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Recovering and reclaiming Black women’s place in music history

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Recovering and reclaiming Black women’s place in music history


In her forthcoming book, Shine Bright: A Very Personal History of Black Women in Pop, Danyel Smith writes, “Who else but a Black woman would lead me, or at least take me on trial runs?”

That question is an acknowledgement of the countless Black women who have shifted and shaped American popular music, and whose influence on Smith makes up the subject of Shine Bright. This path she describes is one that positions the music not just as entertainment, but as an integral part of Smith’s life and kinship with other Black women. “I feel a commonality with women who try to make things, women who are loud, women who say things, women who write things, [who] talk about themselves, sing about themselves,” Smith says in an interview with NPR. “I feel in league with them.”

Smith has, in her own way, been leading others down that path for over 30 years, in her work as a writer and editor for several publications, including Vibe and Billboard, and currently as the host of the podcast Black Girl Songbook, a show that Smith says, “exists to give Black women the credit that we deserve.” Shine Bright, which releases…

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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