Poor Kenya Barris. He has my deepest sympathies. I feel the brother woke up in an episode of the “Twilight Zone,” in which everyone has a pig nose, and he’s the only one thinking something is “different” (read: wrong).
In my mind, Kenya has long been borderline postal. As a Compton-bred television executive producer and writer, I can only imagine how the corporate racism he’s endured over the years has exacerbated his condition.
Last year, the former writer for “Girlfriends” and “The Game” revealed to Vulture, “I know that my unique point of view in a writer’s room is often why I have the job. It was sort of a double-edged sword because I might complain because they hired me because I was black, but if they hired someone who wasn’t black, I’d be calling.”
Maybe the business did it to him. I doubt it. I feel every Black man born and raised in America has a little man on his shoulders – who’s already snapped – and is engaging its host in wild conversations. Though, I think Kenya’s little man is a miniature version of Chuck D circa 1989. But he has enough sense left to recognize no executive is going to allow Professor Griff and the S1W’s to stomp all over their network.
Case in point, he mentions in an interview with Shadow and Act, “… As Du Bois has shown, we do have to live a double consciousness every day in the world.”
So like most African Americans living the double consciousness, he’s learned to manage the crazy. It seems, in fact, Kenya has channeled those late-night talks with mini Chuck D into a bonafide partnership. Enter ABC’s “Black-ish.”
The comedy created by Kenya, and starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne, and executive produced by Anderson and produced by Fishburne, became the highest rated first-year comedy series among adults 18-49, according to Deadline. The second season begins tonight at 9:30 EST. The premiere episode holds no punches. Jack (Miles Brown), the youngest son of Andre Johnson (Anderson) and Rainbow Johnson (Ross), lets the “N” word fly – rather mellifluously – out of his mouth while performing Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” at a school talent show.
I thought this brilliant platform would be cathartic for Kenya. But I detect an undercurrent of rage.
It seems what I fear the most for second season is happening. Little Chuck might have taken the wheels.
Like our president’s second term, I think Kenya is making executive decisions with a “Yeah, that’s right! I did it!” attitude.
Season One was just a taste: Dre being an armchair (read: lazy) Black Nationalist, and, apparently, a segregation sympathizer who, in my mind, wouldn’t be mad at all if it was institutionalized under the guise of cultural preservation. I know several people who will donate to that Kickstarter.
Could that actually be Marcus Garvey on his shoulders? Nope. He would have been cancelled. Again, a great sign of managing the crazy. But I have to admit I’m on the edge of my seat to see how he continues to tackle the topic of racism, Dre’s struggle with the double consciousness and coping with the realization that the Johnson kids will never be issued a Black card.
Should this trailblazer stop listening to little Chuck? Never. Most geniuses are crazy.
Congratulations to Kenya Barris! It’s working for you. And for us all.
Yaminah Ahmad is a screenwriter and entertainment publicist. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she is writing a pilot. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @goddessyaya.
(Photos: Kenya Barris Instagram Fan Page; ‘Black-ish’ Instagram Page)