LAST APRIL, KENDRICK Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize for music. That’s old news, but it’ll never get old to me: Black male rappers have been so maligned as to render his award almost unimaginable to those of us who have loved the music for decades. At the ceremony, the prize’s administrator, Dana Canedy, greeted Lamar on the steps of Columbia University. “We’re both making history right now,” she said. And so they were: Canedy is the first black woman to hold her post, and Lamar — or “Pulitzer Kenny,” as he now delightfully, and delightedly, calls himself — is the first hip-hop artist to win the award. On the same day, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins was nominated for the prize for drama (he was also nominated in 2016). Last spring, “Black Panther,” with its nearly all-black cast, surpassed a billion dollars in worldwide ticket sales. In May, Sean “Diddy” Combs outbid a rival to purchase a Kerry James Marshall painting for $21.1 million at Sotheby’s. The sale was a triumph: A black multimillionaire bought a black artist’s painting for the highest sum ever paid for the work of a living African-American artist.
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