Black in the 21st century

Trevo’N Brooks ´19, Reporter

      The last few decades of American history have seen major changes in black culture. Since the 1970’s black music, art, film, language, and other forms of expression have taken several strides to become independent while attempting to separate from the mainstream. Black culture has adapted to mirror the individual struggle of black people.

      Since the introduction of black slaves to American colonies in 1619, black people have struggled with the issue of who they are after having their identity and culture take from them.

      Black Americans have struggled for many years to find their own cultural identity, over several generations looking for different ways to embrace who they are. Black people have found identity in their hair, food, music, and clothing. Many black people have different opinions on the whether it is appropriate for other cultures to use and express certain elements of black culture. African-American Vernacular English is a dialect of English often spoken by working- and middle-class black people in the United States and Canada. AAVE is often dismissed as unprofessional and lazy by many people. This misconception is the result of people’s misunderstanding of black culture, though it is often copied and mimicked by people outside of the black community.  

      “There’s a lack of credit for the community,” says junior Asja Beene. “People like the culture but not the struggle.”

      The struggles of the black community are often pushed aside by those who aren’t members of the community, though those struggles are what makes the community strong and inspire us to come together as a people. Ever since the introduction of black people to the U.S. during the slave trade the identity of the community has rested in its ability to come together as a people.

      “We’re coming together collectively, and saying our views on issues that affect black people,” says senior Markiah Brown.

      Markiah Brown and Asja Beene are both members of Female African-American Scholars a group consisting of several female students of color who speak about issues facing the community. There is also Male African-American Scholars; the idea of connection and community has been present in the black culture for many years.  

      Hip-Hop movement of the 1970s saw musicians, artist, writers, and dancers coming together to express who they are through their respective skill. This has had a lasting effect on mainstream black culture, music especially has become an outlet for the black community allowing people to express both the positives and negatives of their experiences.   

      “The essence of art, performance art in particular, and how we produce it today would be almost impossible without black people. Jazz, blues, and pop music were all created, popularized and sustained by black artists,” says alumnus Chloe Tooson. “Listening to today’s music and participating in today’s popular dances is possible only because of its direct line to black culture.”

      The 90s would see black culture find its place in mainstream media especially through the introduction of Rap and in several films. The 1990s saw black artist dominating music during the “Golden Age of Rap”. With artists like Tupac, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and The Notorious B.I.G. releasing songs that many of their black fans could relate to, with topics like poverty, gun violence, law enforcement, and drugs being prominent topics in their music.

      The films of the 90s were just as important to bringing the life and struggles of the urban black community, movies like Juice, Boyz in the Hood, and Friday not only brought black experiences to mainstream but helped give a generation of black youth role models who had shared similar life experiences to them.

      The 2000s saw a new wave of black musicians take the spotlight, artist like Beyonce, Aliyah, Ne-Yo, and Mariah Carey topped the charts and dominated the industry. While Rap remained prominent many artist began to popularize the R&B and Soul genres.

      Films starring black actors also made changes during the 2000s with several actors starring in comedies movies like Barbershop, Down to Earth, and How High saw black actors taking the center stage. 2009 saw Disney’s first black princess in The Princess and the Frog.

      When the start of the 2010s came there seemed to be a shift in the identity of the black community. Music and film became unapologetically black, it’s difficult to name popular artist without mentioning one or two who are of African decent.

      The 2010s would see a different kind of issue take center stage in the black community. The death of Florida high school student Trayvon Martin February 2012, Martin is one of the many unarmed black men who were killed as a result of unjustified fear and racism towards black people. The death of Martin and other young black men would lead to what is now the era of Black Lives Matter.

      The 2010s would also see a new cultural awakening within the black community, the Black Lives Matter movement would see many young people of color begin to protest and embrace their cultural roots. Phrases like “hands up, don’t shoot” have become common at protest and demonstrations after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown.