Chronicles Community project aimed at creating a book, a video documentary and a CD. The goal of the project is to help current and future generations become aware of and appreciate the contributions toward racial harmony made by early African American recording artists.
Genesis of the Project
The Project Editor, like millions of other white teenagers coming of age in the post WWII era took immense pleasure listening to radio stations playing a variety of rock n roll, rhythm n blues, rockabilly, folk and country music. For these young listeners there really was no way of knowing the color of these artists simply by listening.
The fact that black and white artists alike were filling teen hearts and minds equally with such emotionally charged and uplifting tunes gave these artists an equality in the minds of teenagers that all too often was being denied them in adult society, an equality that was not typically on a conscious level for most teenagers.
Of course, every listener had favorites, but choosing one artist over another had nothing to do with the color of the artist’s skin but instead had everything to do with the sound and the beat emanating from radios and phonograph players from Albany to Austin, from Boston to Burbank, from Chicago to Chattanooga, literally from sea to shining sea.
These artists were doing for white teens what Martin Luther King Jr. was doing for their parents, putting the lie to any pretense that one race was inferior (or superior) to another.
The message of racial equality and harmony that Mr. King was delivering so eloquently to mostly adults was being powerfully demonstrated to teenagers by these artists through their artistic endeavors.
When the Editor, as a teenager was struggling to learn the guitar licks on Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B Goode” happened to overhear a schoolyard kid make a disparaging remark about an “inferior race” he instinctively thought “I should be so inferior as to invent a ‘Johnny B Goode’ lick”.
A Word From The Editor
I personally have never accepted the belief that one race is born with an innate hatred in their hearts for members of other races. Hatred, like many human errors is something that has to be planted. That seed of hatred can only take root in the heart of one who has been made to feel inferior to others.
That unfortunate individual in whom a sense of inferiority has been cultivated looks for someone, who in his mind is inferior. Only an emotionally damaged person would look for someone who is “less” than they. Well balanced persons do not think in terms of better or worse beings. We think in terms of good or bad behavior and no race has a monopoly on either.
If an elder has told the damaged one there is a whole race of people who are inferior to the race he belongs to then he finds solace in latching on to this falsehood. Simply being a member of that “superior race” gives that delusional individual a sense of superiority.
Whenever such an individual interacts with a member of that “other race” his mindset will cloud any exemplary behavior exhibited by the “other” because that threatens to tear down his illusion he is superior.
Additionally, if the “other” behaves negatively, the delusional individual will tend to exaggerate the significance and not chalk it up to “he must be having a bad day” as he might if the same misbehavior was committed by a member of his own race.
There is a danger also that this same defense mechanism can take root in the hearts and minds of members of any race. This is evidenced by thoughts, spoken or not that “white’s are a cruel and vicious lot that cannot be trusted.” The danger emerges when a person is assigned the “cruel and vicious” label simply because of the pale color of their skin.
Sadly, there are “cruel and vicious” people but it has nothing to do with the color of their skin, but it has everything to do with the “content of their heart”. Cruel and vicious people are truly suffering from a malady.
Hating, or even disliking someone because they are black or white, yellow or red demonstrates a level of ignorance on the part of the hater that leaves one saddened to see such a cancer eating at the hater’s heart. The damage haters inflict on others, while despicable is usually limited by the length of time they spend with others. Whereas the damage they do to themselves is unlimited because they spend all the time with themselves.
Never being capable of apprehending the reality of our common humanity because of superficial differences like color, sex, race or religion is to deprive oneself of a genuinely truthful existence. It is to live life in a lie.
I have no doubt, my lifelong inner sense of the fundamental injustice associated with slavery or any other human behavior that fails to treat all in accordance with the Golden Rule, was reinforced by the spirit lifting music these artists were creating.
Through the years, I have always been surprised at how few Gen X’s and Millennials are aware of the men and woman who created these top-of-the-charts hits to say nothing of knowing much, if anything about the contributions these artists made in bridging the racial divide that had existed for so long in the U. S.
The Forgotten Black Artists Project hopes to contribute to correcting that sad state by shining a bright light on the many accomplishments of these artists. Everyone should take tremendous pride in what these artists accomplished to discredit the false beliefs held by far too many. I believe one of my generation's highest accomplishments is how openly we embraced these incredibly talented African American artists and in so doing, person by person, created a world far more racially just than the one we had inherited.
Of course it is all too plain to see the journey to total racial justice and equality is far from finished. To that end, I hope you will join this Chronicles Community Creation and help us celebrate the accomplishments of Forgotten Black Artists.
Please leave your comments and suggestions as to how we might use this project to bridge the remaining gaps between races.