Write Back: Storytelling is a Political Act

“The technology may have changed, but the money still flows the same way: to creators of contracts not creators of content.” (excerpted from a piece entitled, “You Didn’t Make the Harlem Shake Go Viral- Corporations Did“)

I re-tweeted that article onto my Twitter timeline and posted it on my Facebook newsfeed as almost an afterthought, but when I read it I was inspired to tell my story.

During the height of the Harlem Shake meme (which I referred to as “the dying eel” due to the lack of resemblance to the Harlem Shake), I posted several counter-stories centering the voices of the originators and creators of the Harlem Shake, including this video featuring the Original Harlem Shakers:

and this one:

(TW for homophobic language) Interestingly, the man at 2:11 correctly identified the reason for the sudden popularity of the Harlem Shake meme.

And I even linked the Harlem Shake to Eskista in Ethiopia, in order to re-center the creators of dance, and not those cannibalizing the culture. Dance in the African Diaspora has deep roots. It would be amiss not to pay homage to the creators.

Notably, in all of the hoopla surrounding the Harlem Shake meme, there was little mention of the man who created the dance itself: Albert Leopold Boyce a.k.a. Al B, who, in turn, was inspired by his mother’s dance moves. At most, Al B. and Sandra Boyce were footnotes in the narrative.

“And we at the margins don’t tell our stories in order to become mainstream. Nah nah nah.” (link)

“We at the margins tell stories to other margins so we can SEE EACH OTHER and create NEW CENTERS.” (link)

“Multiple narratives of Blackness disrupt the mainstream narrative of Blackness. That’s why your stories are dangerous.” – tweets by @afrolicious

Creators and storytellers, your work is extremely political. To challenge hegemonic narratives of our self and subjectivity by telling stories that disrupt their coherence is a political act. To use our words, images and bodies to tell a story that doesn’t fit the neat binary constructions of hegemonic narratives is to be political.

Your story matters. Your voice matters. Amplify the voices and stories of others at the margins, but don’t forget to tell your own.

Also, check out the storified tweets here.

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