Why THE GRAPEVINE is So Important for Black Millennials
Over the last few years, YouTube has grown from a niche platform for cat videos and odd music compilations, to a space where content creators can become millionaires from their regular uploads. With a platform that has so much to offer, it can be difficult to sift through content to find work of sustenance. But, every now and then, one can search and find something worth the watch; enter The Grapevine.
Created by Ashley Akunna, The Grapevine gathers black millenials from various genders, backgrounds, educational levels, sexualties, religions, socio-economic standings, and opinions, in one studio in Brooklyn to discuss a variety of topics. Some conversations are lighter, like the recaps of Dear White People and She’s Gotta Have It, among other shows garnered to black audiences. Other discussions are more difficult, like those addressing why prison reform is needed, why sex work should be legalized, how the anti-abortion argument became racially motivated, and why police brutality and state sanctioned violence against black bodies requires immediate attention and correcting.
For the past five years, The Grapevine has released videos onto their YouTube channel to the gratitude of eager audiences who congregate in the comment sections to add their own two cents to the conversations. The panelists, primarily composed of black people from all across the diaspora, have become famous in their own right. Viewers always point out which panelists spoke with eloquence and relatability, which panelists said what the viewers were thinking, and which panelists spoke nonsense and should not be invited back. With the use of cultural and colloquial speech, including anecdotes that many black folks would recognize, the show creates a feeling of relatability and reprieve.
Many viewers seem drawn to this web series because it is a positive representation of black millenials discussing topics that hold importance to the black community. In a world where people are bombarded by images of black people in a less than flattering light; a world where black people run the risk of having the police called on them for the most mundane of reasons; for example, selling lemonade on the sidewalk or attempting to enter their own apartment buildings; where these 911 calls could very well become a matter of life or death - The Grapevine serves as an escape.
For 20-50 minutes per episode, the majority black audience can sit back and relax while being entertained and educated by people that look like them, discussing matters that mean something to them, matters that are often not addressed elsewhere. It is easy to get sucked into the conversation, binging upload after upload as the discussions flow with such passion and energy. Things often get heated, particularly surrouding discourse related to toxic masculinity, sex, and surprisingly - Bruno Mars! However, even the most opposing views are interesting and every panel discussion offers the opportunity to expand and realize that blackness is not a monolith.
Around the table, the panelists debate things such as why black women are single, or why colorism plagues the black community so heavily. They have discussed the current president’s derogatory remarks and how the rhetoric has encouraged white domestic terrorism. The show has felt somber and fuming while recapping the limited series When They See Us, and felt silly and fun while recapping Insecure. There was even a special UK edition where the production went overseas to include black British panelists to give a wider worldview of the issues that plague black people internationally, for example culture vultures and disenfranchisement. From the political, like why voting amongst black populations is so important, to the personal, like if one can be pro-black while in an interracial relationship, this series explores every corner of the black experience. The Grapevine is a space for black folks to learn and grow, to see themselves and who they could be, to rejoice and react, and to be unapologetically black.