Black Joy: Eric Reads the Week, #9

Hi! It's R. Eric Thomas. From the internet?

You know that moment when you're out to eat with someone and they go to the bathroom and you have a mini-argument with yourself about whether you're going to immediately pick up your phone and start mindlessly scrolling to pass the 2.3 minutes of down time or if you're going to actually just sit in your own skin and be present for once in your whole life and why do you need so much stimulation anyway and wasn't your grandfather a truck driver, spending hours on the open road with only the yellow line and an intermittent radio signal to keep him from going mad? And did he go mad?! No, he did not! Can you manage to keep your sanity for the length of time it takes for someone to pee and maybe wash their hands in this, the Year of our Lord, 2017? Can you? Probably not.

That's me. Literally all the time.

But, if you do choose scrolling you already know that so much happened this week! In this week's e-mail, we're investigating Oprah, Reese and Mindy's group vacay, the triumphant return of Maxine Waters, black joy and more!

Reese, Oprah, and Mindy Are Having the Best Work Trip Ever

Supposedly, Reese Witherspoon, Oprah Winfrey, and Mindy Kaling are toiling away on the cliffs of New Zealand, hard at work on Ava DuVernay's big screen adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time. But a quick jaunt over to their Instagrams reveals that they are actually in the middle of literally the best work trip ever. Is this what making a movie is like? Because sign me up! Do you need someone to play a guy who can't remember his lines and is just there to scream about whatever Maxine Waters is up to today? Because I am available. The three actresses are in New Zealand filming their roles as Mrs. Who (Mindy), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese) and Mrs. Which (Oprah). Again, I just want to emphasize that I am available for this. Do you need someone to play Mrs. Where's the Buffet or Mrs. When Is Payday? Just holler. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

I Have Some Pressing Questions for the Inhabitants of the New TRAPPIST-1 Planets

NASA announced that they had discovered seven Earth-sized planets orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1 and my bags are already packed! Y'all can have this Earth, with its Kremlin Klan and guac that costs extra. I'd like one ticket to Spaceville, please. See ya later, Earthlings, body snatchers, trolls, and the pile of cats in a Brooks Brothers suit pretending to be a U.S. Senator. Good luck with whatever this is we're doing! I'm a Trapp Kween, now. This new life is a a Trapper Keeper. Call me Chance the Trapper. [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Maxine Waters Is Back and She's Not Here to Play

Honey, Maxine Waters will read you and then give you the transcript. When she pulled out her spectacles I completely fell out. She sat down at her Microsoft Word, opened a new document, titled it "These Russian-Helping Nincompoops Who I Don't Have Time For" and went to work. That little paperclip was like "Looks like you're writing a burn book. Do you need help?" Rep. Waters was like "This ain't my first rodeo, Clippy." [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

More from the "You Tried It" Collection...

Let Us Now Praise the Immaculate Shade of Joyce Beatty

"I'm just saying, don't sleep on black people. Don't do it. We use shade like it's the Force. Out here in these swamps like Yoda. 'Open the library is. Read you I will.'" [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

WHYY celebrates Black History Month with by publishing essays for their series Black History Untold: Joy. My contribution was published this week.

On the Sound of Black Joy

"The music filled me with joy; the music made me feel free, even when the lyrics were speaking to conditions of struggle. I felt this, especially, when listening to gospel — songs about the troubles of this world, which reassured me that they wouldn't last always. I was 10; I didn't know from troubles. But I felt the music in a way that was new and deep and affirming.

It was into this education that Sounds of Blackness burst like that substitute teacher who's all cool vibes and information that's going to blow your weave back. It was 1991; Sounds of Blackness' debut album, "The Evolution of Gospel," showed up in our house in cassette form and virtually never left the cassette deck. Its mix of spirituals, ragtime, jazz, gospel, and house music was mind-blowing to me. It was energetic and rapturous and devout and revolutionary." [READ THE FULL ESSAY]

From the Vault...

An Open Letter to Mitt Romney on His Strange Dinner with Trump

Dear Mitt Romney,

I saw you picture in the paper at a fancy dinner with Donald Trump. Honey, I'm concerned.

Like, I am very happy that you are doing well in your career and such, boo. I'm happy for you. But I am also worried because this looks like my favorite scene from Rosemary's Baby.

I don't know if you've seen Rosemary's Baby (it has foul language, so...) but, spoiler alert, it doesn't end well, honey.

I'm just saying.

We need to talk, Mitt. (What is that short for? Mitthew? Mittchell? Elizamitt?) [READ THE FULL COLUMN]

Random Thing from the Internet...


Who do I need to speak to to make the Confederate Flag Tackle and Caution Tape Vault an Olympic Sport? If you can't see the GIF, let me give you a play-by-play. A reporter is on camera talking about Bree Newsome, the hero activist who removed the Confederate Flag from the South Caroline capital in 2015. Suddenly, like a flash, a black man dart across the screen, the camera pans to follow and we watch him launch himself through a caution tape barrier, protecting a bunch of sad Confederate Flag-holding protesters. He lands on said flag, bringing it down as the protesters scramble in panic. AND I LIVE.

Has there ever been a more American sport than this? I'm obsessed. We need to put the debate about who's going to play Nightwing in the new Batman movie to bed right now. This man right here is cast with a quickness. Perhaps even better is the video from another angle, which you can see here. Heroics.

I started following the man, activist Muhiyidin d'Baha on Twitter (@daBlockUp) almost immediately and was not disappointed. Not only is he doing incredible work but he has been posting pictures of his past work, including this incredible photo:

This is a smorgasbord of visual non sequiturs! I love that he meeting with Dr. Jane and Sen. Bernie Sanders in a room decorated like my sophomore year dorm. I love that Mary Poppins is taking flight behind him, presaging his heroic leap. I love that Wicked is there because obviously. I love that Bernie has a bowl of lemons sitting in front of him; I imagine he periodically pauses to suck on one so that his scowl remains 100. The revolution is strange, y'all, and I love it.

To joy,