Up until the 1980’s, it wasn’t cool to be black in America. Years of racial oppression and subjugation had ostracized black culture. And even though the late 1900’s was far removed from the days of slavery; black America was still reminiscent of a very dark time in their past; ‘White’ was still ‘right’ and ‘black’ was still ‘wrong’.
But around the late seventies, things began to change. You could say that there was some form of ‘black revolution’.
Riding on the wings of Hip-hop and rap culture, black Americans began to change their narrative. What was previously a strong DJing culture had made way for the birth of an entirely new genre of music called ‘Hip-hop’. And suddenly everything changed.
Black people were telling stories. Stories that had never been told through music before. They had a voice and all they needed was a microphone to share. Through rhythm and poetry, Black American’s created a movement. It was bigger than rap and a testament to black pride. Through Hip-hop, Black America was restoring the dignity that was once pillaged from them.
By the early 90’s, the Hip-hop and black culture revolution had transcended itself. Black Rap artists such as Tupac and Notorious BIG were some of the famed bearers of the torch that ignited a global phenomenon. Suddenly, even kids—like me—growing up in Kenya were dressing and acting like black Americans. We’d wear baggy pants and basketball jerseys of teams we’d never even seen play.
For the first time, black America was cool and everybody wanted to be like them. Somehow being “from the hood” or “hustling” or being a “nigga” was really, really cool.
Today, I see the same trend happening… but much closer to home.
African history is dark with stories of oppression and subjugation from the days of European imperialism. And though many African countries consider themselves independent nations, the remnants of colonialism are still heavily ingrained in our cultures.
Kenya, for example, got independence from the British in 1963. Yet over 50 years later, I believe that our minds are still very much colonialized.
When the Europeans came to Kenya in the late 19th century, they exploited us and pillaged our culture. Though what I believe was worse, is that they crippled our minds. They removed our sense of dignity and self-pride. Which is one of the most effective ways to enslave an entire people?
They made us believe that their ways were right and ours were backward and we, as Africans, still struggle to overcome that.
Today, we still see the western world as the ‘first World’; a place and people that we should aspire to be like. We continue to conform to their culture because we believe they are ‘better’. The ‘West’ is right and ‘African’ is wrong. But things are changing…
Welcome to the Revolution!
Times are changing. Africa is beginning to reinvent herself. A new narrative is being told that we, as Africans, can take pride in. We are much like the Black America of the 1970’s.
African Artists like Davido and Wizkid are making Afrobeat songs with American and British artists.
Artists like Sarkodie of Ghana is now internationally acclaimed—and he doesn’t even rap in English.
The likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé are using strong African themes in their music.
The world of fashion is being revolutionized by African culture.
Even black Americans are appropriating African culture; wearing Dashikis and kanga-like garments like they grew up in our continent.
It feels like the world is beginning to celebrate Africa, even before we have learned to celebrate ourselves.
For the first time, it’s beginning to feel ‘OK’ to be African. No longer must we conform to the western world. We can take pride in ourselves, our art, our people. It is our time to be celebrated and appreciated. The chains on our minds that once kept us in such deep self-loathing, and envy for the ‘white’ world are finally breaking, and now we have a chance to tell them a different story.