Dear Kendrick: You won more than awards at the Grammys

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| February 17 2016,

00:30 am


Kendrick, Before I saw your 2016 Grammy performance, I already knew that I was going to be hype about whatever you performed. I, a self-proclaimed K.Dot fanatic, waited with anticipation for the performance to drop. But it wasn’t until I saw you shuffling towards a microphone with chains around your wrists and a pained expression on your face that I knew things were about to get all the way real. With jazz floating through the background, I watched one of my favorite artists get in position while standing in the most coveted spot in the music industry — in front of a Grammy performance microphone
Last night you set fire to the stage and showed a level of nuance that is rare in spaces where rappers are expected to celebrate shining externalities rather than the depth of their own humanity. Addressing subjects ranging from mass incarceration to restoring communal connection with history, you showed us the beauty of the black continuum from past to present. As you rattled off lyrics, the camera panned to the faces of audience members who were seemingly confused by the fire onstage and the fire in your eyes. That audience shook with the tremor of your treble, bulldozed by the power with which you spoke. Whether they understood you or not, you moved them. You moved us.
At the Grammy Awards, you unapologetically placed our Compton in visual line with our roots in Africa. You were bold and unashamed when you could have been comfortable. You challenged us to believe that we could break free of our chains by traveling further and further toward our essence — stumbling though we may be — where we can stand unmasked in any space. In the last two weeks, young black people have been able to turn on the most celebrated, mainstream performances in America and simultaneously be told by two of the most popular cross-over artists that their hair, the size and shape of their noses, their struggle, their feelings, their history, their space, and their lives are good enough. I can't remember the last time this reality existed. In this moment, my heart is bursting with pride at who we are even in a world that strives to disaffirm us every day. You didn’t just give a Grammy performance last night. You told us that our melanin is both rich and deeply rooted and, more importantly, that we can make it if we remember where we come from. Kendrick, you won. You won something bigger than the well-deserved trophies that the Academy gave you. You won something so much more significant, which will outlast your station on the Billboard charts. Last night, you used such a rare opportunity to shine light on the faces of your people. When watching you perform, I felt a surge of something like the Spirit as you proclaimed the good news of the evening — that we gon’ be alright! You gave us just what we needed last night, like you said you would. You, Kendrick, are a King.
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