2020 was a year. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Because this whole endeavor is about positivity, I won’t even speak on any of the negativity.
What I will say is that 2020 did provide many moments of positivity in the form of movies and television, and the internet straight showed out. I think most of us got into the lemons-int0-lemonade business to laugh in order to keep from crying. And that’s why The Root’s The Blackest Awards exists—known henceforth and throughout this awards season as The Skippies, in honor of the co-founder of The Root, Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr.
With that said, a crew of pals and confidants worked tirelessly and endlessly to come up with a set of categories and nominees to celebrate the Blackness around us, especially during movie awards season where we often tend to feel overlooked and under-represented. And hey, if you win a Skippy, be very clear that this is something that you can put on your resume. So without further ado, let’s get right into the 2021 Skippies! The Root readers’ votes have been tallied and we did not have to recount or fear an insurrection to certify the results. The people spoke and the other people listened! Congratulations to all who were nominated and especially all those who won. You are appreciated, we thank you for letting us be ourselves.
Chadwick Boseman was a brotha who embodied many of our heroes, from Jackie Robinson to T’Challa. His style and grace brought something significant to each role, so much so that the news of his passing hit like a brick. Everybody was affected by his death; he meant that much and affected us that forcefully. In honor of the work that Chadwick was able to do while he was here, we honor him with the Clifton Powell Lifetime Achievement Award. Rest in power doesn’t quite sum it all up, but it’s what we have to work with. Rest well, Chadwick. You are missed.
When we all realized we’d be stuck in the house for a while (well some of us; some of you never got the “Let’s end this COVID-19 thing by staying home” memo; I’m looking at you Atlanta), one person stepped up to the plate in such a way that he damn near redefined just how to do quarantine. Folks spent their days getting ready for D-Nice’s Club Quarantine. And for a time, it was the MOST poppin’ club that ever existed. It was nothing to see famous folks hop in—via their IG accounts—from the Obamas to Joe Biden and every rapper, ballplayer and influencer in between. D-Nice became a story on all major outlets and deservedly so. He filled a void and we are all appreciative of it.
Ziwe Fumudoh is a comedian and television show writer. She is also a bad motha-shut yo’ mouth who just so happened to start an IG Live talk show during quarantine where she baited the shit out of lots of folks (fite wholks especially) into checking their privilege and dealing with problematic...problems. You knew that when you tuned into her IG Live talk show, you might see fireworks of the kind that even Katy Perry might enjoy. I know I did. And considering the state of the country during this quarantine and how many grappling conversations about race needed to happen, Ziwe made sure to have them even if the guests didn’t know it was coming. Salute.
Regina King really put her foot all up and through the film, One Night in Miami... She took a play written by Kemp Powers and turned it into a made-for- the-big-screen bonanza. And it was her first turn directing a feature. Way to come out the gate swinging. Shoutout to Regina King for winning the Skippy for her wonderful directorial essence.
I can’t do it, but you or somebody you know has tried it and probably uploaded it to social media. Even Megan Thee Stallion got in on the action, which...how cool is that? Imagine creating a social media challenge based on a jam and then the person whose song inspired it actually rocks with you? I believe we call that “winning.” Shoutout to Keara Wilson for her win. The Skippies are glad to have her amongst our ranks.
If you watch television and movies where Black folks are, then you have seen Stacey Morris’ work. She’s been part of some of the most iconic movies and television shows and hasn’t slowed down since. She was the Kid ‘n Play’s hairstylist in House Party in 1990 and also part of the team for the soon-to-be-released Coming 2 America. If that ain’t Black excellence, I don’t know what is. Congratulations on the Skippy for an exhibition of such prolific excellence in the Black Hair Arts.
Verzuz was one of the best things to come out of the Pandemic World Order. Swizz Beatz and Timbaland launched a whole-ass series that allowed us to all huddle around our phones and listen to artists we love trade jams back and forth. When we got word that Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight were going to “face-off” we knew we were in for a treat. Between the two of them, they shared stories, sang their songs, had all the aunties in attendance and Dionne Warwick even showed up. It was that chicken soup for the soul we all needed and for that reason, it’s no surprise that it won the Skippy!
Rappa or Sanger Ternt Acta Award for Best Turn as an Actor by a Person We Mostly Know for Rappin’ or Sangin’
Power Book II: Ghost is a great show for all of the right and wrong reasons. But above all else, one of the reasons the show is so wildly entertaining is Mary J. Blige’s turn as Monét Tejada, a crime-boss in Queens, N.Y., who is Geppetto, pulling the strings of all of her family’s moves. She has a cold, calculated menace to her interpretation that makes her a thrill to see on screen. And she said, “no more drama.” Take this Skippy, Mary. This dancery is a riot.
The writers’ room at Insecure HQ stays winning. Every single episode provides some new fodder for the interwebs to get up in arms about. But they REALLY outdid themselves last season when they turned the heat all the way up, AND RIGHT AFTER A FREAKIN’ BEAUTIFUL BOTTLE EPISODE WITH LAWRENCE AND ISSA, and had Lawrence knocking up Condola. Whew, chile. Every week I say, can they do it again? And every week, they do it again. Shoutout to the two branches of government, presidential and financial.
That’s So 2020 Award for Most Unexpected Thing That Happened in 2020 in the Television or Cinematic Arts
2020 was a year full of surprises. For those of us who grew up in the ’90s on television shows like Martin, Family Matters and Living Single, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air holds special resonance. Especially those early seasons featuring Janet Hubert, where she kept Will in line and gave him some much-needed knowledge of himself. So it was a surprise to us all when one day, we turned on the show and she was gone, only to find out that behind the scenes, a shitshow was a-brewing. Apparently, Will and Janet had a falling out, both for personal and professional reasons, and she was un-amicably excommunicated from the show. Well, in 2020, in celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the show’s launch, the cast AND viewers got a surprise when Will and Janet both sat down to hash out their differences, say sorry to one another, hug and move on, together. It was a beautiful thing to watch and tears were shed. Unsurprisingly, for our That’s So 2020 Award, the reconciliation between the two linchpins of the show walks away with the Skippy!
Lovecraft Country is one of those shows that is appointment viewing once you get into it. You just need to know what’s going to happen and if you haven’t seen it, I promise you that you aren’t prepared. Developed by outstanding writer, director and producer Misha Green and starring Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country is one of those shows that illustrates the breadth and the expanse with which Black stories can be told. And for that, it held the audience’s heart for a Skippy.
Our only two-time winner at this year’s Skippies, One Night in Miami...is a force of a film. Four beloved Black men gather after one of Muhammad Ali’s fights and have a far-ranging discussion about everything from manhood and their places in the struggle for equality. It’s a riveting piece that manages to allow space for each of the larger than life figures to be seen and felt. Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown (only Jim Brown is still alive; both Sam Cooke and Malcolm X would be dead within a year from this fateful, it-actually-happened meeting). The film is a must-see. And that’s why it walked away with the Skippie!
Wipe Down the Switch Before You Bussit But Don’t Rush Award for Best Social Media Challenge/Meme/Occasion That Got Us Through Quarantine
I mean, was there anything more entertaining than the viral sensation that came of the detainment of Johnniqqua Charles of Dillon, S.C., after she tried to re-enter a strip club? I think not. It made unintentional stars of Charles and the club’s security for the evening, Julius Locklear. And when she busted into her rap, we all felt her. And when the remix savant, iMarkkeyz and DJ Suede the Remix God got on the case it was an absolute wrap. I mean, you can buy the song on iTunes. Read that again, and the shit absolutely jams. I couldn’t vote—it wouldn’t be ethical to vote for categories I created—but if I could, I would have voted for this, too. Shoutout to Ms. Charles. Here’s a Skippy for your time.
Lift Ev’ry Voice Award for Best Political Coverage by a Black Person During This Gawdawful Presidential Election Season
The 2020 Presidential election cycle was awful for many reasons, but chief among them was the presence of You Know Who 45. It culminated with a whole-ass insurrection at the U.S. Capitol as Congress was coming together to certify the results of the election that would make Joe Biden and Kamala Harris the nation’s next president and vice president. Well, Joy-Ann Reid was out here doing the Lord’s work, keeping us both informed and abreast of the goings ons with smart and essential coverage that spoke the needs and questions of the populace. Thank you, Joy-Ann Reid, for your work and here, please take this Skippy and have a vacation on us (on you, but on us spiritually).
You Finna Get Hit by This Glass Award for Best Reality TV Show Featuring Your Cousins You Only Claim Because They’re on Television
I mean, did you expect anything else? The squad down in Atlanta showed up and showed out and held on to that top spot for reality television eyes and hearts. To our dearest Real Housewives of Atlanta, for your contributions to the reality show arts and shenanigans, this Skippy is for you!
There are sports docuseries and then there is The Last Dance, ESPN’s 10-part series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 1997-1998 season, dubbed “The Last Dance” by Phil Jackson as he, Jordan and Scottie Pippen seemed to be aware that it was the end of the line for one of the most dominant dynasties in sports history. The series, moved up by several months (reportedly it wasn’t even complete by the time the first two episodes aired), put a spotlight on Jordan’s history into the league and his time in and out of the league. It shined a light on his relationship with players and folks around him, was surprisingly devoid of his wife and children and because he literally approved everything, was exactly how he felt about his teammates, many of whom were not fans of the doc. But as far as edutainment goes, The Last Dance was top shelf and for that, it won the Skippy for documentaries. Congrats!!
And that concludes the 2021 Skippies. Thank you for participating and sleepwalking with us! Stay tuned for 2022 and the Skippies. If we can all go outside again, we may have a whole lot more in store!
But until then...