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June Sarpong Headshot

Is Black the new Black?

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Whether you are in to politics or racing you could justifiably claim that Black is in this season. With British racing star Lewis Hamilton the youngest person ever to win a Formula 1, Black is young, successful not to mention sexy - ask Nicole Scherzinger. Black is this season's must have. Many would argue that Black has always been cool. However the election of a Black American President takes Black from cool to credible and from political to powerful.

Unfortunately Black has not always been associated with such a positive collection. Last month, children in the UK would have studied Black history as part of Black History Month. Similarly in the U.S. Barak Obama becoming the first Black President-elect has caused many Americans to look back into their own Black history. The history of "Black" whether in the UK or the U.S. has been characterized by suffering, struggle and sacrifice. From slavery, to the assassination of civil rights leaders in the US, and from immigration to discrimination and race riots in Britain.

However it has been possible to buck these trends and Black has been nothing if not enduring, diverse and adaptable. Black has been the color of success in sports, music, media and of course fashion, as modeled so exquisitely by the British fashion icon Naomi Campbell. All of the above have captured the imagination of our young people and Black has become colorless as the hip hop generation of all colors dream of mirroring the success of Black achievers.

Black has been traditionally woven in to the fabric of socially deprived inner city areas, often accessorized by crime and violence in America and Britain. Ironically this negative collection of unfortunate stereotypes has become glamorized and at times promoted alongside a misogynistic range of rap lyrics as part of a grand design to make money at the expense of Blackness. This design took Black from authentic to commercial, as mainstream youth culture invests in a product that many blame for growing trends of gang culture, knife and gun crimes and the legitimization of the "N" Word.

This style of Black has not been a good look and the lack of positive and visible Black male role models some have argued has created a void which has been appropriated by cheaper imitations far less worthy of any admiration. To protect its young, gifted and Black consumers the UK Government has launched "Reach" a national mentoring program where Black men mentor black boys, seeking to raise aspiration and educational attainment. But with raised aspirations come higher expectations. Will Black be the color of choice for employers, investors and consumers? A recent edition of Vogue recently featured all Black models in response to criticism of racism against Black models in the fashion industry. It broke all records and was the highest selling issue ever and has had re-printed many times over.

Someone who knows all too well about high expectations is President-elect Barack Obama. However Barack has brought a new shade to Black which is fashionable and forward looking but also feels kind and comfortable. The Obama range is a winning brand and marketable to a broad demographic as evidenced at the ballot box. Black is not only an innovative and imaginative line for one season. Black is now a universal fabric of inspiration, hope and elation as worn by Obama supporters, readily available to all in every color.