For the Culture
The Culture. The way we live. Black people have always wanted just one thing from America: fairness. Every cultural movement, from the Harlem Renaissance, to Motown, to Black Lives Matter has been in pursuit of fair treatment, free of abuse, oppression, and disenfranchisement. Black people have marched in peaceful protest, appealed through literature, given powerful and eloquent speeches, and set their thoughts to timeless music. They have shone a light on their gifts to share the vibrance and beauty of Black culture, so that others may see and respect it, and be inspired to extend fairness to all Black people. Fairness is a noble goal for any society, for the culture.
Day 3 - C is for The Culture
Black Lives Matter
"#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives." The short reach of justice toward Black people was once again laid bare in the summer of 2020, with the police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing worldwide BLM protests, underscoring the urgency of the Movement to force a culture shift toward the ideal of justice for all.
The Birth of Hip Hop
LL Cool J (Click the image for a Video Hip Hop Timeline.)
Hip Hop broke free in 1979, when the Sugarhill Gang changed the course of music history with the release of "Rapper's Delight." Though they weren't the originators of hip hop (that distinction is often credited to DJ Kool Herc), they brought the music to the mainstream. The music evolved to include sub-genres, like conscious rap and gangsta rap. Rappers from the South and the West Coast emerged to join the East Coast originators in lyrical battle. Hip hop has been a dominant force in popular music and culture since the beginning, inspiring fashion trends, language, marketing, and the film and television induustries. Rappers became household names and movie stars, but the genius has always been in the music and its ever evolving beat.
The Temptations, c. 1965
Motown is more than just music; it's a vibe and a mood. Dubbed the Sound of Young America, the music of Motown started in Detroit, MI in 1959 with $800 and the dream of Berry Gordy, Jr. More than 60 years later, we still play and love those old Motown songs today. That is the definition of cultural impact. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Supremes, Vandellas, and Marvelettes, and the Jacksons all emerged from the Motown machine. Motown is forever. It still brings the sunshine on a cloudy day. Visit the Motown Museum.
"Little" Stevie Wonder, 1963
The Black Arts Movement
Cropped image from cover of Art for People’s Sake: Artists and Community in Black Chicago, 1965-1975
The Black Arts Movement was the name given to a group of politically motivated black poets, artists, dramatists, musicians, and writers who emerged in the wake of the Black Power Movement. The poet Imamu Amiri Baraka is widely considered to be the father of the Black Arts Movement, which began in 1965 when he opened Harlem's Black Arts Repertory Theater, and ended in 1975. The Movement called for the creation of poetry, novels, visual arts, and theater to reflect pride in black history and culture. This new emphasis was an affirmation of the autonomy of black artists to create black art for black people as a means to awaken black consciousness and achieve liberation. Read more at Blackpast.org.
The Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was the development of the Harlem neighborhood in New York City as a Black cultural mecca in the early 20th Century and the subsequent social and artistic explosion that resulted. Lasting roughly from the 1910s through the mid-1930s, the period is considered a golden age in African American culture, manifesting in literature, music, stage performance and art. Read: "A New African-American Identity: The Harlem Renaissance."
Cross Colours Fashion
Cross Colours, a fashion line created in 1989 by Carl Jones and T.J. Walker was designed for Black youth with the premise of producing “Clothing Without Prejudice.” The brand found success when Will Smith began wearing the brand on his TV show, "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." It had a significant influence on the mainstream fashion industry, inspiring it to take notice of the emerging importance of urban streetwear. Working in the golden age of Hip Hop in the late 1980s and 1990s, Jones and Walker incorporated bright colors and graphic designs that reflected not just trends in fashion, but also a cultural embrace of Afrocentrism in response to unjust Reagan-era policies, rising poverty, police brutality, and substandard educational opportunities. They appealed unapologetically to a Black aesthetic, while strategically using product placement, social justice messaging, and community outreach to address these pressing issues. Cross Colours - Clothing Without Prejudice