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When we think of Colin Kaepernick, many of us immediately associate him with his iconic take-a-knee during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. But a new Netflix limited series entitled Colin in Black and White explores that activist's passion was also fostered by his non-traditional upbringing as a mixed race child.
The black community in America consists of a vast group of individuals with roots in Africa and who reside across many cities throughout America. There are various forms of Black culture, each representing an essential aspect of Black life in America.
No single definition exists for Black culture; rather, it encompasses the various ways people in the Black community express their identity and connect with one another. This expression can be seen through music, sports, fashion and art - the possibilities are endless!
Black American culture encompasses a vast array of traditions, some ancient while others just emerging. No matter your preference for culture, there is sure to be an area in America for it.
In addition to a range of cultural events, there are also several museums dedicated to Black culture in various cities across America. These exhibits provide an insightful look into Black American culture and its lasting legacy on our nation.
Black culture has long been used by African Americans to express pride in their heritage and fight racial oppression. It also serves as a way for them to gain strength and independence from their families and community.
Religion, literature, art and music are some of the most iconic aspects of Black culture in America. These forms of expression provide a way for African Americans to communicate with each other and share their history with the world through art or music.
Aside from these forms of expression, there are also festivals and other events that celebrate Black culture in America. Some take place year-round in cities while others only during certain holidays.
For instance, the annual AFRAM festival takes place each June in Baltimore and features numerous cultural events to honor Black music and food.
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback has become a symbol of resistance against systemic racism in America. He began kneeling during the national anthem to bring attention to black-on-black crime and his act has gained national recognition.
But what sets Colin Kaepernick apart from other athletes is his unwavering dedication to his own identity. In an interview with NPR's Juana Summers, the former NFL player discusses how he was able to fully accept and celebrate his blackness.
Ancient African communities relied heavily on hair as a symbol of identity. People donned various styles to show off their religion, age, wealth and status within society; braided styles or other intricate designs played an integral role.
Lori Tharps and Ayana Byrd's book Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America examines how black hair is interconnected to Black culture, reminding us that there's more than just style to it.
As such, Black women and girls often face the burden of maintaining their natural hair. To ensure that their locks do not thin or break, they often resort to drastic measures.
These processes can be draining, taking away from Black women and children's physical wellbeing. So to reduce the strain, they are finding new ways to express who they truly are.
One way for women to express their natural, healthy hair is by accepting its historical, social and cultural implications. To do this, they must first understand the historical, social and cultural significance of their hair.
The transatlantic slave trade of the 19th Century served as a major impetus for black people to alter their hair in order to blend in with white society. At this time, black individuals underwent extensive methods of smoothing and texturizing their locks so that they could become accepted members of society.
These practices have a profound effect on one's self-image and how they are perceived by others, especially Black women and children who are more likely to face discrimination due to their hair.
Kaepernick recently donned a leather blazer from Harlem Haberdashery for GQ's cover shoot, paying homage to both his African American heritage and commitment to standing up against oppression in America today. Not only does this reflect Kaepernick's love of his community, but also an attempt at equality within society.
The biracial athlete often sports long locks of hair, often styled in an undisturbed mess. His choice is reminiscent of iconic figures like Frederick Douglass and Bob Marley who both donned long locks during their involvement in the black freedom struggle.
According to a New York Times article published in September, Kaepernick chose to wear his hair long and relaxed to shield himself from media scrutiny that comes with being an elite athlete. Doing so muted the glare from photographers and journalists, allowing Kaepernick uninterrupted conversations about his activism.
Many in the media take the "black is beautiful" mantra at face value, but it's worth remembering that blackness has always been associated with grief and mourning. As John Harvey recounts in The Story of Black, this color has long been a representation of death.
In the 20th century, black became a symbol of rebellion and fringe groups. Motorcycle gangs, beatniks, and others began wearing black as an act of expression.
Since then, designers such as Cristobal Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent have elevated the use of black in their own designs. More recently, Issey Miyake and Yohji Yamamoto have also adopted black into their aesthetic.
Despite all of this, there remain significant obstacles to the popularity and appropriation of certain fashion trends in America. Part of this ailment stems from black women being historically excluded from higher roles within the industry.
However, there are an increasing number of Black-owned and run companies that are breaking down barriers to popularizing these fashion trends and celebrating black culture in the fashion world. For instance, Daily Paper (inspired by African art) is one such exciting emerging brand in this space; their clothing combines fashion and style while paying homage to Africa's rich heritage through contemporary designs.
At Saturday Night Live, rapper Jay-Z turned his back to the audience and dedicated the song "Bam" to Colin Kaepernick in response to his decision last season to kneel during the national anthem in protest of what he perceived as Black oppression. This move came in light of what has since been noted as one of Kaepernick's signature moves.
The music of the African diaspora has long been deeply embedded in musical traditions that transcend national and social borders. Musicians and fans of all backgrounds have been drawn to Black music, which has become an essential element of their personal identity.
Therefore, Black musicians and audiences have created a variety of genres to reflect the diverse conditions surrounding them. This includes rock and roll, funk, R&B, and hip hop.
Many musicians have also used their music as a platform to advocate for social justice causes. Kendrick Lamar, in particular, has been an outspoken supporter of Black rights and earned himself the Pulitzer Prize in music for it.
Though his lyricism has often been criticised, his political message remains true to Black experiences. Thus, his music has served as a powerful vehicle in uniting Black activists and the public at large.
For instance, in 2016, Driscoll co-wrote the song "Alright" with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson and was featured on their album (Driscoll et al. 2019).
The musician has a background in activism and an intense dedication to the Black community, so it is no surprise that his music is heavily influenced by these causes. He uses his rap style to challenge white supremacy and the erasure of Black history in America, using its lyrics as vehicles for Black activists to raise awareness about the injustices that have affected them personally.
Lamar's music serves as a platform for him to integrate his faith with activism and civic engagement. He has focused on issues such as Trayvon Martin's murder and Mike Brown's shooting.
Black Music Month celebrates the music of the African diaspora, an integral part of American culture. To honor this heritage, take some time out to listen to both new and classic songs from this genre - it's an invaluable way to learn about African diaspora culture and find ways to express yourself creatively through your music.