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Music and collective identity

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Deonsha Dawson

on 28 April 2010

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Transcript of Music and collective identity

What is the collective identity How is collective identity represented in the Vote or Die Movement How is collective identity represented in the Civil Rights movement Why Music as the indicator of collective identity Collective identity of both movements is based on a desire to combat racial discrimination by participating in the legal system.

Collective identity of both movements is developed using hidden transcript.

“Slavery, serfdom, the caste system, colonialism, and racism routinely generate the practices and the rituals of denigration, insults, and assaults on the body that seems to occupy such a large part of the hidden transcript” (J. Scott, pg. xii)
Music represent three essential elements: Collective empowerment, Movement culture, Weapons of the weak

Music is a common descriptive element of both movements
Collective empowerment is collectively moving, or to having large numbers of individuals sacrifice themselves for the movement’s cause, knowing the risk associated with challenging the authority figure. (Jasper, pg. 97)

Movement culture is defined a self-consciousness cultivating within the movement’s internal culture that is different from the large culture in which they are embedded. (Jasper, pg. 147)

Weapons of weak are tactics employed by subordinate groups that appear in the hidden transcript. (J. Scott, pg. 35) Music and Collective
Exploring the Civil Rights Movement
And the Vote or Die Movement 2004’s presidential election marked an increase in African American turnout rate, 56.2%, which bordered on record breaking. The record for African American turnout is 57.6%, which occurred in 1965 with the passing of the Voting Rights Act. (L. Drake, 1) Similarly, the 1965 and 2004 presidential elections coincided with movements that focused on minority voting rights. L. Drake, G. Carawan, C. Carawan, and D. Alridge all address the role that collective identity had on the success of the Vote or Die and Civil Rights movements, as well as the emergence of representative music. Collective empowement Weapons of the Weak Movement's Culture Movement's Culture Weapons of the Weak Collective Empowerment In July 2004 hip hop mogul Sean Combs founded the non-partisan group, Citizen Change. S. Combs states,
“People’s lives are at stake because people are dying because they can’t get proper health care and medicine. People are also dying from poverty. And when you vote a president into office, you’re putting your life and the lives of your families into somebody else’s hands. And no matter who you vote for, you need to treat it like it’s life or death.” (L. Drake, pg. 24)
The Citizen Change organization capitalized on the disenfranchisement of African American citizens. It is disenfranchisement of African Americans that hip hop artists such as Jay Z, Ludacris, Nas and The Game rapped about in their songs. D. Alridge states,
“In many ways, early hip hoppers were not only the progenitors of a new form of black social critique, they also represented the voice of a new generation that would carry on and expand upon the ideas and ideology of the civil rights.” (Alridge, pg. 226)
The 1960’s became known as an era of change. On February 1, 1960, four young African American men—Joseph McNeill, Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain and David Richmond—did the unthinkable and sat at a Greensboro, NC lunch counter.(G. Carawan, pg. 5) At this time the south was still segregated, meaning African American people were subjected to Jim Crow laws, which denied them access to certain facilities and the right to vote. The act of these four men represented the emergence of a new collective identity that would spread and take root all over the south; thus marking the beginning of the civil rights movements and the fight against racial discrimination. Congressman John Lewis stated, “The civil rights movement without its music would have been like a bird without its wings.” (G. Carawan, pg. xiii) On the surface the only connection between the Civil Rights Movement and the Vote or Die Movement is the drive to mobilize African Americans. By analyzing the music surrounding each movement, I discovered several overlapping themes that describe how action looks and what movement do.

Both movements communicated frustrations and messages of empowerment through music. Although the music was publicly displayed, the lyrics had hidden meanings that only the target community comprehended. In the 1960’s, old African American spirituals were readapted. Songs that once served as hidden escape routes discussed ways of overcoming segregation. Music of the early 2000’s embraced urban terminology, which disguised the content as useless Ebonics.

The 1960’s represented a struggle for basic rights, as people of this time did not have much. The music replicated the simplistic and humble origins of the movement’s culture. While the early 2000’s represented the era of commodification. Everything existed as a commodity—music, wealth, even people. Hip hop music defiantly embodied commodification.

Considering the environment of the 1960’s, moments of collective empowerment appeared extremely radical; while moments during 2004 appeared slightly individualistic and less radical.
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