BY ERNIE SUGGS AND PETE CORSON
Black History Months come and Black History Months go. Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Parks. Tuskegee Airman.
We all know those stories. But this year, something was different. Black History Month was bolder this year.
It was more raw and more honest. In a word, it was blacker. Here are some of the reasons:
Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance: The Compton rapper didn’t win the coveted Best Album. That went to Taylor Swift, but he won the Grammys with his stunning and arresting performance of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright.”
#JusticeForFlint: The charity concert, held at the Whiting Auditorium in Flint, raised tens of thousands of dollars for residents affected by the Flint water crisis. For a moment Ledisi, Jazmine Sullivan, Janelle Monae and Stevie Wonder, offered solace to a city whose water system was poisoned by the government.
Beyonce: Okay, let’s get this straight. Beyonce was NOT supposed to be the headliner for the Super Bowl Halftime show (see, Coldplay). But this is Bey. Her performance was unapologetically black, as she came out with an army of black dancers dressed like Black Panthers. Oh, and the day before, she dropped her video “Formation,” which sparked volumes of think pieces. And immediately after her performance, she announced a world tour. Who won the Super Bowl again?
PBS airs “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”: For two hours, the “Independent Lens” series gave us all a history lesson so urgent that it felt like a live news report from today.
Chris Rock’s Oscars monologue: He hit the stage with PE’s “Fight the Power,” and went on to slay the Academy for its lack of diversity. He caused a lot of discomfort and raised $65,000 for a black Girl Scout Troop. Let’s see what happens next year.
Kadir Nelson’s New Yorker cover: Illustrator Kadir Nelson Turned out this memorable tribute to the Harlem Renaissance for the magazine’s Feb. 22 issue.
The President’s “Hey Michelle” moment: It’ll be a while before you hear another president say “Gurl, you look so good!” quite like this. Watch the viral video here. The Obamas used Black History Month to open the house built by slaves to all people. They held several events there, including dance classes for young black girl. And this…
The 106-year-old’s Oval Office dance party: If there was ever a question about what the Obamas mean for black people in America, watch Virginia McLaurin, who was born in 1909, when she visited the White House. “A Black President,” she said, before turning her attention to Michelle. “And a black wife.”
The South Carolina primary results: Whoever you’re rooting for on Super Tuesday, you have to admit that you rarely hear so much about the power of the black vote.
“Black-ish” addresses police brutality: And it was damn funny too. Watching Dre, ‘Bo, and the family discuss a riot unfolding on TV was cathartic and thought-provoking. The “Obama” speech alone was everything.
#OscarsSoWhite: Black Twitter reacted strongly to the fact that for the second year in a row, there were no black actors or actresses nominated in the major categories. Spike Lee, who won an honorary Oscar, boycotted the event. As did Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.
“A Ballerina’s Tale” airs on PBS: February reached peak Misty Copeland with this documentary about the dancer’s rise to the become the first black principal ballerina at the American Ballet Theatre.
“Hamilton”: In what might be the blackest Broadway show ever, “Hamilton” is dominating the Great White Way. We hear it is great (tickets are harder to get than tickets to the moon). How bad is Hamilton? When star Lin-Manuel Miranda delivered his Grammy speech for winning best musical theatre album, he rapped it. Oh yeah, and Aaron Burr, “the fool that shot him?” Leslie Odom Jr.
Caprina D. Harris’ granddaughter: Barack Obama has been the president her whole life. And as this viral video shows, she is not ready for his tenure as president to end.
DeRay Mckesson: In the wake of the Freddie Gray killing, Mckesson, one of the most vocal and visible leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, announced that he is running for mayor of Baltimore. And yes, he is still rocking the blue vest.
Cam Newton: Cam was vying to become only the third black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He and the Carolina Panthers lost. But Newton took his critics head on, forcing them to address the double standards as they applied to him. Oh yeah, he was also named NFL MVP.
“I am not a Super predator”: Hillary Clinton might have sewn up the black voter, but the activist class is not letting her have it that easy. Black Lives Matter has reminded voters of Clinton’s uneasiness surrounding the movement and rehashed some of her past speeches. Including the 1996 speech, where in defending her husband’s record on crime, labeled some criminals “super predators.” Last Wednesday, an activist disrupted a Clinton speech and demanded an apology. Clinton apologized.
Ta-Nehisi Coates returns to the reparations debate: The hottest social commentator of the moment published a new essay on race and reparations for The Atlantic. And although the article was critical of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Coates made news again when he said that Sanders has his vote.
Carla D. Hayden: Okay, so President Obama might have a hard time nominating a Supreme Court Justice, but he just nominated Carla D. Hayden as the next Librarian of Congress. If confirmed, she would be the first woman and first African-American ever to lead the world’s largest library. No word yet from the Senate majority leader on whether the vacancy should be filled by the next president.
Channing Dungey: Dungey was named president of ABC, making her the first African American to run a major television network.
God is now your co-pilot: Morgan Freeman provided his voice to Google’s navigation app Waze. So yes, the voice of God can now tell you how to navigate Atlanta traffic.
Big day for black brewing: It’s another “first!” The Harlem Brewing Co. will soon provide 39 Wal-Mart stores with its small-batch beer.
Clarence Thomas: The famously quiet Supreme Court Justice had not asked a question in court during oral arguments since Feb. 22, 2006. Perhaps influenced by the death of his mentor Antonin Scalia, Thomas broke his 10-year silence on Feb. 29, the last day of Black History Month. In a low level case involving gun ownership and bans on people convicted of domestic violence, Thomas shocked the court: “Ms. Eisenstein, just one question,” Thomas said. “Can you give me — this is a misdemeanor violation. It suspends a constitutional right. Can you give me another area where a misdemeanor violation suspends a constitutional right?”
Profiles on Simone Biles: In the run-up to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, we learned that this 18-year-old may be “the best American gymnast since, well, probably ever.”
Kanye West: Yeezus was at it again this month. Teasing us with a new album. Is it out yet? Appearing on Saturday Night Live. Selling sneakers. Freaking out backstage when his stage was changed and ranting that he is better than Picasso. And continuing to get invited to New York Fashion Week.
Race: The new biopic on Jesse Owens, perhaps the greatest track athlete ever, debuted in February to great reviews but low ticket sales. That fine. This is the kind of movie that will be in the home libraries of black families for generations.
Stacey Dash: The clueless one started the month by saying that we didn’t need Black History Month. She ended it on the Oscars wishing everybody a happy Black History Month. No one is convinced that she had a sudden conversion and the moment was painfully awkward. But what the hell. We hope she had a good one.