Black history is Lindy Hop history.
Black History is World History.
Black History is 365 days of the year.
Black History has roots and legacy.
Black History *is* Lindy Hop history.
Black History Month is an opportunity for all of us in the Lindy Hop community to recognize and celebrate the Black people who created this dance. This is a time to be deliberate. Let’s reflect, recognize, educate, and celebrate the many contributions of African American Jazz and Swing Era musicians and singers, and the originators of the Harlem-born dance we enjoy today.
This can be a time when we honestly ask ourselves:
“How have I benefited from this dance?”
“How has this dance enriched my life?”
“How can I give back to our community?”
This is a time to insist that Lindy Hop’s narrative and history is shared. Continuing to educate ourselves and others about the African American roots is so important.
We have Black people to thank for Lindy Hop.
Some questions that we try to ask ourselves all year round, not just during Black History Month, are:
- Are we creating opportunities for Black dancers?
- Are we respecting Black roots of the dance?
This is something we all need to work on and improve in our community.
Personally, we are actively working on improving our part in this. And we’re challenging our fellow dancers, especially white dancers, to get involved.
Black History Month Challenge
We’d like to challenge Lindy Hoppers everywhere to reflect, learn, and share. Social media is a great platform for sharing, but if you’re also a local dance teacher or organizer, this is a great time to take that a step further by sharing information with your dance scene.
Even if you’re not a scene leader, I bet you can find ways to raise awareness of Black History as it relates to Lindy Hop.
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance; we can all learn more about the Harlem Renaissance and the Great Migration of Blacks from the Diaspora to Harlem, all of which is directly related to the music and dances of the 1920s and beyond. We can all start to research about all of the early Lindy Hoppers, musicians, and early influencers including people like Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Webb, Count Basie, Paul Robeson, Madame C J Walker, Dr. W.E.B DuBois, Bessie Smith, and host others. Thank you Julia Loving from Harlem and Swing With Us NYC for the great information!
Here are some actions you can take this February for Black History Month
1) Learn something new about Black History! It could be from a website, blog, book, video, etc.
2) Share a link to a blog, article, or video to spread the knowledge and awareness
3) Share something that has inspired you from watching original or contemporary Black dancers
4) Donate to the Frankie Manning Foundation
5) Pick a famous video, like Hellzapoppin’. Can you name every dancer in the video? If not, now is the time to learn about them!
6) Remember that historical dancers, especially women – and especially Black women – tend to be unnamed/ignored/made invisible. There are other important dancers besides Frankie and Norma. Learn about them!
8) Look at some current day videos and podcasts about Black Lindy Hoppers
9) If you are a scene organizer or event organizer revisit these 20 Questions About Making Your scene more inclusive: https://www.frankiemanningfoundation.org/questions/
Here’s a video from Beantown 2019 about Inclusivity, Race, & Culture
And here’s a talk from SwingNation about Black Inclusion in Lindy Hop
By the way…
Speaking of knowing the names of original Black dancers, in the cover photo we’ve used above, we wanted to learn about who all the dancers were. These are the Big Apple Dancers when they arrived in Sydney Harbour while on tour with Hollywood Hotel Revue in the fall of 1938. We know this thanks to Frankie’s book. The dancers from left to right are Lucille Middleton, Esther Washington, Jerome Williams, Billy Ricker (squatting), and Frankie Manning.
Lots of Work & Improvement Ahead
We all have a long way to go to make Black History part of our every day awareness. We look forward to learning, improving, and sharing with you.
⭐Thank you to Julia Loving from the Harlem swing dance community and Swing With Us NYC for your collaboration and suggestions.