The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes From Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop by Kyra D. Gaunt New York University Press, February 2006 $20, ISBN 0-814-73120-1
While attending an academic conference in 1994, ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt's attention was drawn to the sound of a handclapping game being played in the hall by nine-year-old twin sisters Jasmine and Stephanie. The familiar rhythm and rhyming of the girls' Slide or Numbers games brought back memories of Gaunt's own youthful play of Mary Mack and Miss Lucy.
Gaunt, then a doctoral student, interviewed the twins and observed them at play. She noted both similarities and differences between these modernized hand games and those she and her peers had played growing up.
In The Games Black Girls Play, the author describes how "dances and social spaces are re-remembered through play" and that a bold and independent "kinetic orality" exists among black girls at play. Their play is body-conscious musicality that proceeds without instruments, music or stage and is not formally taught by their elders but is rather experienced as an open call of improvisation among peers. Amiri Baraka (a.k.a. LeRoi Jones) describes this as "changing sameness," and says that it goes back to times of slavery. The author argues, here, that the continuity of black girls' games is similar to the "sampling" so evident in the male-dominated music of hip-hop.
With additional interviews and research into music, race and gender, Gaunt describes the handclapping, cheers and dances not only as transference of oral patterns and body-conscious musicality among girls, but also as the most elementary forms of "learned musical blackness" In...