Kanye West, is known for being one who speaks his mind no matter what the circumstances or stakes are. As a complex figure who has both shifted and challenged the traditions and values of Black culture, his undeniable impact sparks necessary conversation across our community. At the start of Black History Month, West posted that he would be referring to February as "Black Future Month" with no further explanation of why. However, on Sunday, February 6, 2022, Ye along with Jason Lee, the founder of Hollywood Unlocked, held space for members of Black media outlets to learn all about his desire for the name change.
The two invited 50 Black journalists and media executives around the country to "The Black Future Brunch" in Los Angeles, inspired by his recent proposal. As if the "all Black" dress code wasn't an indication of what the dynamic of the brunch would be, the deep dialogue encouraged those in attendance to reimagine the current media landscape as one that fostered an "all Black everything" mentality.
Since its inception as Negro History Week, Black History Month has consistently evolved. Within our community, we hold and prioritize this month as a way to build on our multifaceted past in order to develop a brighter future. However, corporate brands now choose to honor us, selectively, for the sake of economic export.
Starting off the event, West shared his insight about his current understanding of Black heritage month, in a fashion most fitting of his public persona. He stated that he felt that our heritage month was being hijacked by white entities who have, historically, exploited our community and culture for their own gain. He paralleled this observation with how these same structures notoriously showed up within his own life and career. To them, this sacred time of year has become completely devoid of knowledge or empathy for our collective struggle outside of our community.
Prompted to take action, he set out to coin and create the phrase "Black Futures Month." The term continues in a lineage of evolution while differentiating itself from the whitewashed and disingenuous celebrations we frequently see today. After sharing this inspiration, guests were shown a short video further elaborating on his explanation. Knowing his influence as a trendsetter who has inspired generations across the industries of music, fashion and design, it became clear that Kanye's greatest hope with this newly initiated phase of Black History Month is to establish a greater sense of unity, innovation and, ultimately, mentorship within the confines of the Black community.
Following the short film, Michelle Mitchell, the Strategic Communities Program Manager at Meta, gracefully led guests through robust and timely conversations. Topics included the disparities Black media face in comparison to "mainstream" media outlets, accessibility to capital and resources, the importance of reclaiming the perceived narrative about our community and taking ownership of our content and creativity. Attendees shared personal stories ranging from ostracization on red carpets to feeling dehumanized by white media sources. Midway through the event, Antonio Brown, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL player and newly announced president of Ye's Donda Sports, joined the conversation. Brown shared his own experience with mainstream media and how it has stripped away his authenticity by painting him as a radical monster without allowing him the grace to share his own story which resonated deeply with many in the room.
Lee closed the roundtable discussion with a note on the importance of uplifting Black media ourselves which would lessen the need for validation outside of our beloved community. West also charged the Black journalists and media executives in attendance to "learn to argue with one another" in a manner that would spark ideas into action through fearless, collaborative effort. "If I can say 'George Bush doesn't care about Black people and still be alive today, there's nothing we can't do," Ye said.
Concluding the event was a powerful and deeply spiritual performance by the famed choir, Sunday Service. With the most glorious cascading of light shining down on them, the collective blessed attendees with a phenomenal performance, revamping popular songs as gospel and predominately accapella arrangements.
Kanye West is many things and history will no doubt both view and understand his multifaceted legacy in compounded ways. However, after pulling away the layers of his ego, bravado and controversy, West ultimately has an inextricable passion for Black excellence that many of us share. The Black Future Brunch served as a symbol of respect extended to figures in Black media that often go unnoticed. In all honesty, it is an example that many external to the Black community should aspire to follow for future Februarys to come.