Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Fist Bump (Pound) Black Handshakes

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part III of a four part series on American hand gestures. Part III of this series focuses on fist bumps and other examples of dap handshakes.

Each of the posts in this series focus on hand gestures that were either created by African Americans or have been most closely associated with African Americans.

For Part I of this series (Five On The Black Hand Side handshakes), click

For Part II of this series (High Fives),

For Part IV of this series "Giving Daps (Intricate Handshakes)", click

The content of this post is presented for historical, folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes. The copyrights remain with their owners.

My thanks to the authors of the quoted article, the producers of the featured videos, and those persons appearing in the videos. My thanks also to the uploaders of those videos.

"The fist bump (also called Pound, Bro Fist, Fist Pound, Fo' Knucks, Bones, knuckle bump, knuckle touch or Spud and Cuff (British slang), is a gesture similar in meaning to a handshake or high five. A fist bump can also be a symbol of giving respect. It can be followed by various other hand and body gestures and may be part of a dap greeting. It is commonly used in baseball as a form of celebration with teammates, and with opposition players at the end of a game.

The gesture is performed when two participants each form a closed fist with one hand and then lightly tap the front of their fists together. The participant's fists may be either vertically-oriented (perpendicular to the ground) or horizontally-oriented. Unlike the standard handshake, which is typically performed only with each participants' right hand, a fist bump may be performed with participants using either hand."
-end of quote-
[Italics added to highlight that sentence.]

Note that there are multiple ways that a fist bump can be performed. This article doesn't mention the two handed "pound" - two people exchanging a pound (fist bump) with both of their hands at the same time.

The horizontal fist bump appears to be much more familiar to the general American public than the horizontal form of this hand gesture. I think this is largely due to that being the form that is most used by basketball & baseball players. Also, on June 3, 2008, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama exchanged a horizontal fist bump during a televised presidential campaign speech in St. Paul, Minnesota upon clenching the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. As a result of that -I believe- spontaneous gesture, the fist bump has received a great deal of exposure in the mainstream American media. The Obamas exchanging a fist bump appeared to be the first time that many non-Black Americans were aware of that hand gesture, to the point that a number of media commentators were unsure what to call it. And some used that action for their own political agendas [i.e. calling it a "terrorist fist jab"].

Notwithstanding the increased awareness of the horizontal fist bump, I believe that the vertical pound is an older form of that hand gesture. A common African American term for the fist bump ("pound") comes from the vertical form of that hand gesture in which one fist is hit on top of another. In this context "pound" means to "hit down on something- like pounding a nail with a hammer".

From "On Language: Fist Bump by William Safire
"Prof. Geneva Smitherman, director of African-American language study at Michigan State University, says:... "Pound is when knuckles touch in a horizontal position. That’s the gesture that Michelle and Barack used. Dap is when the knuckles touch in a vertical position. Both gestures can be used as a greeting, to signal respect, agreement, bonding.”

Dap started among black soldiers during the Vietnam War; to give “some dap” (not usually “a” dap) means “to offer kudos, congratulations”; Prof. James Peterson of Bucknell, a hip-hop historian, says he thinks it is rooted in dapper, “neat, fashionably smart.” Pound came out of hip-hop in the late 1980s. Fist bump came later: a 1996 note in the Sports Network wire service reported that Eddie Murray of the Baltimore Orioles was accepting congratulations from baseball teammates with “high-fives, handshakes or fist bumps.” Peterson says the new phrase robs the gesture of its cultural significance, which includes the Obamas’ “quiet but pronounced in-group affiliation with all of black America.” "
There are many theories about the origin & popularization of the fist bump. Rather than delve into those theories in this post, I'll showcase a few video examples of that hand gesture. In Part IV of this series, I'll present more information about "dap" and showcase examples of athletes and others exchanging "dap" (intricate) handshakes that may include fist bumps.

Video #1: hanes charlie sheen and mj spot

Uploaded by postadvertising on May 30, 2008

This is hanes' new commercial with charlie sheen and mj. [Michael Jordan]


This ad, published before the Obamas fist bump, includes a comedic attempt at a fist bump by a non-Black actor while the Black basketball player starts to greet him with a standard handshake.

Video #2: Obama's finest fist bumps

Published on Nov 30, 2016
A look back at President Obama's countless fist bumps.
This video replaces the one that was previously embedded in this post but is no longer available.

Video #3: Usain Bolt fist bumps Glasgow volunteer | Unmissable Moments

Commonwealth Games, Published on Aug 3, 2014

Great scenes at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as Jamaica's Usain Bolt shares a low five and a fist bump with a young volunteer.
This video replaces one that featured daps instead of fist bumps.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Carlton playing gangster in Compton.flv

embedding disabled by request

1:41-1:42 - an example of a vertical fist bump between Carton & Will. In this example, that fist bump appears to be made as both a sign of greeting and sign of approval. More examples from this video clip will be cited in Part IV of this pancocojams series.

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