Black History’s Impact on Current Black Culture
I recently attended a program put on at the University of San Diego on April twenty-first called The Black Present and Presence, which was hosted by Dr. Channon Miller, V. Dozier, and Khalia Ii. These three passionate speakers taught me so much about black culture today and how it has evolved over the past few decades. They also showed me how the black community comes together in this new age of technology and social media to protect one another and enjoy each other’s company. Overall this program showed how Black Culture has evolved and how much of American culture comes directly from the black community.
Throughout history, White America has taken so many traditions and cultural norms directly from Africa. The same thing is happening now with White people leeching onto the black communities within America and stealing their habits while paying them no respect for whatever trends they happen to enjoy. Seeing this happen over the last thirty years, and especially in my lifetime, gives me a strong sense of how the same thing has happened for the last two centuries, with no credit given to the black community. In its entirety, this presentation showed how the black community comes together to thrive and protect their intellectual and physical property, on a place like Twitter, while also showing how basic American trends is ripped off from authentic African culture.
Black Twitter today is a very helpful tool for the black community, and social media makes it much easier to come together than it was in the past. Places like Twitter allow people of various groups to come together from all over the world to lift each other up and speak out against injustice. It is also a great place to have fun and socialize with individuals you would have never met otherwise. In her presentation, Dozier stated that “Humans need community and humans create community,” and I thought this was very interesting and evident in everyday life. Creating community is easier for some than others, so Twitter is a great tool for people to have their voices heard and find their right place. Dozier stated that “Twitter threads allow Black women to amplify their voices,” which is very important because they are often dismissed when in conversations with whites or males. As helpful as it is to certain communities now, this sort of group communication and lifting each other’s voices up was absolutely integral, and almost impossible, in a time like the early 1800s. During these times, technology was way behind, and the internet was still 150 years out, so group communication was impossible without being together in person. As slavery was rampant during this time, many Blacks across the country had no opportunity to speak with each other. This meant the free Black community had to band together and fight for all of them. In Chapter 6 of Freedom on My Mind by Deborah Gray White, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin Jr, they showed one of the first examples of community and Black power, which was the Freedom’s Journal. The Freedom’s Journal was the nation’s first African American newspaper, published by Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm in 1827. At the time this was the strongest way for Black people to have a real voice, even if other African Americans were the only ones to read it. In Chapter 6 of Freedom on My Mind, it is said that “the black press functioned as a critical element in the creation of a sense of blacks as a distinctive people, as a nation within a nation”(White 418). I feel like this would have been so important because it would have given Blacks hope for a prosperous and enjoyable life inside of America, instead of just longing to leave this place. Another statement by the original newspaper stated that “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us” (White 418). This is so important during that time but what is interesting is that Black Twitter functions for a very similar reason today. This is sad because we have seemingly made so much progress since the newspaper, but basic human respect is still not shown. The example given in the program I attended was about how Black Twitter worked together to take down a book that was poaching their culture for profit. This book was called “Bad and Boujee: Toward a Trap Feminist Theology,” and was written by a White woman named Jennifer Buck. Black female Twitter was rightfully upset at the author and the publisher because this was not her book to write and profit off of. She stole ideas from Black women and gave them little to no credit. Whether the information in the book was right or wrong, she had no right to share it with the world like that. Black Female twitter was very active in calling for this book to be taken down. Many Black women shared their stories and used hashtags like #citeblackwomen and #blackexcellence to boost the story. This pressure from these women made the publisher pull the book, giving a victory to the Black community. This is definitely a good sign and shows that America is headed in the right direction. Although the Freedom’s Journal only ran for two years, over 40 new Black newspapers were created over the coming years.
The other main part of this entire program was about current black culture and the things black people experience as minorities in a society. African American hair was the main point of Khalia Ii’s presentation and it was very eye-opening to me. I never thought about how the societal standard for “pretty” hair in America is so different from natural African hair. Girls from such a young age feel like their hair is less pretty than their classmates and that’s sad they feel insecure about something beautiful like curly hair. As they become adults they often learn to appreciate their hair, but they still might end up changing it for whatever reason. Throughout the presentation, I learned that if they do change it they are not doing it for anyone but themselves, unlike when they were younger and might have done it for approval. Some examples of pop culture trends that were taken from the black community with little credit given are acrylic nails, air force ones, and dap-ups. All three of these were popular with African Americans before they became mainstream trends. This is very unfair because they are given no credit or compensation for their intellectual property being stolen. Throughout my life, I never knew these different ideas came from black culture and I think there are a couple of reasons for that. I feel like I never saw any credit given in the mainstream media, like TV shows. Also, the shops for things like acrylic seem to be rarely owned by African Americans. There should be some laws in place to protect from this, that would offer opportunities for African Americans to own these businesses and reclaim their heritage. This law would be very difficult to implement and is probably a long way away, so for now, we should each do our part to support local Black-owned businesses in our communities. In an article released by Daily Trojan in 2020, I learned a lot about how almost all pop culture is deeply inspired by Black culture. The author, Rachel McKenzie states that “White people take everything from Black culture but the burden.” This struck me because while it is accurate, I don’t think it goes far enough. It is obvious that we don’t “take the burden” off of the Black community, but I think it is safe to say we still enforce the burden on them, all while stealing their culture and habits. She also shows many trends in our everyday lives are directly from Black culture as Dozier did. She then gives an important reminder to her White readers that “doing something about your privilege is not supposed to be comfortable.” This is important for us to ingrain in our mindsets because we can easily forget it if we choose. Even those of us who don’t see any racism within ourselves, and are not consciously racist people, we still have the option to easily dismiss the injustice happening. We must remember that the black community does not have the option to ignore these hurdles, because they actively affect their everyday lives.
As a young White man, it was very important and beneficial to learn about the triumphs and tribulations of the black community. This was especially true about the female African American experience, as their reality is a completely different world than mine, even though we live in the same communities. It is important for everyone to keep up with these issues, especially if they don’t affect them. Checking privilege in all walks of life is essential to be sure you are being an ally and to make your community and the world a place of justice and equality. It will be very difficult to uproot the deep-seated racism that our society was built on. Changes will have to happen at a legislative level, which will probably take a while if they ever do happen. Until then, everyone must be proactive in unlearning racist ideologies and fighting against societal structures that disenfranchise the Black community.
White, Deborah G., et al. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. Bedford/St. Martins, 2021.
The Black Present and Presence, University of San Diego Saints and Cerra Hall; Dr. Channon Miller, V. Dozier, and Khalia Ii
Mckenzie, Rachel. “The Afterword: White People Take Everything from Black Culture but the Burden.” Daily Trojan, 10 June 2020,