Twerking 101 was in session when Houston Hottie Megan Thee Stallion took the stage to perform her hits at Essence Festival and invited women on the stage to showcase their twerking moves with “Tightrope” singer Janelle Monáe acting as a hype woman.
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While many applauded the moment, others, like soulful R&B singer India.Arie disapproved. The “Brown Skin” singer respectfully took to the comments to decry the viral moment, clarifying she adored Megan and Janelle.
“The issue is what is context. Humanity does everything. But does everything belong in a stage? No,” India.Arie wrote. “Is everything for kids? No. Is everything for everybody? No. So, when we as a culture make something like this mainstream, it shows a lack of discretion and discernment. To those in the comments who laugh at anyone who wants these things for our culture, you certainly have that right. Just as many folks have the right to want our mainstream international export — our music — to show us in a respectful light.”
She continued, “I’d like to go on the record saying: This won’t age well, and that’s my issue. I love Janelle and Meg the way I love us all, and I don’t like this moment. Don’t bother debating me, lol. [I don’t care], and I do this. For 25 years, I’ve done this. So, read, ponder or don’t.”
Many in the comments voiced India. Arie’s thoughts while others defended the video stating twerking has been a part of Black culture.
“Please read your history before you call our cultural traditions’ ghetto’ and ‘ratchet’ and go watch some traditional African dance videos,” one person commented.
Those who argued that the dance was a part of Black culture and history for centuries aren’t wrong.
The word “twerking” came to life in the early ’90s in New Orleans, where men and women thrust their hips to whatever beat they heard, but the dance aligned with Mapouka, a dance from Côte d’Ivoire — a country in West Africa — that originated in the 1900s.
There were two forms of the dance. One was the more conservative form West Africans performed at ceremonies to celebrate joy or for religious worship. The other and more scandalous form became popular among the young Ivorians. It was even seen as a mating dance. Yet, government officials in the ’80s saw the modern version as lewd and banned it. It became legal again in West Africa in the 2000s after the dance spread to the US.
From Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith to Josephine Baker and Beyoncé, Black women carried and cherished the dance and its influence for centuries. Yet, it didn’t become mainstream until the Miley Cyrus scandal at the MTV Awards when she gyrated her hips and twerked on Robin Thicke during “Blurred Lines.”
“I wish that a Black woman could have popularized twerking in the mainstream,” Lizzo said, adding that the things Black people invented are “co-opted, appropriated and taken by pop culture.”
Twerking is one of them.
So, it’s reasonable that India.Arie and others view Janelle and Megan encouraging the women on stage to twerk as inappropriate. And it’s the same for those who don’t see anything wrong since it has been in the Black culture for years.
However, many took the singer’s comment as her bashing Black women, and she took to her Instagram story to defend herself.
“I hate defending simple logic, so I’m going to just say this,” she wrote. “This is not an issue with any of my sisters. Period. I’m an old-school long-time affirming voice for women. My record speaks for itself. I love humanity, even in all its bulls**t, lol! And I’m saying is context matters. Debate that if you want, lol, but I said what I said. And why did I say it? Because just like everyone else, I am entitled to my option. But also, I do this work. My whole adult life…the work of uplighting and loving and affirming and supporting the wellness of Black woman and all people at large.”
She continued, “So, when I see something that sparks my personal mission…I speak. There’s no scandal here. Just one woman’s opinion…What I see here is the mainstreaming of cults that, IMHO, should be adult-only entertainment. And I’ve been saying this same thing for over 20 years.”
What the Black community can agree on is that Miley Cyrus ruined twerking for Black people.
Not too long ago, Janelle was slammed for flashing her breasts during a performance at Essence Festival.