Music, Sports, Melanin & Overall Excellence

“This relationship between melanin and musicians recalled to mind an experience I had at Howard University twenty-five years ago. In the summer of 1971, I enrolled in a class entitled “The History of Jazz,” which was taught by Donald Byrd, the jazz trumpeter. Occasionally Mr. Byrd would invite other musicians to give the lecture. One evening, jazz guitarist George Benson met with our group and discussed his experiences in the music industry. He shared a story with the class which explained the concept of the blue note.

Most jazz aficionados are familiar with Blue Note Records, one of the most popular recording labels. R&B fans associate the word with the Philadelphia-based singing group, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Blue Note was a term popularized by African American musicians, but most people outside their circle were unfamiliar with its meaning.

Benson told the story of a discussion which took place between several African American jazz musicians during a gig in France. One of the musicians said he was approached by an aspiring French musician after the completion of a set. The Frenchman confided to the brother that he had listened to his performance over several evenings and took copious notes of the music that he heard.

The Frenchman stated that when he returned home to play the music he had jotted down on pieces of paper, the music sounded strangely different. The jazz musician let out a hardy laugh and told the Frenchman, ‘the problem, my brother, is that you can’t hear the blue note.’ Benson went on to explain that during the 1930s and 1940s, African American jazz musicians referred to the blue note as a range of musical notes that only African people were capable of hearing and feeling.

The various forms of musical expressions created by Africans in America (Spirituals, Blues, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Rock ‘n Roll, Rap, and Hip Hop) have sustained the recording industry. The music of African Americans has given America a sense of soul music and dance that has influenced musical traditions throughout the world. This represents just one aspect of how melanin systems function in the bodies of African people.

Similar achievements have been made by African American football, baseball, and basketball players. The very nature of professional sports was transformed when teams became integrated in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Historically, African Americans were excluded from sports because of the racist, white supremacist feelings exhibited by team owners, players, and fans alike. Jackie Robinson transformed the soul of baseball and opened the door for the giants who followed. Muhammad Ali brought a flair to boxing which had not existed since the days of Jack Johnson. His talent and outspokenness made him the most recognized human being on earth. Throughout the entire history of the game of basketball, there has never been a player like Michael Jordan.

The historical record will show that African American athletes have added an element of excitement to their games which has revolutionized professional athletics throughout the world. However, one should not think that exceptional performances by Africans is limited to the stage and the sports arena. When given an opportunity to compete on a level-playing field, Africans generally excel. In light of this fact, one has to be truthful and admit that there is something unique about African people. Melanin can help explain that uniqueness.” -From, “Survival Strategies for Africans In America” By: Anthony T. Browder

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