A Rose by any other name would not have been as sweet.
On September 13, during the finale of NBC‘s new Password, host Keke Palmer hopped into the player’s seat with teammate Yvette Nicole Brown and tried to communicate the clue—”Titanic”—with just one word: “Rose.”
As Jimmy Fallon, Joel McHale and Chrissy Metz looked on, Palmer said it over and over again, communicating as much with her eyes and body as her words.
Something in Brown’s face said that she knew immediately, but how could she? All Palmer had given her was “Rose.” And yet, the Community actress could tell: The connection between the two women was palpable. “Oh, see I don’t want to get it wrong,” Brown said self-deprecatingly, “but I think it’s…” and her voice trailed off.
As the two continued to work on the clue, Brown said to the audience, “Listen, there is a lot of Black conversation happening here.” Then finally, self-doubt written all over her face, she revealed her answer: “Titanic.” And the crowd went wild.
Brown, whose second season of Disney+ show Big Shots premieres October 12, talked to Newsweek about why that moment was about so much more than just a fun little game show bit.
“The funny thing is, I don’t even know how I knew,” she told Newsweek on September 22. “I could have said thorn, I could have said Golden Girls. I could have said Betty White. Like, there’s a lot of things that ‘rose’ could lead to, but there’s something about the way Keke said ‘Rose’ even the first time that just made my mind go, ‘Titanic.’ If you watch, I go, ‘Oh,’ and then, ‘Oh yeah.'”
It was an amazing moment of television, but it meant more to Brown than just that.
“What I love…in regard to Black women [is] that is literally the way Black women can communicate with each other. I am not lying. We can communicate from across the room, with an eyebrow raised, and the other one will know exactly what they’re thinking. We can have a whole conversation, never opening our mouths. And so Keke literally with her eyes was telling me…it was all there.”
Somehow, the implications go even deeper, and they are goosebump-inducing, in the best way.
“When I said [to Keke], ‘I’m about to let you down’ and she said, ‘You can’t, that wasn’t her saying ‘You owe me’ or ‘You can’t let me down.’ That was her saying, ‘There’s no way you could disappoint me.’ That was her saying, ‘You know this, you got this.’ That was her encouraging me, not chastising me about my performance. And that’s why I want people to know the way Black women celebrate and support each other,” Brown said. “Her belief in me made me believe in myself because I really thought, I know it’s Titanic but it can’t be Titanic. She was telling me, Trust yourself. It was just a beautiful moment and I’m so happy it went viral because I don’t know if everybody [knows] Black women can do that. I don’t know if everybody knows that that’s the way we communicate and that’s the way we move through this culture. Black people call each other brother and sister for a reason; we are kindred. We are family, and I don’t have you don’t have to have my bloodline for me to celebrate and support.”
She continued, “You know, this came up recently on Twitter because I was talking about the 53 percent of women white women that voted for Trump. And I said, I don’t understand how white women could have a candidate that looks like them…who was an amazing qualified principal woman and not vote for her. And a lot of white women chimed in and said, ‘Oh, we don’t support each other like that…We’re raised to see each other as a threat.’ I’m telling you, if I got a hundred tweets, nine out of 10 said exactly that…And I was like, Whoa… Because Black women for the most part—of course, there are always outliers—but as a rule, if I walk into a grocery store and see a Black woman I’ve never met and I say, ‘Hi,’ she’s going to say, ‘Hi, sis’ back to me. If a Black man holds the door for me and I said, ‘Thank you, brother,’ [he’ll say], ‘I got you sis.’ That’s just the way it is.”
It was also important to Brown that she “give Keke her flowers,” telling Newsweek, “I’ve known her since she was 12 years old. She literally is everything you see you believe. She is funny. She is confident. She is beautiful. She’s talented. She’s smart but beyond that. She’s also inclusive and celebratory of other people. Because that’s the other thing I want to make clear about our Black conversation, as I put it on the show: It’s not exclusive. It’s not against anyone else. It doesn’t keep anybody out. Everybody can sit with everybody, can come to our table. It is a love. It’s our love for each other as Black people and Black women, but it extends to our love for everyone. And that’s why I always say on Twitter if you’re going to vote, vote like a Black woman because we vote for the greater good of all. I don’t have kids and I vote for school measures all the time because I want your kids to have an education…I’m not [in my] child-bearing years anymore but I want women to have the right to choose. Black people and Black women, in particular, always vote for the greater good. We love for the greater good. And so what Keke and I were able to do together with our ‘Black-tuition,’ as I called it, I don’t feel like it’s not for them as well. You know what I mean? It’s not something we have that doesn’t bubble out and celebrate everyone else.”
Newsweek reached out to representatives for Keke Palmer for comment.
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