[Op Ed] Madonna Is Part of My Black History
The 'Material Girl' didn't disappoint during the super bowl but for reasons unrelated to music
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not reflect that of Loop 21.
Not since the likes of Michael Jackson (Super Bowl XXVII) or Prince (Super Bowl XLI) has Black America waited with bated breath for a Halftime Show. Nope, not even Janet Jackson’s turn at bat was given “sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat” status in black households. In fact, I recall many of my friends saying that they missed the nip slip because they were doing something else. Last year’s performance with Black Eyed Peas and Usher was cool but nothing worth writing home about.
For some reason, the "Material
Girl Grown Ass Woman" has a place in our hearts, regardless of if you want to admit it or not. Last night’s Super Bowl performance showed why. Madonna appreciates black artists. She isn’t afraid to acknowledge their influence on her. Remember her cornrow phase?
Madge has worked with Kanye West and Pharrell, Babyface, Timbaland and Lenny Kravitz. Last night she brought out Cee Lo, Nicki Minaj and LMFAO. She also Vogued like her life depended on it. For those that don’t know, Voguing is an artistic style of dance first created by black and Hispanic gay men in NYC. Madonna might as well have been break dancing on that stage. All of it is part of the Black American Art Diaspora. I, for one, am checking it off as a win in the “Us” column.
Madonna shared the spotlight with black artists at the biggest sporting event in America during Black History Month. This is a moment that many won’t see the gravity of. Let’s put it in perspective.
Fifty years ago, America was in the thick of the Civil Rights Movement. Restaurants, schools, water foundations and buses were segregated. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand featured black performers but no black audience members. The fear was that black boys would get too close to white girls and upset at-home viewers. (How would 1962 America feel about Madonna sitting on LMFAO’s shoulders?) This unofficial decree of segregation wasn’t lifted until the mid-60s. Now can you understand the magnitude of Don Cornelius’ Soul Train, which debuted in 1971, broadcasting across the nation black musical acts and black and Hispanic dancers?
Since we now have a black president, the thought of racial segregation and how it crippled Black Americans often gets downplayed. We’re past that. We’re post-race. Let’s all be color blind.
Ok, fine. If you aren’t feeling Madonna’s tip of the hat to Black culture, here’s another thought to ponder.
Way back in the 1980s, before rap music was granted it’s own radio stations and the only black music played on black radio were classics (Temptations) and adult contemporary (Anita Baker), black people avidly listened to white music. We had no choice. There were a few black acts that were played on Top 40 radio -- Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston -- but we weren’t only tuning into to hear them.
Phil Collins, The Police, Hall and Oats, Michael McDonald, George Michael all were played in black households. There was no separation in our eyes. Black people liked good music and supported it whether it was by a black or white artist.
As a child of the 80’s to this day I know more than I should about Queen, David Bowie, The Bangles, Talking Heads and don’t get me started on the hair bands. (Thanks MTV.)
Madonna was an artist whose music was listened to by black girls around the country. We wanted to dress like her. Teased our hair like her -- much to the disapproval of our mothers who knew getting the knots out wasn’t going to be an easy feat. We even painted our faces like hers. Look at early Cosby show episodes were Denise Huxtable channeled her best. Madonna was young and fresh then evolved to badass and take charge. Don't even get me started on what she meant to women empowerment.
Madonna was a cultural icon and we embraced her. Her classic songs are part of the soundtrack to our youth. Before NWA and Public Enemy, we -- without a care in the world -- wanted a “Holiday” and looked to the sky for a “Lucky Star.”
Seeing her rock the stage made me turn to the chapter in my black history book: White people that were part of my life.
I doubt I was the only one.
Chloé A. Hilliard is the Editorial Director of Loop 21.
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