There is a reason Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” James Brown’s “Say It Loud! (I’m Black and I’m Proud)” and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s “Be Real Black For Me” are treasures in the Black community.
They are anthems extolling Black beauty, Black intelligence and Black self-worth. These musical love letters to the Black community serve as a necessary injection of pride to combat the centuries of anti-Black propaganda. Even though those songs continue to be powerful reminders of the true essence of Black people, it is the responsibility of each subsequent generation to create new messages celebrating Blackness.
Enter Darnell Leatherwood, founder of the nonprofit organization Black Boys Shine!
“The Black Boys Shine! mission is to illuminate the character and contributions of Black boys and men nationally and internationally,” said Leatherwood, a University of Chicago graduate student, who was raised by a single mother in East St. Louis, an area better known for producing high crime rates than producing scholars. But that childhood provided him with insight into two important areas that had to be addressed in order to make Black Boys Shine! a change agent in the lives of Black boys: language and lens.
“Nobody told me I could shine … and [growing up] we [Black boys] always judged ourselves through the eyes of people who neither looked like us nor understood our journey,” reflected Leatherwood. Through Black Boys Shine!, Black boys will know their potential and that they are not alone.
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