Black History Month

By Doug Errico

It’s a bird! No, it’s a plane! No, you imbeciles, it’s actually Kanye West, complete with a set of angel wings, flying over the crowd at the 47th Grammy Awards after his dramatic resurrection.

A perfect way to ring in Black History Month­–an African American flying around in front of millions of viewers in a moment of sheer triumph over personal and social adversity.

Not only does his flight speak volumes about the size of West’s ego, having been nominated for 10 Grammys after a near life-ending accident, it also serves as a pint-sized anthem for the month of February.

In 1926, Charles G. Woodsen, son of slave parents, decided that no one should forget his people’s fight for freedom. He created what is now a month-long celebration of Black culture–four weeks that keep local hip-hop groups like Allciti, extremely busy.

“Black History Month is like Remembrance Day for us,” says Allciti M.C., Eshoo Barnun.

“It’s our way of paying respect to people who have done stuff for us in the past. Why not talk about the injustices in our past?

Indeed! While Americans were living the high life with their all-white swimming pools, and VIP seating on city buses, people like Barnun and Woodsen were having their rights stripped away.

Although these injustices are, for the most part, over, many are still misinformed when it comes to what took place years ago.

“Society today, especially the American culture, doesn’t want to embrace black culture. They especially like to conceal information. Did you know black people built the White House?” asks Barnun.

Interestingly enough, black labourers worked long, strenuous hours, and proved to be a vital force in the construction of the White House and the U.S. Capitol buildings.

However, after slavery ended, the Americans became paranoid of a black uprising and it was never realized that all they wanted was their freedom.

That freedom has now transformed into a genre of music that has the world collectively bobbing their heads to the sounds of hip-hop, rap, and rhythm and blues.

The failure-to-fortune story of hip hop has resonated throughout radio stations and stereo systems worldwide, and brings in plenty of capital to America’s music industry.

Not surprisingly, the top four winners at this years Grammys were all of African decent, including the flying Kanye West.

Nonetheless, most of the individuals buying the latest rap CDs do not fully understand the history or message behind the creative beats heard on the radio.

“It’s hard to keep people interested for a long period of time,” states Barnun.

“Even some of my own people don’t know what this month is all about.”

Fortunately, individuals such as Gary Martin, a.k.a. Mr. Motown, thinks it is important to identify with the youth. In his fourth year of giving the University of Calgary a glimpse of where black music was forged, he declares this his favorite time of year.

“Things like this Speaker’s Corner gigs are what I like to do to encourage the youth to come and enjoy live music. I started out as a youth, and only played what my elders played, which happened to be Blues and jazz,” says Martin.

“It’s very important to identify with [the youth’s] needs today, yet at the same time let them know where it all came from. People like me pass the torch, so to speak, to the younger artists of today, hoping they can take music to a different level while still remembering their roots,” he adds.

In lieu of that thoughtwave, Allciti and Gary Martin are holding a three-part musical extravaganza fittingly named The Roots. It will showcase the timeline of hip-hop music, from the early days to current sounds. The last day of the series is February 26th at Brew Brothers.

Allciti hopes this will be a chance to inform, educate, and let the individuality of race rise above adversity.

“We would just like to create an atmosphere where you can come to the show, be yourself, express yourself however you like,” states Barnun.

You can be anything that your little heart desires, including an angel like Mr. West himself.

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