On their own, the images kindle and spellbind. In the collective, however, they transform into something even more incandescent. There is Spike Lee, courtside at a Knicks basketball game, his hands placed at his hips as if to suggest a kind of self-satisfaction. And Prince in a pair of black sunglasses furiously sipping from a straw. Or the time Ebony avoided elimination on America’s Next Top Model and had an even more unforgettable reaction. There’s Drake overcome with intense excitement, and the cast of Empire looking on with white-hot suspicion. Come November on Black Twitter, these images are no longer just cultural ephemera, they are reframed into a kind of shared text for users who partake in #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies—far and away the season’s best hashtag.
If, as the artist Aria Dean suggests, “the internet is a prime condition for black culture to thrive,” then #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies is Black Twitter at its blackest. Which is to say it is black cultural production at the summit. The hashtag began its life on Twitter a few years ago, but soon spread to Instagram and Facebook. In 2015, it also spawned the equally-hilarious #ThanksgivingClapback—a dangerously accurate account of relatives dishing that good old holiday shade, which YouTuber Jay Nedaj captured perfectly in video form two years later. For me, the brilliance of the hashtag is how it threads together public life with one’s personal memories—it turns nostalgia into a rhapsodic hybrid; no longer are these just records of the past; the moments are updated and given currency in the now, the always.