What is Black Culture?

There was a time when Black culture meant “African American culture.” Not so anymore. People of African descent, across the world diaspora, now exert a major influence in almost every area of culture, including music, film, fashion, comedy, social media, memes, and everyday language. From Beyonce to Black Panther, Black culture is embracing its African roots.  

Looking For Role Models

Many think of African-American culture, specifically, as the obvious answer. Black culture has always been a major part of the vast cultural landscape of North America— if you were looking for it. Black artists coming of age in the 1990s turned to American television shows like “One On One,” “Moesha,” and “Girlfriends” to find cultural representations of their own experience. This usually meant “African-American” representation. But, in the years since, representation of Black culture has soared, and other Black subcultures have a  presence that is stronger than ever. 

There are many reasons for this, starting with immigration. Between 1996 and 2016, Canada saw the Black population more than double, from 573,860  to 1,198,540, and this younger generation has kept a part of their culture with them. The popularity of the Nigerian film industry—or”Nollywood,” abroad is but one example of this.  

The internet is another major player. 34 percent, or 453 million Africans, are online, versus 34 million in Canada, so it follows that Africans would wield enormous influence in digital culture. The internet has a democratizing influence. It removes gatekeepers and allows people to speak for themselves. Consequently, Africans have increasingly clapped back at Western-based stereotypes about their culture.

The Role Of Social Media

Social media has started a global conversation and has allowed Africans to challenge pre-existing narratives about their culture. Tik Tok, Instagram and YouTube have had a huge impact on African art and have contributed to the globalization of African media. As one example, South African artist Master KG whose song ‘Jerusalema,” failed to get ample radio play, took off online, sweeping the music industry and hitting number one in 10 countries. 

The Rise Of African Music

Examples of Black culture’s global impact bound. Musicians like Nigerian singer-songwriter Burma Boy are ditching the ‘World Music” label, packing stadiums, and picking up awards around the world. A 2019 and 2020 Grammy award nominee, Burma Boy is the first Nigerian to garner back-to-back nods at the industry’s glitziest event. Meanwhile, non-African musicians like Drake and Ed Sheeran are increasingly collaborating with African artists to lend new sounds and flavour to their music. The message is clear: evolve or risk extinction. 

But for a continent with 54 countries, over 2,000 languages, and 3,000 ethnic groups, the concept of African global dominance in media still refers mainly to Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, and places a focus on the English language. 

As a matter of fact, cultural offerings from Portuguese, Spanish, and French-speaking Africans are more or less ignored in the English-speaking world. So what’s the best definition of Black culture? Maybe it’s that there’s no such thing as one culture or perspective and that there’s more than one way to be Black. We must make space for a wide range of Black cultures to tell their own stories: it’s both this collectivity and diversity,  that makes African culture so special. In addition, the different communities that Black people create around the world each absorb a little bit of their new cultural surroundings, making it their own. From Canada to the U.S. to Europe to South America, Black culture takes a unique spin wherever you go.  

To learn more about Black culture, subscribe to Burke’s Bookstore today. 

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