Documentary Review: The Black Godfather

3 min readJun 17, 2019


“The person that’s responsible for your transition, that’s the key to changing your life.” — Bill Withers

The Black Godfather: The Clarence Avant Story does a stellar job of telling the story of Clarence Avant, the music executive, who left a tremendous impact on those he came across. He was a man of honesty and numbers, a mover and shaker who made deals.

If you didn’t know who Clarence Avant was before this documentary, after watching you will.

I remember his speech from the 2013 BET Honors, also I had remembered seeing him in photos with Michael Jackson during the Bad era and JAY Z’s Roc Nation Pre-Grammy brunch, completely unaware of who he was.

Early in his career, he managed jazz organist Jimmy Smith and R&B soul artist Bill Withers and he became a close friend of jazz producer & composer Quincy Jones. He was the executive producer for the Operation PUSH Black Expo for Save the Children in 1972 directed by Stan Lathan.

He also assisted Don Cornelius in the syndication of Soul Train, arranged for Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to produce Janet Jackson’s Control album, and exchanged powerful words between two presidents.

He was a key figure in merging music, culture, and politics.

Furthermore, his behind-the-scenes presence set the backdrop for some of the most historical and groundbreaking moments in history.

How were these connections made? You’ll have to watch the documentary to find out.

Originally from the small town of Climax, North Carolina. he left the South for a more prosperous life in New York, and later moving to Los Angeles, California. His determination to be successful was evident. He grew into a fierce businessman of the people, who humbled others and himself.

To those he moved mountains for, he was an ear to listen, a family man, a father figure, and a man who never wavered in his walk to help others, looking for nothing in return.

Since the early 1960s, Clarence Avant made things happen. In 2019, we are living in a generation where you can be cool or popular for having “influencer” as your title, without having done the work to be influential.

R&B artist, Bill Withers who was Avant’s artist on his label Sussex records said, “the person that’s responsible for your transition, that’s the key to changing your life.

The importance of giving flowers while someone while they are still living, especially to someone who has helped change the trajectory of your life. Appreciate the people who do right by you, those who gave you wisdom, they have a story to tell.

I commend the director, Reginald Hudlin, producer Nelson George and Clarence Avant’s family for bringing this documentary to life for past, present, and future generations. I appreciate the visual design of the film and the photographic research that went into building the timeline of his story.

Clarence Avant at 88 years old, is a living embodiment of blackness in a visual continuum. The saying that goes ‘between people, there are only in six degrees of separation’. This is especially true in the story of Clarence Avant, who brought people together from all walks of life and broadened the impact of black music and black popular culture worldwide.

Watch The Black Godfather on Netflix. Here is the trailer below.

Follow @afrovisualism here.




The originator of Black Aesthetic Continual Theory. Crate-digging for samples & links. Moodboarding on the decks.