Beauty in the face of oppression

Opinion story

Aaron Booe, Social Media Editor

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These recent years have been one marked by astounding advances in the entertainment industry. The public was presented with a diverse range of movies and actors, and yet one could still argue that the range of diverse talents was actually limited. This movement to redefine what it means to be black in a largely white america has two seperate, but codependent parts known as #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackBoyJoy.

The movements, founded on the history of oppression faced by African Americans, is a response to the scathing identity White America has created for African Americans. For anyone to live in a society where there is a crude inaccurate archetype assigned to them in which they are incapable of intelligence, compassion or beauty is psychologically damaging. Thus, to still somehow see a light at the end of the tunnel, to smile unbothered by the tensions of today’s age, all while looking good and challenging those norms is something magical.

The dazzling ability of African Americans to rise above blatant bias and racism is a remarkable feat. This is celebrated most notably by the #BlackGirlMagic movement in which black women who have often faced discrimination and ostracization celebrate themselves. It pushes the brilliant nature of black women, who meet every obstacle that comes their way with a transcendent level of resilience, speaking volumes to their maturity and class. Initially starting on social media platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter, the movements gathered quick and rapid support for their reclaiming beauty and happiness.

Biracial actress Zendaya, initially starring on Disney Channel in the shows “Shake it Up” and “K.C. Undercover,” has amassed a sizable following in the African-American community and beyond. Her claims to fame, however fail to compare to her most recent unveiling in her partnership with Tommy Hilfiger, who graced the runway spotting apparel that was both homage to her heritage and her championing the unrecognized beauty of African-American women.

Also spearheading the movie in the entertainment industries is Kenyan-Mexican actress, Lupita Nyong’o, who made her name starting in Steve McQueen’s historical drama “12 Years a Slave,” where she earned Best Supporting Actress. More famously, she also played the role of Wakandan spy, Nakia, in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” which brought immediate attention to the Hollywood’s diversity problem. Lupita having been named Most Beautiful Woman by People Magazine in 2014, embodies the #BlackGirlMagic movement through her portrayal of the multifaceted aspects possessed by African-American women.

Meanwhile in the realm of music, the industry saw a revival of soul and jazzed based rap thanks to the artist, Noname. Noname may seem like a strange name to list, but her songs, which come from the soft spoken artist’s love for poetry, speak of struggles with class and identity. The most compelling story of her journey, “Reality Check,” mentions how Noname feels the societal pressures stacked against her as a young black artist. Yet, despite the obstacles this Chicago native has faced, she sings about reclaiming herself and her passion, thus showing a beautifully resilient black woman.

For #BlackBoyJoy, the idea rests on male artists who despite injustice and stigma faced today, can still find it inside themselves to rejoice and smile. These young black men are challenging the idea that a black boy can not be pretty, cannot be intelligent and that all black men are violent or dangerous. They are paving the way for a new generation of young black men who are redefining their identities as figures capable of happiness and vulnerability.

One of the most glaringly obvious examples of this is Chance the Rapper. Both the rapper’s elastic lyricism, which allows for such variety in interpretations, and his soulful exuberance are wonderful reminders of what #BlackBoyJoy is and that it is here to stay. The carefree debonair that he manages to exude paired with very deep meaningful lyrics touching on poverty and racism create the identity of a unapologetically happy black man.

Jaden Smith also has accumulated influence in recent years notably with his rejection of gender norms in clothing and the voice he has developed for himself in his music. His iconic fashion style that does not conform to binary notions of gender helps to characterize just how broad the #BlackBoyJoy movement is. Smith has recently launched a campaign with Louis Vuitton where he vocalizes his criticism of gendered clothing. His unorthodox approach to clothing in addition to his voice as a alternative hip hop artist gives the African-American community yet another champion who refuses to be weighed down by the stringent notions of what black men are and ought to be.

Musical artist Khalid has gained a reputation for his positivity and chill demeanor. Khalid’s songs are often sophisticated and overarching with themes of unrequited love and jubilant songs of being young. The song that gets to the core of who Khalid is as a artist is titled “American Teen” and is featured on his debut album of the same name. The song rejoices at the simplicity of having fun with friends, and partying with boys and girls alike without care for what anyone thinks. Khalid’s emphasis on youth influenced by his experience of being a young black man are markers of the #BlackBoyJoy movement where young black men can praise their youth and joy.

These movements are built on the principal idea that for far too long African Americans have been ignored and subjugated into ill fitting and outdated ideals of who they are and what they ought to be. However, thanks to the works of the aforementioned artists and influencers who have boldly reclaimed their culture, we can see the start of something great. The redefining of being black, and the steady and ongoing battle to prove that as a whole the African-American community is finished living by narrow and prejudiced preconceptions. They will no longer allow anyone else to decide their own destiny. They will challenge the status quo, topple the European ideals of beauty and create a new identity where African Americans are held in as high regard as non-black celebrities.