My freshman year in college I attended a private university where the black students, undergraduates and graduates, comprised less than 1% of the student population. Despite our small number, we developed a family in the Black Student Organization having potlucks or hanging at an upper classman’s apartment to watch In Living Color. When we came together it was like we created our own HBCU (historically black college university). We hailed from all parts of the country east, west, south and Midwest. We came together celebrating our shared experiences while hyping which region was the best. I loved my freshman year.
As a person of color, particularly a black person in America during these political times, it can be frustrating and traumatizing being barraged with headlines of racially charged attacks and death of our people because of police brutality. Sometimes you need a place to take a break from the madness of the world and recharge. Enter actress, comedienne, entertainer, and woke sister extraordinaire, Amanda Seales. Her Smart, Funny & Black tour is exactly what you need to celebrate black dopeness and tap into black boy joy and black girl magic. When I saw her Lituation 101 Tour coming to my hometown of Chicago, I got my ticket hoping that it would rekindle the family magic I experienced my freshman year. It more than delivered!
Doors opened and the music playing before the show, a mix of late 80s early 90s hip hop, had the audience in a good mood. I overheard one audience member comment to her friend, “Girl, are you listening to what they’re playing?!” The 10:30pm show started on time with her band, The Clapbacks, getting the crowd jamming to some old school jams you’d hear at a family reunion or cookout. If you only know Amanda Seales from her role on HBO’s Insecure, then you do not know her. Sister girl got talent. She sings, she raps, she acts, and is hella educated! When she stepped on the Chicago stage her energy was apparent and like a cousin that knows your journey was hard, she put us at ease by acknowledging Chicago had a rough week but tonight we would be joyous and celebrate our dopeness and respect our culture “through our shared experience and history that brings us together.” She dubbed our space “The Hall of Flavor – a combination of an HBCU, ivy league, and Hogwarts. Hogwarts because black folk are magic.” Just as Hogwarts had houses that students were sorted into, so too Smart Black & Funny had fams (aka families).
The consummate professional, she did not let a technical difficulty stop the show. She simply led us with a song. The Chicago audience was lit like the old Chicago Stadium when Jordan performed 3 peats. We were introduced to our Four Fams that we would be sorted into: (1) Rebel Fam, motto “We Fight” – the ones who enforce the “don’t let yo lil president get your a$$ whooped”; (2) Fly Fam, motto “We Rep” – that outfit you swear no one can pull off but when they wear it you’re like “I see how she put that together”; (3) Cultcha Fam, motto “We Vibe” – creatives and artists; and (4) Woke Fam, motto “We Read” – they read and most likely “single cause they busy correcting your spelling so now can’t f*ck you!” After being sorted in our respective fams, we were reminded that we gather to celebrate, elevate, and acknowledge being smart, funny, and black by reading aloud and in unison the following:
“We must canonize our own saints, create our own martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honor black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history.” – Marcus Garvey
And with that affirmation we sang Lift Every Voice and Sing. My heart filled with joy and pride as my fellow Chicagoans rose and stood while our voices sounded loud as the rolling seas in Thalia Hall.
From there we were on a fantastic voyage with Amanda, her guest Blacksperts, and band, the Clapbacks. The audience laughed, danced, sang, and answered jeopardy like questions on black history and Chicago history.
More than a pretty face with good comedic timing, Ms. Seales wants to make sure the audiences knows their black facts. We ended the night swag surfing. It was past my bedtime for a work night, but I was still hyped and the crowd in good spirits. It had been a while since I had seen this side of Chicago, the Chicago I grew up knowing where the village looked out for each other. Most of the audience were millennials but there were older people like me and couples. I wished I bought tickets for my college nieces and nephew. The next time Smart, Funny, and Black comes to town, I am making it a family affair.
If Amanda Seales’ Smart, Funny, & Black is coming to your town, treat yourself to a good time of celebrating and elevating dope blackness. The young lady seated behind me said, “Amanda Seales is my spirit animal.” And she will be yours too. Come out and support her.