Amandla Stenberg, who is known for her role as Rue in “Hunger Games,” has shared an educational video titled “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows” via her Tumblr page. In the video, which she created as part of a project for her history class, 16-year-old Stenberg (yes, 16) concisely breaks down the merging into mainstream and subsequent misappropriation of black culture.
She begins the lesson speaking about cornrows. While she has minor missteps – like stating the purpose of cornrows as keeping “black-textured” hair “unknotted and neat” – Stenberg, overall, does a phenomenal job of noting the historical context and current social climate and explaining the problem with artists such as Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift essentially using black culture (and people) as props. She shares:
Hip-hop stems from a black struggle, it stems from jazz and blues, styles of music African-Americans created to retain humanity in the face of adversity…. Appropriation occurs when a style leads to racist generalizations or stereotypes where it originated but is deemed as high-fashion, cool or funny when the privileged take it for themselves.
Stenberg appropriately ends her video with the question, “What would America be like if we loved black people as much as we love black culture?”
Watch Stenberg’s full video above.