Inspired by Sean “Diddy” Combs’ successful “State Of Emergency: The State of Black America & Coronavirus” town hall, “REVOLT BLACK NEWS” is a platform that is designed to report news from the perspective of Black people for Black people.
To kick off the second season of “REVOLT BLACK NEWS,” the episode titled “2021 in Amerikkka” discussed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ inauguration, the U.S. Capitol riots and Georgia’s historic Senate wins. Host and executive producer Eboni K. Williams was joined by Tamika Mallory, Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Dr. Bernard Ashby, Kimberly Latrice Jones, Jeff Johnson, Harvey Mason Jr. and Tanya Christian.
“It’s a new year, but is it a new beginning?” Williams asked at the start of the season premiere as she reported from the inauguration in Washington, D.C. “This might be 2021, but is America still spelled with three K’s?”
Williams was first joined by Johnson and their first topic of discussion was Vice President Harris’ homage to Shirley Chisholm at the inauguration. “Her road to running was very different than Kamala Harris’. I try not to make unfair historical comparisons because frankly I don’t think that our current vice president can stand next to Shirley Chisolm the same way, and she shouldn’t. She’s a different person,” he said, and continued to use the example of Barack Obama and how the Black community believed that we had voted in “a superhero” when he was in fact “a politician.”
“I think we have to measure expectations in a real way. Not only for ourselves but really to be fair to her,” Johnson added. “I acknowledge the cultural history of the moment and I celebrate it, but I try not to do it to the degree that I lose sight of the fact that I gotta hold her accountable as vice president of the United States even more than celebrate her as a sister.”
Johnson and Williams continued to converse about the youngest inaugural poet, 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, and Howard University’s marching band, which Williams deemed as “hope, a new day, a new reckoning.” On the concept of pageantry versus actual cultural shift, Johnson said that it’s both. “It’s supposed to be pageantry today,” he said regarding the celebration of a new president and vice president. “Don’t get caught up in the party because at some point, someone’s gonna say you ain’t have to leave but you gotta get outta here, the celebration’s gonna be over and governing begins.”
Next, Williams went through last night’s “Headlines.” They included Biden being sworn in as the 46th president — and at 78 years old, making history as the oldest leader to take the oath of office; Harris being sworn in as the first woman, first South Asian and the first Black person of any gender to be the vice president; Trump commuting the sentence of Death Row Records co-founder Michael “Harry-O” Harris, and the pardoning of Lil Wayne. In COVID-related news, Williams shared that over 400,000 COVID deaths have been reported in the United States and more than 100,000 of those deaths occurred in the last five weeks.
After a short tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. in honor of Day of Service and a breakdown of Biden’s inauguration speech, the host was joined by Mallory, Kimberly and Dr. Ashby. “I really have been challenging myself with this thought of the use of the word ‘reform.’ Reform has not worked,” Mallory admitted as she discussed her expectations for social justice and its relationship to the new administration “because of the fact that the systems are so deeply rooted in racism that has existed since the foundation of this nation, it will not change because there is a new face. There actually has to be a tearing down of the old mindset and building up something new.”
On Biden’s Cabinet selection, which is said to be one of the most historically diverse in the nation’s history, Kimberly referred back to Gary Chambers Jr., candidate for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, to support her opinion. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t see any African-American men on those lists at all,” she said.
“It’s an opportunity for us to stand up for and give voice to the very person who’s receiving some of the worst atrocities in these moments and in these times. That is a voice that needs to be in the room [and that] is the voice of the African-American male. I’m concerned that we haven’t seen any at this point and what that will continue to look like.”
Williams then welcomed Dr. Ashby to discuss the latest COVID-19 developments and the Black community. Regarding the vaccine rollout plan as announced by the Biden-Harris administration, he ruled that it was “pretty obvious” as far as scaling up production and distribution.
“It’s something that should’ve been done from the get-go and this basically goes back to what we’ve seen time and time again from the Trump administration,” the doctor said. He also used Governor DeSantis as an example of “individuals who really can’t think beyond profit.” As far as whether or not Black people should actually take the vaccine, he says it’s safe and gave it his stamp of approval. Since his last discussion of the vaccine, Dr. Ashby has been vaccinated himself. “You are boosting your immunity, you’re gonna have a much more robust immune response and when folks have these symptoms, that is the immune system responding to the vaccine,” he explained as he referred to fevers, arm soreness and fatigue.
Valeisha moderated a conversation between Mason and Christian about diversity and inclusion in The Recording Academy, the entertainment industry and beyond. Mason shared the objectives of The Recording Academy’s task force including its partnership with Color of Change and the foundation of Black Music Collective. “There’s so many firsts over at The Academy over the last twelve months. The list is long,” he said while adding that Valeisha was the first chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
Christian touched on the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the print media industry, specifically Black media to “make difficult decisions,” as stated by Valeisha. While he admitted that she was affected directly as a journalist, Valeisha acknowledged that Black media in general was “hit pretty hard.” “I hope that they’re all able to make a comeback,” she said as she gave props to EBONY magazine prepping for its comeback. “I pray that this is temporary and that we continue to see these brands thrive in the future.”
On a closing note, Williams expressed her excitement to be back for a second season, but reminded us that there is much work to do. “These elected officials are supposed to represent us. They work for us,” she told REVOLT viewers. “We must peacefully and respectfully remind them and make our voices heard.” As she encouraged the audience to call the Georgia House of Representatives, Williams affirmed the importance of replacing a statue of former Confederate Vice President Stephens with the “late and very great” John Lewis.