#ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies Is the Season’s Best Hashtag

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.

Suddenly, a clip of LeBron James during pre-game introductions is the very moment grandma has finished her too-long prayer and the family can eat. Stone-faced images of Kobe Bryant and Beyoncé, paired side-by-side, bring to mind last year’s drama, when your uncle and his ex-wife (who’s still on good terms with the family) decided they were too petty to speak to each other. A video of Snoop Dogg is that exact moment from Thanksgiving 2008 when you were reminded what to be most thankful for—yourself.

In almost every way, black culture is fundamental to the internet’s folkways: the mechanisms by which we communicate across its digital vistas, the innate belief in community-building users hold, what we excitedly and furiously chat about. Nowhere is this more true than on Twitter, where memes are a preferred mode of correspondence. With #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies and all of the hashtag’s decorative vernacular, we are given two doorways: an entryway into the universal and the culturally distinct.

More than this, though, the hashtag is a way for users to digitally choreograph nostalgia. Despite our heightened consumption habits—recording, snapping, and uploading nonstop—we exist in a kind of hyperspeed that is intolerant of preservation; we lose or forget or quickly move on to new memories just as soon as we’ve recorded the present ones. #ThanksgivingWithBlackFamilies slows us down a clip. It helps to correct those breakneck impulses. In doing so—in sharing stories and making old memories new again—we develop an archive of the familiar. We find a way to remember the best of who we are.

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