Challenged by a friend to try something new as an artist, Tommy Raps started his Daily Series in early 2023 just to see if he could.
Raps was up for the unique challenge of writing a rap, recording and editing a music video, and then uploading it to social media within 24 hours.
After completing a video for each day of January, social media followers urged him to complete one for Black History Month – and he did just that.
Beginning with a video about Robert Smalls escaping slavery by hijacking and seizing a Confederate ship and later becoming a politician and businessman, rap went viral on TikTok. His next video about the artist Jean Michel Basquiat received over 150,000 views on Instagram.
Raps goes into each video with joy and an openness to learn something new.
“…It started out as something just for fun. And then as I started to get more into it, I was like, you know, I didn’t actually know much about Robert Smalls,” Raps said.
“What about the other unsung people who contributed to where we are today? I should probably shed some light on them. Then I was like Beyonce just got 32 Grammys. I think that counts as black history.”
In addition to Black historical figures of the past, his videos pay homage to celebrities who figure prominently in popular culture, such as voice actors Cree Summer and Phill LaMarr, who followed Tommy Raps on social media after seeing a video depicting the raps had created to share his achievements and Dallas. very own neo-soul artist Erykah Badu.
Black History Month
Black History Month was first established in 1926 by historian Carter G. Woodson as Black History Week. The second week of February was chosen as the memorial day because both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had birthdays on their 14th and 12th birthdays respectively.
Almost 40 years later, students at Kent State University proposed a monthly observation in 1969, and in 1970 the first was held at Kent State University from January 2 to February 28.
President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month in 1976 during celebrations of the United States Bicentennial.
Black History Month is a time to honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans in US history and society – from activists to inventors, scientists and entertainers.
Woodson’s organization, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), establishes a theme each year.
The theme of Black History Month 2023 is Black Resistance. It is an exploration of how blackness is not a monolith but a monomyth. It is the journey of black heroes and heroines overcoming repeated adversity century after century.
Tommy Raps’ use of rap lyrics as a form of raising awareness surrounding Black History Month comes right on the 50th anniversary of the hip-hop genre.
Tommy Raps in a still from the Guion Bluford Black History Month Daily video. Guion Bluford was the first African American in space.
Tommy Raps refrains from using profanity and salacious themes in order to make the videos family-friendly and suitable for educational use.
“I want those to be passed on. I want people to be able to show their kids those things. And the kids are like, ‘Wow, that music is cool. Wow, that person is cool. These themes are really cool.’ …” said Tommy Raps.
To wrap up Black History Month, Raps has compiled a list of honorable mentions featuring nearly 80 people in a short video. He plans to close with a “secret” video.
“The real grand finale that is a Harriet Tubman story … is not the Underground Railroad.”
You can follow his videos and watch his finale via Instagram at @1tommyraps.
Do you have a tip? Email Brittany Stubblefield-Engram at [email protected]
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