It’s comforting to know that Black History Month is here again, a time for all of us to reflect on where we come from and the strides People of Color have made across the globe. What’s less comforting is the fact that we tend to restrict our celebration to a select few figures and often gloss over more obscure and (forgive the pun) colorful figures who skirt the mainstream, in terms of appeal and general knowledge. Here’s a list of eccentric Black figures that we tend to forget.
An attorney who used to work for the U.S. Department of Education, Hill shook the world in 1991 with her accusations of sexual harassment against then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Although the case was dropped due to lack of evidence, Hill’s speaking out led to her becoming a national figure in fight against workplace sexual harassment. She’s currently a professor at Brandeis University.
Best known for his work on Comedy Bang Bang, this multi-faceted biracial artist mixes stream-of-consciousness comedy bits with loop pedal-based musical improvisation in his live act. A true New Age eccentric is there ever was one.
In his lifetime, Kuti pulled double duty as a musical pioneer (afrobeat music is pretty much his child) and political activist. He embraced traditional African values and customs in resistance of European colonialism and even founded his own nation, Kalakuta Republic, in defiance. Give some of his music a listen.
A young jazz prodigy who swiped the Best New Artist Grammy a few years ago, Spalding was hired immediately out of school to teach at Berklee College of Music at the age of 21. A bassist of renowned skill, Spalding has released four solo albums and remained active in the fight against the Guantanamo Bay prison system.
Annan is the former Secretary-General of the United Nations of Ghanian descent. He’s worked to address poverty, AIDS, and international relations on a global scale. He continues to do charity work in Ghana and abroad.
Besides serving as the first Black woman to be elected to Congress for more than a decade, Chisholm is also the first African American, male or female, to ever run for the position of President.
His blend of alternative hip hop and spoken word poetry has made Saul Williams a forced to be reckoned with in underground music. Having worked with artists as diverse as Nas, Erykah Badu, and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, his work as a lyricist, writer, and actor keep him on the cutting edge.