Melissa Harris-Perry Brings Perspective to the Harlem Shake Trend (Video)

Melissa Harris-Perry sets the record straight on the Harlem Shake meme.
Melissa Harris-Perry sets the record straight on the Harlem Shake meme.

The Harlem Shake video meme has really taken on a life of its own. But, just like us, one journalist takes issue with the videos not really displaying the Harlem Shake and she finds it downright disrespectful…along with some residents of Harlem.

Melissa Harris-Perry is known for taking down political powerhouses from the right wing and defending the black community from disenfranchisement and other forms of injustice.  So, it is no wonder that the Harlem Shake meme has got under her skin.  She even took her mic to the streets of Harlem to see how residents felt about them and they were not happy.

Perry makes the very poignant case that the inaccurate display of the dance tends to rob the culture that built the dance phenomena over 20 years ago.  To show the community that created the dance their proper respect, the videos have to demonstrate the dance in its proper form.  The World Dictionary defines meme as:  an idea or element of social behavior passed on through generations in a culture, especially by imitation.  Harris-Perry righteously said:

“The Harlem Shake has a history and a trajectory embedded in the authentic lived urban experience.  It has been popular in New York since at least the 1980s…

“Now this is about more than a proper designation of a popular dance, it’s about cultural appropriation.  When communities create original art, they have a right to some creative control over it’s definition.  If you enter a ballroom dancing competition, you’d better not Cha Cha during the Waltz. Creative interpretation is expected to respect certain boundaries that’s what conveys the respect. And the wholesale application of the term Harlem Shake to flash mob boogie downs that are most definitely not the Harlem Shake…let’s say that’s problematic.”

Don’t mess with this sister, she is thorough! She penetrates even deeper when she speaks on the cultural theft of the historic Harlem community that is home to the Cotton Club and other known venues that we performed in, yet could not enjoy as patrons.

Check her out! She even invited the same dance crews we reported on last week when they threw their hat in the ring with The Real Real Real Harlem Shake.  They are The Crazy Boys and the Harlem Shakers.  Go!

-J.C. Brooks

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