US weekly said Miley Cyrus is the “Empress of Twerking.” Let me tell you something. If anybody was the Empress of Twerking, it was the talented and world renown Josephine Baker.
Or perhaps these amazing Ugandan dancers I had the privilege of seeing perform live outside of Kampala.
Maybe these Nigerian women (and men!) dancing at a wedding while elders shower them with money
Or the myriad beautiful black teenagers and women I have seen putting in WERK at house parties and clubs right here in these United States.
(the Twerk Team, the ACTUAL people who brought twerking to popular attention, but happened to not be blonde and white and make millions off of doing so)
There is no fundamental difference between any of these people except that a racist dominant culture has convinced us to not celebrate the latter, and made us ashamed of things We created by projecting hypersexualization and deviance onto them.
And to make things worse, “twerking” (among MANY other aspects of black culture) has been appropriated by white artists who want to use blackness and black bodies as props and tools to express their “edginess” or rebellion or whatever. Artists who want to play at “ratchet” by shaking their booties and flaunting grills while black teenagers like Trayvon Martin who play at ratchet in the exact same way, who text an innocuous, braggadocious pic to their friends, have their lives deemed troubled and unworthy of protection. Artists who want to perform blackness while enjoying protection from all the actual challenges and stigma of being black in America. Artists from Elvis Presley to Miley Cyrus.
Many people have declared that Miley’s ridiculous VMA performance “killed twerking”; it is dead and over now. I want to make clear that Miley Cyrus cannot kill twerking, because she did not give it life. I will not give her the power to turn a version of an ancient form of black cultural expression into a fad and render it obsolete. Black people have been dancing variants on this theme for millenia, and tomorrow black people from ceremonial circles to da club will continue doing the same exact movements we been doing whole time. You can colonize, stigmatize, and appropriate black culture but you cannot kill it or sweep it under a rug when you are through with it and expect it to quietly wither away.
I refuse to affirm the appropriation. I refuse to participate in the demonization of Us. I will celebrate. I will keep twerking.