Lists, Race & Politics

Blackness 101: 10 Things All Black People Should (At Least) Be Aware Of…

Barnes_Ernie_SUGAR_SHACKClearly grammar should be on this list since you’re not supposed to end a sentence (or a title?) with a preposition, but oh well.

Bumaye Panama.

I can’t believe we haven’t done this.  We’ve done movies that all Black people should know.  We’ve done songs that all Black people should know.  We’ve beat into the ground the Black in America series.  For goodness’ sake, we’ve mentioned Flavor Flav on this site at least 100 times.  It only seems natural that putting out the definitive list of all things that Black people should (at least) be aware of would be the order of the day.  But no.

I blame Jim Jones Lil Mama Kanye for this Shawne Merriman Chad Ochocinco Whitney Houston little orphan Annie Lil Wayne for this.

Anywho, I feel that the canon of Blackness needs some kind of direction.  And who better than yours truly, the expert on all things expertly to provide some guidance into things that pretty much should be par the course for all people of the diaspora regardless of class, religion, orientation, or grade of hair.

And so it begins…10 Things All Black People Should (At Least) Be Aware Of…

1)  Roots

We’ve talked about movies and I’m sure this was mentioned, but really, if you’ve not seen this, or don’t know who Alex Haley is (no plagiarize), (or have no clue what I’m even talking about) somebody in your life has deprived you of a vital part of your Blackness.  You should be upset about this.

2)  Kool-Aid

I’ve found Kool-Aid to be a very polarizing part of Black culture.  And yes, I’m calling it a part of Black culture.  Almost everybody I know grew up in a Kool-Aid house, or they didn’t because they’re parents specifically didn’t want their kids drinking Kool-Aid.  If that ain’t some Black sh*t, I don’t know what is.  You know some of us love to think we’re too good for stuff, even if we do live in the projects.  Then again, I suppose being the most well off of the broke is something worth bragging on.  I suppose.

3)  Spades

Anytime I meet a Black person who can’t play spades, I’m perplexed.  I don’t judge, I’m just perplexed.  I don’t even remember learning how to play spades.  I just…played.  A close second to this is tunk.  And quite a few people will throw bid whist into the mix, but spades reigns supreme.  Nobody plays bid whist on the hood of a car.

4)  The Autobiography of Malcolm X

I’m not even saying you have to have seen the movie, but I feel like this book is required reading for all Black people.  Even folks whose sole reading experience rests in the realm of Donny Goines novels have read Malcolm X.

5)  Coming To America/The Color Purple

Over Labor Day, I found out that one of my close friends had never seen Coming To America.  Coming to America is the Jay-Z of movies.  There are so many quotables in this movie.  It’s just one of those movies that all Black people see at some point and I think should be mandated.  Heck, I’m trying to figure out at what age to introduce my daughter to it right now…and losing sleep over it.  Same goes for The Color Purple, which is really a comedy if you think about it.

6)  Michael Jackson (RIP)

I don’t care if you think he’s a pedophile, you should at least know, by heart, Off The Wall, Thriller, and Bad, and be able to do at least one dance from the Thriller video.  I saw a 72-year-old woman hit a Thriller move this past weekend.  I also saw a 6-year-old do the same.  This is required.

7)  What’s Going On/Stevie Wonder’s hits/Motown

Marvin Gaye made arguably the most important album in music history.  It makes lists that only white people create.  And don’t get me started on Stevie.  From “As” to “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, if you haven’t heard Stevie, your life is incomplete like a Sisqo song.  And Motown is Motown.

8)  Soul Food (actual food, not bad TV series or serviceable movie)

This one is debatable because Southern white people eat it as well, but really, who was cooking for them?  Black people.  It’s part of Blackness.  Eat some collards, gangsta.

9)  Nation of Islam

You ain’t got to be apart of the FOI or anything, but I firmly believe you should know what FOI stands for.  From Farrakhan to Muhammad Ali to The Honorable Elijah Mohammed (and of course brotha El Hajj Malik Shabazz), agree or disagree, the nation has played a large part in Black history.

Much like…

10)  The Black Panthers

I used to want to be a Black Panther because before crack, they cared.  Plus one of the most famous cartoon characters in Black America is named after him (Huey Freeman).

***

So, good people of VSB, what’s missing?  What else should all Black people be aware of??

-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka TANGLE JIG P aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL, HE A 3

*Admin Note: We’re currently in the process of planning a VSB Happy Hour in NYC for Saturday, October 3rd, somewhere in Manhattan (probably).  Panama, Liz, and friends will be there.  If you’re in the NY area and are interested in coming, could you send us an email to contact@verysmartbrothas.com?  We’re trying to gauge interest to determine what kind of space we need or if we should just tell folks to meet at the McDonald’s on 3rd Street in the Village with red cups of whatever you like to drink*

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Damon Young

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. He believes the children are our future and is waiting to find out if he is the 2nd most interesting man in the world.

  • Selah

    Hmmm. I’m glad you added that (at least be aware of) to some of these… cuz if not, my blackness would be in question.

    SO I just asked my mom if she could think of anything all black people should know. Her answer? “Don’t trust whitey!!” lmfao. terrible.

    • 8th Wonder

      @Selah,

      That’s learned in minute one of the 101 course, lmao!

    • Gem of the Ocean

      @Selah,

      my mom would say the same thing… and she’s not black. lmao

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Selah, i think all Black folks here that saying at least 203 times in their life. at least…

  • Omar

    I’m hoping the fact that my parents were in the nation, I know ex-panthers personally, I used to live in Marvin Gaye’s old neighborhood and my education was based on mastering games like spades (middle school was tunk, high school was spades and college was dominoes) makes up for me not having seen the color purple.

    • Vega

      @Omar, I am a loooooong time lurker, but I felt that I must respond to you!
      As much as you should be lauded for your capabilities in various table sports, I must disagree that your mastery of said games entitles you to a pass for not partaking in the manna of movie magic that is the Color Purple. Please get your hands on the DVD, and sit back and enjoy. The Color Purple is full of jewels and quotes that you can use in everyday conversation. Also, as a bonus, watching the Color Purple has supernatural powers that improve your spades ability. Simply put…Go. Get. The. Movie.

      P.S. – I’ll leave you with this, “Till you do right by me….” Watch the movie to undersatnd that quote, or your spades and bones game will indeed suffer.

      • http://lizburr.com Liz

        @Vega, thanks for delurking!! lol

    • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

      Don’t feel bad, Omar, I never saw The Color Purple either….mostly because I never cared to. Never appealed to me as I always figured that to be a chick flick.

      • http://presidentialtelevisionandfilm.ning.com Monk

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like,

        Same here..never saw it but feel like I can just pull together all the random quotes I’ve heard and piece together the whole joint.

        I totally get the perception of it being a ‘chick flick’ too based on the fact that 99% of the time I hear a quote from the movie, it’s from a female.

        • http://ravingblacklunatic.blogspot.com Big Man

          @Monk,

          Massive cosign.

          It’s to the point now where I’m actively avoiding this movie.

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like, i used to think it was a chick flick. it really isn’t. it’s really a comedy in the line of Friday.

        just set like 60 years earlier

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like,

        i finally broke down and watched it a couple years ago, and i have to say that its more entertaining than i was expecting it to be

    • http://www.singlesisterspeak.wordpress.com Nicki Sunshine

      @Omar, The Color Purple is the best!!!!!!!

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Omar, i don’t think that makes up for it. though that’s quite the blackness resume.

  • Simply Amazin

    You should also know where the picture you posted is from….. “I Want You” Marvin Gaye….

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Simply Amazin, actually…it didn’t come from the Marvin Gaye album…it was used for the marvin gaye album…

  • shrifryrye

    McDonald’s on 3rd Street in the Village with red cups….threw me off.

    i will regain my composure and come back in the morning. the list is on point though, and i don’t know how to play spades well, 9 out of 10 aint bad!

    • MizThickaDenThick

      @shrifryrye,
      you learn by observation…and follow suit!!!

    • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

      @shrifryrye, as far as I remember, I only played once ever….

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like, how is that even possible? i feel like you either play or have never played.

        playing once just seems so anomalous.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          @Panama Jackson,

          i feel like you either play or have never played.

          ***filed under “things omar little would say if he were on vsb”***

    • Me fail english?

      @shrifryrye,

      Girl I can play whist and spades. But I never even heard of tunk til this post.

      P.S. Happy Hour on a Saturday is what threw me. lol

      • Smiley Face

        @Me fail english?,

        Tunk/tonk is a knock off of rummy/gin rummy

      • http://cookinwitgrease.com Chasdizz

        @Me fail english?,
        umm what is this “whist” you all speak of? never heard of it. at all.

        unless it’s we have some other name for it where i’m from.

        • Me fail english?

          @Chasdizz,

          Its the one where you keep a kitty and “take em to Boston” and your mother slaps you upside the head for jumping on her team and losing… :(

          Its like spades for grownups

    • Captain Morgan

      @shrifryrye,

      I can’t play Spades either, but i got nine out of ten too.

    • shay_d_lady

      @shrifryrye, aww..come to Memphis, I shall take you under my wing…..
      I am a beast on them spades!

    • Gem of the Ocean

      @shrifryrye,

      2 things:
      (a) i hate you for resurfacing shrifryrye
      (b) i’ll teach you how to play spades. just dont pull a sakanna mae–she made me painstakingly teach her all my secret moves… and doesn’t remember a daggone thing (too drunk. oops). damn her.

      • shrifryryeisoverit!

        @Gem of the Ocean, yes! teach me, i’m a fast learner!

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

          @shrifryryeisoverit!,

          yes! teach me, i’m a fast learner!

          if i had a dollar…

          • 8th Wonder

            @The Champ,

            But you don’t. Nuff said.

          • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

            8th Wonder is The Champ’s personal foil….

  • Miss Patterson

    I’m 90% black. Yeah, that sounds about right. The 10% that is not “black” is not my fault. I blame McCandless township. Thank you and good night.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      @Miss Patterson,

      not wt?

  • http://wheresana.blogspot.com/ Intellectual Hedonist

    “A Great Day In Harlem”, you may not know the names of any of the Jazz musicians pictured but you know it when you see it.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Intellectual Hedonist, though i sort of agree here, i can’t fault anybody for not really being aware of that picture. hell, a lot of people don’t even listen to jazz and only know miles davis kind of blue album.

  • http://sojournersverdad.wordpress.com SoJo

    OK, so I might not know how to play spades or tunk…and so what if I actually PREFER Uno or Candyland? I grew up in the SWATS – Ben Hill, shawty! GAME OVER! *leaving with my Blackness still intact*

    • MizThickaDenThick

      @SoJo,

      Nope you cannot rep da SWATS(Cascade…Beecher Rd shawty!!) and not know how to play spades or at least tunk. i got dem lessons on deck and my spades trophy if u need them!!

    • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

      @SoJo, hell, I’ve never even heard of tunk…maybe it’s a regional thing? Like celo?

      • Smiley Face

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like,

        what?!! where your peoples from?

      • Me fail english?

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like,

        C-lo’s regional? I thought that was nationwide!

        • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

          @Me fail english?, nobody plays celo in L.A. We always thought of that as a New York thing.

          We wouldn’t even know what to do with a third die…so we just shoot craps and keep it simple.

      • IVR

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like, “I’ve never even heard of tunk”

        Didn’t hear about that or bidwhist until I joined the military (my introduction to southern black folk). I know my great grandmother would always play gin rummy and solitaire . . maybe it IS regional.

      • TLC

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like,

        Maybe it is…Midwest and Southern people have always seemed to know how to play but I never ran into many East and West coast people who played.

    • http://www.singlesisterspeak.wordpress.com Nicki Sunshine

      @SoJo, I didn’t know it was Tunk, we always said TONK (like TAW-NK). lol

      • Smiley Face

        @Nicki Sunshine,

        yup! LOL..That’s how my Daddy pronounced it (he’s from KY too, lol)

        • http://www.singlesisterspeak.wordpress.com Nicki Sunshine

          @Smiley Face, LOL!!!!

      • miss t-lee

        @Nicki Sunshine,
        We pronounce it Tonk also.

        • http://www.singlesisterspeak.wordpress.com Nicki Sunshine

          @miss t-lee, I don’t remember how to play it now though… lol

          • miss t-lee

            @Nicki Sunshine,
            Shooo girl, I never learned to play that one either…

      • Lanieanna

        @Nicki Sunshine,

        How about PIDDY-PAT???? This is the more common, simple version of TONK, usually played for money.. very common in the city of N.O.

        • http://www.singlesisterspeak.wordpress.com Nicki Sunshine

          @Lanieanna, I’ve never heard of that one.. How do u play?

          • Lanieanna

            @Nicki Sunshine, …long story short. you have to try to get all pairs in your hand by either accepting dissed cards, or recieving a card “plucked” from the deck.. if u know tonk/tunk… its the same thing, except all you need is matches

        • Me fail english?

          @Lanieanna,

          Ok, I actually learned how to play this! Strangely enough from some Cubans. lol

        • http://www.sistersoundoff.blogspot.com Cheekie

          @Lanieanna,

          My mama’s bf (at the time) taught me piddy-pat. I always wondered how to play when I was younger. It’s interesting because today, I totally forgot how to play. He taught me Blackjack that day, too, but I still remember that. lol

        • http://musicmakesmehigh.wordpress.com Reecie

          @Lanieanna, we say “pitty pat”. oh and I also say Tonk, Rummy, etc. Gin Rummy to be specific. LOL

          • Lanieanna

            @Reecie,

            that is how its spelled… but you know….. you do you know that has every mentioned the game, actually anunciates the t?

      • http://thoughtsparadigm.blogspot.com afterthought

        @Nicki Sunshine,

        Same here. It took me a min to realize that was what he was talking about.

        • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

          @afterthought, tonk/tunk…

          let’s be real. how many of us have ever seen it written down in the first place.

          it’s one of those said-but-not-written words like “mayne” which i’ve seen written like “meng” which to me is just wrong

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        @Nicki Sunshine,

        me too. it took it a couple moments to realize that this mysterious tunk being referred to was actually tonk. and by “a couple moments” i mean five hours

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @SoJo, how exactly does one grow up in the SWATS and never once play spades? I mean UNO is a favorite game for many so that makes sense…but I see folks playing spades on the corners in Ben Hill on Campbellton at 3am.

      how is this possible???

      And um…WESTSIDE. ADAMSVILLE.

  • shay_d_lady

    Great List! I would add

    All black people should be able to quote some part of the “I have a dream” speech

    Complete this refrain
    “I was born by the river…

    I will think of some more in the morning
    I’s tied boss

    • miss t-lee

      @shay_d_lady,
      “Complete this refrain
      “I was born by the river…”

      In a little tent!!! Love San Cooke.

    • Smiley Face

      @shay_d_lady,

      Also you need to instantly recognize “Be Thankful” before the third beat and know who sang it.

      • miss t-lee

        @Smiley Face,
        LOL!!! But you know most folks think Curtis Mayfield sang it.

        • Smiley Face

          @miss t-lee,

          Girl!! I’m like “um NO, no he didn’t” they will argue you down though!

          • miss t-lee

            @Smiley Face,
            They shol’ will. I’ve had the arguement too many times…lol

        • Me fail english?

          @miss t-lee,

          Damn, I thought he did too til yall said it and I looked it up. That’s what I get for stealing music and letting Kazaa name the songs.

          • miss t-lee

            @Me fail english?,
            a-hahahahha.

          • Smiley Face

            @Me fail english?,

            Tee hee…folks like “William DeVaughn? Who dat be? Dat dere Curtis Mayfield sang dat dere song!”

          • Smiley Face

            @Me fail english?,

            and you should be doubly ashamed if you’re from DC and didn’t know that, lol

          • miss t-lee

            @ Smiley Face,
            That was his only hit song…and people don’t even know that man’s name half the time…
            I’d be mad as heyll.

      • shay_d_lady

        @Smiley Face, but Imma need you to call it by the hood name…
        “diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin the scene w/a gangsta lean”..
        yep the whole thing

        • Smiley Face

          @shay_d_lady,

          you forgot “oo-oooo-oooo” LMAO!!!

    • Captain Morgan

      @shay_d_lady,

      Is anyone else pissed at the rash of second rate R&B singers who covered this song after Obama won? There is only one Sam Cook, and only the pop, crackle and snap of this song on vinyl can move me the way it should.

      • Smiley Face

        @Captain Morgan,

        Amen *moment of silence*

    • http://www.sistersoundoff.blogspot.com Cheekie

      @shay_d_lady,

      “I was born by the river…”

      Even my 2520 coworker knows this. He actually randomly breaks into this song at work. It’s part of the reason why he’s my homie. He’s good people.

      • Lanieanna

        @Cheekie,

        I do have to say though… Urban Mystic…. Sam would be proud. I saw this dude sing that song at a summer fest concert….. he toe it down*

        toe/tore it down…. another phrase we all should be familiar with

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @shay_d_lady, you know, i think the second one is more recognizable than the first.

      i’d bet most folks only know that it was the “i have a dream” speech but really couldn’t quote you sh*t from it.

      but i’d bet MOST of us have seen malcolm x and have heard sam cooke’s song b/c of it over and over and learned the words b/c it was such a defining point of the movie.

  • charli skipp

    i can check all the boxes except the spades one. i’m sorry….it just hasn’t happened for me yet. i never learned, just pissed countless groups of people off. (it’s like a cycle. because while your a*s is getting mad that i don’t know how to play tonight, I’m still not going to know how to play tomorrow.)

    Also, I give people a side eye if they don’t know who Farrakhan is. you need not be a part of the nation of Islam, or even care about it, or anything, but Farrakhan’s rants and warnings about the white man are one of the sounds of blackness. educate yourself!

    i remember being like 9 years old talking to my mama in the kitchen like, “girl, what is farrakhan talking about now, chile?”

    • Omar

      @charli skipp, “Farrakhan’s rants and warnings about the white man are one of the sounds of blackness.”

      Speaking of sounds of blackness you should know who Sounds of Blackness is…

      • WordSmith

        @Omar,

        *sings* As long as you keeeeeep your head to the skyyyyyy…

        • Lanieanna

          @WordSmith,

          ………. Be OP-I-MIST-IC!

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

        @Omar, really? you’d sideeye somebody for not knowing Sounds of Blackness?

        to my knowledge, they have one recognizable song…that came out like a decade ago. and even then…it wasnt even that huge a hit.

        i like it though…

        • charli skipp

          @Panama Jackson,
          Hold on. Change is coming. Everythang will be alright.

        • Omar

          @Panama Jackson,

          Hey most people only know 1 Sam Cooke song…

          I wouldn’t look at people funny for not knowing but I would let them know they need to get to know it.

  • http://hunnybeezhive.blogspot.com Beez (It’s Been a Long Time, I Shouldn’ta Left You)

    Referring to the pic above, I think the 70′s Black sitcoms and beyond must be at least familiar, if not ingrained, into all of our souls. I’m not saying that you have to know all of the project neighbors from Good Times that ever lived, but at least be able to hold your own in a sing off of popular Black sitcom themes. Let’s Try:

    “Just lookin’ outta the window, watchin the asphalt gro-o-o-oww….”

    “Turn on the light from Heaven, Lord, Shiiine onnn meeee…”

    “Now we up in the big leagues, gettin’ our turn at bat!”

    “Now the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum…”

    “Keep your head up (what!) Keep your head up (that’s right!)

    Even if you weren’t raised on them, you had to have watched one or two episodes in passing, on youtube, something…

    • http://www.singlesisterspeak.wordpress.com Nicki Sunshine

      @Beez (It’s Been a Long Time, I Shouldn’ta Left You), U will NOT have me sanging the rest of all of those songs, this early.

      • Smiley Face

        @Nicki Sunshine,

        Okay!!! I sittin’ here bout to break out in song!

    • Gem of the Ocean

      @Beez (It’s Been a Long Time, I Shouldn’ta Left You),

      yeah man. black tv back in the day is def up there on ish black folk need to be at least aware of. and knowing/identifying the theme songs (even if it’s just that the song is from a black show and you cant remember which) is right up there too.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com Panama Jackson

      @Beez (It’s Been a Long Time, I Shouldn’ta Left You), i agree. sitcom knowledge is a must

    • http://stuffghettopeoplelike.wordpress.com Stuff Ghetto People Like

      @Beez (It’s Been a Long Time, I Shouldn’ta Left You), thanks for not saying we must know UPN shows.

      I’ll clap to a few Moeshaisms though….

      • http://hunnybeezhive.blogspot.com Beez (It’s Been a Long Time, I Shouldn’ta Left You)

        @Stuff Ghetto People Like,

        I keep forgetting UPN existed as a network. Dang.