It was only a show, but the moment meant so much more. For two hours and 45 minutes, “The Wiz Live” captured the nation by highlighting Black culture at its finest.
From the beginning when newcomer Shanice Williams graced the small screen as Dorothy, it seemed as if the production continued to find ways to take things up a notch with each scene: Ne-Yo’s audacious Dab dance as Tin-Man; Mary J. Blige’s spine-tingling evilness as Wicked Witch of the West; Queen Latifah’s Sunday morning sermon as the Wiz; and Uzo Aduba’s magnificent entrance as Witch of the South. Along with the star performances, the set design and wardrobes of Emerald City were imaginative. The dance sequences, choreographed by Fatima Robinson, highlighted nearly every form of dance that has gained prominence within the Black community. The song selection sparked joy, hilarity, and emotions. And Kenny Leon’s direction remained consistently brilliant.
By the time the show reached its culmination with Dorthy singing “Home,” it was apparent that “The Wiz Live” was the most significant moment for Black Americans since President Obama’s election night. Of course, it would initially seem irresponsible to compare a TV show to the election of the first Black President. And the overall impact of President Obama’s accomplishment remains unparalleled. But since that great night, Black America has struggled significantly as a collective.
In the age of Black Lives Matter, we’ve seen a multitude of unarmed Black men gunned down by police. We’ve seen White men such as George Zimmerman, Darren Wilson, and Daniel Pantaleo remain free after killing unarmed Black men. We’ve witnessed the uprising and protests in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland. We’ve seen police and city officials in Chicago attempt to cover-up the murder of a teen. And Black students in Missouri have shed light on how racial discrimination continues to be a major problem on college campuses.
When it comes to the viewing of Black lives through the national media, most Americans only get to witness the pain associated with being Black. But for nearly three hours, there was a glimpse of the beauty, hope and promise that can only come from Black culture. Black kids saw themselves and will be inspired. Black adults were reminded of the excellence that can be achieved when given the opportunity.
Families of all races will appreciate the presentation. But “The Wiz Live” will be remembered as a night when Black Americans as a whole felt proud again. There has not been such an overall feeling since November 2008.