This thinkpiece is dedicated to all the Black creators and entrepreneurs as a small reminder that even the greats were often imitated but NEVER duplicated. Your work is valued and inspiring enough to take, but the real question is -- is it respected enough to be recognized?
Unfortunately I would have to say... No.
In an era where everyone does it for the culture and often for the clout, Black creatives are too frequently subject to being last in place for recognition and support for their contributions to society. From the runway to viral dance crazes and even discussions in the political arena, the Black community rarely is recognized as the pioneers for our own original ideas, content, and movement. As small business owners and even artists try to leverage their platforms to share their craft with the world, the blessing and curse of the Internet holds us susceptible to having our intellectual property taken and never getting the credit for our work.
Too often I have seen brands and influencers use their platforms to get likes, shares, and reposts, using 'inspo' content and never recognizing the true artist when the engagement puts them in the spotlight. Visionaries like @TheEditorialNail (whose work is consistently reposted by other nail art accounts and rarely retagged), @HanifaOfficial (who brought a virtual avant-garde fashion show to life with the launch of her brand and somehow was overshadowed by the same concept with just well-known brand names), @Jalaiah (the original creator of the renegade dance made popular on TikTok by everyone but the original dancer) and so many more!
In this digital age we should make it our goal to support the brands that are actively pushing the envelope on creativity and thinking outside of the box to keep us engaged and excited. It is of course the responsibility of anyone with a social media platform and WiFi to give credit where it is due and recognize brands and influencers for their contributions to the culture. When thinking about Black culture, we should more specifically recognize and call out the culture vultures who make the lifestyle a trend when it's convenient and downplay what we bring to the table that we built anyway.
To my creators of the universe, continue to set the tone for what the future of your industry will look like. Your hard work may not always be recognized but you have true allies fighting the good fight with you and for you and your time to shine is closer than you might think.
You would think years of being taught to never plagiarize in school and the ever so needed (but clearly never used) MLA Work Cited page at the end our essays, some people would be more careful and conscious of using the work of others as a stepping stone but I guess if you figure no one will actually fact check - why bother giving credit? Well I promise you we are looking, we are checking, and we are calling you out for doing it for the culture and the clout.