The black community is often viewed as a place devoid of homegrown environmental knowledge. Black inner-city communities have often been viewed as places riddled with litter that characterizes an ethos of black folks’ apathy to the plight of a failing planet. As someone who is in the environmental field, I have often heard the expression that black communities don’t care about the environment. Conversations have often involved ways to get diverse communities into environmentalism. However, is this right question to be asking?
After years of feeling like a new comer to environmentalism and feeling like it was a field so far from my family roots, I have internalized that the idea of black folks not being connected to nature is a colossal myth. Historically, black folk have had dissonant but connected relationships with the land. And one of the ways that the evidence of this relationship shows up is in black art. Specifically, music has been a great source of expression about societal woes, including environmental degradation.
So you don’t believe me? I have compiled a list of top 10 songs spanning from the 1970’s to current day showing black music artists passionately speaking up about environmental issues. The list is compiled of rappers from inner cities to guitar caressing songstresses. Enjoy this journey through time and genre while joining me in acknowledging and dispelling the myth. Black folk have long been joining the fight in encouraging a more harmonious relationship with Mother Nature.
10. Bo Diddley — “Pollution”
9. Public Enemy — “Don’t Give Up The Fight”
8. Tracy Chapman — “Rape of the World”
7. Ben Harper — “Excuse Me Mr.”
6. Mos Def — “New World Water”
5. Bob Marley — “So Much Trouble In The World”
4. Common, Malik Yusef, Kumasi ft. Aaron Fresh, Choklate, Laci Kay — “Trouble In The Water”
3. Michael Jackson — “Man In The Mirror”
2. Cassius Featuring Pharrel Williams — “Eye water”
1. Marvin Gaye — “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”