The year 2016 has been a crock of bullshit in a lot of ways, but black art is not one of those. Netflix graced us with The Get Down and Luke Cage, HBO debuted Issa Rae’s long-awaited Insecure last week, and Donald Glover released his brilliant series, Atlanta. Finally, we’re not compelled to support any and every black work out of rarity (at least for now). We can pick and choose.
If you love shows like Game of Thrones, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Marco Polo, you should probably to choose to support Malika: Warrior Queen. Set in fictional fifteenth century West Africa, Malika is queen and military commander of Azzaz, a large empire with five provinces she inherited from her father. Trouble arises within Malika’s council, as well as abroad, with a foreign empire planning to destroy her people (sound familiar?)
I feel as though I’ve been through an emotional ringer the past two weeks, and I know I’m not alone. I, and others like me, have been assaulted with headlines, videos and links to bleeding, dying black bodies. I have watched young men and women, bold enough to cry out in front of cameras, critics and cops, suddenly silenced. I have watched murderers walk away from dead black men and women with little consequence and proactive protection. I am tired.
Elle Varner’s post made me sad. I’m not exactly sure why it did; it is entirely possible to create a beautiful R&B album in 2013 and say something problematic in 2016. Still, I sit here guilty of the same thing Erykah Badu fans were guilty of last month: equating musical excellence with cultural awareness. Obviously, we still love Erykah Badu, just as we still love Elle Varner, and they may be culturally aware on some level (don’t forget, it was Erykah who told us to ‘stay woke’). Still, this doesn’t mean they can’t be dead wrong when it comes women, dress codes and modesty.