Whether or not history repeats itself can be debated, but for Black people it certainly has. Time and time again, we’ve had to strengthen our communities by building kinship amongst each other in literal efforts to survive. One tool that we’ve used to assemble these spaces is music.
When global pandemics such as COVID-19 or national crises like police brutality occur, the world typically pauses. Not being afforded that luxury, Black people oftentimes incorporate songs into the fabric of our communities to simply make it through. Obie Benson, one-fourth of The Four Tops, witnessed police brutality in 1969 and used the experience to compose “What’s Going On.” The chart-topping hit, sung by Marvin Gaye, served as a response to what Benson witnessed. A year prior to that, “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” took the nation by storm, metamorphosing Black pride into a smash hit championing Black empowerment. This song was released the same year Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.
When we take comparative notes on intergenerational events with catastrophic repercussions, our community’s use of music to shepherd us is extraordinary. With most states enforcing shelter-in-place mandates to slow the spread of COVID-19, life as we know it has drastically changed. What are we doing to cope? Relying on music. For starters, we’re less bored in the house thanks to 20-year-old Curtis Roach from The Motor City.