Black-ish gets Musical and Historical in Season Premiere
ABC's hit series "Black-ish" kicked off its fourth season with a Hamilton like episode that tackled juneteenth and slavery, Tuesday night, Oct. 3.
"Black-ish", for those who have never watched it, is an ABC sitcom that follows the life of the upper middle class Johnson family as they navigate what it means to be black everyday in America.
For me, the show is one of the best shows on television right now and has the award nominations to back it up. The characters, are multidimensional and dynamic and the conflict is relatable for viewers of any race. Most of all, the show is hilarious and does not shy away from big racial and societal issues, as seen in the season premier.
Season four kicked off in a spectacular (and sure to be controversial) way, with a "Hamilton" style episode about Juneteenth and the history of slavery in America.
The show starts with Jack (Miles Brown) and Diane (Marsai Martin) participating in their school's Columbus day play. The play has lots of historical inaccuracies, as it portrays Columbus as actually coming to North America (Shocker: the song you learned in elementary school was wrong, Columbus never actually came to North America.) Enraged by the play, Dre (Anthony Anderson), in typical fashion, drags the twins off the stage and his family out of the theater.
The episode raises an important question: Why don't we celebrate Juneteenth yet celebrate holidays like the fourth of July and Columbus day that, in a way, still represent oppression. A reason that is highlighted in the show is in order to celebrate the end of slavery we would first have to acknowledge the atrocity which was the system of slavery.
Not only this but, we would also have to acknowledge how the institution of slavery has continued to oppress people even today. Which makes many white people uncomfortable therefore making Juneteenth, a holiday that celebrates the day that all of the slaves were freed (more than a year after the declaration of independence was actually signed) that is often looked right over.
Dre, brings this question with him to his (mostly white) workplace. When his co-workers don't even know what Juneteenth is, Dre begins his quest to educate them and make Juneteenth a celebrated holiday, enlisting the musical expertise of Aloe Black and The Roots.
Dre starts off by bringing his co-workers through the history of slavery and Juneteenth, but with a twist. He educates them using a School House Rock style song, that features The Roots, about slavery.
The song starts off, "I am a slave, Yes, I'm only a slave, They'll place my body in an unmarked grave… I could swing from a tree, but hey, I hope and pray that they don't kill me today."
It's shocking and brutally honest about slavery, but effective in bringing to light some of the points of slavery that are often skipped over.
This episode is the Johnsons as you've never seen them before; singing and dancing. Not only is there the School House Rock style song but the Johnson family themselves take the (literal) stage dressed as slaves for their own musical numbers, one of the most powerful about how America was built off the back of slaves.
The episode, definitely had some shock value to it, mostly because these aren't really topics that we talk about in mainstream media. Kenya Barris, the creator of the Black-ish, clearly knew this and acknowledged that the episode would be somewhat divisive, saying, "They’re either going to love it or hate it," to Variety.
Though this episode may be seen as divisive to some, there's no lies. What is presented, though dark and embarrassing, is history.
The thing about history is this: it already happened, it can't be disputed.
America's dark history of slavery and oppression is woven into the fabric of the nation and rears its face in the everyday injustices in this country. Just because it is uncomfortable doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about it. Black-ish is bringing these important issues to the foreground in a palatable, funny yet still important way.