Class of 2015: The Highlights


Choosing the right weekly cover story to complement the zeitgeist of pop culture can sometimes be a daunting decision. The appetites of the rolling out audience change frequently, sometimes so swiftly, once our covers hit newsstands, the American public is focused on the next celebrity divorce, arrest or Twitter beef. The impactful, cultivating and edifying news get stifled.

Here we’ve listed our top nine covers that are withstanding and have proved relevant despite the current trending topics on Facebook, Twitter on Google Trends or the moment’s activity that is breaking the Internet.

Common graced our Jan. 8 cover a month before he received his first Academy Award for Best Original Song, a win he shared with John Legend for “Glory.” After he received the coveted Oscar, the Selma co-star told the press during an on-camera interview, “I want to keep growing, maybe at some point do theater. … And we are looking to do a television show. One day, I want to have that EGOT [Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award].”

Jazmine Sullivan, our Feb. 4 cover girl, released her third studio album, Reality Show. In her article titled, “Jazmine Sullivan is focused on her music, not fame,” the R&B singer shares her perspective on fame, “I don’t really consider myself to be famous first of all, but I thought it was interesting. Like I said, most of all, I’m grateful. I’m grateful to be able to do what I love more than anything. Not a lot of people can do what they love, and I’m able to make music and the side effect of it is it happens to touch people, so that’s the best part of it.”
Sullivan’s Reality Show received a 2015 Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B album. It’s up against: Coming Home, Leon Bridges; Black Messiah, D’Angelo and The Vanguard; Cheers to the Fall, Andra Day; and Forever Charlie, Charlie Wilson.

The 58th Grammys will air live on Feb. 15, 2016, from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on CBS.

On Sunday, March 8, President Barack Obama stood at the podium on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. He was there to commemorate the anniversary Bloody Sunday, a gruesome act of violence against humanity which led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. During his keynote, he said, “In one afternoon 50 years ago, so much of our turbulent history — the stain of slavery and anguish of Civil War; the yoke of segregation and tyranny of Jim Crow; the death of four little girls in Birmingham; and the dream of a Baptist preacher, all that history met on this bridge.” It was a transcendent moment. Three months and nine days later on the evening of June 17, 2015, a Methodist preacher who presided over Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, along with eight of his faithful parishioners, was victimized by the same “turbulence, stain, anguish, yoke and tyranny” that has been harboring for years in these United States.

Ludacris co-starred in the lucrative franchise film, Furious 7, which grossed $1,515,047,671 worldwide. In our April 4 cover issued titled “New album. New movie. New Ludacris.,” the rapper-actor tells our writer, “I feel like I have something to prove — not only to everybody [else], but I have to prove it to myself. … We are in a climate where people are back to loving just the creativity.”

In our May 28 issue, we celebrated our Black women. Titled “The power of Black women: Taraji, Keke, Tika and Angela,” we explored how Black women have continued to redefine themselves. Television and films have been saturated with the negative misrepresentations of Black women. First lady Michelle Obama once said, “I need you to understand that we are women who marched on cotton fields into fields of medicine … politics …. entertainment, and now we have found a way to march into the White House.”

Michael Jai White and Gillian Iliana Waters tie the knot. The lovely couple partnered with rolling out for an exclusive cover story and share their wedding fairy tale. The Hollywood couple exchanged vows amid a parade of exotic dancers tossing flower petals, Thai drummers, painted elephants and heart-shaped fireworks. The magical ceremony was held at the multi-acre river front estate of financial executive Michael Selby on July 3 in Thailand.
“It never felt right calling her anything other than my wife. She transcends wife. I have been married before and our best day doesn’t compare to Gillian’s and my worst day,” White says.
Waters adds, “I got married because I would be a fool not to marry this man. I have never been happier in my life. This guy right here just lights up my whole world. There’s nothing better than being married to your best friend. I know that sounds cliché. In my case, it’s the honest truth.”

Straight Outta Compton has received a plethora of nods for the 2016 awards season. In our Aug. 6 issue titled, “Straight Outta Compton: The story of N.W.A. unfolds,” director F. Gary Gray tells rolling out, “Part of the reason why this movie is special to me is because it’s history and not only history in hip-hop, but American history. One hundred years from now, people will wonder what was going on in America in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and this is the group that changed the world. If I don’t make another film, I would feel good about this one because I know for a fact that we did more than just make a movie, we did something special as a group.”

At press time, Straight Outta Compton had received nods for a Screen Actors Guild, People’s Choice, NAACP Image and a host of others.

From social media to socialites, The Westbrooks are taking reality TV by storm. With the reigning title of “first family of social media,” we interviewed four of the sisters about their legacy.  Here’s what they had to say.

Morgan: “I want to empower women a lot more. I want them to see from the show how my sisters and I empower each other. I want women to empower women.”
Bree: “I want to brand our last name. I think that will make our family very proud. I think that will be legit.”
India: “I want to personally take over Rihanna. I love Rihanna, but I am ready to take her place and that is where I am headed. I will be there one day.”
Crystal: “I want the world to be more positive. I just want people to love each other.”

Lastly, but definitely not least, is our We Can’t Breathe issue, which hit newsstands on Jan. 1. It was an issue where we reflected on the violence against Black men that had taken place in 2014, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Brooklyn, New York-based speaker Kevin Powell, rapper Chuck D, professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr. and poet Asha Bandele chimed in to share their assessment of the state of America and how we can begin healing.
We’re moving into 2016 and the question arises: have we healed? No. The Black pain worsens in the wake of the deaths of Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, the Charleston Massacre victims and countless others.

In an article titled, “Race, grace and the heavy weight of forgiveness on the shoulders of Black folks in America,” Kevin E. Taylor, the host of #NowWhatwithKevinETaylor writes in an op-ed feature for rolling out, “I am exhausted, America.

“Time and again, Black people in America are told to forgive as though it is the beginning of the end of hatred in this country and the journey to healing.  But that is called reconciliation and in order to reconcile, there must be some sense of common ground and a mutual desire to see things become something new. That is where I struggle, America.

“How do you ask White parents and parents of all races to raise children who understand race as irrelevant if those same children build a community of friends that are multiracial and they still see the ‘Black kid’ get called out when they were all performing the same action? Or when White teens know that the best way to shoplift in a store is to go in after a Black guy because the store’s staff will be so busy watching him that they will pay no attention to anyone else.

“I am in constant prayer about forgiveness. It is a daily grace that I walk in and work from in order to remain a peaceful big Black man in America. But it is hard.”

Looking ahead

In 2016, we look forward to electing our next president, witnessing more Blacks in Hollywood receive their due during awards season, film releases: Star Trek Beyond and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Apple Watch 2 … the fun stuff. It’s the unknown plans and plots of foreign and domestic terrorists — like White supremacists, the actions of militarized police who encounter unarmed Black women and men, that occur in the shadows or are documented on smartphones — that cause trepidation about how 2016 will unfold.

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