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Volume 90, Issue 82
Thursday, February 20, 1997
What is it to be black?
By Jessica Hood and Pam Rwankole
"Black" also covers a range of backgrounds. Within this group one may find a person of Jewish, black and Chinese ancestry, another of white, black and Latin American ancestry and another individual of native, Polish and African ancestry. In fact, any person of mixed decent possessing one black ancestor can claim "I consider myself black." To further complicate the matters, this definition is shared by individuals from varied countries and cultures with differences in language, religion, history and socioeconomic status.
Given the above questions, people defining themselves as black have made contributions in a variety of areas: education, entertainment, medicine, journalism, art, literature, science and others. There is not only diversity in areas but diversity within areas. To illustrate the meaning, let us look at the contributions of blacks in the field of music. I will limit my evaluation to a few mainstream North American and Caribbean artists.
Jimi Hendrix (rock), Little Richard (rock music pioneer), Kathleen Battle (opera), James Brown (funk), Tupac Shakur (hip hop), The Platters (1940s), Luther Vandross (soul/R & B), Count Basie (big band), Oscar Peterson (jazz), Whitney Houston (pop), Bob Marley (reggae), BeBe and CeCe Winans (gospel), King Sparrow (calypso), Darius Rucker (new rock) and Living Color (heavy metal).
As you can see there are no easy answers. Just as it is the case in any group, people within the black community are shaped by a multiplicity of influences and as a result the individuals are exceedingly variable.
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