Black culture is central to American culture—we simply don’t have America without having the Black experience, born of slavery and systemic racism and white supremacy, of physical and mental and emotional pain. But through generations, Black women and men have passed down stories given from their mothers and grandmothers. They’ve cooked and sang and danced and played the most beautiful music. They’ve written and dreamed and created. Black culture has inspired us for hundreds of years as it has woven its way into the tapestry of American life. And today, we’re going to talk about the richness of it all with Dr. Tanisha C. Ford, a cultural critic and professor of history at CUNY. Dr. Ford shares the artists and icons that shaped her world as a young Black woman growing up (everyone from her own mother and her leather jackets, to the music of Aretha Franklin and TLC, Roberta Flack and Mary J. Blige). Dr. Ford shows us how looking deeply at culture helps us see the threads of politics and society woven within. We learn why cultural appropriation is tied to systems of exploitation. We see why we need to shift our eyes away from history books that haven’t centered important Black pioneers like Anna Julia Cooper and Ida B. Wells, why everyone needs to read words from thinkers like James Baldwin and Audre Lorde. We see how Shirley Chisholm paved the way for Kamala Harris. We see the beauty and strength of artists like Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, and how they birth artists like Alicia Keys and Janelle Monáe. And through it all we see how new forms of technology have carried Black voices to new corners of the world for decades, planting the seeds for social media to blossom into a powerful force for the change that we’re seeing today.
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