Whether or not history repeats itself can be debated, but for Black people it certainly has. Time and time again, we’ve had to strengthen our communities by building kinship amongst each other in literal efforts to survive. One tool that we’ve used to assemble these spaces is music.
When global pandemics such as COVID-19 or national crises like police brutality occur, the world typically pauses. Not being afforded that luxury, Black people oftentimes incorporate songs into the fabric of our communities to simply make it through. Obie Benson, one-fourth of The Four Tops, witnessed police brutality in 1969 and used the experience to compose “What’s Going On.” The chart-topping hit, sung by Marvin Gaye, served as a response to what Benson witnessed. A year prior to that, “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” took the nation by storm, metamorphosing Black pride into a smash hit championing Black empowerment. This song was released the same year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
When we take comparative notes on intergenerational events with catastrophic repercussions, our community’s use of music to shepherd us is extraordinary. With most states enforcing shelter-in-place mandates to slow the spread of COVID-19, life as we know it has drastically changed. What are we doing to cope? Relying on music. For starters, we’re less bored in the house thanks to 20-year-old Curtis Roach from The Motor City.
Curtis Roach's "Bored in the House" song
Roach was quite literally “Bored in the House” when he created the viral TikTok song that has taken the world by storm. Roach may not have expected the clip to take off as it did but on March 24, the rapper announced that the video had reached 10 million views. The catchy tune that aligns with a lot of people’s current mood even caught the attention of Tyga. After making his own lip-synched video, Tyga reached out to Roach to record a single inspired by the original TikTok submission. A hit indeed, Roach isn't the only influencer using music to cope with the current times. Thanks to our favorite stallion, we're now able to tap into our inner savage through song and dance.
Megan Thee Stallion #savagechallenge
Throughout March, Megan Thee Stallion seriously had us contemplating if we were classy, bougie, ratchet or all three. Janet Jackson even decided to partake in the hype. After a TikTok user released footage of her choreography, Thee Stallion reposted the video and dubbed it the #savagechallenge. Social media users all over the world have participated in the challenge including several other celebrities. When we aren't using music to dance through our foes, we still have the option to unite.
DJ D-Nice's Club Quarantine virtual dance party
Due to Jim Crow laws, it was illegal for Black people to intermingle with the rest of society, which is why we used music to stay connected and informed. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken away our abilities to meet in large gatherings at restaurants and bars but the fun doesn’t end there. For those looking to “kiki” with their friends at the club, you still can through social media. Thanks to DJ D-Nice, we’re still able to turn up with our loved ones inside Club Quarantine.
The famed DJ took to Instagram Live last month to host a virtual party where he spun some of our favorite hits while hosting some special guests. Out of the 100,000 people who tuned in for the virtual shindig, Michelle Obama and Rihanna were among the partygoers. So, those who attended now have bragging rights that they partied with our Forever First Lady and our favorite “Bad Gal.” Music has the power to bring us together. How cool is that?
WATCH: DJ D-Nice has been lifting spirits, hosting virtual dance parties on @Instagram with over 160,000 people watching live around the world.@djdnice gives us an inside look at his social distance dance party that had everyone from @MichelleObama to @JLo rocking out from home pic.twitter.com/fxgcVtsNnH— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 23, 2020
Tony Terry serenading newlyweds in the park
Uniting through music is probably as cool as having famed singer Tony Terry serenade you at your nuptials. While strolling through the park, Terry noticed a couple exchanging vows along with their officiant. The singer then asked the couple if he could sing for their first dance, in which the couple agreed. The “When I’m With You” vocalist posted the interaction on Twitter, noting that social distancing accompanied the impromptu performance. It isn’t everyday that a celebrity stumbles across your wedding before performing a chart-topping hit, but apparently it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
We were walking in Rhodes Jordan park today
socially distancing ourselves of course
and we see a couple getting married
It was just the two of them and the officiant
I asked if I could sing for their first dance and they danced while I sang to them.
It was great pic.twitter.com/tqOeXiMAcH
— Tony Terry (@Mrtonyterry) April 5, 2020
Wanyá Morris' (Boyz II Men) kids and their viral song cover
The rest of us got our own free concert courtesy of Wanyá Morris’ children. Morris’ offspring broke the internet when they released their rendition of the Brandy and Boyz II Men hit song, “Brokenhearted.” Morris’ four sons make up Wanmor, a musical group with a pop music sound from the South Jersey area. The brothers, along with their two sisters, received praise from all over as they crooned the R&B ballad. Viral music videos have been the norm during the pandemic.
Wanyá Morris’ (Boyz II Men) kids are TALENTED! pic.twitter.com/sFr6aCcqpN
— Camm Alexander (@JustPlainCamm) April 5, 2020
Toluwalase Asolo #DontRushChallenge
With many social media users participating in the #DontRushChallenge, Black women have once again taken social media by storm. In an effort to combat boredom, Toluwalase Asolo and a few of her friends decided to emphasize the importance of solidarity in isolation by creating the challenge, which has accumulated 2 million views. The video shows Toluwalase and her comrades glamming themselves up and passing the (figurative) dutch to one another by way of a makeup brush while the British rap duo Young T and Bugsey's "Don't Rush" plays in the background. Many Black folks across the world have created their own renditions, highlighting the beauty that ensues when Black women creators exercise musical creativity.
The boredom jumped out ???? pic.twitter.com/db1bG6M13G
— Lash (@lase_asoloo) March 22, 2020
Quavo and Drake #FlipTheSwitch challenge
Creativity can also ensue when you “flip the switch.” Quavo and Drake’s 2018 song, “Flip The Switch” has made a resurgence this year thanks to the #FlipTheSwitch challenge. The challenge, started by Bella and Dallin Lambert, features two participants dancing to the hit song then, quite literally, flipping the light switch. The after effect? The participants in switched clothes, imitating the other’s dance moves.
Musical creativity in the Black community isn’t new to us — it’s true to us. Before white institutions took it upon themselves to deem our music worthy of acceptance, we utilized it simply to express our circumstances, whether joyous or troubling. Our ancestors used singing as a vehicle of community to escape the grim realities of oppression, both literally and figuratively.
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, we are doing the same but in a different way. When we join in on viral sensations like the #savagechallenge or Facetime our friends while listening to DJ D-Nice, we are also escaping. Musical creativity has and will always provide safe spaces for us in the face of uncertainty.
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