We have come over a way, that with tears has been watered. We have come, treading our path thro’ the blood of the slaughtered, Out from a gloomy past, till now we stand at last, Where the white gleam, of our bright star is cast. Lift Every Voice & Sing
Us social media junkies were privileged to attend an event held by VSB’s Panama Jackson and Urban Cusp’s Rahiel T who moderated a panel of local DC celebrities to discuss Black Identity and Culture in Mass Media.
The central theme of the event discussed black culture as merchandise commercialized and sold to our generation. Overarching questions of what is “black identity”, how to capture the definition of being “black”, and who owns “black culture” permeated the conversation. The principal point analyzed by the panelists and attendees alike was that there is a discrepancy between our reality of blackness and what we are fed as the reality of being black in America. Lost in the commonality of the audience’s comments was the innate complexity of blackness with the ability to relate to both the video vixen and the preacher’s wife. It seems that when faced with definition of ourselves we are quick to escalate outliers counteracting the mere idea that we, as a culture, can be defined.
Does being black correspond to being bi-polar?
One mutually agreed upon annotation of blackness was the possession of a struggle-ridden, heat-emanating soul derived from a history rife with strife and victory. Does that mean being black correlates to hyper-sensitivity?
The panelists were challenged with rationalizing the repetitive battle of Tyler Perry vs Spike Lee; or the degradation of hip-hop submerse in ‘ignant’ artists like Rick Ross and Waka Flocka vs socially conscious rappers such as Common and Lupe. They rehashed the targeted comparisons of the perfect black family-structure of The Cosby’s with the drama-filled modern representation of family in The Game. Each a media derived construct representing one perceived facet of the black community. And it seems that even within our race we’re conflicted on which element to select as our outward face.
The conflicted images portrayed in the examples internally divides the race, you have to be one or the other: the overshadowing question of ratchet vs bougie. So what is it Black America? Do we find our voice in being dissatisfied in the “other me” we see? Are we forever relegated to play the apologetic Negro perpetually asserting that we’re not like the “them”? (But clearly we can easily navigate between the two).
I’m left wondering if this is the cause of the debate and distain of our civil rights predecessors. Have we become complacent, so disenfranchised that we internalize negative images as fact? Or positive images as unrealistic? Have we accepted a singular, narrow view of being black that we’ve forgotten our past?
What was the point of Carter G. Woodson designing Black History Month if not to remind our race that despite our daily obstacles we have a legacy of outstanding black figures who paved the way for future generations to fantasize and dream their successes into reality?
An underlying tone in this conference was an inherent selfishness and self-consideration of mankind. It is only when degradation invades our comfort zone that we become cognizant of creating a boundary of relativity encompassing more than just our immediate surroundings. Basically, we care when it becomes personal. In the debasement of our race, images of hyper sexualized women, criminalized men, “movies as street CNN” lay the sensationalized shame supporting white imperatives of inhumanity of black people. Slavery was justified as the only way to protect and preserve black people from self annihilation. I’m sure Too Short’s article in XXL helped counteract that argument (insert sarcasm here). It’s time to wake up.
When the blame game starts on who perverted our image, we run the gamut of excuses ranging from not being the ones to make the decisions, to complaining of being sold yet endorsing the nonsense (on the sly of course), to buying into a scripted reality if only as an escape from the miasma that is our existence.
Is it truly a case of imbalance? Are we in crisis because our iconic influences regale the life of hustling, drug-dealing, and misogyny? If we had more examples of upstanding, black citizens would that nullify the jaundiced illustration in the media?
Overall I was VERY pleased with the event, the discussion, the topics, the panelists… bomb.com. I left wanting more, similar events, a more diverse audience. We need more avenues of conversation to dissect the struggle within the black community and work together toward a solution.
I’d hate to see the dissolution of the dialogue because our overly titillated minds can no longer contextualize the expansive array of ideas spoon-fed by the media. I’d fate for us to give up our standards because it’s too hard to swim against the current and the fight is endless. Each one teaches one to keep that fire going. Let the legacy be a springboard, not a cooling board.
Until the next time, let us march on until victory is won.