9 Black Signifiers That Go Down In Black History
Blackness in Black households is history, too
Defining Blackness has always been a bit of a conundrum. For many, it’s a matter of birthright; being a direct descendant of enslaved ancestors, who were stolen away from the African continent and brought to the Americas. For many, it’s about how one looks and presents themselves—whether it be physical features or even their skin tone. For others, it’s about the culture—how the people live and the languages they speak.
However, Blackness is not monolithic. It's a continuum that runs so differently across the African diaspora, but it is also about shared experiences among the collective — ones we relate to in spirit and in the physical. As the infamous song “One Blood" by Junior Reid states, "Yuh coulda come from Libya or yuh come from ‘merica/ Coulda come from Europe or yuh come from Africa." There are one or many things that Black people associate with Blackness and the black experience, no matter where they're from. Paying homage to Black History Month and Black-ass things Black folks relate to as "Black-Black," here are nine Black-ass things Black folks consider Black-Black:
1. Staged Living Rooms
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Plastic-covered furniture is tacky, but it made its way into the living rooms of many Black homes circa 1960s and ‘70s. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter, yet stuck to your skin throughout all the seasons. It was staple to the most decorated space in the house, the one that mimicked the furniture store display, and that nobody could go into lest risk an ass whooping or punishment.
2. Velvet Art
Back in the day, if your peoples were hip, or woke, had basement parties and smoked weed outta bongs chances are one of these were hanging on some wall at their crib. Velvet poster art then is what Afrofuturism art is now — all the rave.
3. Recycled Oil
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should have holla’d at some Black folks when drafting her Green New Deal initiative, because when it comes to recycling, remixing and repurposing, Black people pretty much invented that shit. The minute that Crisco can became empty, it was used a grease receptacle. French fry grease, turned into chicken grease which was eventually used for fish grease. Cornmeal could be seen floating at the top.
4. Jheri Curl Products
Jheri curls go down in history as a Black phenomenon, and hair care businesses had a good run when the infamous Jheri curls were popular. Although there were innumerable curl activator brands, Care Free Curls and Luster Curls had the game on lock. Spray bottles, rollers, curl picks and plastic caps are memorable, as well.
5. Hair Beads
Listen: braids with beads had the same cult appeal as doobie wraps and blow outs in the late 1900s.
6. Seasoned Skillets
The magic of many Black meals relied on the ability and know-how to use this heavy-ass skillet, clean it and season it to prevent it from rusting. Till this day, cast iron cookware graces many stoves in many Black households.
Alex Haley’s Roots, a film adaptation of the book by its same name, was a seminal story in both the film and literature industry. The story traces the family tree of the author, telling the story of many Black families affected by the Transatlantic Slave Trade. An intricately woven tale, it entered Black homes on the small screen and was a staple book on Black bookshelves, too.
8. Soul Train
When American Bandstand counted out Black music lovers and entertainers, Don Cornelius counted them in with his iconic show. Cornelius showcased the latest and greatest acts on his platforms. A most revered segment of his show is the Soul Train dance line that is incorporated in Black celebrations and gatherings: birthdays, family reunions, weddings you name it. The BET network recently aired American Soul, a series about the life of Cornelius
9. The Switch
Thankfully outlawed, ass whoopings were a disciplinary tradition known to plenty of Black households. Many believe the practice is a remnant of slavery. If you grew up in a Black household where corporal punishment was a thing, then you may be familiar with some of the items used to break you off. A few dishonorable mentions, as the above image indicates, is the extension cord, a belt, a slipper—sometimes with a foot attached, and possibly the derivative of such sayings like ass-kicking, break a foot off in that ass—a switch of your own choosing and a broom.
If at anytime you’ve experienced these things, it is likely you were engaging in some of the Blackest shit known to Blackness.
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