Let’s face it, Black History Month has been a dumpster fire. On the opening week of what should have been a national homage to blackness, the President who is actively bringing racism to the surface like earthworms after a downpour showed us otherwise. Trump staged his State of the Union address, a speech filled with falsehoods (approximately 19 lies, about 1 lie every 10 minutes) and coded language degrading people of color across the country. This was quickly followed by things like the mindboggling blackface controversies involving state leaders, state legislature voting to remove race and sex from the definition of a hate crime, and even the Michael Cohen hearing where a black woman was placed behind a US Senator so he could say he was not racist.
It’s been a head-scratcher of a month, but Black-ish and black women stepped up in the waning days of Black History to save it from spiraling out of relevancy. We end the month today, February 28, with plenty of new historic moments to replace the horrors of the February news cycle, and some reminders that we should continue to appreciate the legacy.
Black Woman in Hollywood Kicked Off This Finale
Sunday night, despite some very overt racial undertones in some of the nominations (looking at you Skin and Green Book), black women took back the spotlight. Ruth Carter and Hannah Beachler both gave the history books something to record when they won Best Costume Design and Best Production Design respectively. They were the first black women to win Oscars in these categories, which are all too often filled with white men.
Their win was not only a milestone but also two additional accolades for a superhero movie made by black people (director Ryan Coogler) with A predominantly black cast and set in an Afrofuturistic Black utopic nation. Marvel’s Black Panther proved that diverse content could make money and grab critical awards at the same time. Regina King won a long-deserved Oscar for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk but we all knew it was for the many roles that have endeared her to our community.
Then Black Women in Politics Brought It Home
Two days after the high of the Oscars, we all awakened to find that the city of Chicago had a tie in its mayoral election. It wasn’t the first. The historic part was that the two candidates facing a run-off for the office of mayor were, for the first time in history, two black women, Lori Lightfoot, and Toni Preckwinkle. I watched Chicago’s WGN morning news as it slowly began to dawn on people that a black woman would be leading the city no matter what the outcome of the run-off was. Both women had promised reform for the city. For the first time in generations, I think people actually feel it’s going to happen.
The run-off and the mayor who wins will go down in the history books on a positive note for Black History Month 2019. Just five days earlier, another Chicago black woman made history of a different sort by having the notorious Pied Piper of hip hop arrested on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse. R. Kelly had skirted authorities and thumbed his nose at the justice system for decades while mothers all over Chicago and the surrounding region clung to their Black girls. We all knew he would get away with his misdeeds. And he did, for decades. Then, Dream Hampton’s Surviving R. Kelly pulled the lid off things. Cook County Prosecutor Kim Foxx took over in an investigation that led the arrest. He was not going to get away with this time, and a black woman in charge of his prosecution promises that he will not come out of this one unscathed.
Let us not forget the Black women working with other women of color in the US Congress to make set this country straight. Earlier in the month, Kamala Harris worked with Cory Booker to finally make lynching a hate crime — finally in 2019. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley joined her fellow Congresswomen of color to skewered Representative Mark Meadows for using a black woman from his staff as a prop to prove he was not racist. Throughout the hearing, these women hammered Cohen with questions that slowly revealed the extent of the crimes the President is facing. And, they found that Cohen had receipts.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA): Would you agree that someone could deny rental units to blacks, lead the birther movement, refer to black countries as shitholes, call white supremacists fine people, have a black friend and still be racist?
Michael Cohen: Yes.
Pressley: I agree. pic.twitter.com/NJifPI2e32
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) February 27, 2019
The Ladies of Black-ish Swoop in for a Wrap-Up
This week’s episode was the Black History episode of the show, and it was directed by the multitalented matriarch of the show’s Johnson family, Tracy Ellis Ross. Ross created an educational, yet very funny look both the ways Black History Month has been taken for granted and the way that Black women are often left out. Throughout the episode, as Dre, played by Anthony Anderson tries to figure out how to get his kids to appreciate Black history, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer holds the role of educating us all on the famous names broached throughout the episode.
The highlight of the episode is when Rainbow (Tracy Ellis Ross) and Ruby (Jennifer Lewis) try to talk to Diane about the famous Black women who are often left out of the celebration. Their list and cutaways throughout the show to Spencer should have been exhausting, but it comes off as very positive and even comedic. Listen closely to Spencer and all the characters in this episode, because you will learn of the rich legacy that we all hail from. Black-ish preached a good sermon that will close out Black History Month respectfully.
A lot went down during this year’s Black History Month. However, there are so many things that will go down in the history books for us this month. Let’s face it, this has been our reality for a few years and will continue to be so. No matter what manner of shenanigans comes out of that very White House in the coming year, know that black women and girls in the background, running things and moving up all to protect the legacy. We just really need the rest of you to be sure help out.
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Jonita Davis is a writer, mother, a certified nerd, and writer of Black Girl Nerds. Davis is a critic and journalist. She has been writing for 13 years about the way pop culture and politics affect our lives as parents, women, black women, nerds, and people of this planet.