I never thought I’d write an article about politics that included legendary music icon Diana Ross but in it’s 2020 so, here I am! First, I should be clear that Ross has made it part of her decades-long career mantra to never publicly discuss her positions on religion, finances, and politics – with the exception of civil rights. However, whether Miss Ross likes it or not, she has been catapulted center stage into the 2020 election, and I am here for it!
Once Biden was called – finally, as the 2020 President-Elect, I took to social media to express my elation, and the first meme that came to mind for me to share as a black, gay man of a certain age, was this one:
You may have been seeing it quite a bit on social media today, especially from gay boys of color. I had friends as far away as New Zealand reaching out to say they have been seeing this in abundance on Facebook. That scene is from the triumphant crescendo from the 1978 cinematic experience known as The Wiz, starring an all star Cast of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Nipsey Russel, Lena Horne and Richard Pryor.
The Wiz was a film version of the Broadway hit that retold the classic The Wizard of Oz with an all-Black cast and urban story narrative. The featured song “Brand New Day” was written by Luther Vandross and was produced for the film by the music master Quincy Jones – who served as producer of the film’s soundtrack. The gorgeous musical sequence of “Brand New Day” is far from just another mundane dance number in a film. It’s a revelation, mostly due to the dance performances, but also its1970s’ social and cultural relevance.
At the time of The Wiz’s release, Black America was deep in the throws of the ‘fist up’-natural-haired, perm-rejecting African Americans who reveled in the power of self awareness and their Afrocentric hairstyles – namely the Afro. Even Diana herself abandoned her signature mane of long, shoulder-length tresses to transform into the new, black version of “Dorothy”-reimagined as a 28-year-old, natural-haired school teacher. This was symbolic at the time and a powerful statement about black identity. In “Brand New Day,” that natural afro atop the agile Diana Ross’ head, worn like the crown on an African queen, drove home the 1970s’ narratives of both “Black is beautiful” and “I’m Black, and I’m proud.”
“Brand New Day” as a musical number is a timeless social statement about oppression as it depicts a people rejoicing once they realize their oppressive leader had met her demise. Ironically she was flushed down the toilet in the film, after water from a triggered sprinkler system made her melt – a comical take on the witch’s death in the 1939 film version. Then, add to that, the brilliantly beautiful contribution of the dancers, most of whom were members of the famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Yes – The Wiz is THAT trippy lol, but the bigger issue is there’s a parallel between Black Oz’s oppressed people in the 1978 film, and the real-life oppression felt over the past four years of the Trump presidency by African Americans. We can relate.
So on this day, as we put a nail in the coffin of the disastrous Trump presidency’s coffin and welcome a more inclusive era of Biden/Harris, I would be remiss not mention all the countless posts today of this classic moment from The Wiz – mostly posted by my fellow people of color but a few white peeps too. It’s the perfect statement in celebration of triumph and joy and rejection of the fascism and cruelty that has plagued America under the Trump presidency.
I invite you to kick those heels up and twirl with Diana, me, and the people of “Black Oz” as we usher in the “Brand New Day!”
This piece is an opinion piece by one Contributing Writer for Instinct Magazine and may not reflect the opinion of the magazine or other Contributing Writers.