They say the strongest rose is the one that grows out of concrete. Maybe that’s the reason a year known for its challenging moments also seemed to be the year Black entertainers put out their finest work. In 2016, creativity, innovation and nods to the past were at the forefront, and Black artists set the world on fire.
Take a look at our favorite entertainment highlights of 2016:
In the world of music, 2016 gifted us many gems. In April, Beyonce surprised us all by dropping “Lemonade,” a visual album that touches on themes of love, betrayal and female empowerment while tapping into a wide variety of genres. She and her group of natural-haired, brown-skinned backup dancers put on quite the halftime show at the Superbowl immediately after the release of “Formation,” the album’s lead single. Beyonce wasn’t the only Knowles sister who released memorable music in 2016. Solange released “A Seat at the Table,” an album that attempted to showcase the highs and lows of the experience of Black Americans in 2016. Hip-hop music, a genre that typically focuses on danceable beats, got a lot more introspective in 2016. Emcees such as Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and Common made lyrically heavy music about topics ranging from everyday aspirations to racism and police brutality.
This year gave us a ton of wonderful Black-cast and Black-created television programs. With the introduction of HBO’s “Insecure,” producer Issa Rae became the first Black woman to produce and star in her own premium cable channel series. “Queen Sugar,” an OWN series about a woman who moves to Louisiana to inherit a sugarcane farm, is directed and produced by Black screenwriter Ava Marie DuVernay. “Black-ish” continues to emphasize nuances that affect Black middle-class families. “Atlanta,” a comedy-drama created by and starring Black actor and writer Donald Glover, is still going strong, while Netflix’s “Luke Cage” broke the internet and allowed the Black experience to be reflected in a genre from which it is typically excluded.
The African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) recently deemed 2016 the “Best Ever Year for Blacks in Cinema,” and it is easy to see why. Many popular African-American films of 2016 are cinematic retellings that focus on historical events. “The Birth of a Nation” told the story of Nat Turner, a Black preacher who led an uprising before the start of the Civil War, and “Loving” ® featured the story of an interracial couple imprisoned for getting married in 1958 — a time when anti-miscegenation laws were the norm. “Hidden Figures,” which premiered in select theaters on Christmas and will screen everywhere in early January, tells the story of three Black women who worked for NASA and launched the first American orbit into space.
On the Broadway stage and beyond, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” took audiences through a reimagined telling of America’s founding fathers, this time in color. The show dominated this year’s Tony Awards with a record-breaking 16 nominations, and it brought home 11 wins. The musical revival of “The Color Purple” was also critically acclaimed.