When it comes to the black community, people tend to focus on the trendsetters; fashion icons, such as Beyonce or Rihanna, basketball players from Stephen Curry to Lebron James. No one ever seems to put focus on the real underdogs: black creators.
They are the underdogs because they are known more for their work, but no one really knows the person. Take award-winning director, Spike Lee. He is known for pushing the envelope with films such as “Malcolm X,” “Do the Right Thing” and most recently, 2018’s Academy Award-nominated, “BlackkKlansman.” The push to get people talking about the issues that are swept under the rug is one of the reasons why Spike Lee is as well respected in the movie industry as he is.
Movies are what keep people interested, but there are more mediums that are unappreciated. Dance is a medium that the black community has embraced over the centuries. We use it to express ourselves and express what we are feeling.
Alvin Ailey was someone that popularized the modern dance; he started his own theatre in 1958 and nearly a decade later, he began his school in 1969.
Dancers, such as Ailey and ballerina Misty Copeland, give black dancers a role model to look up to people who look like them. It gives hope and inspiration that someday, they will be the ones opening up their own school or finding their way into history books, becoming the first black woman principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre. Representation is important. Most of all, it matters.
Representation within the black community is seeing someone who looks like you and seeing them in a positive light. It is seeing the Jeffersons move on up, it is seeing black teenagers going to college on “A Different World.” It is seeing Hattie McDaniel accept her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1939’s “Gone with the Wind;’’ she was unable to accept it during the live telecast, but she still made history anyway.
A quarter of a century later, Sidney Poitier got up out of his seat and accepted the Best Actor award for his role in “Lillies of the Field” in 1964, becoming the first black actor to do so.
Standards were set and then broken time and again because black creators were not afraid to push their limits. They were not afraid to write about the topics that were too taboo or controversial. It got people talking, and that is what matters the most.
What stands about these underdogs is that even though they were considered underdogs, it never stopped them from doing what they loved the most. These underdogs are now legendary in their field; creative people are needed especially in the black community. The definition of creativity is the ability to create. Maya Angelou once said, “If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.”