Larenz Tate and Laurence Fishburne, in partnership with Audio HQ, have teamed up to keep Chicago black history alive in their new scripted audio drama Bronzeville. Bronzeville, the thriving Chicago community can be found in the Douglas community area and is still known to this very day as Black Metropolis. In it's prime, Bronzeville was a black community full of black-owned businesses and the arts. Although Douglas is still currently 71.1 percent black, things have certainly changed since then.
The 10-part story focuses on Bronzeville at its peak in the 1940s. The Copeland family is running things in that part of the Windy City, and the big boss Everette Copeland, voiced by Wood Harris is locked up, leaving his brother Jesse Copeland (Omari Hardwick) in charge.
Fishburne's character is Curtis "Eyeball" Randolph, and he serves as a mentor to Jesse while his brother is gone. And there's no shortage of star power in the podcast with a remaining ensemble cast of Tracee Ellis-Ross, Tika Sumpter, Cory Hardrict, and Larenz Tate himself.
Photo: Celeste Holmes / Courtesy of KC Wayland
The inspiration for the story came from Chicago native, and musical legend, Quincy Jones. Tate said, "He explained to me that his father ran numbers for a very well-off, well-to-do powerful family on the South Side of Chicago."
But through his conversations with Quincy, and doing his due diligence, Tate found that, Bronzeville was truly a mecca, comparable to Harlem in many ways. "The real engine behind that was the economic infrastructure which was running numbers because the people who ran these numbers or these policies, they called them the Policy Kings and they were the pillars of the community and they decided to invest back into the infrastructure or invest back into the community to create an infrastructure where black folks had our own department stores; we had our own hospitals; we had our own schools, art museums; we had our police department; we had our own churches and grocery stores but also we had a political voice as well. A lot of people on the South Side of Chicago, black folks, were registered to vote."
Taking the personal challenge from Quincy to bring this story to life, Lorenz took the idea and pitched it all around Hollywood, but no one bit. But maybe it was serendipity because Audio HQ wanted to be involved in the project, taking the story and telling it in a format that was very familiar to the 1940s – in the style of a scripted radio show. And thus Bronzeville, the story, was born.
Bronzeville premiered February 7th, 2017 on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and Radio One/Interactive One.
Watch Fishburne and Tate speak about the podcast below.