James and Florida Evans. Cliff and Clair Huxtable. Phillip and Vivian Banks.
Martin and Gina Payne.
During the 1970s and ‘80s, 1990s, and still today, those names represent idealized versions of loving, Black couples on television screens across the nation.
It has been argued that art imitates life. So, whether real or imagined, the artistic imagery generated by these couples emanated into the living rooms and homes of millions across America. These TV couples allowed viewers to believe that, despite the odds, Black love truly exists.
Millions of eager viewers had an opportunity to witness the love and commitment that Flo and James Evans championed, while scratchin’ and survivin’ in Chicago’s inner city.
In the 1980s, many of those same viewers witnessed Ellis Wilson’s “Funeral Procession” painting proudly hanging on the walls of Cliff and Clair Huxtable’s home; an African American “power couple” that raised intelligent, college-bound, Black children on the Cosby Show.
The 90s wouldn’t be the same without the images of love and happiness formed by Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv, a Black couple living the good life, in Bel Air, California.
And where would the Hip-Hop generation be without witnessing the jokes, the fashion sense and the undeniable love forged between Gina and Marty-Mart?
With the 2000s in view, America, especially Black America, sorely lacked the imagery created by a loving, functional, Black couple on TV. Yes, there were some TV couples in the interim. But network television was interrupted by the corporatization of Hip Hop culture, the commodification of Black culture, the “Bling” era and Reality Shows.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a new Black couple emerged. Barack and Michelle Obama burst onto the nation’s collective TV screens in 2007-08. But there was just one catch… the Obamas were a real couple. Not just any other couple, the Obamas contain pieces, qualities, values of each of the previously mentioned TV couples.
The Obamas possess the grit and that Windy City tenacity of Chicago’s Evans family. The Obamas boast the Ivy League pedigree and professional acumen of Dr. and Mrs. Heathcliff Huxtable. They enjoy the capacity to joke, to publicly show affection and to keep it real with each other, just like Martin and Gina did.
The Obama family actually Lived. In. The. White. House… for 8 years! For most of us, the closest that we can equate with that is that big mansion Phillip and Vivian Banks owned in Bel Air.
Worldwide, we have yet to witness a Black man and Black woman, a Black couple, a Black family, represent us on as high a level as the Obamas. The imagery that the Obama family created has left an undeniable impact.
Collectively, Black America saw a reflection of the best of ourselves, in the Obamas. Pieces of us that we know are intrinsically within our culture. Leadership. Poise. Confidence. Intelligence. Determination. The ability to turn lemons into lemonade.
President Barack Obama is an example of a man, a brotha, who started off with hoop dreams and dreams of his father. He then finessed those dreams into actual, realized power as the 44th US President. Yes, he captured Bin Laden. But, first, he captured our attention, then our hearts next. Yes, Obama helped to open relations with Cuba. But he related to us from the start.
Our First Lady, Michelle Obama, represents so many of our sistas. The quintessential ‘round the way girl. She never lost herself in the process. Intelligent. Stylish. Beautiful. Articulate. Able to manage both work and home flawlessly. A leader in her own right. The essence of a “ride or die” woman. And just think, their first date was watching Spike Lee’s, “Do the Right Thing”.
As the President, as an elected official, there are definite critiques to be made. I’ll be the first to admit that President Obama was not perfect. Sure, there is the argument that he could have done more for Black Americans while in office. And there’s the sentiment that he should have done more while Black men and women were casually killed by law enforcement, on his watch.
But, politics notwithstanding, we will undoubtedly miss the Obamas as they exit the White House.
I’d like to wish a fond farewell to the Obamas. Our First Family. God Bless and Godspeed. Thank you for the last 8 years.
Dr. Khalid White is an Ethnic Studies Professor and the Umoja Academic Success Program Coordinator at San Jose City College. He is also a Lecturer in African American Studies, at San Jose State University.
Khalid recently authored the book, Black Fatherhood: Trials & Tribulations, Testimony & Triumph. The book explores contemporary relationship and parenting scenarios faced by 14 different fathers and families in the San Francisco Bay Area. Khalid is the owner of BLKMPWR (Black Empower), LLC. The independent, multi-media company endeavors to create “Meaningful, message-bearing merchandise and Conscious, counter-narrative content”. www.blkmpwr.com