Black Americans have influenced every style of music since they were brought here during the slave trade. With the sheer volume of trailblazing musicians in the African American community, I could easily devote Black History Month to posts about their contributions to American culture. Ragtime, blues, jazz, gospel, be-bop, rock-n-roll, reggae, funk, ska, rap, sampling, hip-hop, disco, house, techno…all of these were born in black American communities. Heavy metal came from blues and rock & roll. Punk was influenced by ska. Country music traces back to blues (and the racist black–face minstrel music of Emmett Miller.)
It was only appropriate that I kick off this month of posts about black Americans with a post about the founder of Black History Month, Carter G. Woodson. Most of the people I will write about this month will not be household names, especially among white people. But, the subject of my second post is well-known black American poet Langston Hughes, who I chose for personal reasons.
I haven’t seen a lot on social media so far this month that celebrates the accomplishments of black people. Black History Month is not some token time to appease black people, and it’s not a time to simply recognize well-known black people. It’s a time for us to learn and acknowledge the far-reaching and deep impact that black people have had in every aspect of our society. It is vital that we remember that America was born from the suffering of black people (and indigenous and Chinese). But, it is also vital that we be pro-active in learning and sharing and celebrating the contributions they have made to art, science, math, literature, pop culture, politics, social structure, and so much more.
Today, First Lady Michelle Obama was the commencement speaker at Santa Fe Indian School’s 2016 graduation.
Appropriation versus appreciation is a difficult topic to discuss or even understand. It seems everyone places their line of distinction in a different place. I’ve read and written a lot about this in relation to Native American cultures. But, it is a concept that needs to be considered when looking at art by, inspired by, and stolen from any indigenous or oppressed culture.