Let’s not forget the key ingredients that are critical for moving Black rock forward.
I can be cavalier and dismissive of commercial hip-hop and R&B and the artists who create it. And there’s lots of reasons to do so: With subject matter that rarely ranges beyond parties and bullshit, I’ve certainly lowered my expectations for anything that might be on the radio. In fact, I’ve made comments here on this blog and in conversations with people that it’s just plain silly to rep your block when the world’s gone global.
But an article in Sunday’s NY Times arts section made me stop and think for a minute. The article recounted the unlikely path of screenwriter Michael Martin, a product of Brownsville, Brooklyn, from MTA subway employee to a screenwriter whose Hollywood debut is being directed by Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") and stars Richard Gere, Wesley Snipes and Ethan Hawke. As inspiring as that story is, here’s what I found valuable in this article:
Before the shoot ended, Mr. Fuqua donated $100,000 of professional camera equipment to four teenagers he selected for a filmmaking program he created.
“Brownsville, we never get none of this,” said Bryan Martin, 16, one of the participants. “We don’t get nothing, no kind of recognition. And a lot of guys don’t get a chance to get out of the neighborhood, so it’s amazing for them to come to us.”
That’s just it: People are stuck in under-resourced neighborhoods where there aren’t a lot of options, and not a lot of hope. There are people who are, literally, struggling to survive. I want to take a minute to acknowledge that the fact that a lot of artists hold their blocks, their neighborhoods, so dear is because that’s all they know. It wasn’t just that Fuqua donated the equipment, but that the movie set in Brownsville got shot there at all. It validated the residents’ existence. And once you feel valued, you move through the world in a way that’s different than someone who doesn’t. And, honestly, it’s hard to think or care about global issues when your basic needs aren’t met.
I guess I’m trying to do a better job at not invalidating someone’s experience, even though there’s an industry that holds that experience up as the authentic Black experience, one by which every African American is ultimately judged.
Even though I don’t like what they’re saying, I’m going to try harder to not be so dismissive of the people who are saying it. Certainly, that’s not the way to attract people to Black rock.
Just thought it was worth saying.