On Sundays we watch Insecure, a show that celebrates Black life, Black love, and Black excellence. But if you’re Issa Rae, and Black people are on the streets protesting injustice, protesting racism, fighting for their lives, how do you promote your television show while honouring and respecting the cause? As Issa shared on Twitter last night, it all comes from the same place. Because joy is a form of resistance. Also, as I wrote last week when I posted about Tyrone Edwards and the grief and pain he showed on The Social on Thursday, as allies, we need to acknowledge the mental and physical toll that is part of the Black experience. Our friends and colleagues are exhausted. But they also need all their energy to survive. The way to balance the fatigue and stay strong for the right to simply exist is to find joy – and then revel in it. Which is why it was so fitting that last night’s episode of Insecure was called “Lowkey Happy”:
When they wrote and produced the episode, obviously, they couldn’t know about the COVID-19 pandemic, how it would disproportionately affect the Black community. And while of course Black people have known about the pandemic of racism, there was no predicting that this episode would land just as Black people would be taking to the streets in cities across America and the world demanding justice. Even though Issa addressed the timing of it though, as you can see from the tweet above, for many people, the timing was exactly right – you might even say it was divine. The episode was a source of comfort for many in the Black community and a reminder about what they and we are pushing for: the basic right to be happy, to live full and complicated and interesting lives free from persecution and prosecution:
I love that Issa specifically mentioned what LA looks like in this episode, and in all the episodes of Insecure, actually. I have said before in this space that Los Angeles is not my favourite city. But LA has never looked and felt as beautiful as it does through the lens of Issa and the Insecure team – that is, through the Black lens, the Black experience. This, then, illuminates the importance of centering different voices and different people in storytelling. And the difference that can make in storytelling. We also saw this in the film The Sun Is Also A Star with views of New York that we don’t often see in film and television.
The physical space is an extension of the internal space, the lives of others with whom we share our cities, our towns, our offices, our websites, and more. This is the value of diversity – in understanding how other people live, where they live, and the lives that are lived on those streets, at those corners, in those shops and restaurants, builds empathy for those whose experiences are not ours. And it’s a testament that those experiences are just as important, just as valued, as the ones that are constantly, unfairly, at the forefront. Issa, as always, is doing the work.