I’ll admit that, when it comes to pop culture — dance, film, music, etc. — I’m not always on top of it. But, as a general rule, I know enough to separate the real from the memes. So, I was fairly certain that the Harlem Shake videos that have been taking over the web have little to do with Harlem, and probably not with a real Harlem Shake. When I checked to see what the real Harlem Shake is, what it looks like, I was thrilled to find Melissa Harris-Perry’s explanation of it — and an awesome team of real Shakers showing us how it’s done — as well as an incredibly passionate and articulate account of why co opting the real Harlem Shake for the meme du jour is problematic. Definitely check it out.
It’s not just the story of Harlem culture being co opted but also of all sorts of cultural expression created by African Americans during the time of racial segregation…when the performers and artists were the only people of color allowed in so many spaces.