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Black Rock Coalition and CCCADI (Caribbean Cultural Center) hosted events last week that reminded audiences, especially those of the African diaspora, of how much black histories, stories and voices get erased, revised, transformed, hidden, abducted, revised, whitewashed or any other term you would like to call it. And just like kinky or curly hair after it is straightened, eventually our histories will revert back.
The other day, for example, I was watching Mysteries at the Museum, and found out that the first black Major League Baseball player was not Jackie Robinson, but Moses “Fleetwood” Walker (although some sources say it is William Edward White). Walker was also an inventor and author and played professional baseball until the late 19th century when Jim Crow Laws were enacted and the League was segregated. After the Major Leagues, he became a businessman and black nationalist, writing a pamphlet titled Our Home Colony: A Treatise on the Past, Present, and Future of the Negro Race in America.
As time goes on, we see our histories often revised or hidden like that, but we still must keep revealing the truth. One such history is rock ‘n’ roll. Rock ‘n’ roll is often whitewashed to the the point that it seems only white people created the genre and continue it, ignoring the contributions of people of color, including black Americans, in it. Black Rock Coalition, which will be celebrating 30 years next year, continues to fight that erasure and did with “Deep Roots of Rock and Roll” last Saturday. at Lincoln Center Featuring performances from Toshi Reagon, Nona Hendryx, Tamar Kali, Corey Glover of Living Colour, Karma Mayet Johnson, Kimberly Nichole, Jason Walker, and Adaku Utah, the show was two hours of electrifying truth, hosted by poet and writer Carl Hancock Rux as the radio DJ speaking his rock and roll gospel. Rux opened the show and repeated throughout the question of “What is Rock and Roll?,” giving a rundown of the various voices and histories that contributed to today’s rock music, like minstrel songs, jazz, blues, spirituals, ring shouts, gospel, early rock ‘n’ roll, and then the demonization and later “abduction” of rock. Bo Diddley, as Rux quoted, did say, “I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob.”