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Black Culture

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‘Black is Beautiful. Black is Love. Black is Ambition. Black is Courage. Black is Kind.’

These statements are the essence of black culture. It is these types of statements that purposefully demonstrate the embrace of black identity. This type of affirmation comes as a subsequence to the past traumas from slavery and racism that black people have had to endure and overcome. It has become a part of black culture to make such bold statements to declare who blacks truly are and how they deserve and expect to be treated or perceived.

“Across this country, young black men and women have been infected with a fever of affirmation. They are saying, ‘We are black and beautiful.’ ” HOYT FULLER 1968

There is a black cultural pride that exists. Since black people were once not allowed to be educated during slavery, as it was illegal for blacks to read or go to school. There is a respected sense of pride for academic and social achievement that typically exists. Like in most communities, but it is particularly strong within the black family and small communities across the African diaspora. For this reason, part of black culture has developed into one that carries pride and strives toward academic or social accomplishments.

“Some people say we got a lot of malice. Some say it’s a lotta nerve. But I say we won’t quit movin’ Until we get what we deserve … Say it loud – I’m black and I’m proud!” JAMES BROWN 1968

There is an emotional and psychological implication from the trauma that still impacts black culture today. The issue of colorism and classism are rife within the black communities as a result of slavery, segregation and white supremacy. These deep rooted issues contribute towards the culture of empowerment and the promotion of black beauty, black excellence, black wealth. The latter have become buzz words and # hashtags in the fight against the stigmas that exist from the trauma and psychological damage.

The ‘Afro Hair Movement’ is an example of the culture that declares an acceptance of who black people really are, embracing natural hair styles and promoting natural beauty. Black people are empowered to don styles that show their natural African heritage. Showing off their big afros asserting political and cultural power. Changing the way black people are perceived and how black people perceive themselves.

In the 1960’s black journalists and filmmakers started to make it a point to change the narrative politically and in the media of how black people were portrayed. Within the media, black people were typically only shown as music entertainers, athletes or working in low paid servant roles.

Filmmakers in the USA started to produce public affairs television programs in major cities after there were concerns from the community of the unfair portrayal of blacks. Shows including “Say Brother” in Boston and “Right On!” in Cincinnati, “Soul!” and “Black Journal” were broadcast nationally in the USA. Their topics ranged from the Black Power Movement to women’s roles, religion, black history, homosexuality and family values, addressing and changing the narrative of how black were perceived.

Local radio programs similarly started to focus on the agenda and heavily focused on the empowerment of black communities. Black journalist used talk-shows to air community concerns and actors and actress began to demand better roles. A Black Power Movement was in full force and the narrative of how black people were perceived was changing.

“Television is on the brink of a revolutionary change … The stations are changing – not because they like black people but because black people, too, own the airwaves and are forcing them to change.” TONY BROWN 1970

  1. I Too Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 by Wil Haygood

“I Too Sing America” highlights multiple facets of the Harlem Renaissance, the artistic explosion centered in Harlem, New York, in the 1920s. If you want to learn about literature, art, music, and the social history of the era, this is definitely for you.

2. Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic by Connie H. Choi

“Kehindle Wiley: A New Republic” showcases the catalogue of Kehinde Wiley’s bold and powerful paintings, exploring the representation of Black people in art and challenging the status quo of classical painting. Wiley is celebrated for his unique portraiture, which often features baroque influence, and his reworking of art history, proving him one of the most prominent Black artists of the 21st century. With each turn of the page, you will be captivated by the depth and journey of his art.

3. Brown Bohemians: Honoring the Light and Magic of Our Creative Community by Morgan Ashley and Vanessa Coore Vernon

Honoring creative people of color, “Brown Bohemians” showcases creatives across different mediums and studies, using the essence of storytelling to share the unique contributions of in fashion, lifestyle, and art. The minimal design and bold photography can nicely fit in any room in your home.

4. Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives by by Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, Darcy Eveleigh and Rachel L. Swarns

“Unseen” showcases unpublished photographs from the New York Times’ vault, and focuses specifically on never-before-seen images of the Black community by Times photographers. This book not only gives you a deep dive into scenes of the black experience, but also explores the stories behind them. The images include critical moments of Black history, showcasing joy, sorrow, and triumph.

5. Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful by Kwame Brathwaite

“Black is Beautiful” explores dynamic imagery of the Black community as captured by Kwame Brathwaite. His dynamic eye shows a lens that amplifies both the strength and softness of the subject. The book is filled with both black-and-white and color photography that shows Black people across the world, living and expressing themselves freely.

6. Howardena Pindell: What Remains To Be Seen by Naomi Beckwith and Valerie Cassel Oliver

Each page of this book explores the depth and deliberate approach of painter and artist Howardena Pindell across different mediums of art. Exploring her extraordinary career, this book captures a range of works by Pindell, ranging from canvas, photography, film and performance art.

7. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, edited by Mark Godfrey and Zoé Whitley

“Soul of a Nation” explores the art and expression of the Black experience that was created between 1963 and 1983. A time of political and social unrest, as well as radical world-building by visionary activists and community leaders, this book highlights previously ignored stories and experiences of 20th century Black artists.

8. African American Women (Double Exposure) by the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Volume 3 of “Double Exposure” highlights breath-taking imagery of Black women from all ages and backgrounds. A curation from the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s renowned collection, this book explores the serenity, beauty, strength, struggle, and sacrifice of Black women through rich photographs.

9. Revelations: Art from the African American South, edited by Timothy Anglin Burgard

“Revelations” explores the catalogue of self-taught Black artists born in the Jim Crow South. The unique interpretations and lenses preserve these artists artists’ hope and drive toward freedom in a time poisoned by rampant discrimination and social inequality. The beautiful and fearless use of color and texture is both moving and inspiring.

10. The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion by Antwaun Sargent

“The New Black Vanguard” features powerful images of Black runway and cover models in the fashion industry, and explores Black imagery across media. This book is a deep dive into the intersection of art, fashion, and culture, and begins a necessary dialogue about Black representation across these spaces.

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This page was last updated on 20, March, 2022

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