At 3:03 am and I’m wide AWAKE listening to My Uzi from The God Box album.
I have many perspectives of my blackness and even still my perspective is limited simply because I do not have the experience of being anything else in this life.
I’ll talk briefly about those perspectives, now.
I adore my blackness neck and neck with my femininity and my sexuality. I stand in it, loud and proud; the only way I know how. The only way I ever want to.
Through my self-expression– a crown of locs, headwraps, oversized earrings, urban vernacular, African print, hip-hop music, and activist apparel –I am a billboard of pro-blackness. This is so much bigger than making a fashion statement, but you better believe I do that, too.
In my American upbringing, my knowledge of blackness is a tall leaky tale filled with untruths, half-truths, hanging by a tree limb, burned in our front yards, riddled with bullet holes, and stained with the blood of genocide.
Oh, but the goldmine of melanin streaming in my DNA speaks a deeper, more sacred truth.
I have made my position clear without ever opening my mouth.
A student once asked me why I am pro-black and I gave her the same answer I had been given. In a world of anti-blackness, I have to be. I am because I love to be.
Stereotypes of Blackness
Growing up in my city, at least the part I knew, the majority of the population was and still is black. I knew many black leaders; educators, physicians, nurses, business owners, and politicians. I was never aware of any idea that my blackness made me “less” than any other grouped people. Now, separate is a different story.
Growing up, I had limited interactions with anyone that wasn’t black. The contact I did have happened mostly because I spent school breaks in Miami with my dad.
I only had black friends. I only had black family. I went to an all black school; all black church. We are all I knew.
I can’t remember exactly when I first encountered this idea of blackness being thug, ghetto, criminal, promiscuous, dirty, poor, etc. I was a teenager transitioning to the suburb of Atlanta; Talk about a wake up call.
I came from a place where blackness was a bit of everything. Wealthy and broke; moral and criminal. Not sure when I became aware of these stereotypes, but I was pretty fucking appalled.
I wasn’t too concerned though, because I was pretty certain of who I was. At least that’s what I thought. Truthfully, I hadn’t began to consider my blackness or how it factored in to who I am. I was just being me and being black was all I knew.
I gauged all sides of the argument as much as I could– pro-black, anti-white, anti-black and all the grey areas among them. I had been subconsciously making a choice. I chose me, and ain’t no denying who I am.
In college, I went natural and joined a black sorority, got on board with a few causes and participated in a couple of discussions. They were insightful, but not really my thing. We sounded like wounded victims, angry and resentful beggars, and none of it resonated with me.
Another stereotype of blackness; helpless and hopelessness.
Whitewashing black history
As I recall, we celebrated black history a lot in my city; mostly through school and church– class projects, papers, field trips, programs, and plays. We celebrated black history. I don’t recall us celebrating our blackness. In retrospect, I recall it only being mentioned in certain context.
Anti-black insults happened pretty rampantly, though, without proper correction.
The first time my grandma heard me call my brother a “black dog” she pulled me to the side and set me straight real quick. I hadn’t understood the implications of what I was saying. It was just something I’d heard other kids say at school. I didn’t understand privilege (including my own) and I’m still learning.
Not knowing would never again be my excuse. I didn’t stop insulting my brother that day; I just did it less and less. I wouldn’t dream of insulting him in such a way, today. When you learn better, you do better.
Seeds of activism had been sown through this existence (Somebody tell my grandma this blog is her fault.)
Learning and reading the truth of my blackness became a passion of sorts. One day while rummaging through my aunts old college books bin (I have five), I came across a Malcolm X biography. I took it… I didn’t read it at that time, but I held on to it.
I still didn’t know enough about my blackness. I was too preoccupied with trying to do what I thought I was supposed to be doing… “Fitting in”. And I gave it my best go, but in the end it just wouldn’t stick.
In college, I beginning reading more books — slave narratives, The Murder of Innocence which told the story of Emmett Till, Black Like Me, The Color Purple, Black Boy, Coming of Age in Mississippi; And I adored Kindred a beautiful novel of historical and science fiction by Octavia Butler. Each and everything I read was helping me re-imagine blackness.
Today, I’ve read and own several titles like They Came Before Columbus and The New Jim Crow as well as The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and Medical Apartheid which I picked up after my mom passed of cancer in 2012
It’s true. Whitewashing black history is dangerous indeed.
MTA: Mississippi the Album
Lavell William Crump aka rapper-activist David Banner was also instrumental in the symphony of pro-blackness that is Me. His music was relatable. He rapped about things I knew well being from Mississippi and other things I knew nothing about having lived a somewhat sheltered life.
Mississippi isn’t known for churning out many popular hip-hop artist. Mostly, I was just a proud black Mississippian living in Atlanta, excited to listen to one of our own mainstream.
I likely wouldn’t have listened if I thought it was trash music.
Real girls get down on the flo’. Cadillac on 22’s.
His lyrics were passionate; his passion was contagious.
I was in love. I don’t fan over celebrities. It’s not my thing, but David Banner stirs the soul. He has my favorite country boy swag and a beautiful smile.
“David Banner, you’re one sexy ass muthafucka.”
The God Box album been on repeat since it dropped in 2017.
He recently made an appearance in Atlanta. The bestie sent me pics. Soooo jealous! I was in Guatemala or else I fasho’ would’ve been there.
There will be another opportunity so y’all should definitely stay tuned for that one. I’ll keep you posted on what’s up… I promise.
One evening during dismissal, students circled my desk,
“I’m creole. My family is mixed with Native American. My great grandparent (on my grandma sister cousin daddy side 🙄) wasn’t black.” They stood around discussing skin tones and not desiring to be “too black”. Talking to these kids, you’d think there was something wrong with being black. Out of the mouths of babes.
If you want to know what society is teaching us. Have a candid conversation with a class of middle school students; preferably minority.
“Ms. R, what are you mixed with?” one student asked. “Black”, I responded.
I explained to them that due to the history of slavery and the prevalent rape of black bodies, it’s pretty accurate to assume that we are all mixed with something. So why not embrace that for what it is and get back to being black. Then I asked them whether they thought whites or Native Americans were sitting around bragging about being mixed with black?
Oh, how keenly aware they are; we just need to bring it to the surface and offer some truth in our guidance.
I never wanted to be a teacher.
Ask my friends. I resisted with everything in me for almost two years. “Just do it for a little while”, one of my friends, who was a drama teacher at a middle school, urged. “It’s good money and you won’t have to struggle anymore.”
I caved. It was true. I was so tired of struggling, but I promised myself that if I did this I would not be a “system” player. If I was going to do this I was going to underground railroad this thing all the way.
I did not allow my students to degrade blackness or womanhood. I did my best to hold them accountable; teaching them what I could of self-reliance. It was not easy, however I enjoyed the results.
I decided to teach middle school because I felt it was such a critical and impressionable age. I actually had no idea how true that really is. I’ll tell you more about that when I talk about Jupiter returns.
If I was going to risk myself in this endeavor, I was going to free minds like Harriet freed slaves.
To Love Blackness
In 2012, my mother ascended to her bout with cancer. My divorce followed shortly thereafter.
What am I without my mother and my man? I’ll tell you what I was…
I was left spending the next six years of my life cultivating my unique vision of the black woman and what it is to exist as the black mother… redefining the ideas that resonate with the essence of my Being-ness.
I was learning to love my blackness from an entirely new perspective.
There is cognitive dissonance in the black experience. How do you hate what is love at its core? The desire to change what is already perfect goes far beyond personal preferences.
There is nothing we need to do except exist outside and beyond everything we’ve been taught about our blackness. Even our perceived greatest accomplishments.
To love blackness is self-love at its deepest, and you don’t have to be black for that statement to be true.
I don’t have anything to prove in my blackness. I don’t need to be able to tell you what happened to my people; who did what and when in terms of fighting for our equality. My existence is beyond enough. That story is etched in our DNA and in the DNA of humanity.
It just so happens to show up in my skin; the most beautiful display of history you will ever witness.
Divinity lives within our sacrifice. My blood and my breath is my history, but more than that it is my presence– ancient, soulful, and healing. I am a Goddess among man.
If you hate blackness, then you hate yourself. If you stand against what it is to be black, then you stand against yourself. If you’re trying to block or hinder blackness, you are only blocking and hindering yourself. To refuse blackness is to refuse the most important part of who you Are.
Regardless of your skin complexion, you are not separate from blackness. You have merely been convinced you are or that you possibly could be.
Black people aren’t the only ones being lied to about who we Are.
That being what it is, as the black woman I am in the highest position in the world as a creator. I need only embrace me as I am in order to achieve self-love tantamount to divine transformation.
To love blackness is radicalism; it is anarchy and rebellion.
To love blackness is self love and self love is revolutionary.
Stop considering their movements and motives; they are a non-factor. Who cares what they think or how they feel… rhetorical question… They is whomever you know them as– family, colleagues, acquaintances, or society at large.
I’m not trying to convince a soul that my life matters. I already know it does. Get back to loving blackness and everything else falls into place; as within, so without
And let’s be clear, loving yourself is not the same as loving blackness, even if you identify as black. Your self-love could be lacking and astoundingly superficial.
Through my self-expression– a crown of locs, headwraps, oversized earrings, urban vernacular, African print, hip-hop music, and activist apparel –I am a billboard of pro-blackness.
And fuck whoever don’t like it.