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A brief history of the influence on the Black Panthers fashion and anti-assimilation

A brief history of the influence on the Black Panthers fashion and anti-assimilation

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Black fashion has been the pinnacle of iconic trends from day one. It’s always been ghetto until proven fashionable and rarely do we see the black creators get the credit they deserved. The black power movement was a moment where the expression of the black individual became embraced. Wearing your hair in its natural afro texture and it defying gravity became the new norm — the shame of blackness had begun to erase. 

Backtrack to the African tribes in the 15th century they made hair an important part of the culture. Hairstyles could determine what tribe you’re a part of, your age, social status, and wealth. It even went so far as being a spiritual connection to gods. Hieroglyphics in Egypt feature men and women in dreadlocks, box braids, beautiful fros, and more Afrocentric styles. Once the slave trades had begun, their identities were stripped from them, and their hair was even shaved off. Beauty standards over the next few centuries were only eurocentric. 

The Black Panthers could be recognized as soon as they walked into a room. The all-black, leather ensembles, the big free afros, and chunky black sunglasses were a uniform in solidarity of the movement. They wore black berets, counter to the military’s green berets, to represent them being soldiers of the movement. “Black is beautiful” became three words that inspired black America to wear their hair natural again and embrace their blackness. Eurocentric beauty standards held no authority anymore. The Black Panthers influenced hip hop culture, fashion, and left a political mark that people are inspired by still to this day. Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance, Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy performance, N.W.A’s style, and music, and Tupac’s music are all results of the influence of The Black Panthers and the movement. 

Black men and women are often ostracized for their blackness, schools will make kids go home because of their braids and locs, jobs opportunities are revoked because of afros, it was only just 2019 when New York passed an anti-discrimination law for natural hairstyles. Too often we see black culture being appropriated from style to linguistics, but hardly ever do we see the creators even being celebrated. From streetwear to music and art, black people have always been trendsetters. 

With the recent devastating events in America, it is so important to remember that black people are too often put in a box, stolen from then appropriated, and made to look less than. As a black woman in America, growing up and feeling othered as I went to PWI’s (Predominately White Institutions) my whole life, this movement, currently and in the past, inspires me to embrace and fight for who I am and what I look like because my black is beautiful. 

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