Defining Black Gratitude in the 2020 Holiday Season

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I spent this past weekend watching three different television specials that took me on a rollercoaster of emotions as they highlighted the wide spectrum of the Black American experience. One of the benefits of the digital age of television viewership is the ability to navigate various apps to find culturally relevant programming, and this weekend I certainly got my monthly fees/seven-day trials worth of quality content.

The first special I watched was The Fresh Prince of Belair 30-year reunion special. It was great to see the characters I grew up watching come together to share memories, reflect on the show’s cultural impact, honor their late cast member James “Uncle Phil” Avery and remind us of its Black sitcom magic.

The moment that sparked a heavy amount of social media chatter was Will Smith reuniting with the original “Aunt Viv,” Janet Hubert, and then watching Hubert reunite with the other cast members and meeting her replacement (Daphne Maxwell Reid) for the first time. The separate exchange between Smith and Hubert allowed Hubert the opportunity to inform “The Fresh Prince” about all the personal trials she was going through before she left the show and to finally share with him the hurt she experienced when he spoke ill of her after her departure.

Watching two Black television icons heal, embrace and come clean about old wounds that persisted for 27 years was good for my spirit.

The next special I watched was “Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor,” the ABC 20/20 special co-produced in conjunction with Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper about the life and tragic death of Breonna Taylor. “Say Her Name” was painful to watch for a myriad of reasons, but it primarily was hard to watch because it consistently showcased videos of Breonna’s sweet smile and vibrant personality.

My eyes remained on the brink of spilling over watching Breonna’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, speak of her with such reverence. The body camera footage from the night of Breonna’s murder was excruciating to watch. Watching Good Morning America co-anchor Michael Strahan talk with LPMD officer Jonathan Mattingly was jarring as he doubled down on rationalizing what was “legal, and ethical, and moral” about what he and his fellow officers did.

Had it not been for nationwide footage of resistance and advocacy for Breonna, I would have walked away from the viewing completely gutted. I was grateful to be reminded that the fight for justice of Black victims of state-sanctioned violence is a fire that refuses the extinguish.

The third special I watched this weekend was “Between the World and Me,” a dramatic interpretation of the best-selling book of the same name by Ta-Nehisi Coates. “Between the World and Me” was written as an extended letter between Coates and his then 15-year-old son.

The dramatic interpretation, which featured such high-profile readers as Angela Davis, Joe Morton, Black Thought of “The Roots,” Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, and Phylicia Rashad, brought fresh urgency to the lessons of Black personhood Coates’ was espousing to his teenage son. Many of the readers shared tears while reciting their portion of Coates’ compelling words.

I was again grateful for Black literary excellence that provides timeless reckoning of where we have been and where we currently are, and thankful to be alive in an era where the humanity in our stories can be amplified and consumed by the masses.

With the start of the holiday season beginning this week in what has been a most impossible year to find joy, I relished in the opportunity to sit back and take in some good television specials that showcased Black resilience, healing, possibility, resistance, togetherness and love in all of the ways love manifests itself.

2020 has been a year of celebrating the smallest of wins. It has been a year of having gratitude for moments to suspend the pandemonium of the outside world to reflect and bear witness to the breath you’re still fortunate to have.

This weekend I was grateful for quality programming that appealed to my senses and sensibilities. Small wins my friends, small wins.

About the Author

Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be.