The past 12 months have been defined by their unique exploration of the Black experience, using art, music, film and dialogues to communicate the truths of a highly pivotal cultural moment.

As a great poet Wendy Williams, once said, “she’s an icon, she’s a legend, she’s the moment.” This year was a moment, in good and bad ways, for Blackness to flourish and serve its role in shaping our navigation of one of the most challenging years of our lifetime.

These moments made up some of the most influential and groundbreaking experiences of the year, guiding our dialogues surrounding activism, changemaking and self-care. They also inspired us, offering hope, enlightenment and perspective.

Whether you remember the panny as the complete change life as we know it, hours spent on TikTok, or as a reminder of a fragile democracy, there’s lots to look at as a moment during this year. In every way, Black people find themselves on the forefront of cultural transformation.

Movies of the Moment

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was a dimly-lit, raw narrative about the experience of Black artists throughout the 1920s. This story exposes the exploitation of Black talent for the gain of white industry leaders, which is a parallel to the invasive nature of the entertainment industry today. It served as a reminder that for many years the desperation of underrepresented people in their pursuit of success was often crushed by the brutal blows of segregated America. By weaving the narratives of an optimistic, overly-confident Levee and the seasoned and seemingly over-indulging Ma Rainey, director George C. Wolfe’s take on August Wilson’s 1984 play gives a stirring and uncompromising look into the lives of Black performers in the 1920s.

John Lewis: Good Trouble – The John Lewis documentary “Good Trouble” debuted just two weeks before the legendary civil rights activist passed away in July 2020. The story details Lewis’ climb to the U.S. Congress and follows the years of his upbringing in Troy, Alabama, his activism alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and of all the work that has to be done in ensuring the maintenance of American democracy. In a year defined by darkness, this film instilled a sense of hope and reinforced the necessity of stirring up ‘good trouble.’

Canvas – This 9-minute Netflix animated short details the story of a man reclaiming his love of art following the death of his wife. The story emphasizes the influence of creativity on healing and coping with loss and, through its imagery, centers a narrative of Black love. As one of several animated films centering the Black experience, “Canvas” presents a new, uplifting take on the quest for addressing grief and pursuing our passions.

Black Is King – The look of Black opulence and domination gracing all of our TV screens this summer was unparalleled by almost anything we’ve seen before in the music industry. Through her 85-minute musical film, Beyoncé reinvents the tale of “The Lion King” through the lens of African cultures and Black glory as the artist detailed in interviews about the project. Through its artistic direction, energetic beats and thoroughly-melanated magic, this film is a little something to celebrate as the culture continues to change.

Pandemic Playlist

Lockdown by Anderson .Paak – Anderson .Paak’s “Lockdown” emerged as one of the first major anthems of quarantine and protest commentary in 2020. .Paak sings “We was tryna protest, then the fires broke out / Look out for the secret agents, they be planted in the crowd / Said, ‘It’s civil unrest,’ but you sleep so sound / Like you don’t hear the screams when we catchin’ beatdowns?” In this song, .Paak tackles the challenges and frustrations of the Black Lives Matter movement during an earth-shaking racial reckoning in the U.S. while offering a reminder that in the midst of intense trauma and distress for the Black community, some still sat silently, unaware of the struggle.

Believe It by PARTYNEXTDOOR and Rihanna – Rihanna returns to the music industry for exactly three minutes and three seconds to serve some of the most lowkey and fantastic background vocals of the decade. A very necessary moment for the queen who refuses to give us an album and the perfect bass heavy beat to get all of us through the first few weeks of the panny.

Busy Boy by Chloe x Halle – This tea-infused bop inspired by the alleged cheating scandal between Diggy Simmons and Chloe Bailey is not only an instant mood booster and jam, but makes you want to watch “Grown-ish” every time you listen. Excellent marketing — thanks Beyoncé — for that, it’s a moment (and the whole album is a bop).

Buying Time – A COLORS SHOW by Lucky Daye – Acoustic versions of everything please! When Lucky Daye dropped this hit on his album “Painted” in 2020, there was no telling that it could only get better every time we listened. Like a vitamin, this song has the power to keep you healthy, clear the skin and never fails to supply the good vibes during the occasional socially distanced picnic or sunset car ride. It’s a keeper.

Take Time by Giveon – The whole EP gets a moment stamp from me and all of Gen Z. It’s brilliant. The perfect collection of tranquil bangers to listen to constantly. I’m not sure it needs much more explanation, didn’t you attend the Black History Month performance? 

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