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This is an email from Keepin' It 💯, a newsletter by ZORA.

2020 just won’t let up

ZORA Fam,

Monday night’s Verzuz R&B matchup between Brandy and Monica, with 1.1 million viewers tuning in, wasn’t just a historic moment. It was relief. On the last day of a month riddled with pain, during a year of unrelenting sorrow, Brandy and Monica gave us their hits, as we gathered across social platforms to reminisce about the ’90s and ’00s, fire off jokes about white shoes, and dissect the body language of our two faves. This colossal collaboration was delightful. One that we weren’t sure we’d experience because of the singers’ so-called feud. Yet we got what we wanted, at a much-needed time.

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There’s no need for me to rattle off the various losses that we’ve experienced this year because we’re all witnesses. That’s why a moment like Brandy and Monica coming together, much like other Verzuz battles, matters so much. These IG televised pairings lift us out of our collective grief to congregate for a few hours of solace. Throughout our history, collaborations across disciplines have given us an escape from what feels inescapable. During the 1960s and 1970s shows like Soul! and Black Journal brought Black folks together for artistic performances and revolutionary conversations that not only shaped and advanced the culture, they also provided a balm for the brutal realities of Black life.

In one episode of Soul!, host and co-producer Ellis Haizlip brought together six Black women poets, including Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez, for a showcase of truth telling. Haizlip went on to pair Giovanni with James Baldwin and Muhammad Ali for riveting conversations. He also connected Giovanni with The New York Community Choir on Soul!, with her stunning words against the backdrop of gospel voices. On Black Journal, Giovanni engaged with Lena Horne for a sister-to-sister interview in 1970. Three years later, the show pulled together a roundtable of Black iconic leaders including Fannie Lou Hamer, Angela Davis, and Kwame Ture (née Stokely Carmichael) for deep discourse.

Each of these collaborations offered Black viewers reprieve. A chance to relish in powerhouses coming together. A chance to be affirmed and comforted by each other through art and discussion.

“It kept us from being so weary from the battles and confrontations and the deaths,” Sonia Sanchez said recently during a virtual event, discussing the significance of Soul! “The show gave us the culture to keep moving.”

Modern-day collaborations — including Cari Champion and Jemele Hill, who deliver levity with their late night television show — do the same. It’s in these joint efforts that we find medicine for a 2020 that just won’t let up.

Take care,

Christina M. Tapper, ZORA deputy editor

P.S. To learn more about Soul!, watch the 2018 documentary Mr. Soul!, available via virtual theaters. To watch episodes of Black Journal, click here.

Zero to 💯

Who kept it 100 this week? Let’s take a look.

Niecy Nash’s Wedding Announcement 💯/💯

We’re overjoyed to learn that Niecy and her partner Jessica Betts tied the knot. Love wins.

Director Ryan Coogler’s Moving Tribute to Chadwick Boseman 💯/💯

After the unexpected death of Boseman, Coogler writes, “he was an epic firework display.” We couldn’t agree more.

New Netflix Releases 💯/💯

We can’t get enough of Black women-centered nostalgia. Time to cue up Set It Off and all six seasons of Sister Sister.

Chloe x Halle’s “Ungodly Hour” Performance at the VMAs 💯/💯

The sister duo are the real MVPs of quarantine shows. With impeccable lighting and metallic costumes, they transformed their home tennis court into a stage and owned it.

Adele At Notting Hill Carnival: 🚮

Donning bantu knots and a Jamaican flag bikini top, Adele was rolling in the deep end of cultural appropriation.

The Best of Us

ICYMI, here are some of our favorite ZORA stories

How ‘Moesha’ Reinforces Capitalistic Ideology

Breaking Down the Brandy and Monica Beef

Niecy Nash Is the Hardest Working Woman in Hollywood

Abby Johnson’s Video Shows the Problem With White Parents Adopting Children of Color

Stop Asking If I’m Hot in My Hijab

The Difficulty Finding a Therapist as an Interracial Couple

‘Lovecraft Country’ Disrupts the Mammy Caricature Trope

🗣️ The Last Word 🗣️

“Joy is our most powerful counter narrative and has the capacity to decolonize imaginations.” — Aja Monet

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A publication from Medium that centers the stories, poetry, essays and thoughts of women of color.

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Christina M. Tapper

Christina M. Tapper

Rule breaker, champion of women and education, and recovering sports journalist.

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