Skip to Main Content

Q&A with Jason Reynolds of YouTube Originals’ 'Black Renaissance'

It premieres February 26.

On February 26, YouTube Originals, in partnership with Google Arts & Culture, will premiere “Black Renaissance,” a new special from the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund, celebrating the contributions of Black history makers who shaped the world.

Black art and culture have defined the American experience. In “Black Renaissance,” New York Times bestselling author and NAACP Image Award Winner, Jason Reynolds, will take viewers on an artistic journey through history. These feature segments will include powerful messages from Michelle Obama and Stacey Abrams; singer/songwriter Kelly Rowland honoring the 50th anniversary of Alvin Ailey’s iconic dance masterpiece, “Cry,” which he “dedicated to all Black women everywhere - especially our mothers;” a tribute from creative director Naomi Merlain celebrating the art of Black hair; literary discussions from President Obama, Desus Nice & The Kid Mero and comedian Nicole Byer; a live creation from artist Shantell Martin; a floral tribute from Maurice Harris to activist Marsha P. Johnson; performances from Anderson .Paak and Tobe Nwigwe; and special appearances by H.E.R., Bob the Drag Queen, Ziwe, Killer Mike, Jemele Hill, Yung BBQ, TwinsthenewTrend, Sherrie Silver, Oumi Janta, Donté Colley and Hollywood Movement

We did a quick Q&A with executive producer and on-camera talent, Jason Reynolds, to give viewers an inside look at what inspires him:

Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds (photo credit: Dayo Kosoko)

What called out to you about “Black Renaissance” and spurred you to be part of the project?

Jason Reynolds: “As someone who works in storytelling, any chance I get to be a part of something that explores the vast narrative of Blackness — and in this case, specifically through the arts — is a chance that can't be passed up. My life is about celebrating us, and that's what this project is meant to do.”

Which Black creatives inspire you these days? Who are you excited to see featured in “Black Renaissance”?

JR: “I'm inspired by so many. Kiese Laymon, Adebunmi Gbadebo, Kendra Allen, Cheryl Dunye, Joy Oladokun, and the list goes on. Who I'm most excited about seeing in Black Renaissance has to be Anderson .Paak. I think he's the leader of his pack, and his dynamism feels both broken-in and brand new.”

Being an author takes a lot of persistence and hard work, which you talk about in your BookTube episode. What keeps you persisting, despite the struggle?

JR: “The work doesn't stop until all the stories have been told. And since all the stories will never be told…”

What is the biggest takeaway you hope viewers get from “Black Renaissance”?

JR: “That Black people have been. And will be. Period. And to be honest, I hope Black folks watch it, and smile, and snap, and do what we do when it's good to us. When it's good for us.”

#YouTubeBlack Voices shines a spotlight on the unique Black talent behind the scenes of “Black Renaissance.” This project would not have been possible without Leah Harper-Lane (EIC / Executive Producer), Clover Hope (Co-Executive Producer / Wordsmith), Dave Schilling (Co-Executive Producer / Wordsmith), Pauli Lovejoy (Music Supervisor & Lead Composer), Ele Woods (Producer / Wordsmith), Courtney Neal (Producer), Chris Freeman (Associate Producer), Christopher McQueen (Associate Producer), Andrea Torres (Production Coordinator), JaMar Jones (Director for History Breaks), LaTonya Joyce (Coordinator for History Breaks), Kirby Griffin (DP for History Break), Yaffraa (Music Composer), Fatima Robinson (Producer of Dance Story Development Dance), Aaron Tucker (Asst. Camera for History Break Shoot), Avery Griffin (Camera C Operator for History Break Shoot), Christ-Claude Mowandza-Ndinga (Graphic Designer - H.E.R. Segment), Xuly Williams (Sound Engineer - Dance Story Development Dance), Kara Mack (Dancer - Dance Story Development Segment), QuitaBee (Dancer - Dance Story Development Segment), Jd Rainey (Dancer - Dance Story Development Segment), King Charles (Dancer - Dance Story Development Segment), Magatte Sow (Drummer - Dance Story Development Segment), Nigel Zuniga (Drummer - Dance Story Development Segment), Sekani Thomas (Drummer - Dance Story Development Segment), Hamilton Glass (Muralist for Killer Mike Segment), Clayton Benn (Director for Shantell Martin on Identity & Artistry), Raafi Rivero (Director for Unarmed), Naomi Merlain (Director for Hair Like Wool), Mezu Ofoegbu (Art Director for Hair Like Wool), Emmanuel Calixte (Videographer for Hair Like Wool), Dai Parker (Stylist for Hair Like Wool) and Iman Young (Dancer for Hair Like Wool).

“Black Renaissance” has been funded by the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund, a multi-year commitment to amplifying Black voices.  The Fund invests with an intention: to present fresh narratives that emphasize the intellectual power, authenticity, dignity and joy of Black voices, as well as to educate audiences about racial justice. For additional information on the #YouTubeBlack Voices initiative, you can read more here.