It’s been a minute because you know graduate school but I have been aware of all the events that have happened in the last two months in regards to how black lives are treated in America. It goes without saying how the recent non-indictment in the murder of Tamir Rice is beyond a travesty. At the same time it doesn’t come as a surprise to black people. This year we have seen organizing continue to grow with Black Lives Matter chapters opening around the country, black students protesting about the issues they face at predominately white institutions, and black people trying to make a difference in their local communities. However,, 2016 doesn’t hold any promise for better days necessarily. People will either be at a Watch Night services or out partying but the racial state will remain in tact come tomorrow when we all wake up. We are guaranteed that more black names will be added to the endless list and black people will be enraged and protest and continue to struggle in hopes that maybe someone will hear us and change. TaNehisi Coastes’ book Between the World and Me lays this concept of struggle out beautifully. Yet despite all of these pressing issues, black people have been able to participate and create beauty in the face of adversity. This list is dedicated not only to the struggle that is far from over but also the beautiful creations that emerge despite the problems we face.
5. The Sellout by Paul Beatty: This was my first time reading racial satire and I loved it! Although I probably overthought the issues the book alluded to, I found myself engaged by Paul Beatty’s characters, their lives, and also Dickens the place they lived. As someone deeply committed to preserving black cities in the face of gentrification, The Sellout does provide a critique of the erasure that occurs when black spaces are seen as blank spaces. (Sounds like colonialism)
4. God Loves Haiti by Dimitry Elias Léger: A moving book about love and faith in the midst of tragedy. Léger weaves a fictional story that revolves around the 2010 earthquake that struck Haiti. The points of view of the President, his wife, and her lover not only allows to reader to wrestle with the emotions that emerge in such an event but also what does it mean when something like this occurs in a place that had long been a symbol of blackness and ultimately suffered because of it. A beautiful scene is when the President dreams of getting to Heaven where he stand in a line where all the previous leaders of Haiti plead their case before St. Peter in order to enter.
3. The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma: Brutal and heartrending, Obioma does not provide his readers with a happy ending and that is crucial to understanding the story and its realism. In truth life isn’t about happy endings but about surviving tragedy. The four Igbo brothers that this novel follows exemplify that. It’s hard to summarize what happens in this book, you just have to read it for yourself.
2. A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James: James received the Man Booker Prize for 2015 making him the first Jamaican author to receive such a distinction and the award is well deserved. Like Obioma, James does not pull any punches when telling the story of a politically turbulent and violent Jamaica a little over a decade after independence. Part political intrigue, part spy novel, part folklore, James’ work shows how more stories of the Caribbean need to be told to the mainstream.
1. Between the World and Me (Tie) by TanNehisi Coates: I mentioned this book above and finished reading it today. Initially I was scared to read this book because of the concern of the lack of hope. See hope is fragile for black people who have for centuries been denied humanity. However, Coates provides a beautiful letter to his son about how the constant struggle against white supremacy is more important and helps to unite the diaspora.
1. The Turner House (Tie) by Angela Flournoy: This book is arguably the best I’ve read all year. Not only does Flournoy craft a story of a multigenerational family that is believable but she also touches on pressing topics such as The Great Migration, deindustrialization, white flight, urban blight, the crack epidemic, gentrification, etc. This book captures so many aspects of the African American experience that I strongly recommend it to anyone.
5. Empire: The glitzy guilty pleasure of a mess that stormed onto our screens almost a year ago. Empire garnered some of the highest ratings while touching on some hot button issues in the black community and America. It’s soapiness makes us look pass what’s problematic and instead get caught up in the drama. (Nonetheless, I hate how they did Anika in the 2nd season)
4. TGIT: Scandal & HTGAWM: What’s else to say, Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night. I never got into Grey’s Anatomy but Scandal and HTGAWM are shows that I am committed too. Though I’m done with Olivia and her foolishness and would never work for Annalise, it’s fun watching them and their antics.
3. black-ish: Funny, smart, and a nice temporary escape into what I wish being black could be like. Loved the shout out to Empire in the Christmas Card episode, and the episode about church, and just every episode if I’m being honest.
2. Power: Dark, daring , and sophisticated. Courtney Kemp Agboh’s masterpiece just got grittier with its second season. For more of my feelings read my post here.
1. The Wiz Live: Now this was my favorite small screen moment. I love musicals and I love black musicals even more. The entire production put the other two NBC live productions to shame. Moreover, Shanice Williams looked like a pro in her acting debut holding her own with an all-star cast. Plus she is from Jersey!
5. Dope: Funny coming of age story that made me forget my beef with Pharrell and his new blackness *side eye*. I could definitely relate to the struggles of being a black geek.
4. Creed (Tie): I never saw a Rocky movie because of my aversion to movies (and sometimes books) older than me. Creed was the perfect answer to this. Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone had a brilliant chemistry that made the film truly emotional and powerful. Several moments brought me near tears or gave me chills.
4. Beasts of No Nation (Tie): A heartrending movie about the realities of war in a fictional African country. Idris Elba though the villain brings a nuance to his character that makes you realize that the men that are defied are still in fact men. Abraham Attah is perfect as the main character and illustrates the realities that child soldiers face. Ishmael Beah’ A Long Way Gone is a important companion reading for this film.
3. Concussion: Saw this today and I can say despite the jokes made about Will Smith as the main character and hero, he delivers as Dr. Bennet Omalu. The film was well directed and acted and although I’m a football fan, it convinced me to steer my future sons to other sports instead. After all you only get one brain. Whether he wins an Oscar or not Will Smith’s acting tells a story that the NFL has been trying to cover up for too long.
2. Selma: Now before you say I mentioned this film last year I’ll just say I never saw it then. After watching the film I can say Ava DuVernay is a genius and I can’t wait for her next project. The entire cast was just spot on as well in depicting another turbulent but crucial piece of American history that is all to familiar to us now. Read my thoughts on it here.
1. Straight Outta Compton: F. Gary Gary’s film became the highest grossing film directed by a black director and biopic ever. That in itself is a testament to how black creativity is powerful. Moreover, the political lyrics of N.W.A that were born from the trials our heroes faced in the film also spoke to the feelings that many black people currently have today.
3. Usain Bolt IAAF 2015: Just cause I’m Jamaican. JK he had a rough start to the season and managed to come back and defend his titles. Looking forward to seeing him in Rio next year.
2. Jamaican Women’s 4x400m Relay Team: Just the best race I’ve ever seen. Jamaicans don’t say “wi likkle but wi tallawah” for no reason. Watch the video below to see why this is such an inspiring run. Novelene Williams-Mills the anchor is a cancer survivor which only makes it better!
1. Serena Williams: She may not have won the calendar grand slam but she is still the GOAT!!! Read my thoughts on the greatest athlete of our generation here.
2. Fish Funeral: The poor baby lost her fish but sent him home to Fetty Wap’s “679”. I ain’t mad at her.
1. Inquisitive Son: I can watch this video over and over and over again! The mother’s “Put it back” had me cackling!
Too many to choose make your own list accordingly.
Things to Leave in 2015
Though the struggle continues, I wish you and yours a very prosperous New Year!
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