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As People rise to defend black life, black protest anthems resonate greater than ever


This month country musician Mickey Guyton released a song called "Black Like Me" about her experience as a black woman in America. The song was written months before the protests, but it was released after Guyton heard about the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Another country artist, Kane Brown, also released an uplifting anthem to address the riots titled "Worldwide Beautiful." Not long after, R&B artist Trey Songz released “2020 Riots: How Many Times”. In How Many, Songz refers to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean and Tamir Rice:

"Look around, can you see it now?

Don't be color blind because if you kill mine

You will try to justify it

Oh, every time

Play, jog in a park

Sitting on the couch, in your own house

It never seems important what we do

You think we don't matter, but we do. "

The gospel singer Deitrick Haddon also wrote a song entitled "I can not breathe"An allusion to the phrase by Eric Garner and George Floyd just before they were killed by the police.

In honor of Juneteenth, Beyoncé released a joyful song entitled "Black parade"Where she sings proudly about her black roots in the south:

"I'm going back, back, back, back

Where my roots are not watered down

Growin grows like a baobab tree

Or life on fertile ground, ancestors brought me into play

Ankh charm on gold chains with my Oshun energy ”

Modern black artists also turn to music to think about the history of civil rights in America. Leon Bridges & # 39; new song, "Cutie pie" with Terrace Martin, who highlights Martin Luther King Jr.'s words and speaks about the struggle for black freedom:

"I thought we were moving on from the darker days

Did the king's words disappear in the air?

Like a butterfly?

Someone should give you a crime

Because you stole from me

My chance to be

I hope for a sweeter life

Instead, I just repeat a story

Why am I afraid of night skin?

I can't feel peace with those judging eyes. "

Classic protest anthems

The new music that emerges amidst the current unrest connects a long line of protest hymns throughout the history of black music. "Raise every voice and singMany consider it the black national anthem. Many now also know the song “We Shall Overcome”, one of the most popular protest songs of the civil rights movement. The song was sang on Washington in March 1963. But there are also other popular protest songs by black artists that became known before and during the movement and are still used today as protest anthems.

"People who are not African-American but like to listen to music from African-American artists are often unaware of the peculiarities of politics, history and context that shape black artists and their music, and in many cases do not want to deal with it. Said Maureen Mahon, author of Right to Rock: The Black Rock Coalition and the Cultural Policy of the Race and Professor of Music at New York University. "In short, they don't want to deal with race and power, but race and power have always been related in African American music. To understand music, we have to recognize these factors."

Billie Holiday & # 39; legendary jazz song from 1939Weird fruit"Emphasized the scourge of the lynchings with their references to" swinging black bodies "and" blood on the leaves ". The title sold more than a million times and is considered the first big black protest song. A few decades later Nina Simone's popular 1964 songMississippi GoddamFrustrated with the state of civil rights in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee:

"Hunting dogs on my trail

Schoolchildren sit in prison

Black cat crosses my path

I think every day will be my last. "

Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly called the 1965 song "Get ready”From The Impressions the "Unofficial hymn" the civil rights movement:

"People are getting ready, a train is coming

You don't need luggage, you just get in

All you need is trust to hear the diesel engines hum.

You don't need a ticket, you just thank the Lord. "

When it comes to protest songs, Bob Marleys is 1971 "Get up get up"And Public Enemy's 1989"Fight the ForceHave some of the simplest texts that encourage people to fight for their rights.

The origins of Black Music Month

In addition to raising protest anthems, Black Music Month is a time to appreciate the full spectrum of black music in America. It started when President Jimmy Carter had the event held for an event in 1979, but from then on, black musicians and institutions celebrated it every June. However, in the 1990s, radio and music professional Dyana Williams discovered that this had not been officially prescribed, so she worked with her congressman in Philadelphia, Rep. Chaka Fattah, on a draft The African American Music Law. The bill was then signed by President Bill Clinton in 2000 to celebrate and recognize the impact of black music on American culture.

"I suspect that many people are not aware of the breadth and ancestry of African American music and do not know that many different genres have become mainstream and are played by everyone in African American communities such as blues, jazz, R&B, rock and Roll started house and techno, ”said Mahon. "I suspect that most people don't realize how important African-American musicians' contributions have been to the development and success of the recording industry."

For centuries, even in times of heightened awareness of racial justice, black music has been a catalyst for social change as well as a representation of black joy and resilience. Black music is already used as a tool for collective resistance to give hope to black and brown communities and inspire them to fight injustice.

The history of black music can be traced back to the transatlantic slave trade when the song was used to comfort bondage and to pass the time. The end of the civil war brought the blues, a genre used by black musicians to express heartache and adversity. The blues is considered that "Building block" that brought rock & # 39; n & # 39; roll, rhythm and blues, jazz and country music.

Jazz peaked in popularity during the First World War. Large record labels were founded decades later in the Second World War leave predominantly black genres like gospel and jazz due to cuts. They later attempted to reintegrate the black community. Around the same time, R&B came to life and was launched by the Detroit-based record label Motown, which hired black artists such as The Supremes, Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald.

A few decades later came one of the most popular forms of black music: rap / hip-hop. Rap / Hip Hop has been embedded in black culture since it was founded as a genre in New York in the 1970s.

Look into the future

Black music is constantly evolving, and even the way cultural goalkeepers hear and understand it is beginning to change in this period of rapid social change. For example, after years of debates about the term “urban” the Grammys recently announced You will no longer use the term to describe black music. And this year in honor of Pride Month, the National Museum of African American Music is illuminating black LGBTQ + musicians like Frank Ocean, Sylvester, Billie Holiday, Ma Rainey and Janelle Monet and highlighting the interfaces between the diverse identities of black artists. Spotify was also released its own playlist of black artists, and will dedicate his "New Music Friday" to black artists for the rest of the month.

While Black Lives Matter's demonstrations continue into the summer, music lovers and demonstrators can expect a variety of pieces of music to be played as inspiration. Given the rich history of black music amid political and social struggles, there is no shortage of songs to choose from.

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