Black History Month 2016 is set to end Monday with a bang, and that sound won’t come from a gavel, either. Still, the verdict is in: These past 29 days may have well been draped in Kente cloth while hoisting a defiant fist in the air, and the social media consensus seems to be that this February has been the “blackest” of any on record.
The “Blackest Black History Month” got underway with the typical array of breakfast events serving so-called traditional black food and commemorating the usual suspects — African-American pioneers who have made considerable and noteworthy contributions to society that often go forgotten or overlooked. But it was everything that happened between then and now that generated both good and bad attention for black people. And while there isn't enough space in this story for all the moments this month that brought an unprecedented amount of blackness to the forefront, we've whittled it down to these seven instances (in no particular order) that made it all but impossible to ignore.
The 2016 Academy Awards
From the release of its diversity-challenged nominations to the show itself, the 2016 Oscars have been dripping in relative blackness all month long. The attention culminated Sunday night when comedian and actor Chris Rock hosted the show and brought relentless attention to the lack of black actors and to blackcentric movies that were seemingly ignored, especially in the past two years.
His monologue included a number of barbs that allowed an unprecedented amount of airtime that he used to blast the show's organizers and judges for selecting only white actors for the major film categories:
"You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job!" he said early on.
While not all black folks were happy with his at times-scathing monologue, the prevailing sentiment is that his efforts likely helped to emphasize the absence of black people in the awards nomination process.
Sharpton in Harlem Being Courted by Democrats
Presidential candidates wooing black voters is nothing new, but this election season has brought a renewed effort to secure the backing of African-Americans, resulting in the two Democratic candidates seeking the endorsement of the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist whose support could translate into overwhelming voter turnout for the candidate he backs.
First it was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who scheduled a sit-down with him at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in central Harlem, one of the oldest African-American neighborhoods in the U.S.
The day after the New Hampshire primary, which ended in Bernie Sanders' resounding victory over Clinton, the Vermont senator held his own powwow with Sharpton, also in Harlem, at the famous Sylvia's soul food restaurant, sitting in the same seat where then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama sat when he was courting Sharpton to back his 2008 presidential bid.
The competition for Sharpton's approval signified how important the candidates think the black vote can be this year and all but forced the pair of White House Democratic hopefuls to at least publicly discuss issues pertinent to the coveted voting bloc.
Deray McKesson Running for Baltimore Mayor
A prominent face in the Black Lives Matter social justice movement declared his candidacy to lead the city he calls home: Baltimore. It is the first such instance of a member of the group seeking public office. The move wouldn't necessarily be such a big deal had it not come on the heels of unrest in Charm City after Freddie Gray died controversially in police custody under contentious circumstances.
I'm running to be the 50th Mayor of Baltimore City, a city of promise and possibility. Together, we will win.https://t.co/xvIpx997tt
— deray mckesson (@deray) February 12, 2016
McKesson was on the front lines of the ensuing protests and helped to narrate the ongoing conversation about race in America. The timing of his campaign's announcement during Black History Month was likely a concerted effort.
Super Bowl Halftime and Grammy Performances
For the uninitiated, separate stage shows by singer Beyoncé and rapper Kendrick Lamar at national events that draw millions of viewers each came across as sterling examples of carefully crafted choreography. But it was the overarching imagery from the performances that left pundits, fans and detractors alike talking about them the following mornings.
Chief among the observations from each performance is the undeniably pro-black imagery — Beyoncé and her dancers during the 2016 Super Bowl halftime were clad in outfits that evoked the Black Panthers; Lamar channeled his inner runaway slave at the 2016 Grammy Awards show by literally breaking out of shackles during his performance of his opus, "To Pimp a Butterfly," which would ultimately win the 2016 Rap Album of the Year.
Beyoncé's performance left many pro-police groups angry and feeling threatened at what they called the singer's support for anti-police groups. Ironically, the Black Panthers were actually formed in the 1960s in response to acts of police brutality against African-Americans.
Diamond and Silk: Proud Trump Supporters
Moving in a different direction, the “Blackest Black History Month” not only shined a light on popular culture but also brought to the surface what many people have identified as negative stereotypes associated with black culture. And when the media highlighted a pair of black women who have carved out something of a career publishing videos in support of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, those stereotypes were reinforced in a number of ways: the women's names (Diamond and Silk), their preferred loud methods of communicating their message, as well as the neck-rolling, eye-popping and exaggerated phrases that are often negatively associated with black women.
The duo has been around for several months, but they have recently commanded attention for their series of videos supporting Trump, who has called for a temporary ban of Muslims entering the U.S. and a wall to be built along the country's southern border to keep out Mexicans and most recently has been hesitant to renounce the political endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.
Considering all this, Diamond and Silk's support likely couldn't be more jarring to many African-Americans.
'Black-ish' Police Brutality Episode
The topic of police brutality against black people doesn't look like it's going anywhere anytime soon, and producers of the predominantly African-American cast of ABC's “Black-ish”sitcom likely figured there was no better time to air an episode on the issue than during Black History Month.
While the debate rages on about law enforcement response to African-Americans, the episode tackled a topic that has risen to the forefront in recent months, after a string of police-involved confrontations that have left a growing group of unarmed black people dead.
Granted, it's not necessarily novel for a black TV show to take on divisive topics, but this one in particular brought the issue to prime time and seemingly attempted to move the conversation along.
President Barack Obama and the White House
Last, but far from least, the significance of his final Black History Month at the White House was apparently not lost on Obama, who seemed to go out of his way to celebrate it for most of its 29 days. And it wasn't just Obama — First Lady Michelle Obama got in on the fun, too. Among the first couple's deeds for the month, they invited a 106-year-old black woman to dance in the Oval Office for her birthday.
The Obamas also observed Black History Month with a musical tribute to late singer and black music icon Ray Charles, complete with a performance from R&B singer Usher, among other acts.
On top of that, the president offered up a “black” joke with a nod to a lexicon that has been embraced by many African-Americans.
WATCH: POTUS: "We know it is black history month when we hear someone say 'heeey, Michelle! Girl. You Look so good!"https://t.co/3u36Y3iede
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 19, 2016