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Clemente Writings

Black Culture Matters

We “Black People” are rich not only in melanin but in culture. We are doing a great job of not educating our youth about what to be proud of, not giving them something more than 50 Cent to identify with. But maybe it isn’t all our fault!

The stereotype with which mainstream media has represented Black people since the beginning has primarily been servant, comedic, and/or gangster roles, all of which have served to undermine our value in the face of society. But they also played a key role in making us believe that this is what we are as people.

Sports have been a definite outlet for Black people to get out of poverty, but culture, or rather the African-American culture, is the answer to flip the switch in our communities. Or, as better said by Justin Simien in a article, “Culture of any kind can be grounding and comforting, creating a home for nourishment and rules for understanding ourselves.”  

Understanding the history, struggles, and genius within our people teaches us about who we are and how we got here. Learning all these things at any age can change the perspective in how we see ourselves. It did it for me and continues to do. The more I learn about my predecessors, the prouder I feel, and the more I try to carry myself to better represent them. 

Representation matters! Unquestionably when we see other individuals who look like and come from the same background as us leading roles in films, politics, finance, arts, and sports, it gives us a sense of pride and the belief we could also make it. But beyond what we see on TV, social media, and other platforms, we have to educate ourselves and our youth about the many contributions of Black people to the American and universal cultures. Some of this we have seen, thanks to the efforts of conscious people. But one thing I realize is that there is minimal exposure to real Black culture. Most of what we get bombarded with is plain pop culture and intentionally created stereotypes of Black people that are only damaging us. We need more W.E.B. Dubois, Frederick Douglass, and Kerry James Marshall, more Gordon Parks and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, more melanin-driven passion!

Black is beautiful and strong as hell. We have been making art and bringing joy since the plantation days and we will never stop, no matter how many Karens call the police on us or how many times those police officers put their knees in our necks for minor offenses—sometimes even with no reasonable suspicion whatsoever. We are not going anywhere. 

Certainly, a lot of movements are fighting for change and equality since all the protests started a couple of months ago. People are actively engaging in conversation about what’s needed to bring about this change. Right now, books about race are dominating bestsellers lists, according to the Washington Post, which of course is a huge deal. But this is not enough—we need to support, uplift, and pass this pride along to each other and to our youth, so we can all grow with the roots of our history into better more conscious beings.  The only way to change “The Culture” is through culture.

Fron Villa-Richardson: I come from a modest background in the city of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. I didn’t finish a college degree due to many reasons, but I have always found a way to stay engaged in learning. I love and know how to make photographs, love my cats, nature, and vintage furniture. I find joy in sunsets, walking, or time alone. I work at MGH Cancer Center as the Practice Coordinator and I am currently trying to grow vegetables while this summer lasts, and hoping to continue through winter indoors.

We, Too, Are America is made possible through “Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” an initiative administered by the Federation of State Humanities Council through a grant from the Mellon Foundation.

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