2016’s Black History Month will go down as one that defined a generation. Women were the ones who became the face of Black discontent and achievement, whether they danced on stage before millions in Black Panther inspired costumes or broke boundaries by heading major broadcasting networks. It was a February that I was honored and privileged to witness, one that I hoped my nieces and younger relatives saw and said, “That’s me!”
The first thing that comes to mind is Beyonce’s release of her song Formation and the Super Bowl performance centered around it. It was a bold step for pop’s biggest star, one that has brought about a fair share of controversy as being anti-police, anti-establishment, anti-whatever. But, the symbolism of seeing pop’s biggest star sing about race, her love for her roots, and her earned status as Queen Bey was something that we (Black people) needed.
Despite the tense social landscape of a post-Sandra Bland, post-Tamir Rice America, there was still a lot of dancing to be had– and it seemed like a nice bit of it happened in the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a Black History Month celebration where Debbie Allen taught African dance in one room with Fatima Robinson teaching hip hop in another. On a separate occasion, a 106-year old Virginia McLaurin danced with both President Obama and the First Lady, saying that she never thought she’d see the day she would get invited to the White House. These events were a testament to the progress we have made as a people.
The sheer variety of fields in which Black women asserted their greatness is vast. One night we could watch Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution and witness a Black woman (simply named Peaches) shoot at police in self-defense, the next day we could witness the first African American president be announced as president of a major network. We could see Melissa Harris-Perry protest MSNBC one morning and President Obama appoint Carla Hayden as head of the Library of Congress the next. This month showed Black women as exactly what they are– fearless, trailblazing, influential, intelligent, and beautiful.
We as a race needed this Black History Month.