Rapping, DJing, Breakdancing, and Graffiti art. These, with debatable add-ons such as beatboxing and sampling, create the now global phenomenon we call Hip-hop. Rapping is verbal, DJing is audio, breakdancing is physical, and graffiti is visual. These four walls place us in an aesthetic that surrounds us in a universe of anti-racism and blackness. Hip-hop is a movement that keeps pushing. Born out of the spirit of the Black Power Movement, which in turn was born out of the spirit of Malcolm X after his assassination, it is an artform inseparable from the struggle for liberation. Hip-hop stands as a rallying cry of the oppressed. The same cry that got people into the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore, almost as if it was done with the same breath. As we can see today with Hip-hop albums such as Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo and Youth, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, and even works of lesser-known artists such as Raury’s All We Need and JillReal’s Jilltiltarianism, the art being produced is having life breathed into it from Black Lives Matter while simultaneously breathing the life back into the movement. This is nothing new.
The 20th century was a big century for Black people globally, but definitely for Black America. In that century, Black America made great strides in teaching white people how to deal with people of different races properly, while also raising our own collective consciousness of who Black America really is. Talk about multi-tasking! A challenging endeavor which we clearly are still working towards, but all the progress that was made occurred through a variety of different methods. We had the Back to Africa movement, The Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Power Movement all reminding black people who we are and what we deserve, and showing white people what we are capable of. However, it would be impossible to properly appreciate these movements and campaigns our people advanced without discussing the artistic perspective as well. In this century we also saw the Harlem Renaissance overlapping with the Back to Africa movement and Great Migration and preceding the Civil Rights Movement, and the Black Arts Movement working hand in hand with the Black Power Movement. As our nation became more organized and educated on what it means to be Black, we also became more explicit and expressive in our creative arts. Is this really surprising? I mean we sang Negro Spirituals to help us break off of plantations. Our cultural expression has been our key to liberation since we returned as enslaved humans to this continent.
Our cultural expression is powerful. Black America pumped out Blues, Jazz, Rock and Roll, Hip-hop, R&B, all globally popular musical art forms practiced around the world. All also created billions of dollars for the music industry while large enough proportions of Black America exist in poverty, but that’s a conversation for another time. Anyway, why is our culture so powerful? Simple, nothing beats the original. Black people go back to the beginning of humanity itself. Every other culture we appreciate and observe today is a reflection of Ancient African cultures. So these African practices are subliminally in a sense, a psychological return home. Almost like collective nostalgia. If science could be understood as pattern recognition, then art can be understood as pattern reconfiguration. I’d say the reason why African descended people’s reconfiguration of patterns of reality is so admired, so appropriated, is due to our being more direct descendants of the original people. I believe this means what we create contains more clear and relatable elements of the human condition that a larger audience will be attracted to. Don’t get me wrong, all cultures are important, just as all colors are important, but some primary colors lay the foundation for all the others. Some colors though are too bright to be adequately seen, and some colors are too dark. The idea I wish to convey in this analogy is that our color is, well, more balanced. Doesn’t mean everyone loves this color, it just a trend. Several cultures all over the world get popularly appropriated, but when looking at those produced from the African realm, I’d say there is a noticeable disparity.
The point of all this is in this Black Lives Matter era is to really understand and believe and shout to the heavens that #BlackArtsMatter, and that we will see no social, political, or economic liberation until we liberate the culture. Until we let the culture stand up and speak for itself. We gotta cook the movement, rap the movement, strum the movement, dance the movement, paint the movement, beat the movement, sing the movement, and spread the movement however we feel necessary. All art forms matter, and are not just welcome, but are necessary for liberation. White Supremacy is a culture in itself; a perspective. The only way to combat it is with a different perspective, a different lifestyle, a culture that embraces the idea that Black Lives Matter and will not let anyone forget it. Building this counterculture, adding to this counterculture that our ancestors have worked to build before us, is crucial to living in an anti-racist world, an anti-oppressive world. Racial politics can be complex; there’s levels to this sh*t. Arts can help reconfigure racial politics into more easily digestible and coherent forms of communication. So I encourage all readers when you finish that next BLM protest or action you are organizing, think about a BLM Cookout, a BLM cultural festival or movie showing in a local community cultural center. Visual BLM art exhibits, book clubs, hell, put it all into one event and have a BLM Jamboree! Black people say that right? Whatever the case, expressing the movement from a variety of perspectives will help organize the movement while also creating healing safe spaces to replenish ourselves in the blackness of our cultural heritage. Always believe in the Black Aesthetic.
Jordan Taylor was born in Brooklyn, New York and currently lives in Poughkeepsie, New York. He graduated SUNY New Paltz in 2015. He is a writer, activist, and political scientist. Follow him on Twitter @jtmarsh1993/@BlackArtsMatter