The United States is in action right now against racism. Almost every major city has had protests, many of which have become violent. According to the personal accounts of my friends who were there, most of the violence was first initiated by the police, and almost all of the violence was perpetrated by a small minority of white “opportunists”.
Yet another black man was carelessly murdered by excessive police force, even with onlookers pleading the police to stop the violence. This is not the first time protestors have used the battle cry “I can’t breath” to remind people of the death of a black man.
My little corner of the world is the blues dancing community, and this is where I can help make a difference. I want you to understand exactly why appropriation matters in our art form. Our music and dancing was born out of terrible conditions for an enslaved people.
AND IT’S NOT OVER.
Throughout history beautiful art has been born from strife, and blues dancing is no different. Many of us are drawn to the beauty of the strong words, power and celebration of blues music. I certainly am. When you take this beauty, use it for your own purposes, and do not give homage to where it came from; you are defiling it.
You are continuing the pattern of racism and colonialism that led to a people being enslaved in the first place. Enslaved, and then their powerful art being stolen for decades by white artists who made a ton of money off it… like Elvis. Elvis was a great artist in his own right, but he made a career out of stealing entire songs from black artists who could not possibly be as successful due to their skin color. Typical of his era. Don’t be Elvis. In 2020, you should be more educated than that.
DO Love blues music, DO NOT be afraid of it! Do not stop blues dancing just because of its history. Honor its power and the way it moves you by carrying the tradition on. Honor the music with your bodies by dancing to it with reverence. Teach people where it came from, and teach them to hold that past with sorrow and appreciate what it gave us.
Policy and cultural change happen with one person at a time. Be the person who makes the world just a little bit more fair. You don’t have to be a “champion” of the cause to take a few hours out of your life to do better.
1) Learn about Black American culture. Learn why black people in America are still being chased down at gunpoint. Show that Black Lives Matter to you. You don’t have to be a historian, and you don’t have to know all the latest idiom dances. You can easily learn one thing at a time to understand the wonderful diversity of blues music and dancing, as well as it’s emotionally intense history.
2) Examine your own racism. It will be hard. And, yes, you have some racism in you. Don’t know how to start having these conversations? Here is a great pamphlet made for the classroom but applicable to everyone.
3) If you are American, I found this article particularly useful on specific actions you can take to make a real difference.
“What white people can do to make a difference”
If you are not American, or don’t pay attention to these issues, you may not be caught up. I find that seeing things first hand gives me the gut-wrenching emotional understanding of the magnitude of what is really happening, rather than relying on washed out third party reports. I couldn’t participate in a protest to shout their names, but I can share them with you here. These Black Lives Mattered too.
2020 George Floyd
2020 Ahmaud Armery
2020 Breonna Taylor
2018 Stephen Clark
2018 Botham Jean
2016 Alton Sterling
2015 Walter Scott
2016 Philando Castile
2015: Freddie Grey
2014 Eric Garner
2014 Michael Brown
2014 Laquan McDonald
1991 Rodney King