Two’s Day: Two to Celebrate

Here we are at the last Two’s Day of this Black History Month series. And I’d say it’s time to celebrate. We aren’t just celebrating our culture, but the universal culture in which we’ve made significant contributions to. We are celebrating our resilience. We are celebrating our strength.

For years we’ve been fighting for the opportunity to be human. To be given the same rights to humanity that are freely given to the descendants of this nation’s “forefathers”. We haven’t been fighting because we wanted to, we’ve been fighting because we have to. We’ve had so many victories along our journey and have overcome many trials and tribulations. We’ve built bridges to cross into environments where we were shun. We’ve constructed houses of our own when they said we couldn’t live in theirs.

We went from chattel to CEOs. From being owned to becoming owners. And although we have quite a ways to go (Re: Eric Garner, John Crawford, Mike Brown, etc), we have so much to celebrate. Through our progress, we’ve turned our tears into resounding sounds of triumph. A rhythm that can’t be muffled or silenced. Let’s keep progressing until the whole world is dancing.

Celebrate!

James Brown – “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”

Stevie Wonder – “Black Man”

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Two’s Day: Two for Breaking the Cyle

Evolution and growth is linear, but life (or more specifically, culture) is cyclical. Old things become new. New things become old. Trends inform culture. Culture informs new trends. We see images and absorb certain trends that inspire us. In turn, we internalize and emulate – putting out similar, or exaggerated, images that reflect what we’ve taken in. Those looking to monetize culture then flock to what sells.

There’s nothing new about that model, but access and exposure are at an all-time high. And there is the issue. We have to break the cycle of exploitation. We can’t be mad at the images that are being exploited as if these “characters” don’t exist in the real world. They do. And they’re more prevalent than we’d like to admit. But they aren’t the only images that represent us. Music is not (and has never been) dead. All of our actresses and actors and models didn’t get their start on reality tv/social media. Our leaders take a different shape/form, but they do exist. We have strong, positive, intelligent, young voices that speak for us. They just live outside of the spotlight, which is usually controlled by people outside of the culture that are only looking for what generates clicks, likes, page-views, and dollar signs.

So what do we do? We take more responsibility for what we take in and what we put out. We break our gaze from the machine-controlled spotlight and shine our own lights on the images we prefer. Images that build instead of images that destroy. We redefine the paradigm. The machine already knows that the power is with the people, they just do a better job and rallying the people around their preferred images. It’s up to us to decide where we place our power. We amplify the good and avoid exploiting the bad. We don’t blindly accept what they want us to consume. We start to better understand that in a lot of ways we are what we consume. We start to consume more of the things that are meant to inspire, nurture, and grow us. We demand more of those that are . We demand more of our peers and those that influence us. We demand more of ourselves. We turn off the radio. We become our own curators. We break the cycle.

Talib Kweli – “More or Less”

The Roots & John Legend – Shine

Listen: Harold Green – #FFTL2015 Al Green – “Simply Beautiful” feat. The Ones

One of my favorite things about February is Harold Green‘s Flowers For the Living series. It’s a beautiful marriage of poetry, music, and energy. This is just a taste of a more extensive multi-course meal.

Get the rest here.

Two’s Day: Two for Self-Awareness

Last week I gave you two for the culture as an introduction to deeper conversation. This week I offer you two for self-awareness. Recognition of self. Acknowledgement of our behavior and complete contribution – both, for better or worse.

Thanks to smart phones, wi-fi, and social media, we’re as connected as we’ve ever been. This has so many advantages and perks. I love being able to find new music from all over the world on Soundcloud and watching classic concert footage on YouTube and people watching on Instagram. But for every positive, there’s a negative (or two). Technology allows everyone a platform to say and feel whatever they want publicly. It creates audiences and wherever there is an audience, there’s a performance. And, man, do we love to perform.

We look for and provoke conflict for the sole purpose of collecting footage for social media. We watch TV in front of our Twitter accounts and pack the most ignorant, negative sentiment within the character limitation – again, just to collect retweets and @ mentions. We create memes that humiliate and embarrass innocent people. In the words of Beanie Sigel, we treat Instagram like it’s the “get indicted hotline” posting pictures of ourselves with guns, drugs, and obscene amounts of money with captions bragging about how untouchable the “hustle” is.

We lure women in with money and less-than-politely requests that they bust it open. Then we frown at the lack of loyalty. Our women are purposefully naked and asking to be booked for roles that specifically call for them to be naked. We glorify and support all things ratchet – music, “reality” tv, websites. And then become easily offended when someone outside of the circle calls out the fuckery.

We. Us. Collectively. Because to some on the outside, we’re all the same. Because it’s ‘we’ and ‘us’ when we want justice. Because it’s ‘we’ and ‘us’ when it’s time to celebrate culture. So it’s ‘we’ and ‘us’ when the picture isn’t as pretty. We dress the part. We talk the part. We act the part. We’ll even accept the award for playing the role so well. But please don’t let anyone else comment on it. I mean, who are they to react to the performance?

Be aware. Be better. Be proud.

Goodie Mobb – “The Experience”

Astro ft. Bishop Nehru – K.I.N.G.

Two’s Day: Two for the Culture

Yes, yes y’all – Two’s Days are back. And as we return on this, the third day of Black History Month, we offer you two for the culture.

Notice I said for the culture and not our culture. This is an important distinction because our culture is universal culture. And while February is Black History Month, the truth of the matter is Black history is America’s history. To study Black culture would be to study the truth about American history and the give-take relationship that Black people have had with this country. And this relationship hasn’t always been based on reciprocity. For centuries, we’ve given far more than what we’ve taken and this country has taken from us far more than we’d elect to freely give.

But here we are. At the beginning of Black History Month where we’ll celebrate Black contribution and accomplishment. And in most cases we’ll talk about these things as if they’re completely separate from the larger picture. We’ll revel over the impact of Black music and the Black arts. We’ll highlight the achievements of Black doctors and Black scholars and Black leaders. We’ll apply this adjective to everything in a way that detaches us from them.

The fact of the matter is the system is flawed. It’s beautiful to be celebrated and some celebration is even required. Since our history isn’t readily and accurately portrayed, we have to celebrate in order for our story to be told and heard. But there needs to be a point in time where the descriptor isn’t needed. A point where history is told truthfully and completely. A point where its certain Black accomplishment and historical significance is synonymous with American culture.

For the next four weeks, we’ll explore some elements of the Black experience. But for now, here’s two for the culture…

Ras Kass – “Nature of the Threat”

Esperanza Spalding – “Black Gold”