In the Black History Month post on Sister Rosetta Tharpe I talked about the far-reaching impact black Americans have had on practically every music genre to be developed in the US. Today, I want to introduce you to Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson – the three friends that gave birth to techno and who influenced music around the world. Continue reading
I originally thought I’d stay away from writing about black American musicians for Black History Month; as with athletes, it was too predictable. But, when black Americans are the driving force behind American music, with artist after artist excelling, and with music being such a prevalent part of my life – I just can’t avoid it. I asked myself who might be categorized as THE best. Quincy Jones has the most Grammy nominations and wins out of any performer; Jay Z, Dr. Dre, and Sean Combs are the richest black artists; Michael Jackson sold the most albums out of any black artist (81 million); and James Brown produced the most studio albums (71). These are all well-known artists, even in white households, so they don’t fit with my intention of sharing the stories of amazing black Americans that probably aren’t universally known names.
Then it hit me – Nile Rodgers, producer, composer, guitarist, and the leader for my favorite disco band, CHIC. He has written, produced, and performed on records that have cumulatively sold more than 500 million albums and 75 million singles. He has written for artists such as Madonna, David Bowie, George Michael, and REM. His Fender Stratocaster was nicknamed “The Hitmaker” because Rodgers helped write over $2 billion worth of music.
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is a professor at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School, specializing on race and gender issues. She is an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory. She introduced the idea of intersectionality to feminism.
Marsha P. Johnson was an over-all badass gender-nonconforming drag queen, sex worker, and gay liberation activist. She was representative of some of the most marginalized communities – black, queer, poor, homeless, mentally ill, and physically sick. But, she was a fighter – a pioneer for the LGBTQ movement.
Dorothy Porter Wesley was a librarian and the founding curator at Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. She needs to be celebrated during Black History Month because she challenged the racial bias in the Dewey Decimal System and her work was the foundation for what became Black Studies.
Ron Finley, aka The Gangsta Gardener, is a former fashion designer turned activist and urban gardener. He is a man that is changing the landscape of Los Angeles.
Esther Jones was a child singer and performer whose stage name was Baby Esther. She performed regularly at clubs, where a white woman stole her style and was subsequently used to create the image and sound of Betty Boop.
Romare Bearden is another black American I’ll feature for #BlackHistoryMonth who is not un-famous, but whose name should be more recognized than it is. Bearden was an artist and art-historian of black art. He celebrated the black experience through oil and watercolor painting and collage that incorporated torn magazine images.
Madam C. J. Walker was an entrepreneur, civil rights activist, philanthropist, and one of the wealthiest self-made women in the US.
This article from The Daily Beast was in my Facebook newsfeed today, presenting me with the perfect opportunity for this Black History Month series to feature not only a contemporary figure, but someone from New Mexico! Meet Richard Antoine White aka Raw Tuba – the first African-American to receive a doctorate of music in tuba performance. Quite the achievement when you learn that only 1.8% of symphony members in the US are African-American.