June is Black Music Month, when the recording industry pays homage to the history, contributions and artistry of Blacks in the music field. From the very beginning of Black life in the United States, music has played an important role in defining the struggle of African Americans, providing inspiration and uplift when needed most. Our memories of the civil rights movement are shaped as much by the music that served as its backdrop, as by the events and personalities that helped shaped a period that changed America. It is the absence of music with a message that is most noticeable today in a country where unresolved issues threaten our democracy.
While we don’t pretend to be music critics, and tend to hew more closely to issues involving politics and public policy, we do appreciate the role that Black writers and recording artists have played in the forward progress of African Americans and our nation. We have gathered a few clips in salute to Black Music Month that we believe are representative of the positive messages that were abundant in the past. Not all of the music has a direct political theme, but all of it speaks to social conditions that were evident at the time these artists recorded these classics. We hope for a return to lyrics that served to motivate our community, empower our leaders and send a message to the nation that our demand for our Constitutional rights will not be denied.
Nina Simone – To Be Young Gifted and Black
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Curtis Mayfield – Move on Up
Gil Scott-Heron – The Bottle
James Brown – I’m Black and I’m Proud
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message
The Temptations – Ball of Confusion
Stop the Violence Movement – Self Destruction
West Coast All Stars – We’re All in the Same Gang
Public Enemy – Fight the Power
Brand Nubian - Wake Up