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Black Music / Black History / Afrocentrism


Acknowledging an African past is one way that black Americans counter negative images of blacks and Africa. African American culture, like black music, has roots in Africa, but incorporates innovations and improvisations from other cultures. Music is one path by which black creativity has reached the world. Marlon Riggs muses that "without black music you can't imagine what music might be on this earth."

  1. Why do you think Riggs includes black music in a flim about identity?
  2. In the film, Barbara Smith complains that "we mythologize our African past... and make assertions about the past that are not necessarily true." What does she mean? Do you agree? How much of your self-esteem is due to your identification with an ethnic or racial group that has a heroic past and how much to your own efforts?
  3. The African past is as diverse as the black American present. How might recognizing that diversity lead to better relations within black communities?
  4. "I love kente cloth...But I don't confuse that with my identity..I can also put on a pair of jeans, and I feel just as black," asserts Angela Davis. What do you think Davis is criticizing with her statement? Do you think wearing African clothes, having an African name, or following Islamic or Yoruba customs make you more black?
  5. In the film, teenagers argue about learning history. One asks, "What's Martin Luther King gonna do for you now? What's Harriet Tubman gonna do for you right now?" What value do you find in black history? How have you been taught black history - as the story of famous leaders or as the on-going struggles and challenges of black people?

Discussion Questions
Black Is . . . Black Ain't

Introduction: Fighting Words|Black Power = Male Power?|Black Music / Black History / Afrocentrism|Sexism, Patriarchy and Homophobia|Family|Acting White / Not Black Enough?|Multiple Identities and New Forms of Community

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