Black culture has had a big influence on popular culture for many years, from fashion and music to art and literature. But unfortunately, this contribution often goes unnoticed.
What is Cultural Appropriation?
Cultural appropriation is a complex social problem that has become more and more prevalent today. It occurs when members of a culture adopt elements from another culture with little understanding or respect for its intended meaning and significance. This can manifest in many forms, such as wearing traditional clothing from other cultures, using words or phrases associated with other cultures, using artworks and symbols from other cultures without permission, and so on.
When Black Culture is Stolen
To many people, cultural appropriation might seem like harmless admiration or a celebration of different cultures. However, this is not always the case. By taking bits and pieces of another culture out of its context, cultural appropriation can become a form of disrespect and even oppression. It often involves power imbalances between the culture being appropriated against, and the one doing the appropriating. This is especially true when it comes to marginalized cultures that lack representation in mainstream media or politics i.e. Black culture.
Also, cultural appropriation can perpetuate stereotypes and misrepresentations against Black people, leading to further marginalization and inequality.
Black Culture: Appropriation vs. Appreciation
Cultural appreciation, on the other hand, means taking time to learn about different cultures with respect for their history and traditions. Appreciation does not involve separating elements from their original context but rather celebrating them as meaningful parts of a larger cultural experience.
Understanding how cultural appropriation works is an important step toward creating more inclusive societies where everyone is respected and represented. And fortunately, there are a number of celebs who partake in Black culture without taking credit for it. Here are five celebs who appreciate, not appropriate Black culture:
Jojo has been a force in the music industry since she was just 13 years old. She introduced her debut album which included hits such as “Leave (Get Out)” and “Too Little Too Late.” And as a result, she quickly became an artist to look out for in the industry.
Jojo is especially known for her soulful voice, which many describe as powerful or emotionally-charged. Her vocal range and delivery style are enviable, combining elements of R&B, pop, soul, and rap.
But even though Jojo is a skilled vocalist, she credits Black culture for helping her achieve such success. In a teaser for her anticipated single “Small Things,” Jojo wrote a heartfelt message to her Black fans.
“I’ve been trying to wait for the right moment to share this video with you. With everything going on in the world and in our own backyard, I didn’t want anyone to misconstrue its release as some kind of indication that I’ve moved on from the revolution at hand, here in America. I want to say it clear as day: Black people made me who I am.”
She continued, explaining her connection to the community.
“Not only my longest-standing friendships, but also the record executives, mentors, teachers, romantic partners, and loyal fans who believed in me and took a chance on me – they have all shaped me. Without their support in every way, and without the artists who inspire me to make music, I would not exist. My support for Black lives/art/love/safety/freedom is not a phase nor does it have an expiration date. I’m honored to be a part of R&B culture and I never take my warm reception for granted.”
Teena Marie rose to fame in 1979 with her debut single “I’m a Sucker for Your Love”, a duet with the funk legend Rick James. She went on to release numerous platinum albums throughout the 1980s and ’90s, including “Lovergirl,” “Robbery,” and “Ivory.”
Her music fused elements of soul, jazz, funk, and disco. Teena Marie was a pioneer in blending these genres together to create her own sound. As a result, she became one of the few white female artists who achieved success within the traditionally Black genre of R&B.
Her career was marked by accolades and achievements, and she would later be dubbed “The Ivory Queen of Soul” for her connection to Black culture. In fact, her sound was so soulful that many fans believed she was Black. And even though her team attempted to tiptoe around her race, Teena Marie refused to blindside her fans.
“I tell them I’m white, but they think I’m black and I’m trying to pass for white… This is white skin. I’m not trying to fool anybody.
Throughout her career, Joss Stone has achieved great success in the R&B, soul, and pop genres. Her music has been critically acclaimed, receiving numerous awards. Along the way, she earned a number of fans, especially in the Black community.
Stone began her singing career at the age of 13, when she sent a demo tape to EMI Records. She was later signed to the label and released her debut album, The Soul Sessions, in 2003. The album was a success, cementing her as a serious talent in the industry.
But in an interview with the grio, Stone credited the artists who inspired her in her career.
“It’s not really me. I didn’t start it,” She said. “I was listening to Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Anita Baker when I was a little girl. They were long before any of us girls. We’re just being inspired by those women.”
Bruno Mars has been a dominant force in pop music for quite some time. However, his success has also brought him into the spotlight regarding accusations of cultural appropriation.
Mars faced criticism for borrowing heavily from African American musical genres such as funk, soul, and R&B, while not crediting those genres for his inspiration. This criticism was reignited in 2017 when Mars released his album “24K Magic.” The songs on the album drew heavily from African American music styles, yet Mars seemed to be receiving all of the praise and accolades.
But Mars fired back at accusers in an interview with The Breakfast Club. “You can’t find an interview where I haven’t talked about the entertainers who have come before me. The only reason I’m here is because of James Brown, Prince, Michael.”
Jack Harlow’s rise to fame has been nothing short of meteoric. The Kentucky-born, Louisville rapper burst onto the scene in 2018 with the release of his debut mixtape, Loose. He later released hits such as “Whats Poppin” and “Sundown”, and the attention they received was immediately impressive.
Since then, Harlow has released several singles to further cement his career in hip hop. But not without giving Black women their flowers first. In an interview with Teen Vogue, Harlow shouted out his Black female fans, thanking them for their support.
“They’ll never have to worry about not being credited by me.” He says. “I mean, I look out at my shows and I see them. It’s one thing when you see the memes and you hear people talking about it, but it’s another when you travel the country and you see them all over the place. I love Black women. I’ve loved Black women my whole life.”