The Obamas Pop Up With PDA & Tyler Perry Presents ‘A Jazzman’s Blues’ At Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

Martha’s Vineyard was the IT place to be this weekend! Forever President Barack Obama & Forever First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance where they packed on the PDA. Also, Tyler Perry was in the mix to dish on his new film, A Jazzman’s Blues. Get it all inside…

This summer’s finest festival invaded Martha’s Vineyard to premiere some of the hottest short stories from Black creatives both in-front of the camera and behind-the-scenes. The 20th Annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival provided a stage for Black creatives to qualify in the Academy Awards Short Film category.

For opening night, attendees were treated with a surprise from Forever President Barack Obama and his gorgeous wife, Forever First Lady Michelle Obama. Mr. & Mrs. O came out for the screening of the Netflix documentary, DESCENDANT.

And it was President O’s 61st birthday (August 4th). 


Per Variety, the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground, signed on to present the feature after Netflix acquired worldwide rights to the Sundance award-winning documentary in January. The doc, which is executive produced by Oscar winner Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and directed by Margaret Brown – earned the U.S. Special Jury Award for Impact for Creative Vision at Sundance. It’s expected to premiere on Netflix later this year.

The documentary follows members of Africatown, a small community in Alabama, as they share their personal stories and community history as descendants of the Clotilda, the last known ship carrying enslaved Africans to the United States. The ship arrived in America 40 years after African slave trading became a capital offense. It was burned and its existence denied, but “after a century shrouded in secrecy and speculation, descendants of the Clotilda’s survivors are reclaiming their story,” according to the film’s logline.

Kyle Martin, Essie Chambers and director Maragaret Brown produced the project. Executive producers are Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann; Kate Hurwitz of Cinetic Media; Two One Five Entertainment’s Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee and Zarah Zohlman.

At the screening, the Obamas shared their first thoughts after seeing the documentary.

“When we screened this… we looked at it and immediately thought, ‘This is why we’re doing Higher Ground.’ Because what we know about our history as Black people, we don’t talk about nothing. We can’t get anything out of our elders, can we? We don’t know anything,” FLOTUS said. “Our mothers don’t talk about menopause, nobody knows about why grandma and grandpa got divorced. We just don’t talk. And there’s a lot of psychology around that, but what this film reminds us of is the power that our stories have. And we have to tell that truth.”

“We have to tell our stories to our younger folks,” she continued. “We have to be the ones, we cannot follow that tradition of keeping our pain silent, because what this film shows us is our stories are the power that makes us seen. And I also thought, this could be the beginning of a storytelling process, because guess what we have? We have phones, everybody’s using them. And we need to encourage our young people to reach out to the elders that are existing. And instead of taking photos of your food, or in addition to taking photos of your food and the latest TikTok whatever it is, how about talking to grandma and great-grandma and asking them some of those questions.”

“When we left the White House, Michelle and I talked about the things we wanted to do post-presidency,” POTUS said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff going on, but one of the things that we learned both when we were campaigning for office and taking office was the importance of stories and who tells stories and what stories are valid and what stories are discounted,” Barack said. “And it’s one of the powers of this festival, and the work that the Rances have done is to lift up stories that too often have been lost in the flow of time. Because we believe that everybody’s stories matter. Everybody’s got a sacred story that motivates us, moves us. It’s not just a matter of nostalgia, it powers us into the present and the future.”

President O planted a sweet kiss on his wife’s cheek after she introduced him. Aww!

Swipe below for video footage from the event:


Also at the festival…

On Day 2, filmmaker Tyler Perry participated in a Clips & Conversation, moderated by Variety’s Angelique Jackson, about his new film, A Jazzman’s Blues.

A Jazzman’s Blues – directed & produced by Tyler Perry – follows an investigation into an unsolved murder unveiling a story full of forbidden love, deceit and a secret. It stars Joshua Boone, Amirah Vann, Solea Pfeiffer, Austin Scott, Milauna Jemai Jackson, Brent Antonello, Brad Benedict, Kario Marcel, Lana Young and Ryan Eggold.

The film is jam packed with Hollywood hitters. It features an original song performed by Ruth B., songs arranged and produced by multi-Grammy winner & two-time Academy Award nominee Terence Blanchard, music by Aaron Zigman and choreography by Debbie Allen.


Talk show host Tamron Hall praised Tyler for his accomplishments:

She also brought her adorable son, Moses, along for the movie fun:



A Jazzman’s Blues premieres September 23rd on Netflix. Will you be watching?

Photos: Courtsey of Netflix