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
From Sandra Bland to the shootings in Charleston, , 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. So to celebrate that greatness, we put together this list of the most defining Black pop culture moments of 2015.
2. 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
3. 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
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.”
8. Top Black Pop Culture Moments of 2015: Common and John Legend at the Oscars
Normally the musical numbers at The Academy Awards are pretty forgettable, but when Common and John Legend performed Selma’s “Glory,” it brought down the house with an emotional standing ovation. Equally as moving, was their acceptance speech for Best Song, which despite the Oscars being one of the whitest ever, the duo made sure the issue of race and injustice took center stage.
9. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: The Throning of Queen Serena
Even with her disappointing loss at the U.S. Open, 2015 served up some of the most captivating moments in the player’s near 20-year career. This summer, Williams won the “Serena slam” at Wimbledon, marking her twenty-first Grand Slam singles title and was named Sports Illustrated “Sportsperson of the Year,” becoming the first solo Black woman to grace the cover of the mag’s annual issue. Hail to the Queen!
10. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: President Obama Having No F*$^ks Left to Give
While we have always loved President Barack Obama and admired his poise and intelligence, this new gangsta, second-term, not scuuuured POTUS has given us utter life. From lifting the travel ban to Cuba to using a selfie stick to his “folks wanna pop off” comment, President Obama will definitely go down as one of the most successful (and realest) leaders in history.
11. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: Dem Patty Pies
Who knew that a dessert that you’ve been eating since you were a kid could spark such a nation-wide frenzy? But thanks to James Wright’s hilarious YouTube review that went viral, Walmart couldn’t keep legendary singer Patti Labelle’s sweet potato pies on the shelves this Thanksgiving. We hope you got yours for Christmas though.
12. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: The Rise of ‘Empire’
Before Fox’s ‘Empire’ debuted in January, the joke in Hollywood was that it was destined to fail. But Lee Daniel’s Black novella not only proved naysayers wrong by boasting some of the highest ratings on network television, but it introduced us to the queen of one-liners, Ms. Cookie Lyons, who instantly became one of the best and most influential characters this television season.
13. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: Drake Demolishes the Internet
Who knew wheelchair Jimmy wouldn’t just win the Internet this year, but demolish it? From his grown and sexy beard to his beef with rapper Meek Mill to his ‘Hotline Bling’ video, Drake was a constant in our conversations and on the airwaves. Even when folks were making fun of him, i.e. his peculiar dancing, it only seemed to make his popularity soar.
14. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: “Miley, What’s Good?”
Speaking of beefs, Nicki Minaj proved that it’s never in your best interest to come for her. A lesson that Miley Cyrus learned after telling the NY Times that Minaj was “not polite” for a past Twitter rift between the rapper and singer Taylor Swift. Minaj retaliated at the MTV Music Awards giving us one of the biggest clapbacks known to history. #NotTheOne
15. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: The Black Brilliance of ‘The Wiz’ Live
Since Empire, Black folks haven’t been as excited to watch TV as we were for The Wiz. And you can’t blame us. Kenny Lyon’s updated Broadway classic showcased some of the best African-American talent in the game with newcomer Shanice Williams, Queen Latifah, Ne-Yo, Mary J and more. It was arguably one of the most unapologetically Black things we’ve experienced all year. I mean, they were voguing in Emerald City y’all!
16. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: Ava DuVernay’s Barbie Sells Out in 17 Minutes
She may have been robbed of an Oscar nomination for Best Director for ‘Selma,’ but it’s no secret that amazing award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay is well loved by everyone from Oprah to the Obamas. Yet, this year, her popularity rose far greater than she may ever have imagined when her Barbie sold-out in a mere 17 minutes, inspiring Black girls all around the world. Remember: In order to be it, you have to see it.
17. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: John Boyega Stays Drinking White Tears
Despite white opposition to John Boyega starring in the Star Wars franchise, the Brit brushed his shoulders off telling the NY Times he “is grounded in who [he is] …[as] a confident, Nigerian, Black, chocolate man.” The rising star can also add role model to that list as he proves to a new generation that they too have a place in the galaxy, far, far away.
18. Top Black Pop Culture Moments Of 2015: Everything Black Twitter Did
From #ThanksgivingClapBack to #GrowingUpBlack to #CelebritiesOnlyBlackPeopleKnow, Black Twitter’s infectious and dry humor brought us to tears this year. But their hashtags weren’t just about making us laugh. From #IfIDieInPoliceCustody to #SayHerName to #MelaninOnFleek, they were committed to keeping up woke and celebrating our greatness. #ThankYou