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Yaa-Hemaa Obiri-Yeboah

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Black History Is Everyone's History

Posted: 02/06/2013 6:21 pm

Black History Month is not just for black people. In an ideal world, there would be no need for a dedicated month to mark black history -- and the significant contributions that blacks have made around the world -- because it would be on par and as well-known as History, i.e. the mainstream history that many of us learned in high school. I don't know how history was taught when you were in school, but in my school our teachers skipped over the chapter (yes, only a single chapter) on blacks in Canada and North America more generally.

Sure, I understand that there's much to cram into school curricula, but when we skip over or elide significant aspects of our country's past, we demonstrate what -or who - is important or unimportant in our society. These omissions -- which affect, of course, not only blacks, but also Asians, native peoples, and various other ethnic groups (women too lest we forget) -- skew our view of the world and lead to erroneous assumptions. If a child, or an adult for that matter, only learns about the contributions of those of European descent, it's unlikely that they will consider that people of other races or ethnicities also played a significant role in building our country. How can you be expected to know and understand the full spectrum of history if you've never been given non-traditional examples? To put it another way, if you never saw the colour blue in your lifetime would you know that it even existed?

I don't see Black History Month as revisionist in any way; the aim isn't to rewrite history to artificially raise the ranking of black contributions; the aim is to bring to light or to the surface the people and events that were forgotten or that were purposefully buried in the annals of time. Also, Black History Month isn't designed to elevate black culture over white culture. One isn't better than the other. In fact, neither history or culture is separate or distinct because it's a shared history. The concurrent stories on both sides of the coin are what make our shared past. Black History month isn't just my month, or your month, or the month of a friend of yours. It's ours.

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    The band known as Cold Specks fronted by the woman known as Al Spx burst out of virtually nowhere with the critically acclaimed album<em> I Predict A Graceful Expulsion</em> in 2012. With a gospel-flavoured and acoustically-driven sound often referred to as “doom soul,” the folk artist’s mastery of her craft will only continue to grow. Now based in the U.K., where she first broke out, let’s see if Cold Specks can deliver the goods again with a strong sophomore outing this year.

  • Melanie Fiona, 29: Singer

    After winning not one, but two Grammy Awards last year, there’s nowhere for Melanie Fiona to go but up. The 29-year old names Whitney Houston, Sade and Amy Winehouse as being major influences and her ability to incorporate elements of soca and reggae in her R&B sound is a key distinguishing factor to her current success. After releasing the modestly successful <em>MF Life</em> in 2012 — which was much bigger down south than here in Canada — Fiona is up for yet another Grammy award next week.

  • Abel Tesfaye/The Weeknd: 22, Singer-Songwriter

    What more can be said about the enigmatic and innovative one better known as The Weeknd? Coming off a successful year of touring and underground promotion, the singer-songwriter’s penchant for progressive and ethereal mood music has served to redefine post-millennial R&B. Since the successful release of his <em>House Of Balloons</em>-led mixtape trilogy in 2011 (subsequently mastered and rereleased on a major label last year as <em>Trilogy</em>) it’s safe to say that Abel Tesfaye is definitely on a high. And with a rumoured new full-length album on the way, many are waiting on The Weeknd to see what’s next.

  • Cadence Weapon, 26: Musician/Rapper

    Edmonton’s Rollie Pemberton has been making noise ever since he launched the full-length Cadence Weapon album<em> Breaking Kayfabe</em> back in 2005. Named Edmonton’s poet laureate in 2009, the Polaris Music Prize-nominated artist has been widely hailed as an innovator when it comes to hip-hop. Now based in Montreal, Pemberton’s penchant for abstract lyricism and an unorthodox rap style marks him as a uniquely creative force in the Canadian hip-hop scene.

  • Drake, 26: Rapper/Songwriter

    Ah, Drake. Love him or hate him, Aubrey Drake Graham is arguably the biggest name to come out of Canada in years. Having sold more than five million albums worldwide, Drake’s presence and introspective style has irrevocably transformed the sound of mainstream hip-hop. And he shows no signs of stopping now: his October’s Very Own crew runs deep with upcoming new artists and projects (including a loose affiliation with The Weeknd), his songwriting for artists such as Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx will likely continue to flourish, and a new studio album is virtually confirmed to be in the works. With even a tossed-off song like "The Motto" containing era-defining lines like "YOLO," the sky’s the limit for Drizzy.

  • Kreesha Turner, 27: Singer

    Edmonton born R&B/Pop diva Kreesha Turner — she of the trademark huge afro — has been steadily making noise on the international music front. Building off a huge hit with 2011 single "I Could Stay," the highly underrated young recording artist of Canadian/Jamaican heritage is reportedly working on new music for this coming year.

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  • Rich Kidd, 25: Producer/Rapper

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  • Shad, 30: Rapper

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  • Slakah The Beatchild: Singer-songwriter/Producer

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  • Lunice of TNGHT, 25: DJ/Producer

    One half of EDM darlings TNGHT, Montreal’s Lunice Fermin Pierre II is known for his beat wizardry and innate ability to move a live crowd. With his ability to meld experimental dance and trap/hip-hop production into an exciting new sound, Lunice and TNGHT are forging a futuristic musical path in both the underground and mainstream scenes.

 

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