Black America is winning right now in pop culture (of course, we’re not winning in society overall…see Starbucks and standing in our backyards). From movies to music to our involvement in attempting to usher in change. Don’t blink or you might miss out on some of the #BlackExcellence happening around you. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll highlight some of the big wins of the year. Many of them come from music, so consider this a way to get hip about music.
If you didn’t know, a movie was released in February called Black Panther. Maybe you heard of it? Not only was it the largest solo superhero movie launch (a modest $174 million opening weekend), the 5th biggest opening weekend of all time (eat your heart out Titanic), but it provided the Black superhero we needed. Black Panther is the representation Black kids need to see in media. For whatever reason, Hollywood likes to portray us as thugs, drug dealers, pimps, crazy, and basically any other negative stereotype you just thought of when that list started with ‘thugs.’ For the non-Black folks reading this, I’ll let you in on a secret, we are just like you but our skin color is darker (and we tend to season our food better). We are not the negative characters you’re consuming and then projecting. Just as most Latinx folks are not rapists, killers, and out to bring drugs into the US. Moral of the story, Black Panther is a major game changer for Black Excellence in the cinema, which counts as a win for Black America!
Oh you didn’t like Bodak Yellow? That’s a personal problem. She recently dropped a full album and oh my lawd. When I need to feel like a badass, I blast Invasion of Privacy. Feel how you want about her, but Cardi is doing something interesting in her music that if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss. She intentionally isn’t talking smack about people to tear them down (she will come for you if you’re messing up though). She even praises fellow Black icons (again, maybe you’ve heard of Beyoncé and the Currys?). Love her or hate her, there’s no denying she released an album of straight bangers. Don’t @ me, I will stand by this statement even if I myself am not in love with every single song (but who am I kidding? I adore this album). From being a stripper to pay for school to becoming a top female rapper is nothing to scoff at, and Cardi keeps it real when talking about that. Oh, and be sure to check out her interviews, she’s an actual hoot. She’s very authentic, funny, and honest, which just makes me love her more. Cardi B is helping Black America win this year.
Would I really be able to talk about Black America winning without talking about Kendrick? He just won a Pulitzer Prize, and I guess that’s kind of a big deal considering he’s the first rapper to do accomplish this. His album, DAMN, is definitely a big deal and has been very successful. And then there’s the fact that he put together the Black Panther soundtrack. Kendrick is just giving us everything, and we are not worthy…well…some of us are, and some of us are peasants who speak poorly about Kendrick.
Now you’re wondering what makes Kendrick so special when compared to other rappers? Well, Kendrick is a bit more invested in rapping about the issues of our society. Lil’ Wayne has some dope raps, but money, sex, and weed just don’t hit you in the feelings quite like talking about social inequality. Understanding and addressing the inequality in society within music is a powerful thing, and Kendrick has accomplished this. Ten points Black America!
The first Black woman to headline Coachella got it renamed after her, so she’s kind of a big deal. Her Coachella performance saluted Black culture in such an unapologetic way, and it seems the white folks of Coachella enjoyed it (because of course they did). Not only did she give folks a two hour performance, she brought out Solange and reunited Destiny’s Child during this performance (and Jay-Z too). As one of the greatest performers of our lifetime, we are unworthy to have Beyoncé for that Beychella performance she gave. She didn’t knock everyone’s socks off to be hip (well, okay, maybe a little), but she did it because it was important for her to show Black culture. And it’s not like this is the first time Queen Bey has made it known that she values Black culture and Black people. Beyoncé is winning in 2018 with her music, activism, and the On The Run Tour this summer. Black America will take this W.
This woman is giving a middle finger to the patriarchy and it is giving me life. Peep her new music, it’s very pro-woman and women’s sexuality. Considering Prince helped with her album (April 27, if you were wondering when it comes out) Dirty Computer, you know it’s going to be lit. While the songs she’s released in the past couple of months have been really fun to listen to, they also challenge the patriarchy. Monáe gives zero cares about what people think and the music she released paired with the music videos show that. She’s for women and sexual fluidity, which might not seem like a big deal to some folks. For other folks, this is huge. A celebrity using their platform for representation at its finest. Between the fabulousness of the sound of her music and the meaning behind it, she’s the Black feminist (womanist) we need. More points to Black America for intersectionality and dope tracks.
If you don’t know who Yara Shahidi is, I recommend you get yourself educated. She’s barely 18 and a very vocal activist. Oh, and she’ll be attending Harvard. And she stars in “Grown-ish.” She’s a voice for her generation, and I think that’s pretty great for a young person. Young people are getting more involved in issues in the world, and they encourage and support each other since older folks can’t manage (some even make fun young people who speak up for what they believe in). To have young people in a position where they have a platform to speak up is so important because it only keeps that fire for change going. Shahidi models what someone with social power and privilege can truly accomplish as an activist. She may be young, but age doesn’t matter when it comes to helping Black American win.
Alright, so Drake is technically Canadian, but he’s doing the most. Let’s start with the fact that he had a young woman, Karena Evans, direct the music videos for “God’s Plan” and “Nice for What,” two hits that we’ll be jamming to for a while. Next, let’s get excited about him giving away a ton of money ($1 million to be exact) to folks in Miami. If “God’s Plan” didn’t give you all the feelings, you lack a heart and you might want to look into that. Now, “Nice for What” should truly resonate with my women folk. I’m not saying he completely understands the lady experience, but he understands we put up with a whole lot. Oh, and for the music video he feature a bunch of strong, empowered, intelligent, successful, fabulous women. Drake snags some points for Black America and Black Canada!
Good people, Lena Waithe is someone Hollywood has needed. She’s the first Black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, but her greatness doesn’t stop with just winning an award. She acts, writes, produces, and advocates. Her accomplishments in entertainment are wonderful and help create space for her advocating for young queer people of color in entertainment. She co-chairs the Committee of Black Writers at the Writers Guild. Say it with me, Black Excellence. This woman is no two-dimensional entertainment professional. She uses her platform and gets stuff done. More points to Black America!
No, not the TV show (but it also counts as a win, kind of). Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor of Atlanta, is implementing a job-training program for prison inmates to help with their reentry into society. Imagine, a world where we try to rehabilitate folks in prisons so we can bring them back to contribute to society and not waste tax dollars to feed into the prison industrial complex (but what do I know, I’m just a young professional with an opinion). Seriously, this woman is trying to make the world a better place just by offering prison inmates the opportunity to come back into society with a future that does not necessarily include another trip back to prison. Maybe if more government people tried to implement useful programs, we as a society would be progressing a lot better. Unfortunately, people on Capitol Hill are too busy dinking around with scandals to have the brain space to consider helping anyone but themselves.
Mayor Bottoms is doing the most with her time in office, and that’s something I can get behind. If every mayor tried to address issues involving prison and inmates, what a world we could live in…I’ll stop dreaming and just praise this Black woman making moves and helping people. I truly hope her program is sustained and grows, so many prison inmates can come back into this society and be seen as a person again.
Jordan Peele won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay with Get Out. He is the first Black person to win this award. What year is it? Oh, it’s 2018? And we’re still having firsts. Fine, we’re going to get through a lot firsts in the next few years. It won’t level the playing field, but at least we’ll have representation across the board. Jordan Peele hit a home run for Black America with Get Out. He’s doing the most. Don’t @ me, we’ll fight.
In closing, Black America is winning. I’m sure this challenges the social structures you’ve grown to accept in life, but trust me, this is a good thing. There are obviously more ways Black America is winning, but I’m the captain of this ship and these were the top things I thought of. I’ll probably think of more because Black America is going to continue to win (not sorry). Until next time, stay woke.