Say It Loud! – James Brown (1933-2006)

Sunday, 07 January 2007

When most people think of James Brown, they think of the musical legacy he left behind. Of being the “Godfather of Soul” and making that music into a militant sound BASSed on rhythm called Funk. Of his dancing and excellence in performance.

But when I think of him, I think of a man who not only revolutionized music, I think of a man who made a people feel like they mattered.

For people who aren’t black that read this, don’t take what I’m writing personally. I only wrote this to show the contribution that James Brown gave Afro-American people and how it was important to us, especially at that time. And how it still is important today.

You would have to not only understand the history of black people in America to know what I’m talking about, but also what it is to be black (especially at the time that James Brown’s music came about).

Although black people have given tremendously to America—and like others, the world—we as a people were never regarded or looked upon favorably. We were thought of as non-humans upon coming to America. No one cared about our culture—especially if you were brought here in slavery, based purely on race. Even after slavery was abolished, we were still looked at as pariahs. You would have to read the details of our history to see the after-effects of such evil. The negative effects of such alienation hurt an entire people, and self-hate can be a by-product of such.

Assimilation was one of the things that black people couldn’t do, even if we tried to. People bleached their skin and straightened their hair just to assimilate in some way. We were never taught to feel proud of ourselves on a mainstream level. We had to do for ourselves, and by the grace of God many people—black and non-black—helped in the process.

There were groups and movements that were taking place in our history that helped us to be proud of who we are as a people. The civil rights movement stands out in my mind, maybe because my grandparents and parents lived through that and they told me the things they experienced.

The 60s was the decade that many things were brought out with a force, including issues concerning the way black people were being treated. There was a rise in black consciousness—and James Brown helped in that.

My mom told me how much the song “Say It Loud (I’m Black And I’m Proud)” really helped her. She wore a wig at times (even though she still had beautiful, long raven hair). She said when she heard that song she stopped wearing wigs and picked her hair out. She felt like she didn’t have to hide who she was as a person and it gave her a sense of dignity. It gave her a sense of being proud of who God made her, and to not be ashamed of who she was. James Brown made black people feel like they mattered and he made people feel beautiful. He made us as a people feel like people.

He influenced people all around the world—poets such as Nikki Giovanni or Gil Scott-Heron, or artists like Fela Kuti and Public Enemy—not just musically, but socially. James Brown let black people know to be proud of themselves and not hate who we are. To be conscious of who we are. You exist and have a reason for your existence! So say it loud! I’m black and I’m proud!

No matter who you are, a message like that speaks volumes and makes a person think of the good in themselves. When one is aware of that, man, good things can happen.

With all the nihilistic music today we should thank and remember such an artist as James Brown and what he not only did musically, but also on a non-musical scale. The man was a great Humanitarian. He did shows in places that people probably wouldn’t play and he also gave to many people that didn’t have much.

We will miss you James Brown. Thank you for all the good that you've done in this world.

To make a people feel as if they mattered.

Who doesn’t want to feel as if they matter?

The key is, we all do.

Thank you James Brown.

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