Monica Roberts

It's Black Music Month!

Filed By Monica Roberts | June 16, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Media
Tags: African-American, Black Music Month, LGBT history, Monica Roberts, music

For me, james_brown.jpgJune is not just the month in which I celebrate my transgender sisters kicking off the modern GLBT rights movement nearly 40 years ago at New York's Stonewall Inn.

It's Black Music Month as well!

While June is the month in which it's celebrated, as the child of a DJ and proud African-American, every month for me is Black Music Month.

The designation of June as Black Music Month in the United States started in 1979. Legendary music producer Kenny Gamble urged President Jimmy Carter to commemorate the major contributions we African-Americans have made to the shaping of music here in America. President Carter subsequently issued a proclamation declaring June as Black Music Month and since then every president has done so as well.

It's a time when we look back at the various forms of music that we African-Americans created such as jazz, disco, house, the blues, gospel music, rap, and hip-hop. There are music genres that we've enhanced with our talents, such as the opera world with singers Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson, Denyce Graves and Kathleen Battle, and given country music a little flava with Charley Pride and newcomer Miko Marks.

We celebrate our rich musical tradition that we brought with us from the African continent, honor our legendary artists and recognize the heirs to their legacy as well in the current group of artists such as Alicia Keys, Jill Scott, John Legend and Erykah Badu.

We take time to recognize our legendary music producers such as Motown's Holland-Dozier-Holland, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who created the "Philly Sound" of the 70's, and Quincy Jones.

We remember the innovators such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Mahalia Jackson, Scott Joplin, Thomas A. Dorsey, the 'Father of Gospel Music', James Brown or the 'Godfather of House', Frankie Knuckles, who is a 1996 Chicago GLBT Hall of Fame inductee.

Yes, Projectors, house music was created by a Black gay man. Another interesting side note is that Prince, one of our innovative artists, celebrated his 50th birthday on June 7.

We also marvel at how Black music has become a powerful, multigenerational creative force that is loved by people of all ethnicities.

It gave us hope in dark times for our people, celebrated our successes, helped us get through our disappointments, dance on Saturday nights and get our praise on during Sunday morning worship services.

It was the soundtrack for our youth, our love making, instilled pride in our heritage and motivated us and the South Africans to fight for our civil rights. Nelson Mandela once said in a speech that Motown, rap, hip-hop and other music from their African-American cousins helped them keep their spirits up and provided inspiration during their decades long fight against apartheid.

It even inspires athletes to perform at championship levels. Ask the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates or Sister Sledge if you think I'm kidding about that.

So while I'm checking out the pride festivities this month, I'll also be blasting my Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince and other CD's in honor of Black Music Month.

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I don't know who selected the picture of James Brown for the article, but I've been disturbed for quite awhile that he has been continuously celebrated in spite of his well documented history as a wife-beater.

It's one thing to say what you want about his music and his contributions, but to celebrate him as an individual seems disrespectful to women. My two cents.

I never really thought about the origins of house music...

I dunno. Black Music Month doesn't hurt anything, but I can't help but think that these designated months are getting a bit out of hand. We have months for everything now and several of them overlap. What's next? Indiana Corn Farmer's month? Las Vegas Quickie Marriages Month? How about National Pest Management Month?

Oh wait. That last one actually exists.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 17, 2008 8:51 AM

Monica, what do uptight white guys know about music?

Except me, ("I feel good.") That James Brown had personal problems does not effect the legacy of his musical gift.

Artists who have blessed the world with their incredible gifts, have long lived less than exemplary lives. Often their art was an outgrowth of their bad behavior, and the times they may have lived in may have allowed them to keep their ill deeds more secret, than today's paparazzi-infested world. What would the paparazzi of today find out about Mozart? Shakespeare? Oscar Wilde? Mark Twain? Van Gogh? Mendelssohn?

Brown was certainly a misogynist, not to mention his substance abuse issues, but he was far from unique among musicians in those categories. I think I'd rather judge his music on its musical merits, and in that, he was, indeed, a trailblazer and pioneer. That is his legacy.