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I am Tina [ ].com, yes indeed.
Remember, Harlem got its\nown radio station, baby.
Yes, we do, the one, the only.
- You know, my father\nwas an entertainer
wrote a song called "Word Up.
it was about someone\nsaying, word up, right?
That was the language\nof our street.
- When I talk to people,\nand I ask them about that
ask 'em about what\n'blackness' is
what 'black\nlanguage' is to them
what does 'sounding\nblack' mean to them
more often than not, it's\nabout a sound and a rhythm
this sort of movement\nand fluidity.
It's sort of imbued with\nthis cultural richness.
They say a picture's\nworth 1,000 words
but I feel like I grew\nup in an environment
where a person could\nuse a few words
and it felt like 1,000 pictures.
- [Baldwin] I'm afraid it's\none of the great dilemmas
one of the great\npsychological hazards
One's born in the white country
But all the standards,\nnone of it applies to you.
Obviously, I didn't\nalways talk the way
I forced myself to\nlearn how to talk.
I realized it was a\ncadence, it was a beat
it was not a question of\ndropping Ss or Ns or Gs
but a question of\nthe beat, really.
You know, just, which is in me.
- What defines 'talking black'?
That's the real question to me
'cause 'talking black'\nto me is an insult
when you say you're\n'talking black'
Because I choose to\npronounce my words
I'm totally black, I'm black.
So every word that comes out\nof my mouth is me talking.
- But you're not talking black\n'cause you don't sound black
What do you mean I\ndon't sound black?
I'm black, so I sound\njust as black as you do.
- While I think anybody's\nwho's African American
you speak African\nAmerican language
because it's about\nyou, the person
being African American\nin what you use
at the same time, I'm sort\nof pushed on that notion
when I hear people or\nknow that people exist
who don't really seem to\nsound in a particular way.
- I'm told all the time, if\nsomebody answers the phone
Oh, I thought you\nwere a white boy.
What was that supposed to mean?
Yeah, I know another language.
- It's just like anything else.
As surely as a kid\nlearns how to use words
they learn how to\nuse them in the ways
when you know African\nAmerican English?
When you know it as a system
when you use it as\nyour native language?
Speakers of African\nAmerican English
from my particular\nviewpoint, are those speakers
who grow up in African American
English speaking communities.
- Many people assume that\nblack English is one thing.
All black people speak it\npretty much the same way.
There are many, many\ntypes of black English
- Certainly, there\nare differences
that are regional differences.
But I think there's\nsome core aspects
and I think that's shared\nby many, many, many speakers
But as a speaker who grew\nup in southwest Louisiana
I do things with\nAfrican American English
that I might not\nexpect my counterparts
who grew up in some\nother areas to do.
- I walked up to him,\nI said, "What\'s up?
I\'m speaking, I\'m saying,\n"Hey, how you doing?
I ran into some guys\nfrom New York up there
We in a Burger King\ngetting something to eat.
I'm standing in line,\nthey're standing beside me.
and he just turned to\nme like, "What\'s up?
You know, to them,\nwhat's up means...
You'll get a different greeting.
I can go down to Atlanta\nand say, what it do.
Gotta be careful where you\nat if you say blood, though.
But they know if you say\nwassup, blood, it's family.
- Well, I'm from a place\nwhere we don't use the dialect
But I'm able to\nmaneuver with it.
So you might hear,\nwhat up, shorty.
You know, and I just\ngive 'em something
You'd be like, what up, shorty.
Or if you go to New\nOrleans say, hey, wohdi.
The language gives you access
and it'll give you a barrier
so the best thing to do\nis use it for your access.
- I am from an African\nAmerican background
but I went to a\npredominantly white school.
my black family members\nwould make fun of me
White girl, you talk\nlike a white girl.
You talk like a white girl.
Because they lived\nin a more urban area
So all my life, it's\nkind of been this
I talk like this with\nthis group of people
and then I talk like this\nwith this group of people.
- I think a lot of\npeople are surprised
at how much individual\nspeakers can actually shift.
I use two mainstream\nways of talking so much
in my professional life\nthat a lot of people doubt
that I actually\nspeak in other way.
But when I'm outside that\nprofessional setting
then it really is sort of\nmy language of comfort.
It's my language of home,\nit's my language of family
it's my language of friendship.
I think you can look at\nmiddle-class speakers
and assume that they don't\nspeak African American
vernacular English\nbecause all I'm hearing
But what happens is that a\nlot of middle-class speakers
do what I like to\ncall code switching.
I consider myself to\nbe a code switcher
but I don't spend a\nlot of time thinking
now I will use the vernacular.
So, this is a girlfriend\nthat I'm talking to.
Let me tell ya, that daycare\ntuition ain't no joke.
But I only got a few\nmore months, girl
And so, the last one\nis me with my mom.
What part of Columbia you\ndon't know about hags.
And he thought that\nwas just so funny.
I don't know nothing\nabout no doggone hags.
With any kind of code switching
I think it happens\nbelow the level
- [Jasmine] When I'm\ntalking to my sisters
it's very casual,\nit's very comfortable.
But when I'm talking\nto other people
or when I'm talking\nto professors
it's like, for them, it's\nlike I'm a different person.
And it's, it makes\nyou self-conscious
and it makes you feel, for me
as though I was not necessarily\nbeing true to myself
But then you come to\nfind that it's okay
to kinda meet people\nwhere they are.
- It's so interesting,\nthis issue of identity
language, acceptance,\nand inclusion
so I will use a certain\ntype of language.
- You have this\nkinda complex push in
The language is vibrant,\nit's fulfilling
it's expressive, it's enjoyable.
And on the other hand,\nyou have African Americans
dealing with the larger society
getting pushback,\ngetting misunderstanding.
- Unless you have\nyour own company
or you're are a rapper,\nor you're an athlete
with vernacular, you\nare going to be pushed
out of opportunities\nand marginalized.
For survival, economic survival
I'm gonna have to do\nthat song and dance.
- African American\nEnglish has a place
it's always relegated\nto entertainment.
In rap music, R&B,\nthings like that.
But it's not okay\noutside of those realms.
- The game only changes\nif you can commodify
certain aspects of culture\nin disadvantaged communities.
But the game doesn't\nreally change
when it comes to\nthe different things
that we see as professional\nand managerial.
They're changing in the\nsense that they're allowing
more of us in, who were\nhistorically excluded.
we have to read the cultural\ncodes of that space.
- I enjoy the nuances\nof how they speak
I do tell them, and I'm\nvery transparent and honest
about the fact that\nyou live in a world
where you do need to translate
and you do need to code switch
and you do need to\nspeak 'King's English,'
that you are able to\nnavigate the systems, right?
Because there is privilege,\nand that does exist.
- It was always very contentious
about what we should do\nwith student language.
They need to have\nstandard English
in order to be\nsuccessful in school
the way it's set up right now.
But there was a lot of\ntimes, a real negative
people talked about\nstudent language
That came not just\nfrom white teachers
but that came from\nAfrican American teachers
it came from societal messages.
- Me telling you what you\njust said is said incorrectly
is like telling you that\nyour mama is not smart.
The what I just said,\nmy mom said to me.
Or my dad, or my\npeople, or whatever.
If I said, that's not\nhow smart people talk.
'Cause that's something\nteachers say, right?
That's not the correct\nway to say that.
Then what you're not saying\nis that everybody in my life
What you're not saying\nis that everybody
- People have the impression\nthat African American English
is nothing more than\na collection of errors
because that's how\nthey've been socialized.
If it's not standard\nEnglish, it's wrong.
So we have this\nframework that all of us
have been indoctrinated\ninto that there's a right
Language itself is always right
because there's always\na systematicity
- All stigmatized\nlanguages usually
have this false reputation\nof having no structure
- What does standard\nEnglish accomplish
that these so-called versions\nof substandard English
don't accomplish in\nterms of communication?
Nothing, you know what I mean?
And anything that seems\nto stand in the way
you say, oh, it'll\nhelp you get a job.
Well, is that because\nof the language?
It's not that you're\nunable to communicate.
Or is that because of\nall these various 'isms'
that stand in the\nway of you being able
that people don't\nunderstand the most.
People are not making mistakes,\npeople are not confused
They are governed by a\ndifferent set of rules.
- In African American language
you can say things\nlike, he happy
You might say, well, okay, folks
are just leaving out his or her.
But they're not\njust leaving it out.
In language, nothing is\never just, like, random.
You can just leave\nit out or put it in.
No, there's again,\nthere's a very, very
Like, there's some places\nwhere you can't leave it out.
- You will hear speakers\nsay quite often
But you wouldn't hear\nthose speakers say
And you can see these\npatterns emerging
as children are developing\nAfrican American English.
and just start speaking\nAfrican American English.
This is a system that's\nreally in place early on
and children are working it\nout as they become older.
- Let me give you\na different example
that people talk about a lot.
You can say, John be studying\nSaturday nights, okay?
Now, a lot of people\nthink that that be
I could look at somebody\nsitting in front of me
and I could say, John's\nsitting down right now.
But I can't say, John be\nsitting down right now.
Be always means it's\nsomething happens
habitually,\nfrequently, and so on.
- It's a whole bunch\nof people in New York
that we know, and the way\nthey be talking and stuff.
The way they be\ntalking and stuff.
- You acquire it as a part\nof a normal human vicinity
- A lot of times, people assume
that there is some\nlinguistic basis
the stigma against a variety.
And they're not aware that it\nreally is about the people.
- The issue, Mr Chairman, has\nreceived a lot of attention
And I simply want to\nsay that that I think
- In the mid-90s,\nin 1995 and 1996
there was the big\nEbonics controversy.
The Oakland School\nBoard was trying to get
what had been fairly\nsolidly established
linguistic research\ninto schools.
- Many linguists have stated\nthat Oakland's decision
is credible, it is rational,\nand a potentially effective way
to improve the academic\nstandard of its students.
- [Mike] And the public really\nmisunderstood the message
of what was happening\nand reacted in ways
that kinda set back what\neducators are trying
- That's just bad\nEnglish, isn't it?
How could you say\nthat's a language?
- But that's your\nopinion that it's bad.
- A lot of teachers just\nkinda take what they've heard
sort of the predominant\nsocial narratives.
And they just sort\nof reproduce them.
When we start being\nmore critical of those
and teachers start thinking\nabout it more closely
then we've got a lot more\nopportunities to help kids.
- I'm really actually\nquite tickled
when I move into\nclassroom spaces
and I see how facile\nkids are with language
even if they're not adept\nas we measure on a test
But they are so adroit\nat moving back and forth
and talking to one\nanother and volleying.
And we don't know how to\nfold that kind of energy
that kind of skill\ninto the tests
that we're using\nto evaluate them
that then has some\nserious consequences
for their mobility\nin America's society.
- Because language and\nidentity are so closely tied
if we value more language,\nthen we also value
more student ways of\nbeing within schools.
- ...If this person says,\n"He be going to work"...
- The average citizen who\nencountered the term of Ebonics
during the Oakland controversy
did so at a time when\nlate night talk show hosts
And as a professional linguist
I was disheartened when\nI saw so many people
mocking a term that referred\nto linguistic circumstances
that I think should\nbe better understood
but which have been the object\nof linguistic discrimination
since the inception of slavery.
(people chattering\namong each other)
Slave descendants have a\nunique linguistic heritage
in comparison to every\nother immigrant group
African slaves, when\nthey were captured
were often isolated\nlinguistically
from others that spoke\ntheir own mother tongue
while they were on the\nwest coast of Africa.
That linguistic isolation\nwas also maintained
on the ships during\nthe Atlantic crossing.
not one indigenous\nAfrican language
has survived the\nAtlantic crossing intact.
Once they got here,\nit was illegal
to teach them to read and write.
slaves were denied\naccess to education.
As a result of that, many of\nthe linguistic stereotypes
many of the negative\nlinguistic stereotypes
that people embraced regarding\nAfrican American English
dismissing it as the\nlanguage of someone
who's being lazy or not\nattending to language
doesn't fully appreciate\nthe linguistic isolation
that slave descendants\nexperienced is unlike any other
immigrant group in this country.
- When they were brought here
African Americans were\nsegregated into plantations.
That's what happened\nin the Caribbean also.
new varieties, taking\nlinguistic properties
from the surrounding varieties\nand creating new forms.
These are creations\nof people putting
their absolutely horrible\nset of circumstances
- We're standing on an island
where we know 40% of\nall people of color
that were taken and\nsurvived the Middle Passage
that arrived in North America
first stepped foot on\nNorth American soil
right here on this island\nof Sullivan's Island.
Any vessel coming\ninto the New World
coming into the\nPort of Charleston
were required to\nquarantine their cargo.
African cargo, human\ncargo, here on this island
Then they would be\ntaken into Charleston
and to be sold as part of\nthe African slave trade.
And then, now their\nlabor, their talents
their gifts and their\nskills would now be diffused
across the low country of\nSouth Carolina and Georgia
and north part in\nFlorida as well.
- [Woman] Gullah is an African\nAmerican language variety
spoken along the coasts of\nSouth Carolina and Georgia.
Linguists use that term\nto refer to languages
that emerge in\nsituations of contact
between speakers who have no\ncommon language among them.
- [In Gullah] Once\nupon a time you know
- [Translator] We had\na language of our own.
- [In Gullah] I 'member\nlike t'was yesseday
- [Translator] I remember\nlike it was yesterday.
- [In Gullah] When I\nfust had to go to school
- [Translator] First\nwent to school.
- [In Gullah] You know\nwhat I done night befo'?
- [Translator] The night before.
- [Translator] To the dresser.
- There was some controversy
over where African American\nEnglish comes from.
But one side of that debate,\nof course, is that it was once
a Creole-like variety,\na Gullah-like Creole.
- When I grew up, all my\ngrandmother, my mother
my father, my\naunts and everybody
spoke the same language so\nyou didn't know a difference
because you grew\nup in a community
where everybody's speaking\nthe same language.
My mother's 73 years old,\nand she speak Gullah.
And my sisters and brothers,\nall of us speak Gullah.
But we don't realize\nwe speaking Gullah.
It's just a natural\nlanguage to us.
- When a stranger\ncome to your door
you say, what oona come here fa?
And oh, we glad fa see oona.
We glad oona come fa see we.
- I really recognized\nit when I left home
I realized that all\nthese people talk funny.
And they realized with\nme, too, I talk funny.
But and so, they call\nit broken language
- As we continue to educate\nthe public about this culture
then the public, the outside\npublic would then accept it.
- [In Gullah] We Papa, in Heben
let everybody honor You name
We pray that soon You\ngonna rule o' d'we.
What's da big 'ting you want
Let it be in dis world like\nsame like it be dere in Heben.
Give we da food dis\nday n every day.
Forgive da bad 'ting we da do
'cause we forgive\ndem dat do bad to we.
- We are the Gullah kin folk.
'Cause whether you\nknow it or not
'Cause it's the blending\nof all of those cultures
that came together during that\ntransAtlantic slave trade.
So turn to your\nneighbor, say cousin.
- The rhythm of it is very much
like Caribbean English Creoles.
my husband, for\nexample, is from Jamaica
and now living in\nSouth Carolina.
And we'll often hear a\nGullah and Geechee speaker
and assume that they're from\nJamaica or from the Caribbean.
- People don't understand,\nbut Jamaicans are the same.
But it's just that they\nwent to the Caribbean side
of the area when we came\nfor this side of the border.
So we still speak the\nsame kinda language
but we just have a\ndifferent dialect.
- African Americans\nare trying to say
And so, they're always\nlooking back, right?
I always say, before\nyou get to Africa
you gotta get to the Caribbean.
(children singing\nin foreign language)
- [Man] No matter who\nyou is in this world
empty hand you come, and\nempty hand you leave.
You not gonna pack\nup nothin' outta here
- We don't really have\nthe records to know
what exactly happened\nin the 17th century
So we have to look at\nlanguage to give us
language can give\nus some indication.
(people talking to each\nother in Bahamian Creole)
- I think there\ndefinitely are connections
between African\nAmerican language
and the language\nof the Caribbean.
South Carolina and\nGeorgia sea islands
are the one place where\nthere was consistently
for long time, very high\nnumbers of Africans.
Black and particularly African\nways of life and speaking
was much stronger there as\nit was in parts of Jamaica.
- A lot of the early\nAfrican Americans
were coming from the Caribbean
rather than directly\nfrom Africa.
Since, for example,\nCharleston, South Carolina
founded in 1670 as a\ncolony of Barbados
there have been\nother connections.
So I don't find it surprising
that there are similarities
that there are things that\nshow up in the Caribbean
- So that's the beauty about it.
The way they behave, and the\nway they using the language
is very systematic and is\nbearing out the patterns
That's what culture's all\nabout, cultural inheritance.
You do things, but you don't\nreally know exactly why.
- If we look at what I\nrefer to as African-isms
that remain in Bahamian culture
You really see it coming\nout in the food ways
and you also see\nit in the language.
And we want to ensure that\nour children are aware
and know that they\nhave a very,very rich\nlegacy and history.
Emphasizing that\nwill go a long way
in terms of helping children\nto know who they are.
- It's really important to be\nable to show the connection
between African American English
and Caribbean English Creoles.
The one thing I think\nabout African Americans
and Caribbean Americans\nis the longing to know.
The longing to know who\nam I, how'd I get here
Linguistics just gives you\nthat little extra something
that you go like,\nokay, I get it.
I belong somewhere, I'm\nconnected to something.
♪ Well when I come\nback home, my babe ♪
- My grandfather,\nmy grandmother
I got to listen at them\ntalking about things
that you have to get\nfrom black people
Well, Lincoln freed the slaves.
If you was in the South,\nyou weren't free at all.
You done worked the whole year
for the people\nyou're working for.
That's the struggle\nthey were going through.
- So in the early part\nof the 20th century
And about 90% of the\nAfrican American population
was living in the rural south.
You had institutional\nsegregation.
However, you had\na lot of contact
because they shopped in\nthe same general stores
they worked alongside each\nother as tenant farmers
So you had linguistic\ncontact there.
So what we consider\nto be now present day
African American vernacular\nEnglish is quite different
than what we saw in\nspeakers who were born
- Wherever there\nwere African slaves
they contributed to\nshaping American English.
And then came Jim Crow, and\nthen the Great Migration.
And something that had emerged\nin the southeastern part
of the United States was spread.
♪ ...One town that\nwon't let you down ♪
- And you can play it like this.
- For me, the Great Migration\nis captured in the stories
about how lynching in the South\nand a lack of opportunities
drove folks to pack up\ntrucks and vans and suitcases
and foot lockers in\nhopes of achieving
a better life here in the North.
They started coming\njust before World War I
and they didn't stop until\nmaybe around the 1970s.
- I don't think that African\nAmericans at that time
And on the cover\nof The Defender
that's what it says, exodus.
And that's how they left,\nwith the hope of finding
a promised land, specifically,\ncoming here to work
and finding a whole different\nlevel of segregation
and racism that wasn't what\nthey experienced in the South
where you couldn't live\nnext door to a white person
So that over the three\nwaves of the Migration
literally, a half million\npeople were confined
- Why does black English exist?
For a population to develop\nits own variety of language
there has to be some\nkind of apartness.
- In the period of\nthe Great Migration
which started\naround World War I
and continued 'til\nafter World War II.
You had a mass exodus of\npeople leaving the South.
Then you had African\nAmericans living
in concentrated areas in these\nurban areas of the North.
But they didn't have\nthe same kind of contact
that they had had previously\nwith the white population.
- You had 300,000\npeoples crammed
into a narrow band of\nland at its height.
So you had people\nin kitchenettes
and piled on top of one another.
Commerce everywhere,\nrestaurants, clubs
And so, you had a very vibrant
it was a very vibrant community.
- These blacks\ncame from the South
and brought with them,\nthe linguistic properties
in their speech that they\nlearned in the South.
- A good majority of\nthe African Americans
in this community, their\nfamilies originated
They migrated here, I'd\nsay four out of five people
that you see that be African\nAmerican in this community
probably if you go\nback two generations.
Their family was from\nthe South, you know.
- This area, here,\nis the entering stage
of that earlier\nperiod of the limits
of the black community,\nclose to the downtown area.
and other places,\nbecame elevated.
In this confined,\nsegregated area
On that side, I could go and\ndo whatever I wanted to do.
On this side, I better not come.
Okay, now we're getting\ninto another era.
And this is the beginning\nof public housing.
- They contained us\nwithin the Black Belt
and rather than let us\nexpand out geographically
Public housing\nliterally cordoned off
the entire Black Belt\nall the way around
That's how hard they\nworked to contain us
- In the first two\ndecades of research
linguists were\ndivided in their views
of the origin of African\nAmerican English
whether it was a\nSouthern regional dialect
descended from\nnon-standard English
or the descendant\nof a Creole grammar
similar to that spoken\nin the Caribbean.
Research of the\nlanguage of ex-slaves
show that some of the\nmost prominent features
of the modern dialect were not\npresent in the 19th century.
African American\nvernacular English
is becoming not less,\nbut more different
we did a large language\nstudy in Detroit
and interviewed\nover 700 residents.
It became immediately obvious
there were two\nworlds of dialects.
One participated in by\nthe white population
and another participated\nin by the black population.
It became immediately clear
these are two different\nlinguistic worlds.
It was both shocking\nand intriguing.
- As a child in the\nhood, it was all black.
And the only time\nwe seen white people
was when we went a town over
It wasn't a shared cultural\nkind of exchange going on.
We communicated with\nthe black vernacular.
How we communicate to\nmake it cool, make it fly
make it dope, to give\nyou that hood pass.
- But why do kids growing\nup in the black community
have to become skilled\nat language use?
If you can't defend\nyourself verbally
growing up in a black community
a traditional black community
then everybody\nelse picks on you.
you could think of them\nas verbal defenses.
I prefer to think of\nthem as verbal skills.
If you grow up in that kind\nof language environment
you come to like it\nand appreciate it.
- Here we go, what's popping?
Got my man, Uncle P, with me.
There's one C in\nM.C.O.D.Y, if you know me
click pile if you\nclick file. In Detroit
- Let's go, let's go, let's go.
- Call your girl, she hit\nme back like, "You rang?
I\'m the hottest\nthing you seen.
- You basic, dude, you tripping.
Lace your shoes, think again.
Deja vu, you play with\nme, you play to lose.
- An individual's ability\nto speak spontaneously
authoritatively,\nin the vernacular
is not only highly prized,\nbut is literally used
- Some people call it shooting,\nsome people call it banging
some people call it capping
some people refer\nto it as dozens.
But I mean, it's just this idea
- Look at the crowd,\nthey eyes glued
like they got lashes\non, and the draft is on.
run up deep in a Jaheim voice
while you at the\ncrib with your son
watching Nickelodeon\nTeen Choice.
You often throw a lot of\nnegative shots at each other.
genuine, you know what I mean?
It's all friendly competition.
You know, I've heard\nall the type of jokes
all the type of direct blazes.
Somebody might call it blazing.
With us, it didn't\nhave to be like
It's just, we just battle\nwith words, you know?
- It's as much about\nthe language itself
and the connections\nthat are being made
as it is about how the language
like, how it's being delivered.
- Who got them bars\non deck, though?
Let me hear some bars on deck.
All right, my name's Flex Bands.
- Tell 'em what your name is.
- All right, my name Flex Bands.
I'm 15 years old, and\nI'm straight outta\nDetroit, Michigan.
All right, y'all\nwanted to cipher on it?
Every time, I step in the booth
I bring sir, oo to the youth.
I love to the coupe,\nsome born a fool.
- Just because you\nthe baby daddy
I don't owe you nothin', and\nyou don't get it so willingly.
If we can't be friends,\nthen we can't co-parent.
- Aiming that barrel,\nyou rolling in flame
Victor and here again,\nthen I'll appear again.
- This a dead end, I'm a head in
with my brethren, blunt\nwith me all the time
Grind 'til this ray\nbends, infrared lens
chop a rhyme like it's\nColumbine with my concubine.
- As much slang as\nwe use in hip-hop
there are probably more people
that would've been\nEnglish majors or writers
in hip-hop than there\nis in any other genre.
Like metaphors, similes, double\nentendres, triple entendres.
You might not even have\na high school diploma
and you know how to\nuse these things.
- People think that\nAfrican American English
is picking up these\nthings from hip-hop
when in fact,\nhip-hop is making use
of longstanding features of\nAfrican American English.
- The very first band that\never introduced hip-hop
The Sugarhill Gang was kind\nof a popular disco group
that was presenting kinda\nlight-hearted music.
But then Grandmaster\nFlash produced a song
And "The Message" was\none of the most powerful
hip-hop songs ever\nproduced because it talked
about life in the inner cities
and broken glass\nand drug addicts
These things are connected\nto at least some of the anger
that is conveyed\nby hip-hop artists.
And it's a means of expression
that is not only accepted\nwithin African American culture
but it's now spread far beyond
and is actually often\nused by young people
in various parts of the world
that wish to express\ndefiance to authority.
♪ Speak if you know\nwhat you're worth ♪
♪ Seek if you know\nwhat you're worth ♪
♪ Teach so they know\nwhat they worth ♪
♪ Speak if they\ntaking your birth- ♪
♪ -right, so pursuing the hurt
- I know that for some people
You look out, and everything
you see around you\nis destructive.
- When you find something\nthat gives you an opportunity
to express what's\ngoing on around you
it's a relief, and it's\na creative-like spark.
That's why you have MCs that\nrap about fancy cars and...
We criticize these MCs a lot.
We say, ah, he's\nrapping about things
that he doesn't have or\nthings that he wants.
But it's things that we aspire.
We're the same kids that\nsat on our grandma porch
So when we rap\nabout that's my car
And where it comes from\nis like having nothing.
It gives that kid that didn't\nhave anything something.
- And then I grew\nup in a church.
There would be all\nthis improvisation
They would do. The\nSpirit is taking over
and all sorts of\nstuff is going on.
I mean, they're just, like,\nkicking out these lyrics
and talking about their lives\non the fly, on the spot.
And that just, that is\nreally when I became aware
of hip-hop culture and\nfreestyle as a part of it.
- From Sunday to\nSunday, He helps us.
- The preacher has to be\nvery nimble and understanding
where all of the people are.
It's important to\nspeak vernacular
especially to get a point across
And then there are\nothers that want to see
that moment of improvisation\nwhere the Spirit takes over
and something unique is created
in the process of communication.
Don't look at me\nfunny up in here.
We've got to make a priority
and recognize that sometimes,\nwe are our worst enemy.
- That's what people\nexpect in service.
They expect communication\nto take place in church
in the language of the people.
Whether that's Northern, urban
whether that's Southern rural
whether that's low-country\nGeechee-Gullah.
Being able to communicate\nin the language
of the hearers in a way\nthat they understand
and the way that\nthey feel that they
are part of that\ncongregation becomes crucial.
The oral tradition and language
Without language, you\nwould have no black church
because it had been against\nthe law to teach Africans
The oral tradition, and\nthe aural-oral tradition
were the sum and substance\nof the black church.
It's a dialogue that goes\non - call and response.
the congregation\nsays something back.
That's very different\nfrom European worship.
They don't say anything back.
In fact, they're taught\nnot to say anything.
That's disruptive, you're\ndisrupting service.
Missionaries taught us that.
Be quiet and let\nthe minister finish.
Nobody is dismantling\nschools in Lincoln Park.
No one is dismantling schools\nin any wealthy area in Chicago
- One of the things,\nthe differences\nbetween African speech
and European speech,\nis European speech
like to tonight on the\nnews, talking heads.
That's it from Channel Five.
When black people\ntalk, they get involved
The body is a part\nof the speech event.
Homiletics, when I\nwas back in schools
That distracts from the message.
- For our community, we\ncome out of an oral culture
and movements that are\ntransformative in our community
always have people who\nare able to communicate
with oral power and\ndexterity and improvisation
and communicate head\nand heart and spirit.
And allow those words\nto take life and flight
in the hearts of God's people.
- When we allow freedom ring.
When we let it ring\nfrom every village
from every state and every city
we will be able to\nspeed up that day
black men and white\nmen, Jews and Gentiles
Protestants and Catholics\nwill be able to join hands
and sing in the words of\nthe old Negro spiritual
Thank God Almighty,\nwe are free at last.
- MLK was one of the most\npowerful speakers ever.
And his speeches are incredibly\nrhetorically profound.
So of course, he was educated.
And therefore, he\ntended to avoid features
of speech that were\nsocially stigmatized.
So he tended not to use those\ntraditional vernacular forms.
But at the same time, whatever\nspeech to whatever group
he was identifiably\nAfrican American
and he was also identifiably\nsouthern and urban.
So these are really noteworthy\nstances that he took
in a sense, saying the\npower of what I have to say
is transformative, and\nI'm going to say it
in an authentic voice for me.
And so, what stands\nout from King
is his rhetorical power and\nhis social and political voice.
And the fact that it was framed
in African American identity\nand southern identity
is one of the great\nlessons about the authority
and the authenticity of\nspeaking black in America.
- All in favor, let it be\nknown by standing on your feet.
- Been a great change,\nseen a lot of changes.
A little history, they\nneed to know about that.
Somebody had to pave\nthe way for 'em.
- The language has\nchanged considerably
from the time when I was\ngrowing up opposed to now.
These young kids,\njust unbelievable
- A lot of language, a lot swag
slang, lingo,\nhowever you call it
But it kinda originate\nfrom other cities as well.
But as far as Atlanta, as\nfar as the phrase, turn up
which we not even on no more.
But by the time\ny'all even see this
we gonna be on to\nthe next thing.
- I wanna tell him something.
Like, if I need to\ntell him something
but I ain't trying to let\neverybody know, I tell him
Like, eh, fool, we need\nto go handle business.
Like, if I say we preparing\nto go handle business
we really just gonna go off\nand talk about the stuff
we don't need nobody\nelse to know about.
Like, they say this a lot, they
Be like, I'm fixin' to\nslide up to the crib.
And slide up to the crib mean,\noh I'm fixin' to go home.
- All of 'em don't talk alike.
Sure does, makes me\nhave to tell 'em
kinda straighten\nit up a little bit
'Cause I got some grandchildren.
I can't hardly understand them.
[Makes Sound] I said wait, baby.
I said grandaddy trying\nto understand ya.
- Rural kids, who used to\nbe much more regionalized
Want to sound more urban\nbecause it's more hip.
And so, the old\ntime rural styles
of African Americans,\nwhich tended to be more
closely aligned with\nsouthern white varieties
are now moving away and\nbecoming much more urban
and actually, in some ways,\nmore like the urban North
and some of the southern\nurban areas, for example
- You know, we know\nas linguists, right
that who's the most important\nfor the young people
Doesn't matter how older\npeople speak around you.
It's the peer group\nthat's the main influence.
and I started calling\neverybody Joe.
Because in Chicago,\nthey call everybody Joe.
And they was like, "What\nyou talking about?
And I was like, "My bad, y\'all.
'Cause I had stayed\na whole summer.
So I was calling everybody Joe.
And I was like, "Hey,\nlet me get this, yo.
Like, I had developed like this.
I don't even know where\nit was coming from.
I was around my cousin so much
and that was the way\nthey were talking.
So I guess I just\npicked up on it.
When I got ready to come home.
I was just still stuck\nin that city language.
- So there's a kind of\nmovement of urbanization
so that young people\nin remote areas now
are adopting more urban features
because that's the cultural\nstandard and the norm
♪ 102.9, DJ Nabs going live
- Myself, Shocka Zooloo,\nand a few other people
who were hired to be on\nhip-hop radio in 1997, right
were invited on BET\nwith Tavis Smiley.
And it was called BET Talks.
And it was talking about\nthe change in radio.
Like, the changing of the guard.
Like, it changed from the\nold-school days of black radio
when radio guys\ntalked like this.
It's WKBC, W so\nand so, so and so.
And it become, you\nknow what it is?
You know, it was that\nhip-hop language.
It's the way we talk and spoke.
You know, we're just speaking\nour everyday language
but that was different\nfrom the language of radio
prior to that period of time.
And, there was a change in\nlanguage, but we wasn't thinking
We were just, it\nwas just our music
But to be on the radio\nplaying these records
and to be saying, here's\nanother dope joint
from Schooly D, "PSK,"\nyou know what it means.
You know, if you\nwasn't in the culture
- The different culture\nmay be more in age bracket.
'Cause you know,\nall the young guys
Most of the lingo\ncomes up as new.
The lingo we used\nis outdated now
They come up with new words\nthat mean the same thing.
And it's between the\nelders and the youth.
And what happens is the elders
don't tend to wanna understand\nwhat the youth are doing
and the youth are\ngrowing up in a world
different than what\nthe elders grew up in.
- A lot of the\nlanguage is changing
But it's like, that one term
or that one dance never changes.
No matter what comes\nout in the music
they're always gonna\nhear their father
or their uncles have this\ngreeting with each other.
So when they grow up,\nthat's their greeting.
It's amazing how strong it is.
- People of African\ndescent have been moving
from the beginning of time and\ninteracting and transforming.
I think there's some\nthings that are constant
but I also think it's\nconstantly transforming.
- People may feel like the\nthings that they're saying
regardless if it's\nconsidered improper English
that's what may make them\nfeel the closest to home.
So it's almost like, kinda\nlike a special legacy.
- For me, black\nlanguage is natural.
That's the language, the\nfirst language I speak.
It's how my people\nadapted to whatever
having their language\nstripped away
or having put it together from\ndifferent parts and pieces
It's what we did\nwith what we had
and that is not just sufficient
My hope is that we begin\nto see our language
and everything else\nthat we can do that way.
when whites would\nimitate black speech
it was often done\nin a racist way
to make fun of the way\nthat black people talked.
Through time, and with\nthe advent of hip-hop
you now see white kids\nin the suburban malls
with their baseball\ncaps on backwards.
They're imitating\nblack speech patterns
because they try to\nembrace the culture.
Even though our culture\nhas been the object
it's also been embraced\nby American society
Our styles of speaking,\nour styles of dress
the way we dance, the\nmusic, the food, it's cool.
(shouting)\n(upbeat jazz music)
If you like hip-hop, we got it.
You like R&B, old school\nor new, we got it.
- I was on the train two\ndays ago going up to Harlem
And so, this train was packed
and I was sitting on the train.
And there were\ntwo women talking.
They had a lot of good energy.
And they must've been\nin their young 30s.
And one was singing a\nsong by Sir Mix-a-Lot.
She\'s going, "baby got\nback, baby got back.
And you know, some people\nare very stiff in the train.
But you know as you\ngo closer to Harlem
And there were four young men.
And one of the young\nmen said to her
these are all, you know,\nshades of black people.
One of the young\nmen said to her
Why you singing that song?
And she said, "I\nlike that song.
He said, "Well, why you\nreally singing that song?
And she starts singing\nher song again.
And she said, "Because\naround that time
I was young, and\nthat song came out
and for the first time, I knew
And she said, "So\nwhat\'s your story?
And so, she went to each one.
You know, I\'m from Harlem.
And so, you just all of the\nblack diaspora interacting
and coming together,\nmixing and transforming
right there in\nfront of your eyes.
And they were like,\n"You know, I see you.
And there was just\nwonderful cadence and rhythm
and impromptu, articulation\nof who they were.
And I just looked at my husband.
I said, "We\'re gonna be okay.
We\'re gonna be okay if this\nis what is coming behind us.
♪ Who's gonna protect the\nwomen and the children ♪
♪ Lions, we in the building
♪ If you're tired\nof the struggling ♪
♪ Zion, we need some healing
♪ I was born in\nthem killing field ♪
♪ Stretch me like a skull cap
♪ Now run and tell that.\nKing of the jungle ♪
♪ Frustrations are replacing
♪ The emotions\nthat I'm relating ♪
♪ Maybe you're mistaking\nmy kindness for weakness ♪
♪ There ain't no ill\nthat I'm speaking ♪
♪ Speak to inherit the Earth
♪ Damn, pursuing\nthe hurt for real ♪
♪ Seems to be all\nthat you know ... ♪
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