Culture absent responsibility is incomplete

Black people being the culture means Black people wield an innate duty to be responsible for furthering Black people because our prosperity is dependent on this collective obligation.  


By Shayler Richmond


Black people helping Black people is a simply read concept, but remains foreign to some. Like any theory Black collectivism in practice can always advance through further education, which is especially necessary within community because of the natural power blackness holds to move culture. 

The prosperity of Black people is dependent on Black people making conscious decisions to lean into being culturally responsible; Black liberation requires the intentional and collective work of everyone ranging from the largest influencers to everyday Black people. 


“If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else,” wrote Toni Morison, but what is it to be free? Black people have historically been the most oppressed people, so to be Black and free is a concept that is still being learned, or quite possibly oppression is being unlearned and the liberation of Blackness is actualizing in this shedding. The chains of captivity nor capitalism were choices made by Black people, therefore any authentic progress made by Black people for Black people deconstructs the hierarchy of white supremacy.


We will not be moved painting.


Black people have broken free from the chains of enslavement, continue to make intergenerational strides, and have begun to master themselves and entrepreneurship.


According to Forbes, today’s entrepreneurs have gained insurmountable value from the blueprint laid out by Black innovators and continue to build their creative expression on the foundation of Black History (2020).


Culture is deeper than rap; being culture is more than rhythms and vibes, culture is more than understanding the substance of our lyrics and much deeper than decoding the Black origins of almost every music genre — culture is what moves civilization and therefore to free the brother or sister next to you requires more than a head nod. 


The responsibility of Black people to the culture is to liberate Black people through action.


Money has made the world go round, and will continue to do so unless our culture says otherwise; the system cannot change unless the value system changes. The institution of money is not going away but there are many opportunities to shift where these monies are invested to better serve Black communities. 


Historically capitalism has heavily dictated who is protected and consequently created space for white wealth holders to infiltrate the culture, and equipped many of these individuals and entities with the necessary leverage to co-opt and hijack the culture and profit from Black communities. Despite this theft and cultural appropriation, there has been little reinvestment of resources into Black communities. 


“White culture” in fact reflects the ideas, experiences, sensibilities, and perspectives of people of all races — especially African Americans whose contributions to American culture are as widespread and profound as those of the stereotypical Mayflower pilgrims,” wrote Richard Thompson Ford, for CNN.


Black people have historically held fewer privileges, but have given more.


“A defining feature of White supremacy has been to take credit for the labor and accomplishments of other races, whether that labor involved physical toil extracted without wages or intellectual and cultural work copied without attribution,” Ford continued.


As Black people continue to unlearn greed and divisiveness and continue to own our responsibility for creating more interdependent communities, culture will become more sustainable, and the power will grow within the people.


Black people constitute every person of color descended from the African diaspora, Africa being the established motherland of human civilization, so Black people’s historic founding, influence, and ever-evolving ownership of global societal culture trace to the beginning of mankind. However, today we are not starting with Adam and Eve, instead, we are starting with George Floyd. 


On May 25, an unarmed Black man by the name of George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer while other officers aided and watched. The police killing of Floyd led to nationwide outrage and protests, which attributed to a new age culture shift and the Black Lives Matter movement became more visible.


“It is… forcing white people to have uncomfortable conversations and face truths they otherwise may never have confronted about racism. It is this shift toward accountability that hits closest to home,” wrote Rachel Mckenzie, Daily Trojan.  


“I am a white, privileged female who draws extensively from Black culture every single day of my life — from the music I listen to and the clothes I wear to the slang I use and the people I identify with. I am far from alone in that reality; in fact, many of you reading this probably meet the same criteria,” she continued, in reference to her white peers.


Culture is fluid; there is no one definition for culture because by definition culture is all-encompassing, which is why culture is Black because Black people are everything and the liberation of Black people is interconnected to the liberation of all people.


“By centering Black people in the creation of new policies, systems, and institutions — in the pursuit of economic liberation for all — we can and must reject the ideology grounded in white supremacy and anti-blackness, shift narratives to reinvigorate our shared imagination, and disrupt the imbalance of power in our society.” — Insight Center for Community Economic Development


The rise of Black political power was inevitable, but Black people taking ownership of their cultural capital comes with a responsibility to strategically capitalize on this power because the movement of Black people is more than a series of moments; all exertions of Black people directly affect total equity. 


Chart-topping rapper, Da Baby, was ridiculed in the limelight following his very public and egregious attack on people living with HIV and AIDs, which he relayed on stage during his performance at Rolling Loud music festival (Aug. 2021).


Da Baby performing at Rolling Loud music festival in Miami (Aug. 2021). (Photo: Billboard)


According to MSNBC, the rapper’s words were slut-shaming and dangerous because he perpetuated a toxic narrative that people should be still discriminated against for having HIV and AIDS, a documented disease that has tormented the Black LGBTQIA community since it was intially discovered in the United States in 1981. 


In this moment this rapper neglected his responsibility to the people because studies show that half of the Black men who have sex with men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, reported the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


“Honestly, while I am still not over his words, I do see a road to salvation for him… It’s a road that will require him to not just continue to acknowledge how he failed here, but to show a real commitment to doing better. That would involve becoming a positive tool in the fight to end HIV/AIDS around the world,” wrote Zach Stafford, for MSNBC.


Da Baby eventually met with several LGBTQIA-based HIV health and prevention-related organizations to apologize in person and become more educated. This is a demonstration of the growth needed throughout the Black community because lapses in advocacy and agency are detrimental to community health.


To culture responsibly requires clarity. Black people have the mic and control the cadence, therefore Black individuals must continue to become educated and discern what narratives and actions will move us forward. Not everyone is charged with the ability to create space, but everyone has the ability to not get in the way. 


As the saying goes, what is for you is for you, however, how you receive what is for you is also important. Black mental health is a key component to edifying how Black people move culture. If it is not tearing anyone down then that is a great place to start, and once the art of empowerment is sustained the foundation of Black collectivism will be more solid, and it is from this place of health Black people can continue to build. 


In 2017 during an interview on Tidal, Jay-Z said, “We are culture. Nothing moves without us — we just continue to give it away,” and by “we,” the hip-hop legend was referring to Black people. 



“Everyone can participate… but the nature of our relationship has to change,” he continued, as he elaborated on why he supported Lavar Ball’s newly founded efforts to build a Black-owned brand and start their sneaker line (Big Baller Brand).


Supporting Black businesses and allocating dollars to Black communities is one step; other steps include healing, creating space for other Black people to heal, and creating space for freedom of Black expression. Blackness is not a monolith; the Black community is not singluar nor binary, and therefore community growth means protecting and supporting Blackness in all its forms; Black people being culture means we are responsible for us all. 


We’re all we’ve got. 

About Author

Shayler Richmond Barnes Jr.
A cultural strategist dedicated to true and authentic storytelling; he explores personal and interpersonal connections — focused on marginalized identities to advance social and economic equity and build strong communities.


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