Civil rights in song
Use this Spotify code to access our Black History Month Spotify playlist!

Use this Spotify code to access our Black History Month Spotify playlist!

Brianna Wilson

To continue celebrating Black History Month, I’ve compiled a list of songs by Black artists that are both inspiring and catchy. These songs tackle social and political issues to influence change, while also delivering a fun beat to sing and dance along to.

“Big Love” and “Where is the Love?” by The Black Eyed Peas are both songs — released over a decade apart — that address major issues in America, centered around the problematic lack of unity across the nation. Though former member Fergie is absent in “Big Love,” the Black Eyed Peas still made quite an inspiring comeback, persuading people that love is the answer. The similarities between the lyrics of both songs are charming - both address the safety of children and relay the importance of good parenting. Really, the similarities between these songs proves that not much in society has changed, but The Black Eyed Peas continue to believe unity and love can solve these issues.

“This is America” by Childish Gambino tackles two major issues: the history of slavery in America and the recent influx of gun violence. The lyrics are more subtle in conveying this message, but it’s impossible to miss the layers Gambino builds in his music video. There are dozens of things to notice, which is made difficult by the way they’re pushed to the background with the focus on Gambino and his dancers. This concentration on Gambino’s dancing and facial expressions was intentional, as it subtly portrays how Americans focus more on media than societal issues. A few of these messages include Jim Crow laws, police brutality, rioting, and much more violence. Gambino’s ultimate message is that we should not ignore these issues because focusing on them and making them a priority is the only way to create solutions.

“Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé promotes feminism and highlights the many strengths that women have. The lyrics convey women empowerment, such as “how we're smart enough / to make these millions / strong enough to bare the children / then get back to business.” Beyoncé reminds people that women are strong and independent, in the same ways that men are. This song is made all the more powerful because Beyoncé is not only an influential woman in music, but also a person of color, and her having this voice on a global scale speaks for many women of color who also wish to be recognized as strong and powerful.

“Fight the Power” and “Harder Than You Think” by Public Enemy were released nearly two decades apart, but are heavily linked to one another. “Fight the Power” encouraged people to stand up to racism and oppression, while “Harder Than You Think” addressed the hypocrisy of those who were reading their message the wrong way. “Fight the Power” talked about fighting back against white supremacists who had power and influence over America, and influenced others to ride off the backs of minorities. However, an influx of people began to fight against everyone in power, despite the fact that not all people were mistreating minorities. With “Harder Than You Think,” Public Enemy reminded people that “with fight the power comes great responsibility / f the police but who’s stopping you from killing me?” Public Enemy never meant to encourage people to fight all the power; they wanted people to battle toxic power.

“The Choice is Yours” by Black Sheep does not have the most inspirational lyrics 0n this list, but the music video binds the lyrics to an important message: you need to choose a side. During the chorus and the repetition of “you could get with this, or you could get with that,” Andres Titus and Mista Lawnge are shown tearing undesirable images — such as gang violence and racist imagery — from the screen. “That” is racism, specifically against black people, while “this” is unity between races. The Black Sheep leave the choice up to you, hence the name of the title, but in that way, destroys the existence of a “middle ground.” Being neutral when racism is so prevalent — especially as violent as it was at the time — was not a choice.