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The Music and Magic of Blackness: The Centering and Sustaining Beauty of Soul  – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

Ethical philosopher, author, two doctoral degrees and professor and chair of the Department of African Studies at California State University, Long Beach, Maulana Karenga (File Photo

This is the Month of Black Music and we once again share these sensibilities, thoughts and practices of Black as music and magic at the highest and deepest level.

It is good to sing and celebrate ourselves, to dance in honor of the divine spark and specialty in each of us, and to rejoice in the midst of sacred music, which we make together in the many ways we love and strive to do and share good in. the world. But our celebrations must always be rooted and reflect our own freedom, our own image and our own interests.

So, in our celebration of the Month of Black Music or any other of our holidays, let us not find ourselves raising and praising the name of others and not of ourselves.

Indeed, let us praise our people, from whose rich and most ancient culture comes all the good that we create and share with the world. In doing so, we raise and praise the names of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, master songwriters and architects of the Philadelphia Soul Sound, and Gamble’s then-wife and partner, Diana Williams, media strategist and coach, journalist, radio personality and activist, and others of the Black Music Association, which they founded in 1978.

They are the ones who conceived and carried out the idea and project for Black Music Month forward, lobbied two US presidents, Carter and Clinton, to recognize it nationally and organized musicians, producers, managers, DJs, businessmen and others to make it happen. turned into a holiday being.

Although we celebrate June as the month of black music, every day and hour there is an open space for creating and celebrating our music. We do it not only by writing, playing and performing sounds and songs.

But we also do it the way we live our lives, do our work, and fight our daily struggles. At the heart and center of these struggles is the all-encompassing struggle to be ourselves and to be free and to hold and to continually expand our humanity in the most inhuman and dehumanizing conditions.

And this celebration of our music and of ourselves is also in the righteous and sublime rhythms of our beautiful Blackness and in the melodies and harmony of our togetherness, our love and sharing of good.

It is important to note that when we talk here about the beauty, music, magic and wonder of the Black, we use a synonym for our Africanness. Because black is a colloquial term for color, culture, and consciousness, which speaks to the fact that we are African. And being African means actively valuing and honoring our unique and equally valid and valuable way to be human in the world.

As I have already said, this is the self-determining and specific cultural way in which we live our lives and open ourselves to love; dance and make music; practice our religious traditions; we value and challenge our children; fierce struggle for freedom; constantly seeking justice; enjoy doing good and walk meekly in peace, but with dignified disobedience in the practice of resistance.

Because blackness is not only an identity, but also an obligation defined by that identity. Indeed, we are soulful people in radical evil oppression and a righteous and ruthless struggle to end it. Our identity, therefore, is also that born of a struggle that affirms dignity, enhances life, and preserves the world’s liberation struggle.

That is why in the 1960s we raised the reaffirmation of the beauty of our humanity and Africanness in the declarations “Black is beautiful” and “I am black and I am proud.” And we defiantly expounded the prophecy and pursued the promise and practice of freedom with the battle cry “Liberation comes from something black.”

At the heart and center of the music, magic and wonder of our Blackness is this rich and generative idea and reality of the soul. And we use the term in at least five basic ways: as a spiritual concept; defining trait and spirit of the black character; category of cultural distinctiveness; an expression of the beauty and depth of our being and becoming; and a measure and standard of African excellence.

In the sixties, I defined the soul as an inner sense of self, defined by creativity, sensitivity and impulse. This speaks to our ability to conceive and create magic and wonder, beauty and meaning amid ugliness and meaninglessness, and to develop and defend free space amid non-freedom.

It also speaks of our depth of feelings, sensitivity to others, to beauty and goodness, but also to human suffering and the will to end it. And the concept of soul also speaks of a creative and sensitive impulse, also called improvisation. But I want to keep the word impulse, which implies a spontaneous urge and a natural tendency to act in a beautiful, creative and sensitive way in art, love and life in general.

In other words, the soul is an inner creativity, a centering and sustaining spirit and an inner force that underpins our resilience and resourcefulness, our adaptive vitality and human endurance in the face of the most radical evil, injustice and oppression. It is in this context that we recognize the Divine presence in and with us, as our ancestors taught.

And in the depths of our appreciation of the indomitable spirit within us, we give it a spiritual interpretation. Thus, when we look back at everything we have encountered and overcome and rejoiced in, we marvel at the miracles and magic we have created, and yet we pay due homage to the Divine in us and with us, as our ancestors said.

This is the message and meaning of Sis. Clara Ward’s instructive sacred hymn of praise, called the Gospel, “How I Overcame.” She says and sings, and we wonder with her: “My soul looks back and wonders how I overcame.” And she thinks and thanks the Divine.

But the soul is also, above all, in its most definite, distinctive, and inclusive cultural concept. It speaks not only of the depth of our spirituality, but is the defining feature and spirit of the black character that underlies, infuses and informs our being and constant becoming.

We are again human souls, male and female souls, soul sisters and brothers. We call our food soul food, our music soul music, our Sunday forums for life and struggle Soul Sessions, and we define our preaching, teaching, and speaking good as spiritual. And Curtis Mayfield assures us that whatever happens, “We have a soul and everyone knows it’s okay.”

Thus we see the soul not only as defining us, our music and way of life, but also as a distinctive feature of people and personality. This is one of the characteristics that distinguishes us without the need to claim superiority.

In fact, it speaks to and affirms our unique and equally valid and valuable way to be African and human in the world. This is the special distinction between people and culture, which we value highly and defend against imitations of our lives and the appropriation of our culture by others in exploitative and insensitive ways.

The concept and expression of the soul in our music or our life in general also speaks of the depth and beauty of our Blackness both as being and as becoming, constantly striving to enter into the ever-expanding fullness of ourselves.

Here I am talking about a centering and supporting soul as an expressive beauty, by expressive beauty I want to denote meaningful and moving beauty, revealing and confirming, eloquent, artistic and provocative, sensitive and suggestive of good.

And this soulful expressiveness can be shared with or without words, sounds or even symbols. It can be revealed in the music we make, loving our loved ones, or it can simply be naturally embodied in the goodness and sacredness of ourselves, as a place of witness and miracle.

When I speak of the centering and sustaining beauty of the soul, I understand and engage beauty in the African sense, as expressed in the ancient Egyptian word, neferuthe Zulu word, ubuhleand the word Swahili, uzuriwhich means both beauty and goodness.

Therefore, to speak of the beauty of the soul means to speak not only of that which is aesthetically pleasing to our senses, but also of that which is ethically pleasing to our sense of good. Thus, the beauty and blackness of our soul and ultimately of ourselves must always be demonstrated and affirmed in the goodness we do, participate in a righteous and merciless struggle for and achieve in the world.

In this sense, the soul is ultimately also a standard and a measure of our perfection in every sense of the word.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chair of African Studies, California State University-Long Beach; Executive Director of the African American Cultural Center (USA); Creator of Kwanzaa; and author of Kwanzaa: A celebration of family, community and culture and Essays on struggle: position and analysis,, www.AfricanAmericanCulturalCenter-LA.org; www.OfficialKwanzaaWebsite.org; www.MaulanaKarenga.org.

The Music and Magic of Blackness: The Centering and Sustaining Beauty of Soul  – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel Source link The Music and Magic of Blackness: The Centering and Sustaining Beauty of Soul  – Los Angeles Sentinel | Los Angeles Sentinel

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