Then the 2016 Grammy Awards happened.
Introduced by Don Cheadle, who will star as the legendary Miles Davis in an upcoming biopic, Kendrick Lamar dialed up the pride a million notches. The juxtaposition of the Grammy winner being shackled in handcuffs, while a saxophonist played behind bars, was so far from the usual stage props and antics that we are so accustomed to seeing on an awards show stage. Every note, every bar had meaning and were chill inducing, whether you stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, or you don’t quite understand it. Whatever side you take, you couldn’t ignore it. Kendrick has a way with awareness of the present and the past that’s enough for Black folks of all generations to throw up a fist with pride. Unapologetic and proud, K. dot’s performance outro bled with furious delivery: “Twenty twelve mistakes for the world to see/ Sent us back another 400 years/ This is modern day slavery…”
As some shifted in their seats, the rest of the Grammy audience was up on their feet with a stirring ovation. The levels of Black pride reached decibels on Twitter.
Some kid, somewhere, is forever changed. When your favorite rapper looks like you, and reps you, and fights for you, the way N.W.A did in the ’90s, it sticks with you.
Growing up in New York City, my first experience with Manhattan centered around Broadway. And my show of choice as a teenager was Rent. A diverse cast with a theme song by Stevie Wonder, and a lead actress with brown skin and wild curls made me feel like Broadway could be for this nerdy awkward brown girl. Even though I enjoyed the ballet and theater despite the cast dynamic, I could always return to Rent to see me.
Fast forward 20 years after Rent‘s first opening in 1996, and we have Hamilton. Following Kendrick’s performance, I didn’t think the proud mama swelling in my heart could grow any larger. But as Hamilton star and writer Lin-Manuel Miranda accepted his speech in rap form, I couldn’t help but yell at my TV screen when he went off: “This frantic Hispanic is non-stop.”
After accepting the Grammy, Miranda, who’s almost on his way to an EGOT, waved the Puerto Rican flag on the Broadway stage along with his cast.
Broadway is not usually the place where Black Puerto Ricans can see themselves shine, nor is the Grammy stage a place where the essence of Blackness and “stop killing us” sentiments are readily accepted. But tonight, back to back, we’re on display, and our genius is completely impossible to ignore. To see both of my cultures displayed on CBS of all places, applauded for brilliant art, is something awe-inspiring.
I love us.
SOURCE: Genius | PHOTO: Getty