Growing up during the post Black Power era most definitely impacted my psyche as early as 5 years of age. Images of proud Black people, fists raised, Afros high and neatly shaped; people greeting each other with What’s up, brutha? Good morning, sistah. Was a regular occurrence. Black people always were excited whenever Black folks were on t.v. and it was always a high moment when Black achievement was recognized and highlighted in various forms of the media, but particularly in the media. I remember whenever this would happen, neighbors and family would all call each other and make sure to convey that “Black folks were going to be on this or that tonight, y’all. This sounds hilarious but this was big for the community and our people. We were being validated. And it gave us pride. Music, sports, fashion, business and politics, Black folks were making strides.
However the power of the politics and passions of the Black Power movement of the sixties began to diminish in the mid seventies. As time moved on…the images that once were familiar to me became distorted. The failure of the Black Power movement is that it didn’t inspire nationalism as a habit–it became more of a cliche. The younger generation only heard soundbites and images of something that should have been normal culturally and relateable; and not just for entertainment purposes and faux-intellectualism. Many just became disillusioned.
The tough looking, cool, aloof, leather coat wearing, banner carrying young black men and women that were visible in the sixties, waned. No longer were Afros in style but Jheri Curls. Fashion became eclectic and everything old became new. I saw images of Black people becoming less Afrocentric and more conservative. Men wore Stacy Adams shoes…double-breasted shirts, parts cut into their hair; the ladies wore retro chic fashion and shoulder pads became the rage. Big hair was normal in the eighties and people seemed to go about everything in a mundane fashion until the mid part of the decade. Miami Vice, The Cosby Show, Hill Street Blues, were all hit shows. Rap music, Madonna and Michael Jackson would dominate music and music videos would forever change how we looked at artists. However, America began to learn new words: Crack and AIDS would change life forever and greed would mark the decade. By the time the nineties came; people started to pay with their lives for their actions of the past. Gang violence began to takeover communities. HIV/AIDS deaths increased, crack babies were being born, crackheads, drug deals gone bad…these things left an aftermath and a legacy. Neighborhoods began to change–communities torn apart. Angry faces began to be seen on videos and Black youth turned away from talks of God, community and the good ‘ole days from their parents and began chanting songs that reflected a generation that had been abandoned, confused and was now lost.
Today, we are in a new millennium. We have a Black President. Have Black Politics ended? In Less than 5 years, Blacks will have a Trillion dollar buying power and millions of Black men and women have graduated from some of our greatest learning institutions and White people now think it’s cool to date and marry us, but what is Black Power? What does it mean today?