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When you can see J. Plunky Branch's 'Black Fire' documentary in Richmond

Posted at 8:56 PM, Feb 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-11 17:06:40-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Musician, historian, author and producer J. Plunky Branch's "The Black Fire Documentary" will be screened at Black History Museum in Richmond this Wednesday.

“It's a very interesting story about how something small and a small town can have a big impact around the world,” Branch explained.

The film is named after a small D.C. record label called Black Fire, created by Plunky and DJ & record producer Jimmy Gray in 1975.

“We only released about 20 albums but from that small label has impacted the music world,” he said.

Black Fire produced 15 artists, including Branch's early African Rhythms album, and a very popular D.C. GoGo Band.

“Artists like Experience Unlimited, now that name might not ring a bell, but they're called EU today," Plunky said.

Black Fire was formed after a breakup from another record label, Strata East.

“And that company found it hard to keep up with the demand, because they were so small, and demand was so great,” Plunky recalled.

Plunky said the music was part of the political movement and served as "a vehicle for activism” as African Americans were fighting for equality.

“It was an attempt to promote the idea of Blackness, the idea of Black political power, the idea of Black cultural power,” he said.

Plunky said the documentary is about records and radio — and rhythm and revolution.

“But you will also see historians and you see political figures who talk about the impact of Jimmy and I and the music and the label throughout the film,” he said.

The label produced music from 1975 to 1980, but today’s artists are keeping them alive.

“Black Fire has been sampled by artists, most recently, an artist Logic who's a rapper out of Maryland," Plunky said. "Jay Cole, who is a big artist, sample my song, African rhythms. The Roots band played African rhythms twice on 'The Tonight Show.'”

And yes, Plunky was paid.

“When Jay Cole sampled African rhythms, his version of the song got 1000s times more listeners than I ever had," Plunky said. "And in fact, I made more money from his sampling of just a tiny bit of it, compared to everything that I've earned.”

And the resurgence continues.

“The Black Fire catalog has been purchased as being re-issued by a label out of London called Strut records. And that represents the future,” Plunky said.

Plunky has more films in the works and a series on the impact of record shops.

“It's almost going to be like, like a foodie show where you go from town to town," he said. "We'll go eat and talk to record store owners and people who have this kind of impact in their communities.”

It is a busy time for the 75-year-old, who is on his 29th album. Plunky wants to share his knowledge with the new generation as he continues to grow and learn.

“I'm always amazed. I've been studying Black history for 50 years and every Black History Month, I learned new things," said. "The history is rich and we hope that this documentary is a part of that.”

The screening of "The Black Fire Documentary' is Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Black History Museum. Click here for more info.

More Black History Month Events

Black Authors' Expo at Petersburg Public Library
201 West Washington Street
Saturday, Feb. 11 from 1- 3 p.m.
Friday, February 17th, 6pm VIP, 7 pm general public concert featuring Petersburg's own Rodney Stith, with emcee Micha “Bam Bam” White. Mime Solomon Hill, Spoken Word Verona Williams.
Proceeds will benefit the Petersburg African American History and Cultural Center and Archive
Details for events

Here2Hear Presents: Learning From the Past and Inspiring the Future at Virginia Museum of History & Culture
Feb. 11 at 10 a.m.
Hear2Hear is a nonprofit organization that is proud to offer a renowned Black History event like no other. This free event will focus on the historical perspectives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing African Americans and moments in history.
Tickets for this event can be reserved here [].
For more information call 804.340.1800, or visit

The National African American Insurance Association
Thursday, Feb. 16 at 6:30 p.m.
at Vagabond, 700 E Broad St, Richmond,
(NAAIA) is the largest, oldest, and only professional trade organization dedicated to cultivating networks and opportunities amongst Black Insurance professionals.

Studios focuses on fiber in conjunction with Black History Month
Children’s Museum of Richmond
Learn to Braid: participate in a braiding craft while celebrating the history of protective hairstyles.
Downtown Feb. 11 from 10-11:30 a.m.
All events are free with museum admission.
Details for all events

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