Being black slays. In the words of Mos Def we were “black out loud” in 2015 and no trigger finger cops, white washed magazine covers, claims of a Kardashian first family, or Macklemore single stopped our shine. While it’s no secret being black is a 365-day experience of dopeness, when taking a retrospective look at 2015, there were key moments black pride was heightened to new magnitudes.
1. Viola Davis’ Emmy Acceptance Speech
Ever had a moment where you wish those brutally honest, politically incorrect (to some) thoughts would make a cameo on a mainstream platform? Well, thanks to Davis, those words made their television debut at this year’s Emmy Awards and it was every bit as fab as we imagined. There’s nothing better than seeing black people be unapologetically black in a room full of whites. The cringes, the culturally-confused awkward smiles, the “That’s my girl” sista-dap and the universal signal of acceptance from your black peers in the form of a head nod, Viola Davis served it all and then some in a matter of minutes and Black America was here for it all.
2. Black Lives Matter
It’s no secret that a pissed off people are an unstoppable force. Hence, #BlackLivesMatter. A shorthand rallying cry in response to violence against blacks and social inequality, in a matter of two years, the trending hashtag quickly evolved from social media banter to a full-fledged political movement. From ousted police chiefs and university presidents, to landmark prosecutions and a noticeably flustered Hilary Clinton, the proof is in the results. With several wins under its belt, the movement has proved impactful to the powers that be and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
3. The Wiz Live!
Ne-Yo’s fresh off the plantation accent aside, The Wiz Live! was hands down one of this year’s greatest displays of black talent. The wardrobe, the dancing, the vocal beast that is Amber Riley and of course that Emerald City vogue scene, it was 2.5 hours of black beauty and the world took notice. Couple that with the magic of Black Twitter and you have the perfect storm of goodness. Besides, it really doesn’t get much blacker than seeing a tin man dab and Evaline hit her Quan. Peter who?
4. Black Girl Magic
From Nikki and Bey’s backyard shenanigans to Mary, Kerry and Taraji giving us all new #FriendshipGoals, this year black girl’s pretty much shi**ed on the universe and it was awesome. Strong, loud, bold, demanding and serving lots of attitude along the way, black women in 2015 were the perfect antithesis to white shade. Misty Copeland became the first African-American woman to be named a principal dancer in the 75-year history of American Ballet Theater while Cookie Johnson gave mainstream audiences an introductory dose of ghetto fabulousness. Oh, and let’s not forget the phenomenon that it is Serena, who basically brought White America to literal tears after 50+ wins and being named Sports Illustrated Sports Person of the Year.
5. The Conviction of Daniel Holtzclaw
Historically, the phrase “what goes around comes around” hasn’t always applied to black women, but when it does, retribution is a beautiful thing. Earlier this month Daniel Holtzclaw was found guilty of five counts of rape and an additional 13 counts of sexual assault against eight of his accusers. All but one of the accusers was African American. With victims ranging from a 17-year-old girl to a 50-something year-old grandmother, Black America cheered as the former police officer sobbed uncontrollably in court as the guilty verdict was read. Dubbed the “biggest rape case America hasn’t heard about” Holtzclaw’s sentencing was one of few wins for black women in the court of law. More than the conviction of a habitual predator, the sentencing was a drop of hope that our lives do indeed matter.
6. Rachel Dolezal
No pun intended with this one since anyone with a non-expired black card knew chick was something besides black the moment she opened her mouth. While the permed out ‘fro and box braids were laughable at best, it stirred a much needed national conversation on cultural appropriation (hey Kylie Jenner). This debacle also gave us one of the best hashtags of 2015, #AskRachel.
7. Hymns of Our President: ‘Amazing Grace’
As the leader of the free world, President Obama can’t be really black all of the time. Yes, he’s always African American, but can he rock a pair of J’s and hit Michael Jackson’s closing riff at the end of “You Can’t Win” at any given moment, not quite. But there’s something about the black church that has the ability to bring a person back to their purest forms of blackness with the stroke of an organ. In the midst of eulogizing Sen. and pastor Clementa Pinckney, Obama launched into the guaranteed tear-jerker “Amazing Grace.” Anchored by messages of hope, faith and love as the country dealt with a national tragedy, the moment not only scored the president major cool points, but more importantly was reassurance that our pain was felt, our voices were heard and our struggle for equality was not in vain.
8. Zendaya, Marley Locs and the Oscars
Dear white people, don’t come for our hair. It never ends well. Ever.
9. Straight Outta Compton
Hot on the heels of social angst, Straight Outta Compton’s portrayal of police brutality couldn’t have come at a better time. Re-imagined for today’s hip-hop heads and culture enthusiasts, the film scored high at the box office and reminded us all why we love ni**as wih attitude.
10. Bree Newsome
Hail hath no fury like a woman scorned, America, meet Bree Newsome. In response to the Charleston massacre, among other things, Newsome fearlessly scaled a 30-foot pole and took down the Confederate flag that was displayed on the grounds of the South Carolina State House. In what was perhaps one of the most empowering explanations of the year, Newsome said following about her courageous act, “I did it for all the fierce black women on the front lines of the movement and for all the little black girls who are watching us. I did it because I am free.”
11. Black Twitter
Just when you think you can’t love black people anymore, here comes Black Twitter, an online community united in a collective banter of our most common, frustrating and downright hilarious experiences. Unscripted, always unexpected and brutally honest, the sheer brilliance, humor, let’s speak truth to power attitude, and often tongue-in-cheek perspectives were spot-on this year. Whether it was drawing attention to women of color who were victims of police brutality, recounting tales of #GrowingUpWhileBlack, reminding the world that R. Kelly is a terrible human being, or reality show ratchetness, Black Twitter did not disappoint. And with hashtags like #StayMadAbby, #OscarsSoWhite and #IfIDieInPoliceCustody, I’m pretty sure it was also the source of several white people getting their entire lives this year.
12. Soul Train Awards
Raise your hand if you forgot Babyface had that many hits and/or was pleasantly surprised when Tevin Campbell hit the majority of his notes. In case anyone forgot how talented and hilarious we as a people are, this year’s Soul Train awards was the perfect reminder. An homage to good music, the night was an explosion of black culture beginning with Ms. Badu and her legendary shade toward rapper Iggy Azalea. It also featured an epic soul cipher and Jilly from Philly reminding us just why we love her.
Best. Hashtag. Ever.