The Legendary Anita Baker Is Honored With a Lifetime Achievement Award
“A dying mule always kicks the hardest.”
— Rev. William A. Barber
White folks: we understand why you’re so shook.
For generations, you’ve walked the Earth as if you own it, and everyone on it with more melanin than you. You’ve raped and pillaged, taken and appropriated, silenced and oppressed, gerrymandered and suppressed, often without giving a second thought to the damage that “trickled down” to the rest of us. But 2017 is the year we mobilized, en masse, to take back what’s rightfully ours. And the force was with us.
The world didn’t get to watch live social media updates as Rome fell 1,500 years ago. But in 2017, everyone with a WiFi connection has a front-row seat to witness the tide come in.
On December 7, Diddy, Beyoncé and Drake were named 2017’s top earners in music — all of music, not just “urban contemporary” — by Forbes. The news indirectly fulfills a 16-year-old promise made by Mr. Shawn Carter; Diddy’s friend, Bey’s husband and Drizzy’s idol, who once justified his shameless flexing as part of a larger plan: To recoup the spoils that exploitative record industry execs stole from Black artists.
“Label owners hate me, I’m raising the status quo up/I’m overcharging n***as for what they did to the Cold Crush/Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hoed us/We could talk but money talks, so talk more bucks.”
JAY-Z, now leads the Grammys’ first class of Best Album nominees in 19 years that doesn’t feature a white male. Jordan Peele’s Get Out will stand as the only theatrical release of 2017 with the critical and financial juice to justify a Best Picture win at the once “So-White” Oscars. After decades of blocking any #BlackGirlMagic that went beyond a Madea or mammy, Hollywood watched, stunned, as Girls Trip dominated the box office without the gas of superhero masks or worn out reboots. And, much to your president’s chagrin, super-dad LaVar Ball is deconstructing the myth that amateur college athletics and corporate apparel endorsements are the only paths to financial freedom for young, Black, gifted athletes.
The shift I’m talking about isn’t limited to the sports and entertainment fields within which you tried to contain our dreams after reluctantly breaking those physical chains (only to replace them with systemic ones). The beginning of the end of your dominance and supremacy began on January 20, 2009 — when a Black man moved into the master suite of the White House — and ever since, the centuries-old lie of your superiority has been evaporating before everyone’s eyes. From Alabama to Atlanta, the Black diamonds you undermined are rising to the top of your own crooked systems and plagiarized designs. A Black woman, Tarana Burke, created the phrase that sparked a worldwide movement of women banding together to topple the patriarchy.
While you gaslight and dig political power from the supposed disenfranchisement of our neighborhoods, shouting about “Black-on-Black crime” and trickle down economics, we’re taking the reigns ourselves. Chicago’s resident angel Chance The Rapper spent his year directing over $2 million to Chicago Public schools. Trae the Truth single-handedly saved Black lives during Hurricane Harvey, and became the first rapper to get a Key to the City as a result.
Colin Kaepernick’s protest has made him the NFL’s biggest star without ever having to step foot on the gridiron. Instead of settling for a token contract to rejoin the old boys network, he’s teaming up with Diddy and Steph Curry for a bid for ownership.
Rihanna took her chips and went all in to reverse the lie that the beauty industry has been built on for centuries: “only White is right.” Fenty Beauty sent a message to the jewels from Queens to the Caribbean to the Ivory Coast that their true colors deserve to shine through.
So, while you continue to send your worst to the front lines to try and divide us, we will continue to work, assured that the future is brighter than anything you could imagine.
Are you still there, superior white man? If you’re reading this, it’s not too late to change course. 2018 only promises to exposes and destroy more of your corrupt codes for all the globe to see, but if you choose to be an ally to the movement, rather than to continue fruitless attempts to oppress it, there will be space for us all.
The question to ponder as you look into the new year is: what's the destiny you want to manifest?
(Photos from left: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images, JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images, Kris Connor/Getty Images)