20 Of 2020’s Top Black Culture Moments U Brands By Keyaira Boone ·December 30, 2020December 30, 2020

Twenty-twenty challenged norms and tested patiences. 

Concert venues closed, cultural routines were abandoned, and the ideas of what it meant to be a performer and audience member were redefined. The year carried in unthinkable circumstances daily forcing us to pivot fast. Together through the windows in our palms we said goodbye to legendary talents like Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Natalie Desselle Reid, Thomas ‘Tiny’ Lister, and John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher

We welcomed new takes on old stories from Shonda Rhimes and Steve McQueen

Shonda Rhimes’ Bridgerton, which stars Adjoa Andoh and Regé-Jean Page | Photo credit: Liam Daniel/NETFLIX © 2020

We danced our way through social distancing to the tunes of Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé before allowing Jhene Aiko, Teyana Taylor and Luke James to be the soundtracks to our self care. 

We raised our glasses to Zendaya’s record-breaking Emmy win and applauded Amanda Seales’ virtual triumph at the BET Awards. 

Zendaya

We rejected half-measures in the fight to protect Black women and celebrated Kamala Harris making long overdue history with some help from Mary J.Blige. 

President-Elect Biden Introduces Key Health Team Nominees And Appointees For Upcoming AdministrationVice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks on stage at the Chase Center before President-elect Joe Biden’s address to the nation November 07, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. | Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

We examined our actions in the reflection of the Red Table. We witnessed the world suddenly decide Black Lives actually did matter (for at least a few weeks.)

We saw celebrities shake off the sheen of stardom when sickness knocked at their door. 

We binged podcasts in between virtual learning sessions grateful for the vocal friendship of Laci Mosley, Boonie and Tracy Clayton

We pledged allegiance to the trap, blew the whistle, visited our favorite aunties, and found out who the boy really belonged to as Verzuz became the saving grace in our upended social lives. 

Monica Brandy VerzuzOn August 31, Brandy and Monica at their Verzuz.

In the new normal traditions were transformed, expectations were shifted and we somehow found a way to get closer as the computers in our pockets became nightclub substitutes, home offices and sanctuaries.  

Take a look back at some of the most memorable moments of 2020 below.

01When D-Nice Healed The World At Club QuarantineLegendary deejay Derrick Jones began hosting Club Quarantine at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the mythical hotspot reached over one hundred thousand Instagram users in late March. Real Housewives, R&B singers and cashiers joined teachers, hairdressers and tech tycoons for an all day party that lifted the spirits of a nation. Many of the most notable people in the world including Naomi Campbell, Will Smith, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, and Michelle Obama were present. Virtual guests joked about making their way across the crowded club in the comments. The choice to hop behind the turntables at home came from a need for Jones to soothe his loneliness. He wanted to replicate that “good energy,” present in a club setting. “It seriously came from a place of love and wanting to be around friends, and then it kind of turned into this thing,” Jones told ESSENCE. Later he even tapped to hold a special live session to promote Obama’s When We All Vote Initiative proving that DJs literally can save lives. @dnice Instagram/@mos1photography 02When Teddy Riley Verzuz Memes Took Over Our TimelinesVerzuz invited songwriters and producers to take credit for hit records the public might not have known they had a hand in creating.Teddy Riley and Babyface were among the first to step up and get their flowers. Their match-up was postponed by COVID-19 and technical difficulties but the spectacle on April 20 was worth the wait for Toni Braxton’s tweets alone. Embedding the phrase “log off Kenny,” into our brains actually distracted us from social distancing for a second. 03When The Savage Challenge Took Over The InternetAfter falling in love with the Megan Thee Stallion hit, 19-year-old choreographer Keara Wilson headed to TikTok to create an easy to follow routine that spoke to our inner classy, bougie, and ratchet selves. The #SavageChallenge was soon erupting across our timelines. Celebrities including Keke Palmer, Kandi Buruss and Jennifer Lopez jumped on the bandwagon of the viral sensation. The H-Town Hottie herself even hopped on the trend. Photo: Instagram/@theestallion 04When Matthew Cherry Won An Oscar For “Hair Love”Matthew Cherry earned the Oscar for Academy Award for Best Animated Short for his adaptation of his children’s book Hair Love. Featuring a father and daughter struggling to care for her hair in mom’s absence, the short film captured the hearts of families everywhere. “You always see these stories of these young Black girls being bullied for wearing their natural hair,” Cherry told ESSENCE. “Anytime you have a young Black girl or a young Black woman in general really just embracing who they truly are on their own, it’s a great thing. There’s nothing wrong with trying to change your hair, but it’s also important to see your value in how you are naturally as well.” Matthew Cherry / photo credit: Rich Fury 05When Lena Waithe And Alana Mayo Called It QuitsFictional romances weren’t the only ones taking over our timelines. Hollywood heavyweights Lena Waithe and Alana Mayo filed for divorce in November giving us yet another thing to blame on 2020. 06When Lauren And Cameron Proved Love Truly Is BlindThe top of the year kicked off with Netflix going on a quest to find out if love really was blind. Participants agreed to date and possibly get engaged on a reality show without ever seeing their potential partner. Each of the pods presented were entertaining (we’re still laughing about Carlton’s shade) but it was Lauren Speed and Cameron Hamilton who made us believe in blind courtship. The couple fell in love before our eyes and recently celebrated two years of marriage. “It’s overwhelming, to be honest,” Speed told ESSENCE. “But I just feel so blessed and happy that everyone’s giving us words of encouragement and support, saying we inspire them. I’m talking all over the world.” (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for Netflix) 07When Issa And Lawrence (Finally) Got Back TogetherAfter two address changes and an STD scare Issa and Lawrence finally reconnected. The exes put their issues on front street during a romantic dinner that was followed by marathon makeup sex. Unfortunately their reunion was short lived when Condola resurfaced with news that she was preggers with Lawrence’s baby. 08When Michelle Obama Launched Her Own PodcastOur forever First Lady revealed she’s just as cool as we suspected when she released a podcast in July. She discusses marriage, mentorship, and more on the exclusive Spotify show. Photo by BET Awards 2020/Getty Images via Getty Images 09When Aunjanue Ellis Took Us To Church In “The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel”Aunjanue Ellis embodied Dr. Mattie Mae Clark in the Lifetime biopic The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel. The actress ushered her on-screen children into gospel greatness giving us the perfect Saturday night escape on April 11. In an ESSENCE interview, the formidable actress explained her thoughts on why the film didn’t get a bigger response from mainstream audiences. “They don’t know who the Clark sisters are. They are Black famous. We know who they are better than anybody. We know they can sing better than anybody; we know their writing is better than anybody. They are as significant as their Bob Dylan, as their Bruce Springsteen,” she said. 10When Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion, Houston’s Finest, Came TogetherBeyoncé spit some southern fried bars when the Texans teamed up for the “Savage Remix.” The superstar revealed that she jumps into her jeans just like us and even name dropped Demon time and Onlyfans. We stan a Queen who stays in the loop! “I got a call one day and they were like, ‘Yeah…Beyoncé’s gonna do a remix of ‘Savage,’” Megan said during a radio interview. “I was like, ‘Shut the f— up!’ I didn’t believe it.” Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion 11When Beanie Man And Bounty Killer Took Us To The DancehallVerzuz went from everyday content to can’t miss costume affair with this dancehall faceoff. The event was the first time that contenders in what founders Timbaland and Swizz Beatz call a “musical celebration,” were in the same room. Instagram users pulled out the pum pum shorts, wash rags and head wraps to show up to the living room in style. As usual the culture was the true winner. 12When Nicco Annan Introduced Us To Uncle Clifford On “P-Valley”If 2020 had a sweet spot it was located in the Mississippi Delta. P-Valley introduced us to the Pynk strip club and its fabulous proprietor Uncle Clifford on July 12. Brought to life by the amazing Nicco Annan, Clifford managed to shake some serious coins out of the trap while managing her dancers’ drama with a set of ironclad rules. Always wielding a few secrets behind her sequined fans and parasols this character stole the show. “As a Black man and as a Black gay man, it’s very seldom that I get the opportunity to tell such a rich, lush story that really means something and that I really feel speaks to my community and can uplift us,” Annan told ESSENCE. Nicco Annan | Starz Entertainment LLC 13When Beyoncé Confirmed That Black Is KingBeyoncé Knowles-Carter reached across the diaspora to create a stunning ode to Blackness in Black Is King on July 31. The companion film to her concept album Lion King: The Gift featured a modern retelling of the fable and some of our favorite Afrobeats artists. 14When An AKA Became The First Black Woman Elected As Vice-PresidentSkee-wees rang out around the globe when then presidential hopeful Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris as his running mate on August 11. The Alpha Kappa Alpha was the first Black woman to be chosen as a Vice-Presidential candidate by the democratic political party. Sorors clutched their pearls once again when Harris was forced to remind Vice-President Mike Pence that she was still speaking during a debate onOctober 7. The Biden and Harris ticket claimed victory (repeatedly) making Harris the first Black woman to become a Vice-President elect. 15When Jonathan Majors And Jurnee SmollettHeaded To Lovecraft CountryOn August 16, Smollett and Majors learned there’s nothing spookier than racism portraying Atticus Freeman and Letitia Lewis in this series based on Matt Ruff’s novel. Taking place in the Jim Crow era, it follows two friends on a mission to find one’s missing father that claimed our Sunday nights this summer. The pair kicked off their 1950s road trip dodging demonic Klansman and shapeshifting monsters along the way. Smollett shared how the story relates to the present struggle Black people with ESSENCE. “Not only is the story timely but it’s also personal. It’s so deeply personal for us. I know what it’s like to feel displaced. I know what it’s like to have that great shock, that James Baldwin talks about. When you discover this nation, who you owe your identity to, right, has yet to create a space for you. I know this, this is the blood memory we talk about. I’m excited because I feel like Lovecraft Country contributes to this discussion,” she said. 16When Chadwick Boseman Was Stolen From UsChadwick Boseman passed away at 43 years old on August 28. His family revealed that the star had spent four years battling colon cancer after being diagnosed in 2016. The loss of the magnetic performer who filled hearts and minds with the story of the Black Panther was felt deeply by fans of all ages. Chadwick Boseman | Photography by Dennis Leupold 17When Michaela Coel Snatched Our Souls With ‘I May Destroy You’Last June, the writer, producer and actress processed her thoughts and feelings about her experience with sexual assault in a hauntingly relatable series by that premiered on HBO. 18When Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion Educated Us About WAPCardi B. invited some of the brightest young talents in music to appear in the video for her single “WAP” featuring Megan Thee Stallion. Normani, Rosalía Mulatto, Sukihana and Rubi Rose stopped by the whimsical mansion for a sexy cameo. The song was an instant banger and the clip offered up major style and decor inspiration for our bundles of quarantine purchases. YouTube 19When Red Table Talk Introduced Us To EntanglementsJada Pinkett-Smith brought herself to The Red Table on July 10 after R&B singer August Alsina made news of their intimate relationship public. The actress and talk show host sat down with her husband Will Smith and explained how she winded up in an entanglement with the performer. Black Twitter acted accordingly making so making jokes that we almost forgot about our confinement. 20When Dionne Warwick Won TwitterRefusing to write a bio or fix typos, the legendary singer got active on the social site on her own terms with the help of her niece Brittani. She closed out 2020 with a series of hilarious tweets pondering the questions that reality needed asking like why Chance had to add “the rapper,” to his stage name and why millennials are always hollering at somebody. TOPICS: 

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