By Ralph E. Moore Jr.

An excellent collection of

An excellent collection of essays about a groundbreaking television series, the Wire, should be on the book reader’s list for those looking for a trip down recent memory lane and a chat on several corners in the form of essays. Check it out.  Cracking the WIRE During Black Lives Matter is an anthology: different essay of authors in one book giving different perspectives on the subject.  Whether you enjoyed viewing the WIRE or not, this volume is a thought provoking read, which I highly recommend.

The WIRE had so many layers to it onscreen and behind the scenes.   It was a TV series about just some slices of Baltimore life during the 1980s crack era.  Written by former Baltimore Sun reporter, David Simon, and Ed Burns, a former city police officer turned public school teacher, and other mostly white men. The series featured an incredible number of Black characters living Baltimore’s hard life. The WIRE’s largely African American cast was offset by white actors portraying police, politicians, school officials, dock workers and newspaper men and women.  The plots of the Wire are tangled yet raw. But the analysis of the series and its being a phenom is clear by the 12 commentators in Cracking the WIRE who are compelling enough to cause readers to think and what mattered about the stories then and now and what they meant in the larger sense.

“Cracking the WIRE During Black Lives Matter” was edited by a bright and engaging journalist of 25 years named Ronda Racha Penrice. A Chicago native, she has focused on “cultural commentary and criticism, punctuated by an emphasis on Black history and culture,” according to her bio in the book.  She currently lives in Atlanta, where she pursues journalism and her “lifetime passion and love of television.”  

Of the essayists in the volume, in a phone interview Penrice stated, “I wanted people who had something to say…not just folks who wanted to be in a book about the WIRE.” And she found 12 to write about the WIRE in the modern day context of the Black Lives Matter movement since the horrific, hateful thankfully videoed murder of George Floyd in May of 2020.

Here is a sampling of some of the writers’ insights:  Odell Hall writes in “The Wire and the Games We Play” says, “The Wire featured both a rogue gay antihero stickup artist and a drug dealer taking business school classes…. The Wire illustrated that crime was not the easy way out for the underclass. Instead, it was the ONLY way out for many of them.” Very insightfully, Hall writes, “The best part of the show was the absence of the idea that it will all get better, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.” He says what most Black folks know in their heart of hearts: America is a game we simply are not supposed to win. Racha Penrice provided brief biographical info on each of the commentators after their essay.

In Sheree Renee Thomas’s piece, she states “the war on drugs was a euphemism for the never-ending war on Black people in America.” President Richard Nixon’s henchmen, Chief of staff Bob Halderman and John Erlichman, the Domestic Policy Advisor, boasted about the Black attack launched on June 18, 1971.

Her sentences are powerful: “Jermain Crawford’s breathtaking performance… disrupted television’s (and the world’s) false hero narratives surrounding cops and educators working with “at risks” communities.” Powerful stuff there that makes you want to go back and find that young actor’s performance.

Anyway, “Cracking the WIRE During Black Lives Matter is a fiercely, stimulating book and an honest, brilliant review of a unrewarded, groundbreaking television series. Editor Racha Penrice writes, “As impossible as it is to believe today, none of the actors from The Wire received Emmy nominations. Not one!” Like the truthful voices in “Cracking the WIRE,” the TV series may have been the “prophet not accepted in his hometown” by some.  It was not appreciated by some haters in Hollywood.  But most of us out here love truth telling and the WIRE and the book about it is the truth.  I give the very highest recommendation that you pick up and read “Cracking the WIRE During Black Lives Matter.”  In these days of aggressive misinformation and misdirection, check out the truths by reading the book and get refreshed by them.

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