Diana Ross’ Grandson Is The #BlackBoyJoy We All Need To See
His name is Raif. And last night, at age 8, he showed an audience of millions around the world what it looks like to be Black and to be Joy.
Raif is the 8-year-old grandson of one of the greatest icons in music — and American — history: the legend, the diva, The Boss, Diana Ross.
Last night, Ms. Ross received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 American Music Awards. The night was already slated to be a family affair for Ms. Ross months ago when her daughter and award-winning star of ABC’s black-ish, Tracee Ellis Ross, was tapped to host the annual awards show which aired live on ABC. But when it was time for Ms. Ross’ crowning moment it became clear to viewers from the video montage of her career highlights that she intended to make this moment not about her, but about love and family.
While performing a medley of her greatest hits, Ms. Ross invited her grandkids, her “grandbabies” as she called them, on stage to sing and dance along to her chart-topping hit, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.
Rocking the most amazing pillow-soft, blow-in-the-wind afro you’ve ever seen, Raif waltzed onto the stage along with his cousins. He casually made his way behind his grandmother, and just as he appeared on her left, still slightly behind her petite frame, he flashed a wide grin at the audience as he pumped both fists in the air like a pint-size fighter who had just won the title bout. Recognizing the magnitude of the moment, he began to blow kisses to the entire audience. From his left all the way around to his right — a steady stream of kisses.
Then, almost as if he knew this moment was not be wasted, he kicked out his leg to set off a 360-degree pirouette a la … you guessed it — Michael Jackson. He spun out of the pirouette and attempted a side split before jumping into perfectly timed, full body dance moves that would put most adults to shame. By this time, the crowd was on their feet with their phones in hand to capture this unbelievably adorable moment.
Today’s morning-after commentary about Raif’s AMA moment included well-deserved accolades, adoration, and applause for Raif being funny, entertaining, ready-for-showbusiness, and genetically inspired. His mother is Rhonda Ross Kendrick, the daughter of Diana Ross and Motown founder, Berry Gordy. I do not disagree with any of these takeaways — all accurate. But as the mom of a little black boy my reaction to seeing Raif on stage was bone-deep, heart-swelling pride.
Raif’s authentic spirit of love, beauty, and bliss was on full display. It’s what I see every day in the eyes, heart, and mind of my toddler son and other little black boys in our lives. However, I am clear that an image of a happy black boy is not common nor cared for in our country. This is where media and entertainment outlets fail me. The narrative about Black men and young Black boys in the U.S. is flawed and often dismisses characterizations of goodness, kindness, and inclusiveness. Stories and images of support, love, and honor, for others but especially for women, are few and far between. I was especially struck by Raif’s unabashed display of affection toward his mom and his grandmom — giving his mom a kiss on the lips and telling his grandmom how proud he was of her before he gave the sign off for the entire broadcast.
To raise a child like Raif is to create a home where he is taught who he is and he is celebrated and loved daily for being who he is. These lessons do not exist elsewhere. I stand in solidarity with Raif’s parents and his village (because it does, indeed, take one) for giving the world Raif — who is not unlike so many other young black boys but who, for one night, refused to throw away his shot and, in doing so, gave us some much needed #BlackBoyJoy.
And Raif, we are so proud of you, too!