As Black History Month nears its close, I have come across another innovative, radical, groundbreaking, extremely intelligent individual who few likely know by name. Ralph Bunche was an academic, political scientist, activist, and diplomat. While alive, he was celebrated for his peacekeeping efforts in the Middle East, Africa and the Mediterranean, for helping form the United Nations, and for his work in the Civil Rights Movement. And, not only was he the first African American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, he was the first person of color to receive the award.
bell hooks is a revolutionary writer, educator, and cultural critic. She explores the intersectionality of race, class, and gender and the way they are used to perpetuate systems of oppression. Her feminism is not about elevating women into positions of power that were developed in the patriarchy, but rather replacing the patriarchy with a culture of love and mutuality.
Percy Julian was a research chemist who figured out how to synthesize medicinal compounds from plant sources, making them more affordable for mass-production. His work laid the foundation for the production of cortisone and birth control pills.
At the age of 26, Michael Tubbs made history when he was elected as mayor of Stockton, CA in 2016. He is not only the first black mayor of Stockton, but the youngest elected in the city’s history.
In light of her recent passing, today’s Black History Month post is on Toronto soul singer, Jackie Shane. A performer who defied gender stereotypes and had a captivating stage presence, Shane is recognized by soul-music enthusiasts as one of the greatest singers of the genre, yet Shane has remained largely unknown outside Toronto.
Gordon Parks was a photographer, musician, artist, writer, and film director. Not only was he prominent in photo-documentary of the black experience from the 1940s to 1970s, he was a cultural pioneer. He was the first African-American photographer to work for the FSA, Life magazine, and Vogue, and to direct a major Hollywood motion picture. While his photography is what he should be best known for, most know him as the creator of the “blaxploitation” genre of films.
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.