In honor of Black History Month, I give you Bad Brains.
It's funny how kids at school are forced to learn about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Rodney King, and a myriad of other useless information, but never a mention of black contributions to what many considered the fringes of American society - which, when you think about it, is where true change most often begins.
Bad Brains fit that description. They existed in a movement largely political in nature, but at the same time, largely a movement centered on pushing the boundaries of a society stuck in the mire of acceptance, mediocrity, and stability based on unstable ideals.
Bad Brains were an influential band during the Punk Revolution of the late 70's and early 80's. They somehow managed - minus the aid of major media, big record companies, or MTV, to carve out a large following in a genre so closely tethered to neo-nazi types and whites that the thought of a black punk band never entered the minds of those following the movement from the outside.
In this, I think Bad Brains made a statement about Punk that is all too often lost in translation. Punk - and by association, Hardcore - which, when you get right down to it, Bad Brains were - was a movement of social change. Much like the pontifications of X and the peaceful pleadings of MLK, Bad Brains were instrumental in shifting the paradigm of acceptance, of political expression, and breaking the strangle hold of mainstream America on the minds of the youth caught up in the punk expression – regardless of skin color.
One must realize that the punk movement was not centered around the bigotry or bias of race extremists. It was – and is - centered around questioning what one was told was truth with no evidence supporting such a dictate. Of course, there was a neo-nazi - to be refereed to as "fucker" - mentality on some levels of the scene, but the same can be seen in the hip-hop society that permeates our high schools, malls, and television today. However, in large, members of the punk scene did not subscribe to the base hate and intolerance the "fuckers" were preaching. In fact, I believe it was the Dead Kennedy's who sang "Fuck the Nazi Punks".
But that is a post for another time. Right now, I would like to take a minute and recognize the unheralded accomplishment of Bad Brains. A black band in a largely white environment, coexisting with like minded white people, working to break the mold in which main stream society expected them fit.