As a black teenager living in this day and age, I have always struggled with identity. Previously, if I listened to classical music, I was labelled as ‘too white’, but if my Spotify playlist was filled with rap music, I would be classified as ‘ratchet’ or ‘a thug’. Trying to maintain a middle ground between the social expectations of a young black person, as well as what it really means to me to be black, left me in a state of constant anxiety. I felt as if my black wasn’t black enough, but at the same time my skin tone was too dark properly fit in with my lighter-skinned peers. Despite the fact I actually enjoyed some of the stereotypical aspects of black culture, I was always afraid to embrace them because of simple worries, like my slang would never be slang enough to live up to expectations.
It was through powerful black role models who have explored the intricacies of black identity, that I actually started to accept and embrace who I am. Seeing people who looked like me and were represented as more than just the typical black stereotype, allowed me to embrace the parts of myself that weren’t viewed as just ‘black’. I was allowed to be well-spoken, cultured and creative, as well as embracing my roots, and I began to realise that these things, combined with being a black person, were not mutually exclusive.
Artists and creators, such as Amanda Stenberg, Solange Knowles, Kendrick Lamar and J Cole, are inspirational as they show their background and take control of their artistic visions, whilst also portraying important issues to do with racial politics in society. For me, they strengthen and instil hope for the black youth everywhere.
2016 has been an amazing year for black artists, with singers such as Beyoncé and Solange breaking records, not only for top selling albums, but top selling albums narrating previously taboo topics too. They opened up discussions about racial relations around the world. We have seen celebrities of all races openly supporting fellow celebrities over racial issues such as the ‘#oscarssowhite’ controversy, alongside being outspoken about matters of police brutality and representation of people of colour in the media. It truly seems as if for every knock back in 2016 for black people, there were one hundred steps forward. Brothers and sisters came together to support each other and celebrate their racial identities.
After such a powerful year in 2016, there is the hope of 2017 that promises to bring more success for black artistry, as well as helping black youth like me to feel represented and appreciated in a world that does not always seem welcoming to people of colour. For the first time, it seems as if black is in fashion, and it is here to stay.