Black Women in Punk: British Edition

Black women have always been at the forefront of any type of resistance, so it should come as no surprise that there are a number of punk bands (both past and present) who have featured black women in their ranks. As with black women in metal, black women in punk hold down group roles as singers, guitarists, bassists, drummers, and more.

Britain is the birthplace of the music genre now known as punk. As such, I wanted to first focus on a few British ladies who rock punk music, including quite a few who are (or were) foremothers in the field.

Pauline Black (The Selecter, top left): Pauline Black (born Belinda Magnus on October 23, 1953 in Romford, London, England) is the founding member of ska band The Selecter. The band was brought to fruition in 1979, a few years after the peak of the initial punk wave. Along with other ska bands such as the Specials and Madness, Black’s The Selecter have been credited with creating the ska revival movement. Black has also appeared on TV as an actress, and wrote her own autobiography entitled Black By Design, which was released in 2011. Suggested Song: On My Radio. Website: http://theselecter.net/. More information: Pauline Black (Wikipedia)

Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex, top middle): Poly Styrene (born Marianne Joan Elliot-Said on July 3, 1957 in Bromley, Kent, England) was the lead singer of the short-lived but highly influential punk band known as X-Ray Spex. Poly got the idea to form the band after seeing the Sex Pistols at a Hastings Pier performance on her birthday in 1976. The band launched their debut single in 1977, but dissolved in 1978 after Poly began having hallucinations. She was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Poly released her own solo project in 1980, and continued to put out music and perform until her death from breast cancer on April 25, 2011. Suggested Song: Oh Bondage Up Yours! More information: Poly Styrene (Wikipedia)

Rhoda Dakar (The Bodysnatchers, top right): Rhoda Dakar was born in Hampstead, London, England in 1959. She is best known as the lead singer for the band The Bodysnatchers. The band released their first single in 1979, a double A-side with “Let’s Do Rocksteady” on one side and “Ruder Than You” on the other. The band toured with The Selecter, and collaborated with many other ska bands such as The Specials. Rhoda continues to perform and put out music, with her last album having been released in August 2015 (Rhoda Dakar Sings The Bodysnatchers). Suggested Song: Let’s Do Rocksteady Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rhodadakarofficial More information: Rhoda Dakar (Wikipedia)

Kalia Whyte (Youth Man, bottom left): Kalia Whyte is the explosive front woman and guitarist of Birmingham, London based punk band Youth Man. Highly recommended for fans of hardcore punk that makes you want to mosh and scream, and one of my personal favorite bands. Check them out on Bandcamp or on Facebook. Suggested song: Pigs Photo credit: andyhphoto

Beverley Ishmael (The Tuts, bottom right): And last, but certainly not least, there’s punk pop powerhouse The Tuts, featuring Beverley Ishmael on drums. Another one of my personal favorite bands, who I love for their empowering lyrics. Listening to this band will make you want to get out there and emphatically smash the patriarchy, whether you’re male, female, or anything in between. You can find them on Bandcamp and on Facebook, among many other social media outlets. Suggested song: 1982

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This is the first part of a dedicated series exploring black women who make punk music. Am I missing anyone here? Let me know in the comments. And stay tuned!

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