Queen of Bounce

twerking and philanthropy: black American culture

i have two goals for this post:

1. to show my support for the culture of twerking.

2. to show the connection between twerking, philanthrophy and black American culture - it isn't really an obvious or direct connection so pay close attention.

first, the culture of twerking.

i have not always been a fan of music that when played your body instinctively begins to shake, gyrate and move as if you have no bones, ligaments or other structures. in fact, i would leave the dance floor exclaiming this music is so ghetto. that was circa early - late 90's - and possibly into the 2000s. i was speaking then of Miami bass music, which was becoming extremely popluar among youth my age. the society that i modeled my behavior after looked down on this type of music. it actually looked down on hip hop; so, after a while, i decided that hip hop too was ghetto. i didn't listen to it. i didn't like it. i wasn't going to be a part of THAT music.

then jay-z released kingdom come and i fell in love with hip hop. this time i took it all in. i began to not only love the old school, pre-1994 hip hop, but the new stuff too. i still do today.

as i grew in listening to the music, i started to hear things that others didn't. i heard cries for help. i heard social injustices. i heard people suffering. i heard a freedom of expression, which are all the foundations of hip hop.

ALSO SEE: hip hop: there's a message in the music

i not only heard things. i also saw things. one of the main things I saw in response to much of this music - from a dance perspective - was this thing called twerking. much like my response to hip hop before, i was like ummm, this is ... maybe not good. for some reason i couldn't completely turn myself into a twerk critic like the rest of the world (thank God for the gift of no judgement). after a while i just had to admit i was fascinated with twerking. i mean how can you hate someone who can move their bodies like that? when we watch ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop dance we are awed, amazed and clapping. what is the difference between that and twerking?

ain't it too dance (hear me say this in my sojourner truth ain't i a woman voice). 

fast forward to the airing of big freedia dance and the episode where he connects it all for me (as it relates to why i - and most blacks - should value twerking). the gist of the conversation is this - twerking is part of west African culture.

stop. let that sink in, and take a pause to read this madame noire article from 2013, "in defense of twerking," as it sums up everything i currently feel on the subject - especially the part about how we have allowed our culture to be put in the box of the individualized and selfish Western culture.

as black americans we love to have this connection with Africa. we have started calling ourselves African-Americans. we are wearing our hair in its natural state. we love to wear African-inspired fashion - but those things are safe (i suppose). they are safe because they fit - somewhat - neatly into the culture box that we have been given by mainstream society. this is the box that says these are parts of your culture you can enjoy and still receive approval from us.

this is where the connection between twerking, philanthropy and black American culture come together for me - though not as neatly as the things in that culture box.

on tuesday, august 5, i had the pleasure of spending an hour or so with dr. emmett carson, founding CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. it wasn't a one-on-one meeting, but i do feel like i was the only one in the room as dr. carson shared is thoughts on "what's community got to do with it?" the answer? everything.

dr. carson passionately laid out the evidence that helped him develop his truth (and later i came to find it was mine as well) as it relates to today's state of the black community and the role of community and philanthrophy.

dr. carson says philanthrophy built our community. blacks self-funded education, civil and human rights organizations in the past. their collective pooling of money also helped blacks realize economic self-sufficiency. we - blacks - made things happen for our people. we leveraged the communal culture of our African ancestors and took care of our community because, as dr. carson so eloqently stated, "we weren't going to the ford foundation for no grants."

and then we integrated.

he suggests that integration gave us an opportunity to shed the burden of blackness and we did. the result - academic achievement gap, increased crime in our communities, an economically depressed black community where more people are losing homes and struggling to survive than in past decades and the death of HBCUs. not to mention the the suffering of people of color across the country and the destruction of the black family  (in total and separately). all these things exist while we have the most buying power in history, the most millionaires in our communities and the highest number of athletes and entertainers with foundations that are supposed to help the community (serious side eye on that last one).

ALSO SEE: 21st century black American culture: drunk and dependent

so, what do twerking and philanthropy have to do with black American culture? they are both rooted in our African ancestry and are a part of American culture by the mere fact that we have that culture, but were born American. the way that we do both are unique to us and can be said to be a part of black American culture. the dominant culture in America has tried (pretty successfuly, i might add) to tear both from us.

in the case of twerking we are told it is salacious, nasty, ghetto, unappealing - who wants to be associated with any of those things?

our history in helping our people help themselves was turned into help everyone because we are all equal. that means that our black money shouldn't just be invested in our black people. we should share it.

we've bought it all - hook, line and sinker ... and look where we are  now?

time for a change. time to embrace our culture and take back our communities.