As a minority in the united states, I can understand the frustration of being in a country that makes you feel as if your race “does not look good” , or is “not beautiful”. This is why I am an avid believer and supporter of the “black is beautiful movement”. For those who do not know the “black is beautiful movement” started in the 1960s in the United States by African Americans in hopes of erasing the preconceived racist beliefs that black’s characteristics such a complexion, hair, and many more things were not as beautiful as the whites within the United States.
John S. Rock (1858- 1866)
The Spark: John S. Rock
John S. Rock was an African-Americans doctor, lawyer, teacher, and abolitionist (an individual who want to abolish a practice, or in this case slavery). John is most famously known for stating the term “black is beautiful” during one of his speeches in 1858. This one act would 100 years later spark the African Americans to begin a form of the black is beautiful movement by encouraging men and women of black color to stop straightening their hair and attempting to lighten their skin with products. Which in turn would bring Rock’s words to life by demonstrating how beautiful black skin is.
Black Is Beautiful Movement: 1960s-1970s:
The black is beautiful movement became a well known movement during the 1960s not only in the United States, but in other parts of the world as well. One important example of this is when Steve Biko from South Africa wrote about the movement of the black consciousness. This movement was started within South Africa and was an anti-apartheid activist movement led by Steve Biko and many others. The point of this movement was to rid black people of the inferiority complex of being less than whites. Additionally, this would lead the way to black nationalist and uhuru movements of the 60’s and 70’s. Black nationalism is considered a nationality empowering the belief that the race of black people is seeking to develop and keep a black racial and national identity. The uhuru movement was a socialist and black nationalist movement created in 1972 by the “African People’s Social Party”, which is an organization put together to help find ways to provide amends for slavery within the United States. These strides towards the idea of black is beautiful also brought out some of history's legendary activists such as Malcom X, Martin Luther King Jr., Marcus Garvey, and more! Their contribution to black is beautiful movement was through the civil rights movement. This movement was through 1958 - 1969 and was focusing on civil rights for African Americans. Even though slavery was already done with at this point, Blacks within America civil rights were not being acknowledged. Some of the rights include voting, the right to a fair trial, and the right to a public education. The lack of acknowledgement took the form of African Americans being left out of societal life and violent towards them, basically making them second-class Americans. This movement was primarily based in African American churches and higher education schools within the southern states of the United States. The things done to help the movement included marches and other acts of civil disobedience. Meaning that African Americans would take on forms of passive resistance against the government to help provide a compromise on their civil rights with American society without resorting to violent acts. The majority of these acts were local, but even with that being said the influence this carried was substantial and noticed on a national level. One of the most historical examples of this was in december of 1955 when Rosa Parks, a NAACP activist, declined to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. What followed after this was an ongoing bus boycott which also caused many other protests in other places. The power of all those events came together to cause the civil rights change to progress at a faster rate bringing forth even more powerful and historical events such as Martin Luther King Jr. leading the most impactful nonviolence resistance during the American civil rights movement. Additionally, while this movement is occurring the ideology of black is beautiful was being boosted as well and spread so much that it started to be televised! An example of this is Don Cornelius’ making of Soul Train, which featured a whole black cast of dancers and promoters directed towards the Black is Beautiful movement. In fact, Soul Train was the first biggest outreach to the African-American community that popularized the physical differences of Black America.
The Black Lives Matter Movement
In spite of the strides that were made from the 1960s onward to help change the experience of African Americans of being discriminated against within the United States and other countries around the world, African Americans are still struggling to be treated with the same importance as other citizens within current times. An example of this lack of care towards the lives of African Americans was when on february 26, 2020 Trayvon Martin, a black, 17 years of age, student still in high school was lethally shot by George Zimmerman, a mixed-race, 28 years of age male, who was at the time the neighborhood watcher of a gated community Trayvon was headed to while in a hoodie to visit some relatives of his. Zimmerman stated this was an act of self-defense while the two were in a confrontation, even though Trayvon was unarmed. This event would lead to a court case where George Zimmerman was charged with murder, but was cleared of said charge being that after his trial he won his argument of saying it was an act of self defense as to why he shot trayvon. While the case was going and even afterwards many rallies/protests occurred for trayvon because many felt that his family and himself were not brought justice due to the severity of the situation. The event was so severe in impact that many major news outlets were providing coverage for what it seemed like a year, social media was flooded with either news of the situation, or people were posting their thoughts and condolences on the topic. Furthermore, the global Black Lives Matter organization was founded within the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada in 2013 after Zimmerman’s case was dismissed as self defense. It started as just as a hashtag on social media (#blacklivesmatter), but then later grew due to the violent acts that were carried out unjustly against African Americans by the names of Micheal Brown and Eric Garner which resulted in them both dying causing more awareness towards the movement. What was at one point just a hashtag became an official organization. The founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Torneti, use this awareness to develop the movement into a popular network of 30 more community chapters between the years of 2014-2016. The Black Lives Matter Movement gained even more popular news headlines and global recognition during the protests in 2020 which were in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin. In the midst of these protests millions of people, some who were not active members of the organization, still were involved in the 2020 Black Lives Matter Movement U.S. protests. All together the numbers of individuals recorded to be in these protests state that this is the largest movement in the U.S. The overall goal of this organization is to erase white dominant control and build faculty to stop acts of injustice against African Americans done by the government, or people who wish them harm. By this being done the organization wants to create an environment where there is room for blacks to think freely, to be able to create, and to be joyous within their skin without being treated as someone who just does not have these rights. Everything being described here is just a continuation of the Black Is Beautiful Movement. This is because everything started with African Americans being viewed as less than and not as important as whites within American society due to their natural features. Even though much has changed in American society for blacks, they still have to question if their existence is as important and if they are as beautiful as whites because of the injustices that are still brought upon them for no other reason than their natural being. This brings the need for constant reinforcement of the fact that African Americans are just as intelligent, charismatic, and also beautiful as any other race. As you all know by now there are many causes, charities, and efforts going towards this reinforcement of supporting black lives. I know this very fact and felt obligated to help spread awareness towards the black is beautiful/ black lives matter movement by making the “Black Is Beautiful” hoodie. If you feel the same way as I do after reading this and would like to help spread the message, consider getting our hoodie.