In Case You Missed It: Black History Month Recap

disappointed black greatsFebruary is secretly my favorite month, much to the surprise of people that know me. Despite the fact that it produces temperatures that no child of West African immigrants should ever have to endure, there are so many positive things to celebrate about the month of February. Mainly, the birth of my favorite Pisces Erykah Badu, but more importantly, Black History Month. All political contentions and “but it’s the shortest month of the year” arguments aside, Black History Month to me is a commemoration of Black excellence and a month that I’ve allotted to use every opportunity to silence white supremacy. And every year, white supremacy refuses to take a backseat. This Black History month has felt like an uphill battle to get through, with everything from racist hair comments to exclusionary Oscar celebrations. But fortunately, Blackness has the incredible opportunity to continue flourishing, despite attempts to tear it down. For those of you that may have taken month-long vacations from all things Black, I’ve decided to provide a nice little recap on the month to fill you in. Enjoy!

1. To start off our favorite month, D’Angelo gifted the public with a phenomenal Saturday Night Live performance, performing songs from his recently released and highly anticipated album Black Messiah. The album’s content is unapologetically Black, with a message strongly rooted in the ideals of Black power. On the title, D’Angelo explains “It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen,” D’Angelo explained. “It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them … Black Messiah is not one man. It’s a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader.” Interestingly enough, SNL has been highly criticized in the past two years for a lack of representation of Black women, instead choosing to put Keenan Thompson in every role of a famous Black woman known to man. Because of this criticism, it was refreshing to see D’Angelo on stage with his all-Black band, decked in shirts proclaiming “I can’t breathe” and “Black lives matter.” The standout performance of the night was without a doubt “The Charade.” 

2. The 87th Annual Academy Awards this year highlighted the brightest and whitest of the movie industry this year, no surprise to us viewers at home that chose to take full advantage of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. Despite the upset of our beloved movie Selma losing the Best Picture category to the film Birdman (the Blackest part of the show probably being the fact that most of us conjured up an image of the rapper in our minds), we got the opportunity to witness Common and John Legend’s breathtaking performance of the song Glory, which later won the Oscar for Best Song. The acceptance speech served as a beautiful reminder that there is a recognizable power in the music created by Black artists, and I’m amazed at how easily John Legend’s poignant comments regarding the rate of incarcerated Black folk in the United States was completely overshadowed by Patricia Arquette’s basic comments about “gay people” and people of color standing up for white women. This win is, in my opinion, the second best Black moment in white Oscar history, the first one obviously being Three 6 Mafia’s Best Song Win for “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” Never forget.

3. Laverne Cox, actress and trans* activist was cast as an attorney in the new CBS show Doubt, making her the first trans* actress to play a trans* character on a cable broadcast television show. This casting falls at a time where much of the visibility of trans* women of color appears to be negative; eight trans* women of color have been murdered in 2015 and the unwillingness to have open discussions of protecting the lives of trans* folks continues to be an issue. Although having Cox on T.V. does not put an end to trans* violence, it is refreshing to see a Black woman who fights so hard for the protection of trans* folks being celebrated on national television, while allowing her the platform to advocate for the rights of individuals.

4. February marked the crash-and-burn end of my love affair with Kanye West. The relationship remained rocky for a year or so, after I found Kanye’s desire to be accepted in the fashion industry to be a desperate plea for white acceptance. Despite my doubts, I still held on to my admiration for Kanye because to me, he continued be the voice brave enough to serve as a megaphone for Black America. All of this changed on the fateful morning of Kanye’s interview with the Breakfast Club Morning Show. Like a Band-Aid being ripped off, I painfully listened as Kanye found five hundred ways to discuss his wife’s body, slut-shamed his ex-girlfriend Amber Rose and condoned a rapper’s inappropriate relationship with a minor. All to be topped off by a BET Honors speech where Kanye flexed his new found “All Lives Matter” rhetoric. My heart.

5. Guiliana Rancic proved to us that no one is exempt from racist comments, not even eighteen year olds gracing the Oscar’s red carpet. On an episode of Fashion Police, our favorite fashion critic commented that Zendaya, who decided to bless the red carpet with faux locs, looked like she smelled like patchouli oil and weed. After receiving criticism, Rancic then decided to send out an apology tweet stating that it had nothing to do with race, but not before receiving the clapback of the year from Zendaya, powerful enough to make a stan out of bell hooks (in my dreams). Rancic then followed up with one of the most sincere celebrity apologies I’ve ever seen, and taught me that being a Black person with hair is stressful but when you ensure your clapback game is on par with Zendaya’s, all is by your side.

6. My favorite moment of Black History Month is a personal one, but accurately demonstrates how Blackness saturates so many aspects of my life, even without real intent. On February 21, I spent the day in Harlem with my second favorite Pisces on a mission to explore the mythical land of un-gentrified New York. We coincidentally celebrated this day on the day of Malcolm X’s assassination and Nina Simone’s birthday. After eating in two soul food spots, visiting an African arts market and Black arts museum, I can without a doubt say that this day was the Blackest day of my life. Highlights include viewing Titus Kaphar’s Jerome Project and witnessing a Harlemite scold a white woman for wasting two delicious pieces of Charlie’s world famous fried chicken.

Despite the hardships, Black History Month will always serve as a reminder that my Blackness is not limited to a month and should be celebrated everyday; what better way to laugh in the face of white supremacy?

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