"A Black man who sees the world in the way John Wayne sees it would not be an eccentric patriot, but a raving maniac…The truth is that this country does not know what to do with it’s Black population." (James Baldwin — I Am Not Your Negro).

The Spirit

Kanye West has profited from a mass-church service, where members of all class, colors, and creeds get together and sing songs directly connected to African American and/or black culture. One may question whether all the members and administrators actively fight for and try to gain knowledge of said culture, looking specifically at the political and social climate of this nation. James Baldwin expressed, so eloquently, in the Netflix Original I Am Not Your Negro how the black population is often commercialized on people who are not black. This leaves black populations unnoticed and unaccounted for while staying relevant to culture, ironically.

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we are literally criminals. I attest to this: the world is not white; it never was white, cannot be white. White is a metaphor for power, and that is simply a way of describing Chase Manhattan Bank.” (James Baldwin — I Am Not Your Negro)

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The lack of acknowledgment reflects historical principles in this country.  Similarly to the spread of the  Slave Songs of the South (1867). While the writers and “abolitionists” spread the text around the country to educate white people on a portion of the culture of their newly freed colleagues, societal and political restraints still left black people enslaved by the law. So like Kanye’s church service, everyone longs for the spirit of the negro, but no one wants to liberate, deal with or be, said negro.

It is important for black spaces such as HBCUs and black churches, to uphold the legacy of negro spirtuals within their community. In the 1960s, negro spirituals were the driving force to community protest and gathering, as well as rasing awareness for the black community.

Today, in addition to Kanye’s efforts, we see artists such as Nicki Minaj partnering with white artists and using work songs, which derive from spiritual-like music style, to create a popular song.

On the other hand, we have choral programs in colleges and universities — HBCUs and predominantly white institutions— striving to preserve the culture by studying and performing negro spirituals in their traditional or renditions style.

Which way is the most beneficial for our future generations? Why does it matter who tells the history of the songs of slavery?

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