From the power of Black spirituals and gospels that originated in Africa to the Harlem Cultural Festival of the 1960s, music is a fundamental element of Black history. That’s why in February, as part of their ongoing Black History is Happening Now initiative, Spotify created a line of limited-edition clothing and accessories inspired by contemporary music merch. The collection specifically celebrates the way Black creators have shifted the culture and shaped the music we know and love.
“We really wanted to tap into the way that we, as Black people, show Black pride,” says Kenia Perez, Associate Creative Director at Spotify. “And one of those ways—throughout history and now in our lives today—is through clothing. As a company rooted in music, merch makes sense for us as a focal point, and this is also a way for people to express their pride. When people wear the merch, we’re taking this conversation out into the world and continuing the dialogue.”
Spotify collaborated with Black music historian and researcher Naima Cochrane and the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture’s Curator of Music and Performing Arts, Dr. Dwandalyn R. Reece, to identify six moments and figures in Black music history. These included the Harlem Cultural Festival, the Chitlin Circuit Black where musicians could play during the Jim Crow era, modern Afro-Latinx rap and hip-hop, and specific artists such as disco queen Sylvester and rock pioneer Rosetta Tharpe. Each of these moments was associated with both a Spotify-curated playlist and a piece of clothing. Fans could use their phones to scan the Spotify code on the merch and get taken straight to the music, available on the Black History is Happening Now Hub which was available until February 28.
“It’s important that music and history are part of a continuum, and that when you look at these stories and moments, we begin to see the connections between our own history and our own music—no matter what generation of music you’re listening to. I want people to see those continuities,” explains Dr. Reece.
To bring every aspect to life, we collaborated with two Black visual artists—Joy Miessi and Brandan “B Mike” Odums—to make the “Wear Black History Collection,” a limited-edition collection that transforms these six cultural moments and figures into wearable art. “I wanted to approach this not just through the rearview mirror, but also to think about how they can inform where we’re going,” says Odums.
On February 23, Spotify held an exhibit showcasing these clothes and bringing each of the six moments to life in New York City. “Wear Black History is our love letter to Black music,” said Shannon Ross, Associate Creative Director at Spotify, at the event. “Black History is Happening Now started last March. Today is a culmination of that year of celebrating Black history.”
Black History is Happening Now, developed in partnership with creative collective Saturday Morning, celebrates and amplifies the voices of Black artists, creators, and organizations year-round. You can learn more about our Black History hub takeovers from Janelle Monáe and Pharrell Williams, as well as our Sound Up Bootcamp.
Reflecting on the moments and merch, designer Joy Miessi said, “I hope that people take it in, have pride in Blackness and their identity, and be encouraged to stand out like these people have, and to feel empowered.”