A young activist shared a Facebook video made by Amandla Stenberg that I’d like to ask every one of my readers to take a few minutes to watch it. It is must see video in my opinion.

Amandla Stenberg Video

I’ll admit that while I can completely support trans and queer persons of color who are outraged about Iggy Azalea’s headlining of Pittsburgh Pride, I haven’t fully understood their criticism of her when it comes to cultural appropriation. I could respect their feelings, but I did so not really understanding it. For the record, I think sometimes we are called to do that- to hear each other and respect another’s experience even if we don’t fully grasp it. Still, I’ve wanted to better understand.

For me, the complaint about Iggy was sufficiently expressed by saying she was so controversial and that controversy alienated parts of the LGBTQ community. This level of divisiveness itself was sufficient reason to be opposed to her coming to Pittsburgh Pride. But I still wanted to understand the complaints about cultural appropriation. This process- coming to really understand is in my opinion the way we release the blinders attached to white privilege.

One local activist explained (cultural appropriation) to me as it was stealing what belonged to black people. As an artist, I struggled (and continue to struggle) with that language. Does any one or group of people own a method of expression? But it was my honor and my responsibility to keep going and not stop simply because I didn’t get her answer.

Amandla’s video is a tremendous explanation that everyone regardless of who you are, the color of your skin, or your personally perceived understanding of the controversy ought to watch. What I found in it for as an artist and as an advocate, is the differentiation between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange. Prior to seeing this video, it seemed to me as if some were just jealous that some white artists were making money. But that is as far off base as can be. I share that sentiment because if you think that too, guess what, there is a far deeper understanding you need to achieve.

As I began to grasp more and more of this, the initial explanation (stealing what belonged to black people made more sense to me. In the larger cultural landscape, we villainize and degrade black people while the privileged celebrate and appropriate black culture. This act of embracing black culture while shunning and demonizing black people… that’s the point I didn’t get before.

Every single word of this video is extremely important, but for me the real lesson and what brought me to a real grasp, is the very last line of her narration.

I can’t embed the video directly here in my blog, but here is the direct link: https://video-ord1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hvideo-xta1/v/t43.1792-2/11115561_1111130268903083_1674393875_n.mp4?oh=611a4be2b1d3ba7c77c11ed29b6b86ac&oe=55733F53

In the video is a brief clip of Azealia Banks. I had heard a radio story about her and her criticism of a rapper a few months ago, but to be honest, at that time, it seemed too complicated to really understand. Now I get it. I get it.

To some degree, I knew some of this stuff, but it was this video that helped me put all the pieces together in a way that allowed me to really get it. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.

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