The Black community continuously produces groundbreaking and trend-setting music. While Black music is often imitated and scrutinized, it has been and continues to be one of the most unifying sources of new sound on the planet.
The power and influence of Black music is one of the reasons why June has been dedicated to Black music.
What is African American Music Month?
June is African American Music Month, also known as Black Music Month. It is a time when the contributions of Black musicians and artists are recognized and celebrated. Black Music Month emphasizes the importance and continuous contributions of Black artists.
How did Black Music Month get started?
Since 1979, June has been the month to celebrate Black music. Over the last five decades, Black music has evolved from the blues to jazz and transformed into disco and funk. With the growth of Black music, it has become a national and international sensation.
President Jimmy Carter was the first to designate June as Black Music Month, yet he never signed an official proclamation during his presidency. In 1998 journalist and activist Dyana Williams wanted to host a Black Music Month event at the White House, but when she petitioned for it, she was informed the event would not be possible.
Fortunately, Williams didn’t give up. She and Congressman Chaka Fattah lobbied legislation to make a change, and two years later, June was officially recognized as Black Music Month. In 2009 President Barack Obama renamed the month African American Music Appreciation Month.
Black music has given people hope and has been an expression of both pain and triumph. Thus Black music should be celebrated. Here are five ways to do so.
5 Ways to Celebrate
In the era of Tik Tokers intimating a majority of Black culture, we must acknowledge the foundation of music that Black people have set.
1. Attend Black music events
While attending Beyonce’s Renaissance concert is technically a Black music event, you can also attend other events in June and throughout the year. Start by searching for Black music events in your area or following local artists on social media.
If you want a bigger scene, check out One Musicfest in Atlanta, Georgia, Essence Festival in New Orleans, Louisiana, Strength of a Woman Festival in Atlanta, and Afro Nation in Accra, Ghana.
2. Listen to Black music from different genres
Black music is commonly associated with rap, jazz, R&B, and hip-hop. Yet, Black artists have never limited their creative genius to one genre of music. If you want to expand your musical palette, try listening to Black music in rock, country, and opera genres. Some artists you can add to your playlist include:
Jessie Mae Hemphill
A quote from Statepress.com shows the importance of listening to Black artists across genres: “Defining Black artists with only three genres fails to capture what their music is on a holistic level,” according to Rashad Shabazz, associate professor of African and African American Studies. “It does a disservice to the profound diversity that Black musicians produce.”
3. Donate to Black music programs
Keeping the legacy of Black music alive is crucial. More than streaming your favorite artists or buying concert tickets, supporting programs that have made music possible for many young artists is essential.
Some programs doing great things include:
Donating to a Black music program fosters a love for music, supports dreams, and helps build legacies.
4. Educate yourself on Black music history
Although many know of the groundbreaking Black musicians such as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, many influential music artists continue to go unnoticed despite their talents and accomplishments. Because of this, many organizations are working to uplift Black music. One of those organizations is the Black Music Project, whose mission is to use storytelling and graphics to tell the history of Black music and the history of America.
In addition, you can check out the following music documentaries. Here are a few to add to your summer watch list.
Summer of Soul features clips and insights into the Harlem Cultural Festival 1969. In 2021 the film received an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Homecoming highlights Beyonce’s two-weekend performance as the first Black woman headling Coachella.
The Apollo documents the historic landmark, the Apollo Theater, that helped launch many Black performers into stardom, such as Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin.
Tina: If you want to get to know the late Tina Turner, this documentary shows you how she went from an ordinary girl to an extraordinary superstar.
The creative process of producing hit music is not always a straightforward path. Thus, learning more about the people behind the mic can help you to appreciate music in a brand new way.
5. Stream music from emerging and well-known artists
Beyonce, Usher, and Megan Thee Stallon are some Black artists you’ve been playing on repeat. Listening to familiar music is enjoyable and comforting. Yet there are many new and emerging artists whose talents and skills will be a happy addition to your repeat playlist.
Some emerging artists to check out are:
Victoria Monet has been building her career in the music industry for the past ten years. She has worked behind the scenes writing songs for Ariana Grande’s album Thank U, Next, which won a Grammy nomination. Also on Monet’s resume is songwriting for Nas, Fifth Harmony, and Chris Brown. Within the last three years, she has been slowly working her way center stage with the release of her album Jaguar in 2020.
Peyton Nicole Booker who’s commonly referred to as Peyton, grew up playing the violin and was inspired by her grandma Theole Booker, a Grammy-nominated composer.
Bri Steves is a singer and rapper who plays multiple instruments. She has a soulful voice reminiscent of Faith Evens but with the style of Missy Elliot.
Interesting facts about Black music
Beyond the instruments and lyrics, here are some little-known facts about Black music.
- The first traces of Black music were called spirituals, songs that helped enslaved Africans express their sorrows and joy.
- Tupac Shakur trained in ballet. He took ballet classes at the Baltimore School of Arts.
- Rhythm and blues, also known as R&B, started in the 1940s and was initially called race music.
- Although Black musicians have dominated the music scene and have helped create what popular music is today, in 2013, no Black musician had a number-one single on the Billboard music chart. For 44 weeks, white musicians occupied the number one spot for R&B and hip-hop.
- The first female African American to make a phonograph record was Mamie Smith. In the 1920s, Smith recorded her album despite receiving death threats and thus paved the way for many modern-day artists.
Black music is about the legacy and culture of Black people. Music has served as a beacon of hope, an act of rebellion, and a symbol of freedom. Use this month and every month to celebrate the treasure that is Black music.
What's Your Reaction?
Kiersten is a freelance writer and coach. As a writer, she has written for Travel Noire, Passion Passport, BAUCE mag, and various travel and lifestyle blogs. As a writer, her goal is to write content that inspires others to take action. As a coach, her goal is to empower women to be their most authentic selves. In her free time, you can find her dancing to any song any where.