“Don’t let anybody tell you what to do, be who you want to be.”
– Marsha P. Johnson
“We are people, of the mighty
Mighty people of the sun.”
– Earth Wind & Fire
This week’s theme is Pride & Identity. Pride & Identity is more than the celebration of self-acceptance. The songs on this week’s list show the challenges of being oneself in a world that is reluctant to accept our self-identity. This is not only reflected in Black music, but also in the celebration of National Pride Month for the LGBTQ+ community.
A celebration of Pride & Identity is incomplete without the inclusion of Diana Ross’s classic I’m Coming Out which has become an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community. Equally significant are contributions by Sylvester, You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and RuPaul The Realness who broke barriers, and reflect the diversity of Black music.
Black musicians are found in various genres. Blues artist and Memphis Native Eric Gales captures the meaning of being different in Southpaw Serenade. African American country artist Mickey Guyton’s Black Like Me illustrates the fear and tension associated with being a Black person in the United States.
Mid 1970’s artists continued to present messages in their music affirming identity like Earth, Wind & Fire’s Mighty, Mighty and Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground. These songs would also influence hip hop artist like Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y. which challenged the portrayal of Black women in the 1990s.
Our list also features Black female musicians who affirm and celebrate their identity with singles from India Arie, Janelle Monae, Nina Simone, Blue Ivy & Beyoncé.
All of these songs remind us to embrace our unique characteristics, and in the words of Stevie Wonder: “Keep on pushing until we reach the higher ground.”
What songs by Black artists would you recommend? Share with us on social media @NCRMuseum #BlackMusicMonth #RevolutionaryMusic