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Black culture is the blueprint

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Graphic design edit of Black culture and its influence.

The inspiration for this episode stemmed from a seemingly innocent event: Taylor Swift sporting a sports puffer jacket with Travis Kelce’s number during a Kansas City Chiefs game. Designed by Kristen Juszczyk — the partner of another NFL player, Kyle Juszczyk of the San Francisco 49ers — the jacket catapulted the designer into the limelight, securing a lucrative licensing deal with the league.

While this achievement is noteworthy on its own, what truly caught my attention was the public reaction, exemplified by influencer Mariah Rose’s tweet below.

The concept of recycling sports jerseys into high fashion isn’t new and can be traced back to the Y2K era. Although revolutionized by the likes of Beyoncé, Mariah Carey and Mya, Black women rarely received acknowledgment — a trend that, unfortunately, has plenty of precedent.

Take, for instance, “twerking.” Originating in the early ’90s within New Orleans Bounce music circles, it took Miley Cyrus to introduce it to the mainstream through her music video for “We Can’t Stop.”

Similarly, Elvis Presley’s rendition of “Hound Dog” achieved legendary status, yet few are aware it was originally recorded by Black artist Ellie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton.

Even aspects of language, like African-American Vernacular English (AAVE), have been co-opted by the general public and celebrities, often in the form of a "Blaccent." Ariana Grande, Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Awkwafina and Chet Hanks have used this linguistic style to cultivate an image of "edginess" and "coolness."

These instances raise a question: Why does Black culture frequently find itself embraced while Black individuals are sidelined?

In this episode of Uniquely Milwaukee, I engage in a thought-provoking conversation with Lexi S. Brunson, Owner and Editor of CopyWrite Magazine, to delve deeper into this issue. Together, we explore topics such as Blaccents, Black labor, Blackface, and the profound influence of Black culture on fashion and music. Join us as we uncover the complexities surrounding the recognition and appreciation of Black contributions in mainstream culture.

Audio Storyteller | Radio Milwaukee