“Not Like Us” Is Not The First Time Music Fueled Black Unity

black people at a juneteenth celebration
Leslie Grover-Taylor
July 2, 2024

Sometimes we do have to pop out and show folks that we aren’t playing about our culture or our liberation. But no matter when it happens, our culture remains strong and our music unites us. Here are a few examples.

In 1965, the Black community in Watts reached its breaking point. Tired of years of police brutality and biased media reporting, the community fought back with riots. Every year since, Watts has thrown itself a celebration. In 1972, Memphis’ Stax Record Company brought its artists to Los Angeles for the Watts Summer Festival. The result was seven hours of Black music and speeches on resisting racist oppression.

Teen Summit was created in 1989 to give young Black people worldwide a safe space. Though sponsored by BET, young people curated the show, which featured discussions on real-world topics, chart-topping Black music, and appearances by famous sports and entertainment personalities.

In 1990, West Coast rappers decided to send a message to young people affected by gang violence: “It’s time to get ourselves together,” favorites such as Eazy-E, Michel’le, and MC Hammer sang. The stars called for an end to gang violence, and they used the culture to do it.

Creating unity through music isn’t new to us, but it still underscores an essential truth: Our culture is only strengthened when we come together. And no matter who else admires or emulates our drip, they can never be like us.