Throughout history, there have been times our people have not been given their credit, yet we still managed to be recognized for our greatness.
The latest instance of what is tantamount to highway robbery at this point, occurred on Sunday night at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards when despite being the frontrunner in the category, Beyoncé lost out to Harry Styles for Album of the Year which now marks the fourth time, she has not been awarded that coveted award, which was bestowed in favor of a white and arguably less culturally significant artist.
Her seventh album Renaissance received rave reviews; for instance Rolling Stone writes that it “traverses eras of dance music to conjure the superhuman confidence and deeply human connection of a night out. The thematic triumph of the auteur’s seventh album is this union of the extraordinary and the earthly across it, a duality that lives on the dancefloors Renaissance was inspired by—and in all of us…Renaissance channels the energy and the conceit of the club into a demonstration of self-love.”
But, Queen Bey is always going to get her flowers, and despite being snubbed, Beyoncé still came out on top Sunday—“[e]arlier in the night, she had broken a major record, becoming the artist with the most Grammy awards ever after bringing her total up to 32 trophies with four new wins.” Thus marks another occasion of when they try to keep us down, but we still manage to come out on top.
Blues singer and songwriter Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was born in rural Alabama in 1926, and her “recordings of ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Ball ‘n’ Chain’ later were transformed into huge hits by Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin.” In fact, Presley is oftentimes even accused of having “stolen Thornton’s song…‘Hound Dog’ is often cited as one of the most litigated songs in history.”
In the soundtrack for the Elvis biopic released last year, Doja Cat honored “Big Mama Thornton with a reimagining of the original ‘Hound Dog’…which samples Thornton’s growling vocals,” on her hit song “Vegas.”
Denzel Washington is also the victim of another “stolen” award show moment, when he lost out to Al Pacino for the Best Actor Oscar in 1993 for his role in Spike Lee’s Malcolm X. Indeed, Martin Scorsese hailed Washington’s performance as “one of the best in American movies…phenomenal.” Almost a decade later, Washington would win the top Academy Award for 2001’s Training Day, and make history alongside Halle Berry when, for the first time ever the Best Actress and Best Actor awards went to two Black actors.
In 1970 political activist Angela Davis was infamously “charged with murder…placed on the FBI’s most wanted list,” and even jailed eighteen months; but, Davis, who was then an active member of the Communist Party and associate of the Black Panther Party could not be held down.
After being acquitted in June of 1972, Davis has been a stalwart in the fight for civil rights and economic parity. The prolific author and professor has toured the globe speaking out against injustice.
Former President Barack Obama can also relate to this phenomenon—in 2000, then an Illinois state General Assembly member, decided to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives against the four-term incumbent Rep. Bobby Rush. On election day that year, Obama was beat by more than 2-1, and in his own words, Rush “spanked” him.
This wasn’t robbery, of course– Rush won fair and square. That loss, however, prompted Obama to become introspective, and as he later told NPR, “I had to really look into myself and say, why am I doing this?”
In hindsight, it’s almost as if this loss propelled Obama toward his future. Political consultant Chris Sautter even said, “it was almost as though Obama hadn’t lost at all. After the election editorials cited Obama as a rising star…[and] believes Obama would not have the same name recognition today had he defeated rush.”
We all know how this story ended, and in a Cinderella fashion, Obama would go on to win a seat in the U.S. Senate and ultimately become the 44th President of the United States.
Nathan “Nearest” Green is “the first known African-American master distiller,” and used a process, which was “confirmed to have been brought to Tennessee by enslaved people and taught by Nearest Green to the most famous Tennessee Whiskey maker of all time.”
Basically, without Nathan Green, there would be no Jack Daniel’s. Hailed as being “the best whiskey maker the world never knew…the story quietly endured for nearly two centuries, kept alive through the recollections of kinfolk and neighbors.”
Nowadays, the Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey all minority-led brand is now “the most awarded bourbon or American Whiskey” for the past consecutive four years since 2019
Marshall “Major” Taylor was born in Indiana in 1878, and “was the first Black cyclist ever to win a world championship. He spent most of his career traveling the world as he broke records and collected medals, despite efforts to ban him from competing because he was Black. Illness and financial woes left the iconic athlete nearly destitute and living at the Wabash YMCA until his death at 53 in 1932.”
In January of this year, Chicago’s Bronzeville Trail Task Force is finally making the push for posthumous recognition and for “Taylor to be honored with a postage stamp and a Congressional Medal of Honor,” in addition to commissioning a monument in Taylor’s honor.