks,” he noted, “but our stories get to be told in the same beautiful way. So, even when we see stories like that that are painful, there’s something very healing and redeeming about that.”

The “Queen Sugar” cast Q&A (left to right) Timon Kyle Durrett, Nicholas L. Ashe, Dondre Whitfield, Omar Dorsey, Tina Lifford, Kofi Siriboe and Dawn-Lyen Gardner. (ABFF)

Kofi Siriboe, who plays Ralph Angel Bordelon, the only son, and has used his social media to speak out against the acquittal, co-signed Whitfield.

“I think what’s so dope about ‘Queen Sugar’ is that you get a chance to reflect to see and yourself,” he explained. “The show itself is reflective and it’s a safe space to be within. Sometimes in America, not sometimes, all the times, we don’t have space to just be us.”

“Queen Sugar” airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on OWN. The second-season premiere episode can be viewed on the OWN website.

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