I was scrolling through Facebook one black aback I noticed an odd angel that addition had acquaint on my page. It was a screenshot of a aloof Black man on roller skates, freeze-framed in the average of a country alley belted by horse pastures.
As I clicked on the video I anchored myself, assured to see a Black actuality actuality brutalized by badge or accosted in accessible by White strangers. But that’s not what I saw.
The man flashed a advanced smile and he started to dance. He had a gray beard, but he skated like addition 20 years younger: rolling his shoulders, shimmying his achievement while Mary J. Blige sang “Not Gon’ Cry” in the background. Soon I was smiling, too.
The video had no caption, but I had a name for what I was watching: It was a snapshot of what I alarm “trauma-free Blackness.”
Here’s my ambition for a new year: added trauma-free Blackness.
Last year was a asperous one for best Black people. We watched videos of Black men actuality brutalized or dead and apprehend about Black women fatally attempt in their homes by police. We’ve watched a communicable demolish our community. At times I, too, accept acquainted beat by what one biographer calls “the relentlessness of Black grief.”
But my boogie-down skater associate reminded me of article I had about forgotten: There is a Blackness that exists alfresco of trauma.
There are all-inclusive regions of Black activity that accept annihilation to do with adversity or oppression. We advance lives that are additionally abounding with joy, romance, amusement and amazing beauty, but those acceptance don’t tend to grab the headlines. It’s time to change that.
What follows are my admired examples of “trauma-free Blackness” — arresting expressions of Black activity that aren’t filtered through the lens of racism.
I additionally asked my CNN colleagues to accompany me in creating a account of our admired trauma-free moments. To do so we pored through movies, TV, music, art, literature, internet memes and added slices of Black culture. It’s by no agency an all-embracing account — aloof a acceptable abode to start.
This in no way agency to abbreviate racism’s appulse on Black people. I’m a Black announcer who believes such acceptance are bare now added than ever.
But Black lives should amount alfresco of trauma. Any accurate ancestral reckoning should accede all of our altruism — not aloof aback we’re dying.
These examples appearance why.
I’m appreciative of what one columnist alleged “the asperous endurance” of Black people. We’ve begin a way to laugh, ball and actualize art of amazing adorableness admitting aggregate we’ve experienced. None of that resilience, though, would be accessible if we hadn’t created a set of traditions that advice us survive.
The abracadabra of Black girls’ comedy — Black accouchement weren’t consistently acclimatized the aforementioned freedoms as added kids on the playground, but attestant the joys of Double Dutch. Here Taylor Blackwell, 9, all-overs braiding while her mom Danielle Blackwell and sister Jaelynn,12, about-face on June 27, 2020, at Black Lives Amount Plaza in Washington, DC.
Black ancestors reunions — Bullwork was advised to abort Black families. Slaveowners commonly awash the accouchement of disciplinarian or breach up affiliated couples. Yet abounding disciplinarian somehow begin a way to advance ancestors ties. No admiration so abounding Black families like this one abode abundant accent on absorption anniversary gatherings.
Homecomings at historically Black colleges and universities are “part ancestors alliance and allotment revival.” For abounding Black bodies like myself, accessory a Black academy was like abutting an continued family. It was liberating to be in a abode area we didn’t accept to explain ourselves to White people. Homecomings accompany aback all of those memories.
Greek Step Shows — I got my aboriginal abiding acknowledgment to Black Greek subculture aback I abounding Howard University. I couldn’t absolutely accept the address of watching Black Greek groups assuming complex, synchronized routines. Now I do. It’s a affecting and able-bodied comedy that combines chanting and singing. It’s about pride and showmanship. It’s additionally a lot of fun.
“Soul Train’s” iconic ball band — It’s adamantine to adjudge what’s added absorbing — the Afros, the apparel or the awakening ball moves from this accepted music showcase, which ran on TV for 35 years. The “hippest cruise in America” is no best on the air, but its ball band endures at weddings and abode parties beyond America.
Black Joy Array — This anniversary of Black ability and association brings bags to city Oakland, California, anniversary winter. It’s alarming to see Black bodies booty to the streets to beef injustice. But it’s additionally auspicious to see us accumulate in accessible to bless article that’s generally been so ambiguous for abounding of us: joy. Aloof attestant Rochelle Westbrooks of Sacramento, dancing at the array in 2019.
The Internet is a atrocious athenaeum for images of Black suffering. But it is additionally blimp with GIFs, viral videos and acceptance about Black bodies that are clever, funny, alarming and sometimes strange. My admired involves a brownie in Alabama.
The YouTube twins — How can you not cackle at the bemused answer of these two adolescent Black music lovers who blur their reactions to audition songs like Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” for the aboriginal time. Black macho teenagers are generally vilified as abyss or thuggish rappers, so it’s acceptable to see two airy adolescent Black men accretion absorption for article as simple as their adulation for all kinds of music.
Two real-life besties accumulate — It’s been said that racism is not inherent and that kids are accomplished to hate. This video of two toddlers — one Black, one White — agilely greeting one addition offers a aperitive glimpse of what the apple would attending like if bodies didn’t affliction about color.
KD French’s communicable song — The accompanist wrote a amusing actuality tune about putting on communicable pounds. Black churches are abounding of abundant singers who can inject joy into the saddest occasions. French begin a way to accomplish me smile in the average of a pandemic.
The action rap moment that’s immortalized as a meme — One of the staples of Black ability is our appetite for exact combat. Any Black actuality who has anytime “played the dozens” as a kid knows what it’s like to be on the accepting end of a antic insult such as, “Yo momma is so fat aback she got on the calibration it said, ‘I charge your weight, not your buzz number.’” The attending on this rapper’s face aback his adversary tripped over his words has become a meme classic.
This Black dude has it all ample out — The smartest actuality in the allowance has about consistently been portrayed as a White guy. This meme, pulled from “#HoodDocumentary,” a British affected documentary series, bankrupt that pattern.
“The best abatement man on TikTok” — Adolescent Black men accept about been portrayed as hyperviolent or hyperathletic. This one is different: hyperchill.
Garden Marcus shares some growing tips — Marcus Bridgewater, aka “Garden Marcus,” has acquired acclaim on TikTok as a atypical antecedent of affable acumen on botany and life. There’s annihilation but “plants and positivity” in this Black sage’s videos.
Sometimes it feels like about every Hollywood adventure about Black America is affected through the lens of anger, abandon or despair. But these movies about Black bodies action romantically, funny and alarming alternatives.
“Girls Trip” — Mainstream movies too generally characterize Black women as ascetic matriarchs or the bold best friend. “Girls Trip” offered article else: Black women actuality raw and absolute and funny, aloof like anyone else. The 2017 blur is a abominable account of a accumulation of accompany partying bottomward at the Aspect Festival in New Orleans.
“The Photograph” — The conversations amid the lovers in this 2020 cine are amusing and thoughtful, and no one is babble or cursing at one another. That’s how one analyzer declared “The Photograph,” which portrays the adulation diplomacy of two ancestors of Black couples. I adulation the attending of the blur as abundant as the story. It’s attenuate to see a cine assuming advantageous Black couples aggravating to accomplish a accord work.
“Love Jones” — I knew adolescent Black couples who were urbane, amusing and fashionable, but I never saw them depicted in movies. Then came “Love Jones.” The blur didn’t allure abundant absorption aback it came out in 1997, but the adventurous ball about two adolescent burghal sophisticates aggravating to affix has back become a classic.
“When We Were Kings” — This documentary about Muhammad Ali’s acclaimed 1974 bender with George Foreman in Zaire is about so abundant added than boxing. Few films accept captured in such a thrilling, non-preachy way the aspect of Black Pride.
“Akeelah and the Bee“ presents a appearance rarely apparent on film: a Black babe in South Central Los Angeles who discovers she is a spelling prodigy. About every cine about Black bodies in South Central has focused on gangs — “Akeelah” is about a apprehensive girl’s brilliance.
Tyler Perry’s “Madea” movies — Some say the “Madea” movies are modern-day accompanist shows that reinforce stereotypes about Black people. But Perry’s Madea is a appearance that abounding Black families can chronicle to: a all-powerful dame who will adduce the Bible to you one minute and belt you with a covering belt the next.
“Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme” — I’m added of a archetypal R&B and applesauce fan, but I acknowledge how my ability celebrates exact dexterity, whether it’s in the barbershop or a rap duel. This 2000 documentary abstracts the history of bathe rap — ad-lib exact rhymes, generally discharge out in ad-lib artery duels — and the exhilaration of this Black artform.
“Lovers Rock” — Steve McQueen’s contempo blur has been declared as a cine that “shows what happens aback White bodies aren’t attractive — the rapture in Black joy, accomplished privately.” It focuses on a accumulation of Black Londoners who accumulate at a abode affair one night in 1980 to eat, ball and coquette as reggae pulsates in the background. The cine captures the vibe of the “blue ablaze in the basement” parties I saw growing up, area Black association would alarm up their accompany on a Saturday night, amble out the wine and vinyl records, and besom off the astriction of the week.
Black music, which gave America the dejection and jazz, grew out of the agony of slavery. But these songs, from the 1960s to the present, transcend the affliction that spawned our music’s birth.
“Brown Skin Girl,” by Beyoncé, Saint Jhn, WizKid and Blue Ivy Carter — This 2019 song, co-written by Beyoncé’s then-7-year-old daughter, is an communicable anniversary of the adorableness of dark-skinned women.
Earth Wind & Fire’s “September“ is one those archetypal R&B grooves that still brings bodies to their anxiety four decades afterwards its release.
Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” — This activated 1976 song from Wonder’s “Songs in The Key of Life” celebrates the joys of fatherhood — it opens with the complete of a bairn babyish arrant — by a agreeable ability at the aiguille of his aesthetic powers.
“Sunday Candy,” by Donnie Trumpet & the Amusing Experiment — This song by Chance the Rapper and added associates of the hip hop aggregate is a candied accolade to his grandmother and the peppermints she’d accord him at church. One analyzer says it sounds like it was accounting “out of absolute joy.”
Jill Scott’s “Golden” is an ultimate feel-good song, beginning with sassiness, optimism and a aggressive joy. The 2004 hit has Scott singing about “taking my freedom, putting it in my stroll.” It’s become a claimed canticle for abounding Black women.
Lupe Fiasco’s “Sunshine” is affidavit that a rapper can be aloof as adventurous and able as any columnist in any brand or medium. He says, I “never met her before, but I anticipate I like her like a metaphor.”
Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” is a abstract announcement of the inherent optimism of the best important applesauce artisan of the 20th century.
“Oh Happy Day,” Edwin Hawkins Singers — Perhaps no song captures the joy and animation of the Black Christian acceptance like this adorning tune, which became an absurd crossover hit in 1969 and helped spawn the abreast actuality genre. Based on an old hymn, the song back become a actuality standard, articulate throughout the world. “Oh Happy Day” reminds me of the acceptance of a Black woman who aloft me. You can’t not feel bigger afterwards alert to it.
For decades roles for Black television actors were bedfast to criminals, nannies and characters “scratching and surviving.” Now abounding are advancing in roles and shows area racism and adversity are no best centermost stage.
“Atlanta” — Donald Glover created and stars in this ablaze FX alternation about a academy dropout and his amusing amphitheater in the Black mecca of the American South. Absurd and funny one minute, surreal and alarming the next, it’s one of the best offbeat depictions of Black activity I’ve anytime seen. From a Black Justin Bieber to a freaky, Michael Jackson-like recluse, I never absolutely apperceive what to expect.
“Black Love” — This documentary alternation from Oprah’s arrangement is a breakable and honest attending at absolute Black couples in love. I’m acclimatized to seeing Black adulation depicted through afflicted acceptance about distinct moms and fathers in jail. This was a acceptable change of pace.
“The Appreciative Family” — I rarely saw Black characters in cartoons as a kid. This activated Disney Channel ball from the aboriginal 2000s shows how a able Black jailbait navigates associate burden and her overprotective family. It’s fabricated me acknowledge how the choices for Black kids who like cartoons is now so abundant better.
“That’s So Raven” — The appellation appearance in this accepted Disney Channel ball is a boyish Black babe with analytic abilities. The show, which concluded in 2007, is addition archetype of a attenuate alternation that shows Black teenagers as lovable, accustomed bodies (except for that analytic abilities part).
“Key & Peele” — I still go to YouTube to watch Key & Peele sketches. The Comedy Central appearance by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele was laugh-out-loud funny and offered some of the best sharpest banana observations on chase I’ve anytime seen. Some accompany still alarm me “Ba-la-kay” afterwards the archetypal account about the Black acting abecedary who can’t accent his White students’ names correctly. The appearance concluded six years ago but continues to accomplish its mark on accepted culture.
“Insecure” — Issa Rae’s HBO alternation about the adventurous and career tribulations of a accumulation of Black women accompany reflects a assorted association in Los Angeles that Hollywood had already authentic by gangs and violence.
Some of the best acclaimed books by Black authors focus on the adverse appulse of racism. But there are Black writers in sci-fi, affair and added genres whose works transcend race.
“The Broken Earth” trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin — The aboriginal Black woman to accept a Hugo Award, Jemisin set this leash in a post-apocalyptic planet ravaged by earthquakes. The alternation centers on a woman who charge acquisition her kidnapped babe while concealing her own abstruse powers. Its success signaled that authors of blush are authoritative themselves heard in a acreage already bedeviled by White writers.
“China,” by Charles Johnson — This is one of the best alluringly funny abbreviate acceptance I’ve anytime read. Imagine “Sanford and Son” meets “Enter the Dragon.” It follows the change of a broken-down, middle-aged Black postal artisan who discovers Buddhism — and his close Bruce Lee.
“The Parable of the Sower,” by Octavia E. Butler — Afore Jemisin, there was Butler. I’m a sci-fi and fantasy fan and I’ve heard so abounding authors of blush allocution about how Butler aggressive them. Afore she died in 2006 Butler was a coach who showed that Black women could address sci-fi and fantasy. Her 1993 novel, “The Parable of the Sower,” is about a adolescent woman who creates her own acceptance arrangement to advice cross a dystopian world.
“Deadly Sexy,” by Beverly Jenkins — Whenever I acclimated to attending at the covers of affair novels, the characters were consistently White. Jenkins helped afflicted that. She’s one of the arch choir in a brand accepted as multicultural romance. She’s accounting actual novels about slavery, but in “Deadly Sexy,” she crafted a abreast amative abstruseness about rich, acute and adult Black people.
“If This Apple Were Mine,” by E. Lynn Harris — Gay characters were abundantly airy or caricatured in Black abstract until Harris came forth in the 1990s with acknowledged novels like, “If This Apple Were Mine,” which featured Black gay men in the closet or on the down-low. It was a adumbration to apprehend about this subculture that had been hidden from me — and the aboriginal time I had apparent Black gay men advised with address and empathy.
One of the best accepted slogans from the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s was “Black is beautiful.” No accumulation has able that bulletin like Black beheld artists, who accept created some of the best attractive portrayals of Blackness. Now they’re assuredly accepting the recognition, and building space, that was denied to abounding of their predecessors.
Romare Bearden was a alluring artist, poet, and songwriter who could accept anesthetized for White but banned to do so. I was fatigued in accurate to his paintings and collages that focused on Black musicians and singers.
One of my favorites is “Jamming at the Savoy,” which evokes the nocturnal apple of cool, beautiful Black applesauce musicians who never let racism accumulate them from their art.
Toyin Ojih Odutola is a abreast Nigerian American artisan accepted for cartoon ambiguous portraits of bodies in pastels, pencils and charcoal. Her assignment was featured on the TV show, “Empire.”
Harmonia Rosales is a abreast Afro Cuban-American beheld artisan who reinterprets Renaissance masterworks with Black heroines. In “The Creation of God,” she does article that is so daring: She depicts God as a Black woman.
Temi Coker is a agenda artisan and columnist whose active assignment generally reflects his accomplishments in Nigeria. One of his best-known works is a account of Kanye West with crystals advancing out of his head.
Jean-Michel Basquiat went from an alien artery artisan to an all-embracing awareness afore his abortive afterlife at 27 from a biologic overdose. He started off spray-painting on New York City’s streets and subways but eventually aggressive curators to abode his expressionistic art, which referenced aggregate from Biblical verses to pop ability icons, in some of the finest museums in the world.
Kay Rufai is a British-based columnist who tackled article novel: portraits of happy-looking Black boys in the “S.M.I.L.E-ING Boys Project,” created as a acknowledgment to what he saw as the criminalization of Black adolescence in London. I never knew portraits depicting faces of Black boys activated could be so powerful.
Correction: A antecedent adaptation of this adventure independent a photo that misidentified “Deadly Sexy” columnist Beverly Jenkins. That angel has been replaced.
Contributors: Illustrations for this adventure were done by CNN’s Gabrielle Smith. Photo alteration by Rebecca Wright. Beheld alteration by Allie Schmitz. Animation by Melody Shih.
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