In celebration of Black History Month, KEXP’s Alina Santillan interviewed numerous local and national African American artists about what Black History Month and Black Future mean to them. Seattle artist Damn She Jamaican explains why she doesn't celebrate the day and shares some of the artists who influenced her music and life.
KEXP: What does Black History Month mean to you?
Damn She Jamaican: Personally, for me, I don't celebrate Black History Month. And the reason why is because of what comes with Black History Month. In my personal opinion, I feel Black History Month just brings up feelings of oppression and it doesn't necessarily uplift me. Just to know that there is such a thing as "Black History Month" in the first place, knowing where black Americans have been and how this country started itself on slavery. Well, I guess Black History Month would mean redefining my blackness. You know, that's powerful. Yeah, I think that's what it would mean to me instead of saying that it doesn't mean anything. I would just say it means redefining my blackness, or how I appear in the world or how people perceive me physically. I feel like I have to take power of that. Because if I don't, society is going to determine how people see me and I have to take that power for myself.
Me saying that I don't identify as black is a very new age thing. It's not something I've heard anyone else say. So I would say that I'm "melaninated" only because I'm really into science and energy frequencies and I've studied skin types and all different stuff. But I just like that word to identify myself because of the terminology, the scientific definition, and just it just sounds more powerful. It sounds more powerful than saying "black." Instead of always thinking about the past and regurgitating negative energy. We should try and uplift ourselves, and we're human. We're living this physical experience right now so of course, identifying ourselves is the first step. Identifying our true selves physically. So, like when we say "black people" or "white people," the names don't really matter. It's just the energy that comes with it, and the story, and the past. But futuristically, I would like one day for us to say something more uplifting. It doesn't have to be "melaninated" or melanin. But I do notice that that is a term that people are picking up on more.
Which artists have been influential to your music?
Growing up in Jamaica, Bob Marley was everyone's idol pretty much. But yeah, living in Jamaica, I used to watch a lot of TV and back in those times, I used to see Missy Elliott a lot on TV. Usher. I used to see Michael Jackson. I really loved Michael Jackson. I think everybody loves Michael Jackson. Alicia Keys. There's so many different artists. There's even new age artists that I look up to who influenced my music. Kehlani. Hopsin. SassyBlack . There are so many different names. There's a lot of powerful people in this city and across America.
For more and a litany of amazing interviews featuring the incredible African-American musical artists that have shaped our lives, click here for all our Black History Month coverage.
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