Black Thought: The Renaissance is over Wi-Fi

Amanda Seales is a comedian and creative visionary with a Masters in African American studies from Columbia University. You know her as, “Tiffany DuBois” of HBO’s “Insecure” and her HBO stand up special, “I Be Knowin,” and as a former co-host on the talk show “The ‘Real.” The creator and host of the hit live, and now virtual, music/comedy game show, “Smart Funny & Black,” she speaks truth to change via her wildly popular instagram and weekly podcast, ‘Small Doses,’ and book by the same name. She recently launched her membership community app, “SFB Society,” a social media community for “us.” 

 

I am often asked if I believe we are in the midst of what folks call, “A New Black Renaissance” in entertainment. Citing the accumulated wealth of Black creative entrepreneurs like Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, the tour de force of shows like Insecure, Atlanta, and Power, films like Black Panther and Moonlight, and a recent surge of Black voices making their way to late night—The Amber Ruffin Show, Ziwe, Pause with Sam Jay, That Damn Michael Che, respectfully. The query is always presented to me with the freshness of unboxing a new pair of J’s—it’s simply a rearranged take on an established design. In this case, the design is Hollywood’s gatekeeping system, of letting just enough diversity trickle through to seem aware, but not so much as to be “overrun.” Though Black creatives continue to break through and break norms, the film and TV space is still, by and large, significantly white run, white operated, and white represented, with no industry wide action plan to expand beyond that myopia. I’m all for optimism and I cheer on the voices that manage to part the proverbial pale seas and chart a course for new perspectives to be heard. However, as it relates to the traditional entertainment spaces of TV and film, I find the revelation of a renaissance to be a confluence of hope and imagination. ‘Cause I don’t know how we keep calling a few shows, a couple movies, and a smattering of voices an entire Renaissance!

Be that as it may, one of Black folks’ many magical capabilities is not just how we deftly contort our bodies to varied rhythms but, likewise, how we nimbly adapt our culture to liberated spaces. When I think of an explosion of Black artistic innovation, the deafening sound of the voiceless finding their amp, the quick wit of comedic genius moving the mendacity needle, I look no further than Al Gore’s internet.

In typical fashion, Black folks are expanding the use of the World Wide Web in ways it was never intended. We are not just utilizing it for information gathering and sharing, we are on there awareness raising, star making, and culture shifting!

Without the limitations of Hollywood’s, politics and patriarchy, the wide open sweeping spaces of what I call #TheInnanets have seen an audacious abundance of bold Blackness across a myriad of genres. Whether it’s the intricate choreography (and editing) of TikTok challenges, the pithy pile ons of Black twitter banter around the latest celebrity slipup to hit the zeitgeist (see: #paulasbestdishes, Teddy Riley’s Verzuz Wi-Fi debacle), the ingenuity of intermingling character work, sketch, and social commentary within the confines of Instagram and formerly Vine (RIP), or the fully-formed Black AF productions popping up on the daily on Youtube—even though appropriation continues to rear its “Columbusing” head, contrary to the traditional TV/Film space, there is no shortage of free range, fully realized, foundationally sound, Black representation online.

I’m proud to be a part of it myself. Since its creation in 2016, there have been numerous inquiries about my variety game show, Smart Funny & Black going from live shows on tour to a network television show. Its commitment to being a safe space unabashedly curated for Black joy is something I protect wholeheartedly. Twice we’ve sold it only to be faced with the equally unabashed questioning by network execs of, “How will our white audience relate?” So, a live touring show it remained. However, in the wake of Covid, we were forced inside and applying that ever present Black magic of fluidity we reconceptualized the show, and found our own safe space on screen, when we launched the streaming version, Smart Funny & Black in Da Crib, to virtual viewers. Now, thanks to utilizing this fertile ground of cyberspace, audiences could connect globally in the name of using comedy to celebrate Black history, Black culture, and the Black experience through our show.

Some shade the social media space. Others shun the Wild Wild West of WWWs, but I see this landscape as a true site of the New Black Renaissance. An ever evolving terrain where creator-based Black excellence is thriving and pushing itself daily to not only advance linguistically and artistically, but to be a healing space where laughter, vision, intellect, culture, and love fiber optically flourish.

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