For the Culture.

Perserving, Defending, and Loving Black Culture

By Jaylin Paschal

Nothing warms my heart more than seeing a black man wear a durag in public. Well. Except for seeing a black woman wearing bantu knots in public. I love to see black culture exist out loud--raw and authentic and unapologetic; caring about the wave or curl of hair more than rules of the norm or the comfort of the mainstream.

There's, of course, an overhanging question which subliminally headlines this piece: What is black culture?

The answer is simple. The answer is complex. Black culture is our vernacular(s), our swayed step, our dances. Our shared experiences and our individual stories. It's a manifestation of mere survival, remarkable resilience, and somehow, creativity in the face of racism and despair. It's how we, as a people, have managed to bounce back as dynamic rather than merely exist as static bodies, going through the motions of maintaining our being in America.

Black culture, perhaps the most loved and most hated force in this country, is threatened regularly as it is white-washed, appropriated, and vilified while further marginalizing its creators. Aspects of black culture--style, slang, dance, rap, food, etc.--are consumed and commodified in white packages labeled "urban" or "southern." While these same aspects--style, slang, dance, rap, food, etc.--are criminalized or devalued when presented in their original black form. A white girl with purple cornrows is "daring" or "alternative;" a black girl with the same is "ratchet." Our work on us is grimy and aggressive, while trendy and chic on others. It's great when it can result in Hip Hop Barbie dolls, but can lead to your death when you listen to Hip Hop "too loudly" at a gas station.

Black culture, in all of its facets and nooks and crannies, is a gorgeous, multidimensional entity we have a responsibility to nurture and cultivate. Tyler Perry films and Spike Lee films. Kamasi Washington's The Epic and Miles Davis's Kind of Blue. Ice Cube the gangsta rap pioneer and Ice Cube the rated-PG actor. Dashikis and Coogi. Yelling "Kobe" and wearing Jordan's. Graffiti artists and Kehinde Wiley. The Harlem Renaissance and the Chicago drill-rap scene. It's Gordon Parks and Devin Allen. It's Good Times and The Fresh Prince. Richard Prior and Dave Chapelle. Questlove's afro and Q Tip's music. Beaded braids and long locs. Break dancing and milly rocking. All of it. It's ours to cherish, regardless of the abuse it suffers at the hands of outsiders and onlookers. We love it even if they don't. We celebrate it even if they won't. And we continue to mold it however we see fit. Not only for us all as black individuals, but for us as black people--for the culture.