There are a number of things happening today that are generating anger among Black Americans, and the response to these situations can determine what happens to the future of Black America.
A case in point: Beyoncé Knowles-Carter has released a new 1 hour and 25 minute film that was created to “celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry” and “to present elements of Black history and African tradition, with a modern twist and a universal message, and what it truly means to find your self-identity and build a legacy,” according to her.
The film, titled “Black is King,” is based on the “Lion King: The Gift.” It features a stylized view of African heritage, with images representing traditional religions as well as work by contemporary artists. By all accounts, the images are beautiful and captivating and go a long way to give a feeling of uplift to those who view it. It brings to mind the response to the utopia-like images in Marvel’s movie “Black Panther.”
Beyoncé has done her homework. She has researched diverse elements of African culture and included them in an innovative feature that both captivates and inspires. BUT, as in everything that we experience as human beings, there are those who are very disgruntled about her work.
Several issues have surfaced: there are those who say that she has “appropriated” African culture and is unfairly profiting off of it. They feel she has no right as an African American to use elements of African culture in her project. This is quite ludicrous, however, since Africa is a continent, not a country, and is extremely diverse with over 2,000 distinct languages and multiple cultures. Because of this, it seems quite feasible that depictions of Africa include a positive amalgamation; a unification strategy.
Other critics say that the film’s images are “demonic,” and still others are saying that the film is setting Black people up to fail regarding expectations, in that pre-colonial Africa was not perfect.
Since Africa is so diverse, Beyoncé’s vision provides Black America with an opportunity to envision an existence of what can be; of possibilities. In other words, no one “owns” contemporary African culture, since the Diaspora is an aggregate, no matter how loudly the nay-sayers yell.
Unfortunately, Black anger has reared its ugly crab-in-the-barrel head among those who dislike what Beyoncé has created.
On the other side of the Black American creative spectrum is the new dance video released by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, with an appearance by Kylie Jenner, titled “WAP.”
“WAP” is a vulgar acronym for a characteristic of female genitalia. The video is visually stunning and very risqué. It is reminiscent of something that could have had its origins in an upscale strip club. Basically, it is the polar opposite of the images in “Black is King.” It too, is being soundly criticized, but the reason for pushback is absolutely surprising.
People have no issue with the topic. The main issue seems to be the inclusion of Kylie Jenner, from the Kardashian family, who makes a cameo appearance. People are so disgruntled about her appearance in the video that a petition is being circulated that garnered more than 33,000 signatures in a 24-hour period to have her removed from the video. Mostly, it seems people are upset with Jenner’s “cosplaying” of Black Americans. This, too, is ludicrous, since Cardi B is not African American. In actual fact, Black women have demonstrated an extreme dislike of the Kardashian women for what they see as an attempt to appropriate Black culture.
What these two situations – opposition to Beyoncé’s “Black is King,” and to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP,” reveal is a deep streak of anger in the Black community. In the case of “WAP,” we are trouncing our allies. Whether the art is positive and uplifting or overtly sexual and materialistic, anger is being generated. It is as though ongoing oppression and the outrageous conditions in a pandemically impacted world with its dangerous social and economic repercussions are causing anger to reach a boiling point.
We must resist the temptation to let anger rule, however, because it is counterproductive. It is important that we focus on finding better responses to ideas that differ from our own. We must resist the tendency to turn on each other. A Luta Continua.