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Black In America: Black History pt. 3 Know Thy Self

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A series, inspired by the CNN special, dedicated to race related identity issues concerning Black people in America.

The Black Power Movement was one of the most significant events in the history of Black Americans. Unlike the Civil Rights Era, which placed its entire focus on legal rights and the emphasis of suffering before the world, The Black Power Movement was about confrontation and unifying the Black community in order to garner political recognition and power. From the influence of the Black Power Movement the Black Arts Movement and the search for The Black Aesthetic (which were artistic movements that focused on identity and expression). In retrospect, The Black Power Movement stirred the Black community and inspired them to deal with their issues on a number of levels.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbXx8zT0xng]

Gil Scott Heron- “Who Will Survive In America” (sampled by Kanye West and featured on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album)

While my criticisms of The Black Power Movement are few, I can still say that they were unable to accomplish what they sought because Black people, like every other race, is full of individuals who share a cultural background but do not always share a reality or perspective. The leaders of the Black Power Movement focused on Black liberation and separating Black people into their own national collective to represent the entire race. Most of them also differed on how and what exactly should be done to accomplish that. The Black Power Movement made the same tragic mistake that the Civil Rights movement made: ignoring the root of the problem.

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The Problem

The problem was that Black Americans had no nationally identity. There was no collective agreement on much of anything for Black people. There were the militants who wanted to take what they lacked, there were the Christians who wanted to wait on God to change the hearts of White America, there were those who wanted to stay out of it altogether either because they were afraid to choose a side or because they wanted to live life under the radar. So, as expected the movement splintered and turned in on itself.

Blacks are the only immigrants of this country (and by immigrant I mean everyone but Native Americans) that were not allowed to retain their heritage. We were not allowed to remember who we were, to express who we were, to tell our children who they were. When I go home to New York, I always remember what it was like to grow up there. I remember one of my mother’s friends who lived in Brooklyn in an area that was predominantly Jewish. There you would see them dressed in their traditional style. I can remember that where I lived in the Bronx was predominantly Caribbean: Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Dominicans, and Puerto Ricans. It excited me how you could go into those neighborhoods and see a piece of the country from which those people had come. Their children, though completely American and Americanized, understood and had respect for the those traditions. Blacks were not so lucky. No need to recount the holocaust of chattel slavery that we endured where families were separated, people were denied knowledge, converted from their beliefs. If by no other means, we are all connected through the pain of our past.

The Point

What must be considered is that at this point (and back then) Black people in the United States are a part of America. Black people in America are connected and attached to America in a way that no other race can compare- except Native Americans. Black people have been woven into the fabric of America and that process has changed America and the Black community. We have to dissect that metamorphosis. We have to understand what took place and why. Then beneath all of that, I believe we will find, a commonality that can be shared by any and every Black American (besides pain and history). There are common threads in our culture that we all share. In the past we have looked everywhere but right in front of us to find those threads. They are not in Africa (we’ve been far too American for far too long to be African), they are not in any religion, they are not in our ethnic make-up, and they are certainly not in our physical appearance. Our culture is rooted in the shared experience of what it means to be Black in America. That crosses a number of demographic boundaries but is common to every Black person.

I’m not sayin’; I’m just sayin’,

An Angry Black Man

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