28 Days of Black History, Our Way


Yesterday, when asked to participate in “Black History Month” as a company, I was divided. Knowing that I did not want to spew gray-haired importance or perpetuate an idea that I do not completely understand, I grew hesitant. Unsure of where the idea of having a “Black History Month” came from or why it should be celebrated in February is beyond the knowledge of most. However, taking the opportunity to share the importance of people that we believe in is important. This morning, we wrote a list of deserving individuals.


Day 1:

Claudette Colvin

Claudette Colvin

Astonished at the valor 15-year-old and what she means to the country that I live in, I stared at her for a long time when I listened to her story. Claudette Colvin was the first — yes, the first person to resist bus segregation in Montgomery, Alabama — and somehow, the world knows nothing or very little about her. This is probably your first time hearing about her for a multiplicity of reasons.

I will not surmise, but I will share what I know.

Nine months prior to Rosa Parks and the famous Montgomery Bus Boycott, history has it that scores of teenagers went against the orders of the land. Instead of it being “important enough” to stream on television or garner attention to popular circulated periodicals (like it is often treated in the ‘hoods of North America today), they were “quietly fined, and no one heard much more.”

In Colvin’s case, it was the Montgomery Black leaders who decided not to publicize her story because she was an unmarried pregnant teenager. Unfortunately, she did not fit the image, or description, of what they had in mind for media. They (the NAACP) believed that Parks was best for a court challenge.

Luckily, Colvin is still alive and shared her story with NPR. Unexpectedly, she lives in the Bronx. Sadly, I could have walked past her or rode the train with her many times and I would have no clue.

Besides, I wonder why “Black History Month” is not celebrated in Africa.


Day 2:

Zanele Muholi

Zanele Muholi

In the time taken for the Earth to make three or four revolutions around the sun, stumbling upon beautifully raw images belonging to the South African based photographer and visual activist, that year, was one of the best things to discover. In the instance of finding her, I wanted to properly feature Muholi, but the opportunity did not arise. We talked a few times and I set up interviews with former contributors, but our timing was never right. During my last attempt, she was just robbed. If my memory allows, her equipment was taken. In addition, she’s a very busy woman. Perhaps, just maybe, it — this — was saved for this moment.

Often in black and white, her controversial and heavily scrutinized photography focuses on Black Lesbians in post-apartheid South Africa. Without spoken words, her subjects do a swell job at evoking rare emotions. What started out to be a visual map and archive of this specific group of people, touched many around the world.

I believe Muholi’s work contributes confidence to her subjects. Muholi’s work has been featured in many galleries, published in books and promulgated at home, but not enough worldwide. Later, I understood that the work I fell in love with was just apart of her thesis. That year, she was awarded a Master of Fine Arts degree in Documentary Media. I’m hoping you will help us tell her story by sharing this article with a fellow woman, someone who can identify with her subjects or someone who just enjoys photography. For more about Zanele Muholi, kindly visit this link.

*Update 3 February (12:15AM): Literally, I just learned that Zanele had an online campaign where she explained exactly what happened to her work. Apparently, the thief climbed through the “toilet window” to enter her apartment in Korea. Kindly click here to read her statement.

zanele-muholi-grungecake-aggressive zanele-muholi-grungecake-love


Day 3:




James Spooner



From filmmaker to vegan tattoo artist, James Spooner is the voice and vision for droves of African-American, biracial and multiracial young adults worldwide who often were coined “the only Black kid at the [punk] show”. Often, I am still the only “Black” person, or “Black” woman, at functions that I cover or attend.

During my time at Cornerstone-Fader [Magazine], opportunely, I was introduced to “Afro-Punk” as a company and a lifestyle. Soon after, moshing at Game Rebellion shows (and bands alike) in the Lower East Side (with the tall and lanky Spooner present) became the daily round.

Plainly, I was not “normal” and neither was he. Born in St. Lucia and growing up in America on both coasts with a White mother and a Black father, Spooner experienced his share of racism from his siblings and others. Instead of allowing revilement to dominate him, he wielded those experiences and emotions into the business we know today.

Though, his film dealt with race identity in the punk scene, Afro-Punk has unquestionably transcended its intention. Frequently, him or his film was featured on MTV (see website redesign by yours truly at 1:07) and other television stations around the world. Spooner also achieved a role in an iPod commercial and produced a second film called “White Lies Black Sheep”. (See trailer below)

“As a DIY effort, he rigorously toured the film across the country like a band, showing it as many venues as possible, and rapidly amassing a devoted cult following, largely among minority punks centralized around a message board on his website afropunk.com”

Spasmodically, change doesn’t necessitate orthodox training to get the message across. Starting and making it happen is all it takes.


Day 4:







Innovative, courageous and adroit, will.i.am is more than just music. Being linked to the world’s biggest artists, working with (or for) those artists and receiving production credit of many dance hits, of course, it doesn’t stop there. Currently, on a path to enhance the world’s mobile technology experience with his “i.am+” device, what we (fellow visionaries) enjoy most about will.i.am is that he truly does not limit himself. With verity, as a highschooler, William James Adams entered the music industry with a new agenda.

What might have been strange to most, then, is now acceptable to the majority. From their style of dress to what his group decided to talk about in their music was missed.

Born and raised in East Los Angeles by a single mother, Debra, and seven children (three biological and four adopted), it is fair to say will.i.am had an advantage of a broad purview in the early stages of his life. Possibly, lending to the way he selected members for his group. Though, he’s never met his dad, I believe his practice of #willpower (also the name of his forthcoming album set to be released in 2013) is why he is so successful today. Through mom’s suggestions and encouragement to begin working on his music career, he attended a charter school in Pacific Palisades. Ironically, my connection to a charter school also stems from Pacific Palisades which is why I can understand his overall perspective a little more than the average admirer.

Black-eyed-peas as we know it, is not only a staple legume in the diets of families in Southern United States, but it is a bean that mutates easily, giving rise to a number of varieties like the group. It is a subspecies of the cowpea and it is “grown” around the world. Suitably, the common commercial one is called the California Blackeye, where he is from, and it is pale-colored with a prominent black spot. There’s not much gain in being conjectural, but will.i.am sure is looking like that “prominent black spot”.

i.am+” will “dramatically enhance the clarity and definition of iPhone photographs,” says will, by taking the 8-megapixel sensor and increasing the experience to a 14-megapixel sensor. Please click here to see what it looks like.

Some other great things Adams has accomplished, but are not limited to: Being a coach on The Voice UK, raised more than $1M for the Chinese Red Cross via a concert in Shanghai with The Black Eyed Peas, Intel named him “director of creative innovation” with input in developing smart phones, tablets and laptops, they performed at FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) events and he stars in Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa as the voice of the character Moto Moto. He was among the performers at the Diamond Jubilee Concert held outside Buckingham Palace on 4 June 2012 and the first song broadcast from Mars — yes, the planet — was his new single, “Reach for the Stars”. He discussed and listened to it with a live audience at NASA in Pasadena, California after it was returned from Curiosity Rover.

Another connection we have to will.i.am is that we were honored to interview Jeff Martens of Lazy Jay on our new radio show, the “GrungeCake Show” based in Croydon, South London. Lazy Jay produced the hit single “Scream & Shout” featuring will.i.am and Britney Spears.

With all of his accolades and things to do, in addition, he has saved two families from foreclosure via Harpo, publicly. He’s a hard worker and he has been working hard (professionally) for virtually twenty years. His acclaim is not an overnight métier.

will.i.am should be celebrated more.


Day 5:




Billy Blanks



Not even a bad hip could hold him down. Growing up with an abnormal hip actually encouraged him to want to be a world martial-arts champion like Bruce Lee. Assuredly, Blanks had to appear like a doltish individual, but he is far from doltish. Fourth of fifteen children, Blanks used to be catcalled by his siblings because of his disability. In addition, he was dyslexic and he was born and raised in Erie, Philadelphia. It is evident, he worked very hard to pursue his dreams. In fact, the discipline of the program began to transform his body!

When I was about 5-years-old, he created “TaeBo”, the portmanteau of “tae kwon do” and “boxing” which also happens to be an acronym.

Now, TaeBo classes are taught worldwide and they are intended to increase cardiovascular fitness, strength, muscle endurance and flexibility.

What makes this really cool for us, is that, Evian interviewed Shannon Lee (Bruce Lee’s daughter) last week on the “GrungeCake Show“.


Day 6:







Responsible for almost all of Wu-Tang‘s albums’ productions and indubitably responsible for one of the ageless sounds of Hip-Hop music, then and today, RZA is rare. From producing music for not one, but nine (or ten, if you count quasi-member Cappadonna) members of a group he assumed authority for and scoring films, he is the epitome of resilience. Most humans cannot maintain a house of 3.

It never really occurred to me until now.

How is it that Wu-Tang (a Hip-Hop group with members triple that number — manage to stick together and work together?) It has to be tenacity, great leadership and that good ol’ Chinese martial arts discipline.

In what seems to be one thousand years ago, I lived in Staten Island, New York for a brief part — but the rudimentary years — of my life. I lost my first tooth in Staten Island, I had my first crush in Staten Island. I heard my first gunshot in Staten Island and vividly, I remember enjoying finger painting, penmanship classes and playing kickball in Staten Island. It is where I made my first friends: Shola and Ada. I started elementary school at Hubert H. Humphrey (P.S. 57) in Staten Island. For the first time, I was published in a Staten Island newspaper. My picture was taken at a local park. Though all of my memories from that time are not as vivid as the ones mentioned, I can remember the presence of the “Wu” being a heavy one. Beyond the speculative notions of an older brother “stealing” one of their girlfriends, it was there, I started to hear the music and see the music that I am in love with today. In the music video for “Protect Ya Neck”, Method Man raps in front of and showcases building 160. We lived in building 240. “Protect Ya Neck” was their independent single release “which immediately gave the group a sizable underground following, especially after their tour with Kat Nu and Cypress Hill”, Wikipedia cites. *I interviewed DJ Muggs, Cypress Hill’s producer last year. Click here to read.

Wu-Tang might be (one of) the first independent act(s) to operate under an unorthodox business model in which they started multiple imprints, became a part of multiple groups within their group, identify by several monikers, create multiple products and successful businesses (Wu Wear and Wu Nails), collaborated with other companies (Clark Wallabees) and successfully recorded solo albums (lending to solo careers) that garnered millions of dollars.

As an adult, I like to look at the creation of Wu-Tang as a proactive solution to their surroundings: crimes, violence and all other unpleasant things happening in New York City at the time of their conception. In fact, because of the mentioned crimes and violence, my family moved back to Queens.

Beyond his accolades and genius, I’d like to think RZA is a living example of how keeping busy can help you stay off of the streets. Constant productivity kills (your) idle time.

In present day, we’ve been blessed to develop and produce viral videos that contain two of the greatest members. See the footage below:


Day 7:


Tyler, the Creator


Tyler, the Creator



Like the man above, Tyler, the Creator is the de facto of his collective “Odd Future” that also has many members: musical and nonmusical. According to Tyler, there are over 60 members of Odd Future. Since the release of his controversial music video for a song called “Yonkers”, Tyler has acquired critical acclaim for what he chooses to write about, tweet about and rap about. As bane and rude as he might be, you cannot deny his creativity and genius.

This Internet Age phenomenon has been nominated for O Music Awards (“Most Outrageous Tweet”), NME Awards, and won both MTV Video Music Awards for “Best New Artist” and both MTV2 Sucker Free Awards for “Rookie of the Year” and “Must Follow Artist”.

At the end of this video, Tyler raps about Odd Future’s beginnings:

Last year at Paid Dues Festival, I had the opportunity to see Odd Future live (without Earl). Painfully, the crowd roared most when Tyler appeared or spat his verses and the roars lessened when anyone else rapped. At a point in the show, Tyler talked about the set “sucking”. However, the set design was beautiful and Left Brain grilled, tossed hamburger meat into the audience and fed random fans like a gentleman would.

As of March 2012, “Loiter Squad”, a new television comedy series produced by dickhouse (same production company that produced “Jackass”) aired. Watch the second season’s trailer only if you are not easily offended.

In April, Tyler is set to release his second studio album “Wolf” on Odd Future Records. We just preordered that one, too. Golf Wang.


Day 8:


Coodie & Chike


Coodie & Chike



Musical giant Kanye West has this director duo to thank for his empirical debut music video “Through The Wire”. Coodie and Chike are the creators of Creative Control, online television network that has been linked to DD172, an umbrella media company started by Damon Dash with a location on Duane Street in TriBeCa, New York.

During my time at DD172, I had the chance to meet both of them. They are really nice guys. One evening, Coodie shared two Snickers bars with me!

Lately, the twosome released a 78-minute documentary titled “Benji” about the short life and 1984 death of basketball player Ben Wilson. It debuted at the TriBeCa / ESPN Sports Film Festival on April 20, 2012 as a world premiere.

Coodie & Chike are responsible for some of your favourite artists biggest moments: Erykah Badu’s “Window Seat”, Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks”, Gil Scott-Heron’s “Me And The Devil“. For a detailed explanation of each video listed, kindly click to read their interview with ESPN.

To watch the music videos they’ve directed, click here.


Day 9:


Black Thought


Black Thought


(Written by Tuesday)

Celebrating Black History Month is a reminder to be proud of our history — no matter how negative our past or current environment is. Positivity is contagious, almost as contagious as the vibrations coming from Black Thought of The Roots.

I want to start off this article by saying I love strong black me, and Tariq Trottet is one of them. Born October 3, 1973 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tariq attended the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts where he converted to Islam and became a member of The Nation of Gods and Earths. The Nation of Gods and Earths, also widely known as the Five Percent Nation is an American organization founded in 1964 in Harlem, New York. Founder Clarence 13x was a former student of Malcolm X. Later, Tariq attended Millersville University (which upon our research we noted the most popular majors including: Education; Business, Management, Marketing, Social sciences, Engineering, Technologies, and Psychology.) I found it interesting while researching the school that Performing Arts its not listed or featured on the website. Which warranted a phone call, mostly because the Wikipedia info on Black Thought is very scarce. We want to know what you studied at Millersville, well — at least I do. (Laughs) For this reason, this article will be long, only because people need to know how this man impacts Black culture.

While at Millersville University Black Thought met and became friends with ?uestlove aka Ahmir Thompson and soon after formed a drummer / MC duo performing on the streets of Philadelphia and at local talent shows. Black Thought was also an MC, along with Malik B, in the group Square Roots which later changed to become “The Roots”. “The Roots”released their debut album Organix in 1993 in preparation for a concert in Germany. Yes Germany! The Roots signed to DGC (David Geffen Records a subsidiary company of Geffen records, now owned by Universal Music Group / Interscope Records) and followed up with sophomore album “Do You Want More?!!!??!” in 1995. The Roots are the only Hip-Hop band to date that plays with a live band and composes their own music scores. “Do You Want More?!!!??!” was recorded without any sampling, and because of live instruments The Roots unique sound was more popular in alternative genres and festivals such as Lollapalooza, Montreux Jazz Festival and Woodstock.

As a band, The Roots have broken barriers in Hip-Hop because they are widely celebrated for their organic live performance skills, and the complex politically aware lyrical content of MC Black Thought. Generally the rule of thumb in mainstream Hip Hop is music with positive, or political messages take a backseat to the more “popular” ignorant music. However, even with this obstacle Black Thought of the Roots has been able to transcend the Hip Hop genre and break through the thick opaque fogginess and film of our subconsciousness. This breakthrough was apparent with a Nomination in 2000 at the 42nd Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album “Things Fall Apart”. While they didn’t win for best Rap Album, to me “Things fall Apart” is one of their most politically vocal albums garnering attention in recent years, but still happens to fall off the grid on popular music networks such as “Spotify”. We wonder why… However, they did snag a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a duo or a group for song “You Got Me” with Erykah Badu.

Currently, The Roots still perform live today, while ?uestlove and the acoustic band holds down a regular gig on “The Jimmy Fallon Show”. Recent albums include Betty Wright and The Roots: The Movie released in 2011 which was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 2012 for Best Traditional R&B Performer, and their thirteenth album “Undun” was also released December of 2011. If anything this shows the tremendous work ethic of “The Roots”.

Black Thoughts lyrics from “Water“. They say a record aint nothing if its not touching, gripping, draw you in closer make you want to listen to it, and if you real ill at making music the listener feel like you living through it, thats how my nigga do it”

Phrenology” released in 2002 spoke of the negative effects of drugs on friends, family, the community, and in the music industry. Black Thought’s use of lyrics / music to help combat the ongoing crime / violence, racial, and socio-economic struggles is unprecedented. “Phrenology” also received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album in 2002.

Black Thought‘s work in the community doesn’t stop at his lyrics. The Roots also gave us Jill Scott or “Jilly from Philly” and Black Thought can be seen at the annual “Lets move it Philly!” Concert to benefit the health of young girls, which is the bigger part of the GrassROOTS community foundation movement. GrassROOTS was founded by Tarik Trotter and Sociologist Janic Johnson-Dias. The foundation GrassROOTS is the result of our Flotus Michelle Obama‘s national call to improve the health of our children. The foundation’s mission is to create a world where girls grow up to be healthy women. GrassROOTS targets 10 cities in the U.S. where women and girls experience the highest rates of obesity, breast cancer, suicide and HIV / AIDS. These major cities include: Augusta, Ga., Louisville, Ky., Memphis, Tenn.; New Orleans, La., Oklahoma City, Okla., Birmingham, Ala., Philadelphia, Greensboro, N.C., Jackson, Miss., and Newark, N.J.

We hope this helps to highlight and bring recognition to the work of a prolific man, Black Thought, “The Roots” an amazing band, and the foundation GrassROOTS! They are doing good work, and should receive many accolades and acknowledgments.


Day 10:




Mathew Knowles




Day 11:




Aaron McGruder


(Written by Real)

In the midst of rampant African American pop culture influencing the day-to-day lives of the African American youth and culture, with it’s mainstream portrayal and glamorization of wasteful extravagance, self-defeating lifestyles, and ignorance. The African American culture found a beacon of light in the form of Aaron McGruder. The Chicago, Illinois born and Columbia, Maryland raised, Aaron McGruder, is the creator of the popular comic strip and television series by the same name, The Boondocks.

African American culture and American politics as seen through the eyes of its protagonist, 10-year-old afrocentric radical Huey Freeman. The Boondocks was a daily syndicated comic strip that ran from 1996 to 2006. Created by McGruder in 1996 for The Diamondback, the student newspaper at the University of Maryland, College Park. The strip moved from the college pages after an editing mishap in 1997, and was then moved and printed in the monthly Hip-Hop magazine The Source later in ‘97. As it gained popularity, the comic strip was picked up by the Universal Press Syndicate and made its national debut on April 19, 1999, on newspapers nationwide.

A popular and controversial strip, especially for it’s explicit and flagrant use of the word “nigga”, The Boondocks depicts 10-year-old Huey Freeman and his younger brother, 8-year-old Riley Freeman, two young African American boys who have been moved out of South Side of Chicago by their grandfather to live with him in the predominantly white fictional suburb of Woodcrest. This relates to McGruder‘s childhood move from Chicago to a white, Maryland suburb. Huey seems to be the Author Surrogate of McGruder (Meaning Huey speaks for McGruder through the comic) being named after the Black Panther Huey P. Newton, is the politically perceptive devotee of afrocentric ideals of the past few decades, and is harsh critic of many aspects of modern African American culture. For example, he very hard on the contemporary Hip-Hop culture, as well as commonly critiquing the Bush Administration, preferring the ideals and theories of various left-wing social movement and social justice leaders. Riley, by contrast, is enamored of “gangsta” rap culture and the “thug” mentality and lifestyle that come with it. Riley is used as an allegorical reference to the young naïveté that a large population of the African American youth portrays, Huey acting as a voice of reason. Their grandfather is a firm disciplinarian, World War II veteran, and former Civil Rights activist who is offended by both their values and ideas, depicting the older generation of African Americans who aren’t able to keep up with the fast paced ideals of the every growing and expanding African American culture.

I feel as though many people have failed to truly capture the message of The Boondocks, only allowing themselves to be caught up with the jocular nature of the show and strip. A lot of individuals who have watched it are usually heard repeating the comedic dialogue and hilarious situations The Boondocks portrays, but seem to over look the fact that it is a satire. The Boondocks speaks a huge message on how we as African American individuals need to be better and improve in our day-to-day lives. We need to stop idolizing the rappers of today and start understanding the knowledges found in books and classrooms about the philosophies and ideals of the world, human beings, and the places that we need to go as a race, The Human Race.

So, we here at GrungeCake, would like to dedicate Day 11 of Black History Month to Aaron McGruder and his creation, The Boondocks, for taking the time to speak out on the social injustices the African American community is placing upon itself, and asking us to do the only thing we should be doing. Do better.


*All citations and image credit will be available in March.

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is the North American Press Agent and US Business Manager for Oxlade; Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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