- Black Lives Matter & Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection ed. by Fernando Orejuela and Stephanie Shonekan
The fight for civil rights and music have been a formidable duo since slaves hid coded messages in sermonic homilies and lyrical hymns. Thus, it is no wonder that the intersection of music and its ability to spur activism amid the social justice aims of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) should warrant critical study. The authors in Black Lives Matter & Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection offer a road map to explore the nexus that occurs when cries of racism and oppression are voiced within the socially conscious bars of hip-hop. Researchers and educators will find in the book models for applying critical inquiry to challenging and engaging students in "ethnographic research" through music and "personal encounters" (p. xii).
The formation, tenets, and key principles of BLM ground the chapters and undergird their rhetorical stance. Using ethnomusicological guiding practices and folkloristic influences, the authors portray music's influence on the lives of college students in Missouri and Indiana, an African American male communal event in Texas, and music landscapes in Detroit and Washington, DC. "This position of Black music as a significant player in the movement … [is] the real power of the music as an integral part of Black life" (p. 18). The BLM movement, birthed via social media in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer, spurred the hashtag-as-activism revolution and amplified its presence through hip-hop. Instructors desiring pedagogical shifts in their classes would do well to read the well-crafted foreword (by Portia K. Maultsby), introduction (by Fernando Orejuela), and conclusion (by Stephanie Shonekan), as these sections provide necessary historical context toward understanding the similarities of the BLM movement to other civil rights movements, slavery's confluence, and the power of music to spark social change while soothing tumultuous souls.
The opening chapter, "Black Mizzou: Music and Stories One Year Later," argues that racist N-word taunts leveled at Black students at the University of Missouri and the word's use in hip-hop lyrics and personal anthems serve distinct purposes. In the chapter, Stephanie Shonekan investigates "the link between Black struggle and Black music … during and after the Mizzou movement" (p. 15). Like many of us, Shonekan wondered what hypnotized, stoic, head-bopping, earbuds-wearing students were listening to and why. It becomes evident through a number of interviews that students' curated playlists serve as heal-thyself mantras to cope with the hatred and intolerance that lurk in the halls of higher education, especially for those who question the establishment. Shonekan argues that "Mizzou activists mined for the music that would make the most sense to their experiences as Black liberation fighters" (p. 25). For many students coming of age in a society where images of dead, dying, maimed, or mangled Brown and Black bodies are common, having "a focus on anthems is a productive way to think about this eternal struggle, this enduring movement, our troubling racial and racist history" (p. 26). Shonekan's insights encourage those in the academy to seek collaborations with students that move each from places of comfort and to "figure out why existing approaches to programming to raise awareness to racism and other forms of discrimination have not changed the minds and hearts" of those who attend and work in institutions of [End Page 359] higher education (p. 32), as evidenced by the proliferation of hate crimes committed on university campuses.
In chapter 2, "Black Matters: Black Folk Studies and Black Campus Life," Fernando Orejuela discusses college classroom writing that bridges music and culture studies. This chapter reminds teachers that such writing should not be considered authentic culture work unless it provides "opportunities to address genre, aesthetics, culture, and history from a worldview that is not privileging or does not privilege the European model" (p. 37). Using writing assignments to probe diversity issues in college classes is not novel; however, "teaching about racial inequality through hip...