Black Panther Album: "I Am" by Jorja Smith
Some tracks on this album are also very forward looking by incorporating many younger voices. “I Am” by Jorja Smith is a great example of this. In her song she addresses the disenfranchisement of people like her who feel fear when it comes to expressing opinions:
“I been out here tryin' to see my homecomin'
And of course, somebody's always gonna say somethin'
Try and shoot me down for voicin' my own opinion
Triggerin' a part of me that's always been indifferent
And I know that we have asked for change
Don't be scared to put the fears to shame”
She encourages younger audiences to not be afraid to ask for change because the voices of the younger generations are becoming more and more relevant everyday. She fears for her ability, and the ability of many of her peers to make it through high school without a violent run-in with the law. Organizations like Mapping Police Violence are doing a great job at aggregating data to demonstrate disturbing trends. Jorja Smith is encouraging more of us to speak out and raise our voices.
I would be remiss in writing this if I didn't mention the political movement known as the Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP). This was a famous black power organization founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966 in Oakland Ca. Blackpast.org gives a concise summary of the party and its initial motivations.
“Within this group and on their own, they read and discussed an eclectic group of authors including political strategist Frantz Fanon, Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara, Mao Zedong, the leader of Communist China, the sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, and the author James Baldwin. Inspired by these thinkers, Newton and Seale developed an intellectual orientation that viewed the black community as a colony exploited by white businessmen, the government, and the police. Eventually, Newton adopted a more Marxist perspective where the liberation of oppressed peoples depended upon their gaining control of their own communities. This Marxist outlook led the Panthers to form alliances with radical whites, Chicanos and other Third World groups.”
While The Black Panther, may seem intrinsically connected to this movement, it was actually, as stated by Stan Lee, “a strange coincidence.” The initial Black Panther comic came out in July of 1966 while the political movement was founded in October of that same year.
There is a reference to the party in a ‘blink-and-you'll-miss-it- line’ in Paramedic! by SOB x RBE. Rapper Slimmy B says:
“One fist in the air, I ain't finna put my hands up”
This is not only a nod to the Black Panther Party’s signature hand gesture, one closed fist raised high, but also a direct commentary on the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown who was gunned down by police while his hands were in the air. Killings like this have sparked outrage and action by groups such as Black Lives Matter. The group uses the “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” motion to signify their peaceful protest and their desire to end senseless killings. Slimmy B, on the other hand, is taking more a militant approach that he is putting his fist up to injustice, not just his hands. In some ways Black Lives Matter is a spiritual successor to the Black Panther Party and has the potential to be as, or even more, influential.