Cox, who’s been nominated for her work in “Orange Is the New Black,” penned an essay, “When I Need Hope, I Look to the History of Black Brilliance,” about finding faith in the legacies of black American artists.
Cox wrote about Marian Anderson, the celebrated African American singer who was frequently barred from performing for segregated audiences in the U.S. But in 1939, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial.
“When I need hope, I often look to history—specifically the history of black artistic excellence in America,” Cox wrote. Anderson, she added, was not a political person, but Cox said it was “inherently political” that a black woman sang in front of 75,000 on the steps of the historical monument.
“In this project,” DuVernay wrote in the issue’s introduction, “we explore not only the idea of optimism but its representation. The literal visibility of the proverbial bright side. To me, that is the job of art. To meet us where we are and to invite us in — to think, to feel, to wonder, to dream, to debate, to laugh, to resist, to roam, to imagine.”
She called art “the antidote for our times” and hoped readers could find optimism by appreciating art.
Lena Waithe, the Emmy-winning writer and actress from “Master of None” and creator of Showtime’s “The Chi,” wrote about drawing optimism from Hollywood creatives who were redefining what it meant to be black and successful in Hollywood.
In her essay, “Hollywood’s New Black Renaissance Is Thriving. But the Industry Still Has Work to Do,” Waithe paid tribute to Terence Nance, writer and director of HBO’s “Random Acts of Flyness,” and Dime Davis, who is directing several episodes of BET’s “Boomerang.”
“Audiences are loving this new renaissance,” she wrote. “They’re entertained, but they’re also educated. My hope,” she continued, “is that it no longer needs to be a renaissance, a moment or a movement.”
I remember the first OPTIMISM issue guest-edited by Bill Gates. So when invited to helm this year’s issue, I was moved. To select the theme, cover subjects, featured artists/curators was beyond. I so respect the @TIME team. Thanks for letting me play in your sandbox for a while. https://t.co/RHdTLTtN2W— Ava DuVernay (@ava) February 7, 2019
Though the successes of films like “Black Panther” and TV shows like “Insecure” highlight a changing Hollywood, Waithe emphasized that it wasn’t enough. “White folks have everything, and we still have a lot of catching up to do. It’s too soon to be patting ourselves on the back like the problem is solved,” she wrote.