by Josephine McNeal
President Joe Biden has declared June to be Black Music Appreciation Month, a time to celebrate the powerful influence Black music has had on American culture and heritage.
Time and time again, Black musicians have contributed a soundtrack for people’s lives as a safe expression of emotions.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, they performed at-home concerts. Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’ and other songs expressed the emotions felt by so many navigating a life-stopping virus in the United States.
Music by Black artists also transformed our social media newsfeeds into safe-havens. In 2020, social media became a space for the Black community to engage with lighthearted and uplifting content, such as the R&B duo Chloe x Halle performing songs from their tennis court. Social media influencers, including Jalaiah Harmon, used catchy dance challenges as a way to bring happiness across people’s timelines as they were quarantined at home.
Some Black artists, including rapper Lupe Fiasco, have also taken to social media to advocate for COVID-19 vaccines.
After saying his fans would need to be vaccinated in order to attend his 2020 concert, the rapper received harsh pushback from people on Twitter. Despite the comments, he did not backpedal. He told fans his decision came from searching for options outside of vaccines.
With more outdoor and indoor music events this summer, it’s crucial for Black Americans to get shots into their arms.
“Be vigilant, vaccinated, boosted, double boosted, sanitized, and distanced,” said Gary Hines director and producer of the three-time Grammy Award-winning inspirational group Sounds of Blackness. Hines pointed out how last year’s Juneteenth celebration was impeded by the virus.
“This will be the first full celebration of Juneteenth, which is now an official, national holiday. Our latest song release, ‘Juneteenth,’ is an anthem about the themes of this season: celebration, liberation, and freedom. And part of that freedom and celebration should be vaccination.”
The bottom line is that the pandemic became a space where Black musicians took the time to make sense of the world around them and defiantly tell their stories, personal and political. Their musical talents and uplifting mantras have moved us onward and upward. With more vaccinations, we can keep moving in the right direction.