June is not only Pride Month, but it also pays homage to African American music. Black Music Appreciation Month is a month-long nod to African American music and its continued impact on American culture. Whether it's waking up on Saturday mornings to your parents blasting those ‘70s oldies, walking down the grocery store aisle, or riding in the car with your own kids, Black music can be heard and seen everywhere.
“This month celebrates the African American musical influences that comprise an essential part of our nation’s treasured cultural heritage,” the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian explains.
Black Music Appreciation Month was kickstarted by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and was originally called National Black Music Month. Genres of Black music celebrated include spirituals and gospel music, which play a “central role” in African Americans’ spiritual life. The influence of the blues, which is considered the “foundation of contemporary American music,” according to the Smithsonian, is also recognized, as well as jazz, R&B, and rock’n’roll. Many of these genres are heard in today’s hip-hop, rap, and pop music.
Platforms such as SiriusXM are commemorating Black Music Appreciation Month by launching three exclusive limited engagement channels dedicated to the works of iconic artists such as rapper Tupac and Prince. Pandora has its own SiriusXM channel, Black Music Forever Radio, which plays the latest hip-hop, R&B, and pop hits from Black artists. And in Nashville, Apple collaborated with the National Museum of African American Music for a weeklong virtual session with Black songwriters and producers.
So how can you celebrate Black Music Month with your kids? As Black and Married with Kids suggests, try watching classic programs and documentaries such as TV One’s music documentary series, Unsung, and old Soul Train videos. And we’re talking about the Don Cornelius era of Soul Train (YouTube has a roundup of the best episodes). Yes, ‘70s fashion may look foreign to kids, but it will literally lay down the foundation of everything that is beautiful about Black music and the culture. And let’s not forget Sesame Street! Neo-soul music and Afrofuturism are also trending for kids.
Check out this list of artists to get your kids’ playlist started for the month of June and beyond. Some names are familiar and others you may be hearing for the first time!
Usher is more than just a crooner to the ladies, he also knows his ABCs! The “There Goes My Baby” singer made a guest appearance on Sesame Street in 2013. Eight years later, his alphabet song is still catchy to both kids and grown-ups! Legendary singer Patti Labelle also has her rendition of the ABCs on Sesame Street and let’s just say, even toddlers can get the chills from the Queen!
Sing-a-long to Usher’s “ABC” song on YouTube.
Divinity Roxx is a Grammy-nominated bass player who empowers and encourages kids to be great! She’s worked with artists such as Beyoncé and creates fun, catchy educational tunes for kids. Her first full album for families drops this fall.
Her music video for her single, “Ready Set Go!” is on YouTube.
Pierce Freelon is an Emmy-award-winning producer, musician, and professor, who travels the world teaching hip-hop and music production to kids in community centers. His album, Black To The Future, is inspired by Afrofuturism. His 2020 song, “Daddy, Daughter, Day” is dedicated to his daughter Stella and his own father.
Listen to Pierce’s latest album on Spotify.
Fyütch is a musician, teacher, and social justice activist based out of the Bronx. His music is all about fatherhood, love, positivity, and spirituality. His songs, “Graduation Bop” and “Black Women In History” were #1 on Sirius XM Kids Place Live. The “Black Women” song highlights African American female icons such as Stacey Abrams, Ida B Wells, and Fannie Lou Hamer.
Listen to Fyütch on Spotify.
SaulPaul is a guitarist, rapper, and songwriter. His songs empower youth to be the change they want to see, hence his uplifting 2020 album, “Be The Change,” inspires youth to live their best lives, celebrate the small moments, and encourage others to do the same. His latest single, “Okay to be Different,” is an upbeat, motivating tune that empowers youth to embrace their individuality. The official music video for “Best Day Ever,” released this past April, is on YouTube.
Listen to SaulPaul on Spotify.
Jazzy Ash is a New Orleans native and a queer boy mom of two who has officially figured out how to get us dancing for teddy bears! Her 2020 single, “Teddy Bear” is an addictive dance craze that even grownups can groove to. “Be Outside” is another fun bopper. Jazzy’s music is funky, jazzy, and upbeat like the Crescent City she represents.
Listen to Jazzy Ash on Spotify.
Jessica Smith Hebron, also known as the Culture Queen, creates music that gives kids the royal treatment and reminds them of their regal legacy. Her songs such as “I Like The Me I see” talks about self-esteem, body positivity, and African history and heritage. Hebron is also the founder of Culture Kingdom Kids, LLC.
Listen to the Culture Queen on her website.
Bashea Jenkins-Imana, aka Iya, is the creator of Kuumba Kids, “an innovative developer and provider of educational programs and materials for children,” according to its website. Her music is a mix of Caribbean soca and Afro-beats. This is a great outlet for kids who are interested in learning about African culture.
Watch the music video for Kuumba Kids’ “ABC Song” on YouTube.
Introduce your kids to blues through Brother Yusef. His kids’ blues album, Kids Get the Blues Too, is a soulful twist of old children’s classics. Tracks include, “This Ol’Man,” “Coming Round The Mountain,” and a catchy tune even grownups can snap to called “Hey Diddle, Diddle.”
Listen to Yusef’s kids’ blues album on Spotify.