GROUP: Freedom, freedom, freedom, freedom!
Freedom... Freedom, freedom!
Freedom, freedom... GATES: For Black Americans, freedom, citizenship, and equal rights were signs that we had reached the promised land.
But, eventually, as broader opportunities opened up with the dismantling of legal segregation, some members of a community that had long been hemmed in by the color line started to question the meaning of life beyond the veil.
GILL: When we think about integration, we can think about the gains that were made.
But at what cost?
At what cost to Black life?
At what cost to Black institutions?
At what cost to Black neighborhoods?
GATES: At the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, I brought together three generations of political activists and cultural leaders for a candid conversation about the state of Black institutions following the Civil Rights Movement.
Bayard Rustin said to Martin Luther King, the group of people who are gonna benefit most dramatically from integration is the Black middle class.
WHITAKER: We got some degree of integration.
And there were some benefits from that, obviously.
But I think it also made us realize some of the things we had lost.
In terms of community in terms of support, in terms of knowing the history, we lost something there.
MILLER: And I would also say that integration and equity aren't the same.
Until we address the systems, until we address racial bias, implicitly and explicitly, we can't even talk about the color line.
BARAKA: Segregation is still real, it is still happening around housing, around other things.
And so Black people still find a need to find comfort, information, news, social networking in spaces and institutions that they've created.
GLAUDE: Black social networks, Black institutions, Black civil society, they are like barrier islands.
So, I'm from the Gulf Coast.
And those barrier islands break up the wind of the hurricanes, you know.
These are the things that hold off the headwinds of the storms of this country.
They protect us from those headwinds.
So even though we get hit by them, we don't get hit by them full force.
GATES: We marked the beginning of this era of radical change with cultural forms that emerged to reflect a new Black consciousness, precisely as America was desegregating.
By the end of the era, with the prevalence of hip hop, Black Twitter, and BLM, the grapevine had become digitized and decentralized, existing everywhere and nowhere at the same time, championing Black beauty and Black history and declaring boldly that Black lives, in fact, do matter.
(overlapping chatter) GATES: By the late sixties, while blatant and outright segregation had, in many ways, begun to subside, the intractable problems wrought by systemic racism stubbornly persisted.
KING: I think one of the problems that we often encounter is the presumption that segregation ended and that because it ended, therefore racism ended.
(overlapping shouting) GROUP: We want King, we want King!
GATES: But nothing could be further from the truth.
And soon a younger generation of activists pushed back with a powerful assertion of self-determination.
CARMICHAEL: Now the second battle that we are now fighting is whether or not we will have the right to use the terms to decide how our movement is gonna go.
They don't want us to use Black Power.
I got news for them.
SPENCER: The call for Black Power came in 1966, and it played an important role as a rallying cry.
More people were looking to Black Power as an alternative to what many people had felt as a Civil Rights Movement which had run its course.
Black Power pointed to the need for self-determination.
It pointed to Black pride and Black unity.
It demanded Black decision-making, a quest for power to really unseat and get to the root and the heart of what was the foundational inequalities in the United States.
FARMER: There's this real feeling that the time is now to assert Black nationalism.
Despite the fact that there are some successes with the Civil Rights Movement, you know, day-to-day life still looks very similar.
There are still real, everyday struggles of housing, of healthcare, of employment that are plaguing Black communities.
You start to say, you know, maybe I need to start to think of other ways to assert my rights and get the resources that I need.
GLAUDE: What Black Power made possible, what the Civil Rights Movement made possible, they're these moments of cultural expression, political expression that lay the foundation for a different way of being in the world for Black folk.
♪ WOMEN: Black is beautiful!
♪ MEN: Freedom!
♪ Set our warriors free!
♪♪ WHITAKER: When people think about the Black Power era, they think of the, the leather jackets, the berets, the guns.
But in many ways, I think that the greatest, lasting legacy of the Black Power movement was really cultural.
FARMER: That means that we should focus on, um, you know, the ways in which we've been culturally brainwashed, whether that be dress, hair, clothing, whether that be celebrating, you know, religious figures or cultural figures, um, that have their basis in whiteness and White supremacy.
WHITAKER: By the 1960s there was this great hunger to either recapture or to develop a culture that was unique to Black people so that Black folks didn't feel like the only way they could have a culture is by imitating White people.
BARAKA: You know it's hard to be Black in a world controlled by White folks.
We trying to be Black and meanwhile you got a white ghost hovering over your head that says if you don't do this you will get killed.
If you don't do this, you won't get no money.
If you don't do this, nobody will think you beautiful.
If you don't do this, nobody will think you're smart... that's the ghost.
You're trying to be Black, and the ghost is telling you to be a ghost.
WHITAKER: I think a younger generation came along and said, we don't want to just, you know, measure our success and our culture as being, you know, an imitation of White society.
We want our own culture, right?
And so that's what's behind the-the Black Arts Movement, starting, you know, with LeRoi Jones, later Amiri Baraka in the, in the, in the mid-'60s, Nikki Giovanni, the poet.
GIOVANNI: And Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman were killed.
And Liuzzo was killed, and Stokely fled the country.
And Le Roi was arrested, and Rap was arrested.
And Pollard, Thompson, and Cooper were killed, and King was killed, and Kennedy was killed.
And sometimes I wonder why I didn't become a debutante sitting on doctor's porches, going to church all the time, wondering is my eye make-up on straight or a withdrawn discoursing on the stars and moon instead of a for-real Black person who must now feel and inflict pain.
WILLIAMS: We talk a lot about the psychological impact and the trauma that's related to segregation.
I think a lot of the Black Arts Movement speaks to that.
♪ SIMONE: There's a world, girl, waiting for you.
♪ ♪ Yours is a quest that's just begun.
♪ ♪ So, when you're feeling depressed... ♪ ♪ Alienated and real low.
♪ ♪ There's a great truth that you should know.
♪ ♪ To be young, gifted and Black.
♪ ♪ Hey, is where it's at!
♪ ♪ It's where it's at.
♪ ♪ It's where it's at.
♪♪ (applause) WILLIAMS: There is this thing that is in the world every day that's trying to kill you, and it fails.
That's this thing that's worth rejoicing.
That's the spirit of the Black Arts Movement.
GATES: Your father was, um, one of the fathers of, uh, the Black Arts Movement.
Why do you think the Black Arts Movement emerged then, at that time?
BARAKA: Larry Neal would say that, uh, the Black Arts Movement was the sister of the Black Power Movement.
GATES: It was.
BARAKA: And-and during that time, you know, just the expression of who we were, uh, the, culturally, the...
The afro, the expression of, of Blackness, of going back to our roots, all of that thing became very, very important to express the, the beauty of Blackness.
I grew up in African preschool.
You know, we would... We would, uh, participate in African weddings, African rituals.
For example, I didn't learn Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs as a kid, I learned Coal Black and de Sebben Simbas.
So... GATES: But sometimes, if you read a novel about Black people, if you see a film about Black people, you think all we do in private is talk about White people, White racism and woe is me.
WHITAKER: Oh, no, no, no.
GATES: And that's just not the truth.
WHITAKER: This is what's great about August Wilson.
He creates an entire world that's just Black folks.
GATES: And, Toni Morrison... WHITAKER: Yeah, yeah.
GATES: Said, invisible to whom?
WHITAKER: Yeah yeah.
GATES: And she said... WHITAKER: But you know... GATES: I'm turning the gaze inward.
GATES: So we're gonna talk about the Black gaze, not the White gaze.
And a whole novel, you know, just with what we have amongst ourselves.
GATES: Right, yeah.
GATES: A self-contained, all-Black universe.
MORRISON: I regard my responsibilities as a Black writer as someone who must bear witness.
Someone who must record the way it used to be.
But I want to make sure that a little piece of the world that I knew, a little piece that I knew, doesn't get forgotten.
COOPER: So, in 1970, you get all of these important books by Black women.
Toni Morrison publishes The Bluest Eye.
Alice Walker publishes her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland.
Uh, Maya Angelou publishes I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
And then, in the 1970s, you also see Toni Morrison going to be an editor at Random House and helping to shepherd through other Black women writers like Gayl Jones, who wrote Corregidora, and like Gloria Naylor, who wrote The Women of Brewster Place.
GATES: Educated at Howard University, Toni Morrison was intent on introducing a Black feminist voice into American literature, celebrating an all-black world beyond the White gaze, in a resonating voice uttered deeply from within the veil.
WILLIAMS: It was important for Morrison to make sure that the world understood that she wasn't the only one.
She didn't want to be "the" Black writer.
She really wanted to create a community of writers.
To remind people that there was a whole host of Black literature.
And that really becomes the incentive for her to work on that book that is actually entitled, The Black Book.
It's called that because she's in part trying to convince the publishing world that Black people buy books, that Black people read books.
COOPER: Now, look.
Black women had been writing novels, uh, since the 19th century.
We have always turned to fictionalized stories to try to tell our truths.
But I think we can all agree, uh, that Mother Toni Morrison is something decidedly different.
And she's different in part because as she said many times, she didn't feel diminished by being a Black woman writer.
She understood her Blackness as a thing that expanded the kinds of stories that she told.
WILLIAMS: What does this Black Is Beautiful thing really mean in the day-to-day?
Is the very question that she asks in The Bluest Eye.
When the book begins something like, "quiet is as kept," or "the marigolds didn't bloom that year," the Black reader, which she says very clearly is her intended audience, feels like they're being let in on a secret and being brought into someone's confidence.
I think the thing that Toni Morrison took away from African writers, most especially, was that if you were talking to people who looked like you, who thought like you, who loved like you, then you could really relax your concern about whether the reader would get it.
You know that the reader will get it because the reader is you.
DAVIS: She developed a way of writing, uh, that um, demonstrated to Black people that we did not have to worry about what White people thought.
MORRISON: I remember a review of Sula in which the reviewer said, "this is all well and good, but one day she," meaning me, "will have to face up the real responsibilities and get mature and write about the real confrontation for Black people, which is White people."
As though our lives have no meaning and no depth without the White gaze.
And I've spent my entire writing life trying to make sure that the White gaze was not the dominant one in any of my books.
DAVIS: She managed to uh, uh write the kind of literature that appeals especially to Black people, but precisely because it so powerfully reflects the Black condition.
It becomes universal and has appeal to people, you know, all around the world.
MORRISON: It's not possible to constantly hone on the crisis.
You have to have the love and you have to have the magic.
That's also life.
GLAUDE: What does it mean to take seriously, our rhythms of life, our speech patterns, right?
And I think she, she was, uh, released into that by the power of the Black Arts Movement in some ways, by Black Power.
It freed us up in offering us a way of imagining ourselves in the fullness of who we are.
GILL: Eunice Johnson, the wife of John Johnson, played a really important role in the popularity of Ebony and Jet Magazine.
But also, she had a vision for Black women and glamour and fashion that she brought to the fore.
She would travel to Europe, and she would go to see many of the fashion shows and the Haute Couture designs and would notice that she would be the only Black woman there.
And she knew the Black women back in America, particularly those in her middle class and elite circles would enjoy this fashion as much as she did.
Ebony fashion shows were also places where many Black designers were able to showcase their work as well.
SMALTZ: Mrs. Johnson selected the most outrageous, fabulous clothes you could possibly imagine.
Je ne sais quoi.
The designer calls this her whoops gown.
She says, Audrey, now, when we buy the dress or gown, it must look good coming and going.
RICE: Through the pages of Ebony and the fashion editorials that my mother did really chronicled what was going on in the African American community.
What was Black Power?
What was to be young, gifted and Black?
Black Is Beautiful.
That permeated throughout the Ebony Fashion Fair show, no question.
PERRY: And you would open up Ebony Magazine and there would be a list of the dates of the tour sites through chocolate cities, you know, cities with significant Black populations.
REPORTER: Even though Miami is one of the top fashion centers in the United States, the Ebony Fashion Fair brought a bold, new look and an exciting flair to Miami's world of fashion.
PERRY: Fashion shows have for generations been this sort of cherished practice in, um in-in Black life, this sort of, as a-a kind of source of pleasure and enjoyment and, um, and-and celebration.
RICE: I will tell you that when the Ebony Fashion Fair rolled into town, it was a big deal for the African American community.
I remember my mother telling me.
She goes, gee, when I look out at the audiences in these different cities, she said, I could do a fashion show just based on the audience.
SMALTZ: Our audience tried to out-dress the show.
I mean, they got dressed to the nines.
RICE: And it was multi-generational.
So, grandmothers would come, granddaughters, mothers, fathers, families, young and old.
HUNTER: I remember it as a child, going with my mother to the Ebony Fashion Fair.
It was always very dramatic, the way the models walked, the kind of commentary that was made by the fabulous mistress of ceremony, Audrey Smaltz.
SMALTZ: Hi, 1975, it's the natural feeling.
A sumptuous solution for those romantic nights that begin over cocktails or dinner and end, who knows where.
I would say fun things about clothes.
I wouldn't tell you what color it was because you could see what color.
I'll never forget, one particular outfit was Bill Blass.
And a young lady named Claudia Tate was in that show.
And it was a gray suit, gray shoes, a hat, fox.
Oh, she was fabulous.
And I would say, what to wear on Sunday when you don't get home till Monday.
Now, people can relate to that, 'cause you know that's happened to you.
It was fun.
I had fun.
I met everybody who's anybody because of the Ebony Fashion Fair.
Sidney Poitier came to the show.
Uh, Muhammad Ali came to the show.
The doctors, lawyers, the hoity-toity, the muck of the muckety-mucks.
(laughs) The Ebony Fashion Fair raised $51 million for charities.
The United Negro College Fund, the Urban League.
Sororities, the AKAs.
They say Alpha Kappa Alpha now because of our first, uh, Miss Madam Vice President.
You name it.
We raised money for all these various, uh, Black charities.
RICE: And I think the legacy for the Ebony Fashion Fair is the showcasing of Black beauty at its finest.
(audience applause) CHISHOLM: It is time that other peoples in America besides White males run for the highest office in this land.
That someday, Blacks will lead this country.
That someday, women will lead this country.
That's what this is all about.
GATES: This burgeoning Black consciousness also dramatically altered the political arena.
By 1972, Black Americans would begin to see the full effects of the voting rights act, through an expansion of their electoral representation at every level across the country.
MOORE: There is Congressional redistricting, which brings African American men and women to Congress.
Many of them were elected in majority-Black districts by overwhelming margins.
So of course, they said, okay, we in many ways are the new voice of Black America.
There will be a big debate in the Black community about what political strategy African Americans needed to take in '72 to get Nixon out of office.
So, there is this convention and it's held in Gary, Indiana, of all places, right?
A working-class community, right outside Chicago, Illinois.
They have a Black mayor, a Black police chief.
There are hardly no hotels.
There is no meeting space.
The convention starts late on a Friday afternoon, because they have it at Westside High School, and they have to wait till school is over to get in there to set up the platform to let them meet.
I think this is just brilliant, that they are having this National Black Political Convention at a Black high school in Gary, Indiana, under the leadership of an African American mayor.
MAN: Let us all stand and sing together, the Black national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing.
♪ Lift every voice and sing ♪ ♪ Till earth and heaven ring ♪ ♪ Ring with the harmonies... ♪ ♪ SPENCER: I think that the National Black Political Convention was about bringing together Black people from all across the political spectrum under the banner of Black unity.
From nationalist to socialist, feminist, people who are working in the electoral system.
The slogan was, "It's Nation Time".
BARAKA: Come out, niggers, come out.
Come out, niggers, come out.
It's nation time...
It's nation time...
It's nation time...
It's nation time... Chant with bells and drummers.
Nation time, it's nation time.
MOORE: Amiri Baraka, you know, an amazing poet, you know, will write this poem called Nation Time.
BARAKA: Nation time building, get up knuckle dragger... MOORE: Jesse Jackson will just take it to a new level.
JACKSON: When we come together, what time is it?!
CROWD: Nation time!
JACKSON: When we respect each other, what time is it?!
CROWD: Nation time!
JACKSON: When we get our self-confidence, what time is it!?
CROWD: Nation time!
JACKSON: When we form our own political party, what time is it?!
CROWD: Nation time!
GATES: Noted Black filmmaker, William Greaves, documented the electrifying scene in his film Nation Time.
Deemed too militant to air in full on broadcast TV, the film also captured civil rights icons Betty Shabazz and Coretta Scott King.
MOORE: I think what it, what, what it was basically saying is that although we are all over the country, and although we have different ideologies and things of that nature, at the end of the day, we are still a nation.
Let's minimize our differences and lets focus on what we have in common for the greater good of the community.
HATCHER: And in our search for political impact, we have held political conventions before.
This is not the first-time Blacks have assembled to chart their political course.
MOORE: Back in the 1830s and '‘40s, we had the Negro Convention Movement.
Where free Blacks would get together, and they would talk about not only how to improve the quality of life for free Blacks but also what they could do for their sisters and brothers who were enslaved.
GLAUDE: There is this insistence that we gather to think about our future, to address the peril.
We have to account for the misery, and we have to imagine, right, what we can do about it.
And it's really important to think about Gary in '72, in that continuum.
Gary is this extraordinary moment where there are these folks who are trying to think about an agenda to respond to the circumstances of Black life.
BARAKA: Resolution heard by the assembly.
Is there a second?
Is there's a motion to adopt that resolution?
Ohio... GATES: Your father played a crucial role in the National Black Political Convention.
Can you talk about the importance of that historically?
BARAKA: Everybody was there, you know.
They all had different ideas about where... Where we should be going.
And-and that was very, very necessary at that time.
I don't think anything of that magnitude has been done to call people from all walks of life.
'Cause people always believe Black people have this kind of monolithic idea of how the world is.
Yeah, but they're not Black.
BARAKA: Right, so, and I thought the process was probably, uh, probably even more important than, than the outcome.
GATES: How important was that to you, to the subsequent direction that your career took, do you think, in retrospect?
BARAKA: I think it helped me understand that that, that, that's, that was a, a tool, something that we needed to be a part of, that we need to use.
Sometimes we pick and choose what we, what we want to be involved in or not involved in.
And I, I always tell people, you, if you're in the middle of a battle, you never put one of your weapons down.
You have to use 'em all.
The problem with politics is we leave it to politicians, right?
So, we-we have to get involved and engaged.
WOMAN: But for myself, I hope that we will be able to get some satisfaction out of this convention because I feel that it's something that is needed for the Black people.
FOREMAN: One of the ways in which Black people are put under pressure by White Supremacy is that we are called upon to be unified and if we are not unified, our political strategy and strategizing is seen as a failure.
But Black people are united about what they want.
They want Black freedom, they want Black dignity, they want Black rights.
(overlapping chanting) CROWD: Gay, gay all the way!
Gay, gay all the way!
Gay, gay all the way!
Gay, gay all the way!
JASON: The Stonewall Riot occurs in 1969.
And it's really the beginning of gay liberation movements.
But it's not necessarily liberation for everyone.
There are a lot of gay people of color and bisexual people of color and lesbians and so on, who are not really included always in some of those official kinds of liberation movements and practices.
And so, there are a lot of establishments where, uh, gay people of color don't necessarily feel comfortable.
One of the strategies, um, that you see emerging out of gay communities, uh... of color in the 1970s is to create our own clubs, our own spaces, our own worlds where we can thrive.
Paradise Garage, which launches in 1977, is downtown.
It's funky with Black and Latino DJs who are spinning music that relates to the hopes and fantasies and desires and needs of Black gay people at that time.
It was membership-oriented.
You had to actually pay a fee to get in.
You had to be invited.
But if you got in, you were going to have the most ecstatic, transcendent time of your life.
♪ ♪ And part of the reason for that is because they had one of the greatest DJs who ever lived, Larry Levan.
Larry Levan was a DJ genius who had an encyclopedic knowledge of music.
LOVING: African records, disco records, soul records, R&B, experimental sounds.
Larry used to play soundtracks from, like, The Wizard of Oz.
JASON: While he was spinning a piece of music, he might stop the music and just let the silence linger.
And then people would scream and scream and scream and then... (scoffs).
He would hit you with the track again.
It's so difficult to have these multiple stigmas, right, to be a person of color, to be a person who's marked by sexual difference.
But then to come into a nightclub where, it's a world that's catered to you, where the music is catered to you, where the experience is catered to you.
But you're transformed by these ecstatic moments, you're transformed by them forever.
♪ ♪ FAB 5 FREDDY: Without anybody realizing it outside of the urban community, the DJ set up his sound system tapped into the streetlights, which is how we got the power.
It'd be 300, 400, 500, 600, 1,000 people out after dark, throwing our hands in the air.
And then that developed into a platform.
At first, it was just, hey, I want to party.
I'm doing all this stuff.
But then it became a way to express ourselves.
When Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel and them made a record called The Message, it articulated exactly how we were living.
♪ FLASH: Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge.
♪ ♪ I'm trying not to lose my head.
♪ ♪ Huh-huh-huh-huh, it's like a jungle sometimes ♪ ♪ it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.
♪ ♪ FAB 5 FREDDY: So those things got put to the beat and then went across the country and then around the entire globe.
FAB 5 FREDDY: Yo, what's up everybody?
It's Fab 5 Freddy saying what's up, you know what I'm saying.
Big shout out to everybody all around the globe especially people in Amsterdam, Italy, Japan, Brazil, wherever you are baby, ghetto to ghetto coast to coast.
GATES: I never dreamed that hip hop would be 50 years old, and that it would make it that long, I'm an old school Black man.
WHITAKER: What was powerful about hip hop wasn't just the music, it was that it was ours.
And it's saying, we want to create something that's really completely new and all our own.
GATES: Uh-huh WHITAKER: And that reflects, you know, a very specific Black point of view, and I think ironically, it took the generation that had new opportunities available to them under integration to actually do that.
♪ CHUCK D: I got a letter from the government the other day.
♪ ♪ I opened and read it, it said they were suckers.
♪ ♪ They wanted me for their army or whatever ♪ ♪ Picture me giving a damn, I say never.
♪ ♪ GATES: Public Enemy's Chuck D famously said that "hip hop is Black folk's CNN..." with its insistent focus on issues central to the Black community like urban poverty, policing, and mass incarceration.
Elizabeth, I wanted to talk to you about policing.
Now your work traced the relationship between aggressive policing, and the Black community.
Well, when did these policies start to emerge, and why?
HINTON: On one level, right, Black communities have been disproportionately policed since emancipation.
But it really reaches a whole new level at the height of progressive social change and the Civil Rights Movement in 1965.
When Lyndon Johnson, one week before he sends the Voting Rights Act to Congress sends the Law Enforcement Assistance Act to Congress, which starts a role for the federal government and local police, prisons, and court systems for the first time in US history.
So, it's this carrot and the stick of crime control and a war on poverty and civil rights and expanded policing all at the same time.
You know the group of people who policymakers saw as responsible for the unrest in the nation's cities were Black youth between the ages of 15 and 24, and this was the group that was really targeted by federal policymakers for the expansion of these new policing and surveillance measures.
GATES: Two of the legacies, ironically, of the Civil Rights Movement... On one hand, we have more Black people in college.
And simultaneously we have more Black people, particularly Black men, in prison.
HINTON: In fact, every time, you know, the bounds of citizenship expand whether it's slavery and we get Black Codes and convict leasing and a system of targeted incarceration or the Civil Rights Movement, civil rights legislation, and we get mass criminalization and mass incarceration.
FAVORS: You begin to see Reaganism emerging in the 1980s, which in itself proves to be a major threat to Black institutions and organizations.
And that is going to ultimately develop into a political cause.
HBCUs become a vital space where young Black folks can begin to question and think more critically about how they can use their voices against South African apartheid, how they can use their voices against mass incarceration.
HBCU's in the 1980s are really kind of undergoing this sort of renaissance.
You begin to see the HBCU life being celebrated.
LOVING: You had shows, like A Different World and School Daze by Spike Lee, which really glamorized and gave a window into Black college life.
And so, I wanted to be a part of that.
HARDISON: Yo, the pledges are looking good, man.
BELL: We've been working on that step for days, and they finally got it down.
HARDISON: Look at that.
BELL: Notice the unity of the unison.
There's wonders here.
COOPER: I remember as a high school student, I wanted to go to Howard because Thurgood Marshall had gone to Howard.
Howard creates an expectation of excellence, and you see Black brilliance and you learn that there are so many ways to be Black.
It is the most expansive conception of Blackness that I imagine anyone could ever experience outside of the African continent.
You have professors who push you and prod you.
And they say you're gonna be somebody because our people need for you to be somebody.
That is something that no other college culture is built to do.
OBAMA: Even as we each embrace our own beautiful, unique and valid versions of our Blackness, remember the tie that does bind us as African Americans.
And that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle.
GATES: With a Black man in the White House, it seemed that Black America, that nation within a nation, had finally reached the pinnacle of power and acceptance, a space that some wistfully called post-racial.
Yet, as we would quickly see, racial progress, once again, would be met with the sting of a resurgent White supremacy.
OBAMA: Now, there are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants.
This too is false.
The reforms, the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
(Congress members booing).
BECK: This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy over and over and over again who has a deep-seated hatred for White people or the White culture.
I don't know why that is.
WHITAKER: When you look at Black history, it's also important to look at the pattern of backlash.
Barack Obama is elected as the first Black President, and then all of a sudden you have a resurgence in demands for voter restrictions that we thought we had gotten rid of-of 50 years ago.
And this is not an accident.
LEWIS: There was this notion for a while that somehow with the election of Barack Obama we were in a post-racial America.
And I think what we have come to realize is we have never been post-racial.
Race still counts in so many ways.
REPORTER: A Florida family is desperate for answers and justice.
Their son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed.
He was walking towards his father's home in a gated community, carrying a bag of Skittles and iced tea.
GATES: Much like the lynching of Emmett Till, the killing of an innocent teenager horrified the Black community.
And when the killer was acquitted, it was a punch in the gut.
FULTON: My heart is broken.
That's the first and foremost.
That was my baby, and I just want to appeal to you all.
If you have kids, if you have children, and if something happens to your children, you want to know what happened.
as a parent, you want some answers to your questions.
DAVIS: This is the origin of the Black Lives Matter movement, the resistance that was generated in the response to the murder of Trayvon Martin.
GROUP: Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin, Trayvon Martin.
WHITAKER: Black Lives Matter essentially started as a social media phenomenon.
Alicia Garza and, and Opal Tometi and, and, and Patrisse Cullors, you know, really started talking about Black Lives Matter on Facebook and on Twitter.
GROUP: Black Lives Matter!
Black Lives Matter!
Black Lives Matter!
Black Lives Matter!
COOPER: When Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, we knew to pay attention as Black communities to it, because people in the community started Tweeting pictures of his body laying in the street for 4.5 hours and we're enraged because, why is this Black boy laying in the street?
Why won't y'all take him away?
Why are you subjecting his mother to this?
And in that moment, part of what we have to accord to the Movement for Black Lives beyond what it has done for Black people, it shifted the entirety of how media works, right?
Because it took away the power of mainstream media to control the narrative and to tell us what the news was.
Because when they didn't tell the story right, then these citizen journalists could create viral moments of checking the reporting about what was going on in the streets.
And they helped to create a, a, a narrative of healthy skepticism about how the mainstream media was articulating what was going on with Black life.
MILLER: I would also say we've always managed to find ways to articulate our trauma but also turn it into something that we all can understand.
And I feel like if you ever go on Black Twitter and see the comedy that lives in there... FAB 5 FREDDY: Oh, god.
MILLER: Then you know, right.
And sometimes it's things that only we understand... GATES: Right.
FAB 5 FREDDY: Yes.
MILLER: Or can get.
RICHARDSON: That's what Black Twitter is.
It is a spot for the intersection of comedy and intellectualism in ways that I have never seen before.
And all these kind of memes are on its face hilarious but meant to really critique a cultural, uh, wrong.
COOPER: Black Twitter is all about Black people just signifying on each other, just dragging each other, wordplay, uh, changing hashtags up, and making a mockery of things with that kind of signature Black wit that is rooted in that practice of laughing to keep from crying.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ FRAZIER: I heard George Floyd say I can't breathe, please get off of me.
I can't breathe.
He, he cried for his mom.
He was in pain.
It seemed like he knew.
It seemed like he knew it was over for him.
He was terrified.
RICHARDSON: If we think about lynching and lynching photographs, there are no Black people in the corners of those pictures, in the fringes of the crowd, huddled together.
They were fleeing town.
The Black press tells us so.
That there were mass exoduses every single time that there was a lynching people just up and leave because they were so scared.
With the cell phone, this is the first time where somebody can put their body in harm's way to stand with that person.
FRAZIER: When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad.
I look at my brothers.
I look at my cousins, my uncles because they're all Black.
And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them.
RICHARDSON: And if we think about what Darnella Frazier did at 17 years old, she said with her smart phone to Mr. Floyd, I will not leave you by yourself.
I am gonna make sure people know your name and I am going to try to get justice for you.
MAN: George Floyd.
CROWD: George Floyd.
CROWD: George Floyd.
CROWD: George Floyd.
CROWD: George Floyd.
LEWIS: It is a reason why we all stop and mourn the loss of a George Floyd but we are also reminded that George Floyd was not alone.
GROUP: You with us!
You with us!
LEWIS: There is a sad honor roll of men and women who have given their lives in the United States not because they did anything wrong, but being labeled Black meant that they were deemed somehow and in some way either a criminal, or a danger, or a threat.
MILLER: We are in a pandemic, but there are two pandemics taking place in America.
We shouldn't wait for another hashtag.
We shouldn't wait for another video of a Black person dying to realize that we are still in a state of emergency.
GATES: Talk about how you and your colleagues are using social media to affect these ends of social justice.
MILLER: One of the beautiful things about social media is that it creates a decentralized platform, right, for you to elevate what's happening in your community.
On May 31st when we organized our first protest for Freedom March NYC, we literally posted the flyer 12:00 PM that afternoon, and by 8 PM that night, it became one of the largest nonviolent protests in New York City.
And so, I think that's a testament to the power of young people.
But I also think that's a testament to the power of how we use social media.
GROUP: Trust Black women!
MILLER: Black lives matter!
GROUP: Black lives matter!
BALDWIN: For a generation like my own who thought that the Black President would be the answer, these individual charismatic leaders would push us through, the generations coming behind me say, well, we grew up with that Black President, and we still face social, political, economic inequality.
They turn to Black social networks and organizing in a collective way.
And the only reason why we have this groundswell of reckoning with racial inequality is because people dared to turn back to the collective possibility of mass mobilization.
GATES: For centuries, starting with slavery, followed by Jim Crow segregation, racism has been a fault line running straight through the American experience.
Race has shaped where Black people could live, how they saw themselves, and what kind of future they could hope to achieve.
But remarkably, Black people survived the strictures of racism by creating their own world, a sepia world, a nexus of formal and informal spaces by us and for us.
JASON: When we talk about Black social networks, what we're really talking about is how Black people create spaces where we can be seen and where we can be heard by each other.
FIELDS: They're a place to, you know, celebrate.
That often gets overlooked.
When we talk about Black life, particularly in America, it's like, sometimes you just want to celebrate how dope it is to be Black.
And that's important particularly in a country that, the best you could say, is misunderstands Black people, and the most damning thing you can say is, doesn't care about Black people.
GATES: Generation after generation, these organizations, institutions, and social networks have been a shelter in the storm.
A place from which to demand that America confront its failures and finally live up to its ideals.
GLAUDE: You know, folks are still going to HBCUs, thank God.
Folks are still going to church, going to mosque.
Folks are still organizing.
Folk are still partying together.
We're resilient folk.
We're resilient folk, even in our darkest hour, you know, there are these eruptions of joy.
GATES: What does Black joy mean to you?
HINTON: Black joy means being in a safe space and feeling free.
And usually, it's with other Black people, where you feel like you can really be yourself.
That's when you experience that joy.
Without that joy, then I don't know how I would survive.
FAB 5 FREDDY: I think Black joy is our genetic coding that's, like, throw your hands in the air, that, and wave 'em like you just don't care, that common hip-hop.
That's what joy is.
It's like, no matter what burden has been put on the people that have this darker skin, there has been a way to shake it off, rise up, and to celebrate.
And that is joy.
MILLER: Being Black in America is taxing.
Let's, let's start there.
Being an activist and Black in America is extremely taxing.
To be able to do this work, you cannot do that without being whole first.
You cannot take on the world without first taking care of yourself.
And so, I think it's really important that when we see trauma, that we also resist that trauma with joy.
WHITAKER: For me, Black joy is community.
That sense of community manifested in our social relationships, our culture, and our laughter.
I mean, laughter is at the heart of it.
GATES: On Juneteenth, finally, a federal holiday, joyful celebrations of the triumphs of the Black past and hopes for a victorious future are on full display.
It's a time to reflect on the enduring legacies of our small nation of people.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ NARRATOR: Dive deeper at pbs.org/makingblackamerica.
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