England has been under the leadership of Queen Elizabeth II for nearly 70 years. The Queen is widely renowned for being the longest-reigning monarch in the world, having taken the throne in 1952 at 26-years-old. She inherited the seat after the passing of her father, leaving the title of king of England vacant. While the royal family is due to have a king in place after Elizabeth II, there are three lads in London who are staking claim to the king in their own right. And they dare you to dispute it with their name and approach. 

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“A popular filament in lightbulbs was created by a Black man. Jack Daniel’s whiskey was created by a slave named Nearest Green… Your refrigerator, the traffic light, the Super Soaker, the technology behind caller ID, potato chips– there’s a jillion and one things that we use everyday that Black people invented or advanced that people either don’t know or don’t care to know.”

This quote comes from Queen Esther, a Black country musician, writer, and speaker who teaches the origins of country music, and its African inspirations. The banjo, Queen Esther says, comes from the akonting, an instrument from West Africa. This is verifiably true, and the instrument only found its way into white culture because slave masters were taught the instrument by their slaves. Why is it, then, that the banjo, bluegrass, and American folk music are primarily associated with white people? 

Ultimately, this is indicative of a larger problem with racial relations in America. History is written by the victors, and in America, that means that the history and accomplishments of people of color are often ignored and disregarded. Queen Esther’s quote is taken from “Tell Me Who You Are: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture, & Identity,” a book that details a possible solution to this problem. That solution is what authors Priya Vulchi and Winona Guo call “racial literacy.”

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Ask anybody how they listen to music, and the majority of their answers will probably be Spotify, Apple Music, or some other online streaming service. Thirty years ago, if you wanted to listen to a specific song on demand, you would have to go to a record store and buy a copy of the album or wait for it to be played on the radio. Since then, the way we consume music has constantly evolved. In the early 2000s, digital music downloads were invented, and streaming services like YouTube, Pandora, and Soundcloud followed soon after. Some record stores survived, as a lot of people still wanted to buy physical copies of albums. Mixtapes, however, found themselves in a perilous situation. They didn’t find their home online immediately like mainstream album releases did, but the advent of streaming services meant that many did not want to buy mixtapes from the corner, or wait for them in the mail. Mixtapes eventually found their home on digital platforms, but for a while, their future was unclear. DJs who made a living making and selling these tapes had to find a way to adapt, or risk being lost to obscurity.

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