I remember it like it was yesterday. My first day of middle school. I stepped onto the bus, hair in a ponytail, brand new Nikes on my feet, and a bright red F.U.B.U. shirt on my chest. I was the sh*t.
At the time, circa 2000, F.U.B.U. had become one of the most popular brands to rock among Black folk. Kids my age didn’t really understand the magnitude of what the brand stood for, but I think we definitely knew we were part of a movement that was bigger than us.
For example, who can forget the infamous commercial in which Hip Hop legend LL Cool J notoriously sported a white F.U.B.U. hat while “endorsing” the GAP?
It was an inside joke within the Black community. Pushing the F.U.B.U. brand on the low while collecting a check from major white corporations-Brilliant. As the years have gone on, and the F.U.B.U. brand has slowly faded into obscurity, I’m glad to see that the message hasn’t died.
For us. By us.
In fact, I think the F.U.B.U. concept is even more relevant today than it was back in 1999. Given the current sociopolitical climate in America, Black people are rediscovering ourselves, our history, and developing a much needed sense of community and understanding in the best way we know how.
And now, with the release of Solange’s most recent work, A Seat at the Table, we’re able to revisit F.U.B.U. and how it applies to Black folk and our shared experiences in America.
There are a few lines from Solange’s song that I think are incredibly important, and I want to discuss. Let’s start with this:
All my niggas let the whole world know
Play this song and sing it on your terms
This shit is for us
Don’t try to come for us
All my niggas got the whole wide world
Tell them niggas that it’s all our turn
Some shit is a must
Some shit is for us
Here Solange’s lyrics are rebellious. They’re triumphant. She’s calling on Black people to be self determined, to do things on their own “terms,” as she put it. We can find these ideologies in several of the principles of Kwanzaa, mainly Kujichagulia, challenging us to define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
When it’s going on a thousand years
And you pulling up to your crib
And they ask you where you live again
But you running out of damns to give
I hope my son will bang this song so loud
That he almost makes his walls fall down
Cause his momma wants to make him proud
Oh, to be us
In this verse, Solange talks about being racially profiled, which is something that has been an ongoing problem in the U.S., and especially this year, as we’re forced to bear witness to routine traffic stops turned deadly on an endless video loop. We also have a man who’s an advocate of Stop and Frisk, a policy that has been proven to be ineffective and completely racist running for President of the United States. These are scary times.
And frankly, after “a thousand years” of singing the same sad song, the Black community is “running out of damns to give.”
Solange takes it further by talking about instilling Black pride in her son, while trying to be a role model to him, and insisting that though it isn’t always easy, being Black is most certainly the shit.
This shit is from us
Get so much from us
Then forget us
Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along
Just be glad you got the whole wide world
Cultural appropriation. Black people have been talking about cultural appropriation for years, and the conversation has always seemed to fall on deaf ears. Here, Solange makes it clear that many of the things we see reflected in popular culture come directly from Black people. Unfortunately, Black people are rarely given their proper credit or appreciation. Instead, someone else (white) takes credit for the work we’ve done, our creativity, our intellectual property, and our bank accounts remain empty, while they receive accolades and their wallets stay fat.
For example, Black women are missing from high fashion runways all over the world, and yet, this happened.
From Rock n’ Roll to the Chanel “Urban Tie Cap,” I think it’s confirmed that none of our stuff is safe out here in these streets.
For as many things of ours that have been stolen without proper credit or compensation, I think it’s only fair that we want to keep some things for ourselves. So when Solange tells the non-Black listener to get over it if they can’t sing along, it isn’t because she’s being a Mean Girl. It’s because the entire country is designed by white people, for white people (on the backs of people of color), and she simply wants us to have SOMETHING of our own to hold on to-without interference. For a better understanding, reference this tweet from activist, Johnetta Elzie:
shoutout to all the black girls ✨✨
— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) October 16, 2015
and the white girls and the Spanish girls and the Asian girls and all the beautiful women of the world 😍😍💘💘 https://t.co/TFRC51u05B
— (281)330-8004 (@nerualffiltar) October 16, 2015
GIRL. I said Black. https://t.co/8xS6omS7UE
— Johnetta Elzie (@Nettaaaaaaaa) October 16, 2015
See, what we have above is a classic example of white folk sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong. You see, that was Black Girl Magic time. It had nothing to do with White women, Asian women, or Spanish women. But for some people, that’s just too hard of a concept to grasp. And that’s too bad.
But what Solange and Johnetta know, what I know, and what Black people all over the world know, is that in order to survive in a world that shows us no love, we have to make it our ongoing mission to love ourselves.
When you are Black, self love is an act of resistance. It’s necessary. It’s healing. It’s powerful. We will continue to do it. We will continue to hold close our traditions, our ideas, our art, our style, OUR stuff. And we’ll do it unapologetically.