LISTEN: What Juneteenth Means To Me
59 songs that define my love and appreciation for Black Culture
When I moved to New Paltz in the 4th grade, I was a doofy Italian kid from Long Island with learning disabilities.
I didn’t have many friends at this period and I was mercilessly picked on by the kids in my class up there (I’ll never forget). It was a miserable start to a life living with my then-single dad who worked long hours and left me home alone most of the time. I was basically a kid with my own apartment before my dad met my stepmom.
But where the white kids automatically rejected me because I was in special education, it was a crew of black and brown kids who accepted me for who I was without judgment of my outward appearance. This was 1984, and these dudes schooled me well about breakdancing, graffiti art and rap music, the Holy Trinity of hip-hop. I hung out with them every day after school at the youth center in town, where kids would be talking about such icons as the NYC Breakers and Kurtis Blow and Roxanne Shante and Doug E. Fresh and Run DMC in such a way that made me want to know more. Four decades later, that insatiable thirst for the evolution of hip-hop and its culture still very much exists in my bones.
I want to publicly thank my old friends for opening my young eyes to black culture in 4th grade. It saved my life, and continues to do so as I approach my 48th year here on Earth.
The bottom line here is the impact that Black culture has had on my heart and on my mind all my life is massive.
Even beyond hip-hop, the passion, the creativity, the soul and the FREEDOM that I experience when I get lost in an Archie Shepp or a 24-7 Spyz or a SAULT record or when I read the works of Dick Gregory and Dr. Angela Davis or when I’m powerless to the comedy of Richard Pryor or Rudy Ray Moore is what keeps me strong, confident and joyful.
That is why I’m grateful for this new national holiday, and that is why I celebrate Juneteenth. Please enjoy this playlist I made especially for today, which I hope gives you a keener insight into where I’m coming from.
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