The Significance of Black Music Month

What is Black Music Month?

From hip-hop to jazz to soul to funk and blues, Black musicians and artists have created and expanded a variety of musical genres and popular songs that people across America have been inspired by for centuries. In recognition of the outstanding and creative contributions of Black and African American musicians, Black Music Month (also known as African American Music Appreciation Month) was established by Kenny Gamble, an innovative Black musician in the soul tradition.

June was designated Black Music Month by former president Jimmy Carter on June 7, 1979; however, it was not made an official presidential proclamation until 1998. Learn more in this video about how journalist and broadcaster Dyana Williams and other Black activists worked with Congress to formally acknowledge Black Music Month:


A Brief History of Black Music and Influential Musicians

  • Soul and gospel music existed in early America as a means of communication among Black slaves.
  • The post-Civil War era led to the creation of the blues genre, featuring notable artists such as Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith.
  • R&B came on the scene from the 1910s-1960s as people moved from rural areas to cities. Ruth Brown was one influential contributor to this genre, eventually becoming known as the “Queen of R&B.”
  • The Civil Rights Movement saw the emergence of James Brown and George Clinton producing funk and rock style music.
  • The 1980s and 1990s birthed hip-hop and rap as primary styles influencing current musicians such as Lizzo, Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

A common thread throughout Black music is that its genres are often borne from suffering and injustice, expressing both the struggles and the triumphs that are experienced through such experiences.

Effects of Parental Incarceration on Children, Families and the Community

Children of incarcerated parents are overrepresented among Black communities, with many witnessing or experiencing repeated violence or neglect and often suffering life-long, traumatic effects from their experiences. Sometimes the effects of their traumas can lead them to repeat negative behaviors that were learned in their early environments, such as stealing from or fighting with others, which can cause them to end up in juvenile detention, jail or prison. Additionally, when a parent is incarcerated, the family often experiences economic instability through the loss of income, poverty and even homelessness.

How Sparks for Success is Making an Impact through Music

Sparks for Success provides music therapy for elementary-aged children of inmates in Title 1 (economically disadvantaged) schools in Central Texas. These kids are often overlooked by their peers, adults and even the school system due to stigma. During sessions, Sparks’ music therapists often incorporate music created or influenced by the Black community to provide positive attention for these children, the innocent victims of a parent’s crime, and help them develop beneficial ways to cope with their traumas. Through learning life-long social and emotional skills such as taking turns or active listening, the children are also learning how to make good choices in the midst of oftentimes negative peer influences or home environments. These skills can then help them stay in school and graduate, find and maintain steady employment, and prevent them from getting into gangs or doing drugs.

Just as Black music has inspired people for centuries, Sparks uses music as a conduit through which children of inmates can experience change in their own lives, break out of the cycle of generational incarceration and poverty, and, in turn, positively impact their communities.

Want to be part of the positive ripple effect that music can have in shaping a child’s future?

Donate Today