Discussing anthems and modalities

Aubrianna Martinez, Senior Digital Editor

University of Southern California professor of gender studies, political science, as well as gender and sexuality studies Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro led the virtual presentation “Anthems and Modalities” which focused on the connections between African American music and African American political theory was held on Feb. 23.

Hancock Alfaro engaged with the webinar’s attendees through reference and deep examination of both contemporary and older African American musicians’ use of purposeful repetition of positive statements that she defines as anthems. Referencing the use of Kendric Lamar’s song “All Right” as having been adopted as an anthem by members of Black Lives Matter in protesting police violence, Hancock Alfaro explained “you can see that the anthem has this very deep meaning for folks who are committed to this particular political agenda.”

She added shortly after on the subject, “anthems can certainly be adopted but then they also end up taking on different meanings in different moments.” Later still she expounded upon this point, “music can become an anthem, but anthem status is contingent upon socio-political movement that make them so” Hancock Alfaro said.

Hancock Alfaro likened the use of an anthem to “a crack within the concrete walls of racism” that African Americans use to escape the trapping debris. She detailed that the Black Atlantic is another way to explore and experiment with wide-ranging concepts such as equality compared to injustice.

Hancock Alfaro also spoke on the subject of presumed self-censorship in the case of Lamar’s performance at the Superbowl this year due to the political atmosphere, compared to the restricted censorship of artist Nina Simone wherin the second word in her song title “Mississippi Goddamn” was reduced to asterisks because of the time in which it was produced.

In regards to the shift in messaging in Lamar’s performance at the Superbowl, Hancock Alfaro pondered if he chose to omit the ‘problematic’ lines in his song or if he was pressured by the NFL to do so, and was asked by an attendee to speak more on the subject of minority artists choosing to censor their work in order to sanitize their art for a wider audience.

“We don’t think about enough […] the degree of which people are carrying not just the hopes and dreams of extended family and extended community of an entire set of folks, but also carrying, economically speaking. To those folks, to have something go away is very much a real threat to their being able to continue,” she stated.