From Sandra Bland to the shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, African Americans were sadly reminded that being Black in America is much harder than it ought to be. And yet in the same breath, 2015 was a year of Black joy during which our culture dominated not only in our lives, but in the mainstream consciousness. From Cookie Lyons to the Cosby Ebony cover, our brilliance helped to push the conversation, affirm our greatness, make history and most important, make us laugh.
So to celebrate that greatness, we put together this list of the most defining Black pop culture moments of 2015. And don’t worry: Rachel Dolezal is nowhere to be seen.
1. Top Black Pop Culture Moments of 2015: Misty Copeland’s “I Will, What I Want” Commercial
Misty Copeland recently told the NY Times that she wants success and to be on the “forefront of pop culture.” Copeland achieved just that in 2015 by becoming the first Black principle dancer at the American Ballet Theater and going viral with her Under Armor commercial “I Will What I Want. ” The video quickly drew more than 4 million viewers. #ForThoseWhoDareToDream
2. Top Black Pop Culture Moments of 2015: Zendaya and Amandla Read The Girls For Filth
In the year of the clapback, our stars used their platforms as teachable moments. In response to Giuliana Rancic’s offensive remarks about her locs, Zendaya penned a striking letter affirming that our hair is beautiful. Meanwhile, Amandla Stenberg schooled Kylie Jenner when Kardashian-lite jacked Black culture and used her position to spread awareness about the issues that actually affect us. #WhiteGirlsDoItBetter
3. Top Black Pop Culture Moments of 2015: “Black-ish”’s ‘N-Word’ Episode
Kenya Barris’ ABC comedy came back with a vengeance this fall when it touched upon the delicate topic of the “n-word” in its second season premiere. And what could have easily been trite and flat was the exact opposite. The episode was pitch-perfect, poignant and nuanced, not to mention absolutely hilarious thanks to the impeccable timing from the entire cast and great writing staff.
4. Top Black Pop Culture Moments of 2015: Cicely Tyson Scratching Viola Davis’ Scalp on ‘HTGAWM’
ABC’s ‘HTGAWM’ definitely isn’t afraid to go there with Analise. Remember when she got barefaced and wig-free for us? But seeing the usually in-control lawyer nestled in between her mother’s knees, played by veteran actor Cicely Tyson, as her scalp was scratched and mane combed out, was one of the realest and most endearing scenes we’ve seen in a long time. Thank you Shonda.
5. Top Black Pop Culture Moments of 2015: Tristan Wilds in the Adele Video
Tristan Wilds is no stranger to Black folks—he was the baby-faced drug runner Michael Lee on ‘The Wire.’ But when he left to focus on his music, he was pretty much “out of sight, out of mind.” Then when Adele broke the internet with her “Hello” video, we were kindly reminded of what a cutie Wilds is. Even with his tired flip phone, we definitely wish he would pick up when we call.
6. Top Black Pop Culture Moments of 2015: Grace Jones’ AfroPunk Performance
Speaking of jaw-dropping, this summer at Brooklyn’s AfroPunk Fest, model and singer Grace Jones proved that at 67 years old, she hasn’t lost a step. Topless, covered in body paint, swirling a hula-hoop for one song and dressed as a lion and a tiger for another, the icon and author gave a show-stopping performance that was hailed as “bold, honest, provocative and peaceful.”