Black History Month: 7 things to celebrate, circa 2015

There is still far too much to despair about when it comes to matters of race in the United States of America. Turns out, the scars of slavery are still at the scab stage–healing but liable to bleed and get infected when irritated.

Still, there is cause for hope. Popular culture, which reflects much of what we are thinking and doing, is full of examples that I interpret as progress.

As a start, here are 7:

1 — Black beauty. As a teen poring over fashion magazines, I would never have imagined we would see a woman of color as “the face” of a makeup brand. Today, it’s no big deal: Queen Latifah and Halle Berry, for example. Dark-skinned women, gracing award show red carpets, are also gracing magazine fashion spreads: Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o.

2 — Network TV. Two of the most successful current prime time shows star black women: Scandal, featuring Kerry Washington. How to Get Away With Murder, featuring Viola Davis. Both shows are on ABC, which has turned over its entire Thursday night lineup to a producer who happens to be a black woman, Shonda Rhimes. ABC also airs Black-ish, a very funny family sitcom, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson.

Tracee Ellis Ross is awesome on Instagram--especially as alter ego, #TMurda.
Tracee Ellis Ross is awesome on Instagram–especially as alter ego, #TMurda.

3 — Comedy. If you have not yet discovered the hilarity of Key & Peele, do so. Today. Now. Their sketches poke fun at racial and cultural themes in a way that reminds us that laughter is often the best medicine (see healing metaphor above). Both men have black fathers and white mothers, which I think gives them the credibility that makes their show (Comedy Central) so awesome.

4 — We have a black president, folks. Okay, this is not exactly a pop culture reference. But, Barack Obama’s impact on our society is manifest.

5 – We have a black Kid President, folks. Robby Novak, 11, is an Interest star. The SoulPancake channel on YouTube, where Robby’s videos live, has nearly 1.5 million subscribers. His video “A Pep Talk from Kid President to You” (2013), has garnered about 35,000,000 views.

6. Natural hair styles. Increasingly, black women and men are wearing their hair however they want. Many employers no longer look askance at people who sport Afros, braids, twists, and locs. And, there are more products available for black hair period–whether natural or chemically treated.

Look, ma! No relaxer. Me, with my hair in twists. (Dec. 2012)
Look, ma! No relaxer. Me, with my hair in twists. (Dec. 2012)

7. Oprah. Love her or not, she uses her powers for good–in a way that crosses racial and ethnic lines.


What signs of progress do you see when it comes to race and class in the United States?


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