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Alicia Keys producing PBS documentary on legendary Black female entertainers

Karu F. Daniels
New York Daily News

Alicia Keys will do her part in paying homage to legendary Black female entertainers who came before her in an upcoming PBS documentary.

The 15-time Grammy Award winning singer and actress has been tapped to executive-produce “American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free” for PBS.

Based on historian Ruth Feldstein’s 2013 book “How It Feels To Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement,” the film will chronicle the stories of Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier with a focus on how they fought against racist stereotypes, while also transforming the entertainment landscape.

In this file photo, host Alicia Keys performs during the 61st Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles in Feb., 2019. Keys will executive-produce "American Masters: How It Feels to Be Free" for PBS.

Directed by Yoruba Richen, the feature-length documentary features interviews and archival performances with all six women, as well as original conversations with artists influenced by them, including Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, as well as family members, including Horne’s daughter Gail Lumet Buckley.

“I am proud to be a part of such a meaningful, important project,” Keys, who starred in the films “The Secret Life of Bees,” “The Nanny Diaries” and “Smokin’ Aces” said.

“Art is the most powerful medium on the planet, and I continue to be inspired by and learn from these powerful, brave and stereotype-shattering women who leveraged their success as artists to fearlessly stand up against racism, sexism, exclusion and harassment,” she continued. “I honor their courage by celebrating their stories and continuing the work they started.”

Announced as part of PBS’s Virtual Press Tour on Tuesday, “How It Feels To Be Free” will air in the winter of 2021 on PBS and the Documentary Channel in Canada.

Richen, whose credits include “The Green Book: Guide to Freedom,” added: “At this unprecedented time of racial reckoning and as Hollywood is reassessing its role in perpetuating racist stereotypes, now is the perfect moment to tell the stories of these path-breaking women who have inspired generations of Black female superstars…who continue to push boundaries and reshape how African American women are seen onscreen.”