Live Your Magic
As we begin to navigate the residual winds lingering behind after Black History Month’s end, there’s no better to time resurrect all that is the magic that moves melanated people around the planet. Blackness.
What exactly does that word mean to you?
Each year, when February 1st rolls around, everything from entertainment to education shifts into gear. Our schools blandly recite a chorus written to praise historical greats like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Movies replay solemn reels of “Roots” and “The Birth of a Nation”. While slavery in America is, and always will be, a paramount addition to Black History, we must remember – it is only an addition.
Africans in America and throughout the diaspora have collectively developed a rich cultural past that slavery merely interrupted. Blackness encompasses all the greatness that existed for hundreds of thousands of years before enslaved peoples were forced to drag their chained ankles onto American soil. Let us be inspired by the great sacrifices made by the ancestors who selflessly fought against injustice, as we consciously choose to celebrate the beauty blended into the black experience in its total form.
Blackness is much more than our ability to bend without breaking. Far too often, we commemorate our ability to endure pressures that stress our physical, mental, and spiritual tolerance to places no being should have to suffer. Yes, we are strong. Yes, we are resilient. Yes, we proudly “lift every voice” and rejoice because, time and again, opposing forces have attempted to bury us, without realizing that our souls carry seeds that bear the fruit of triumph. Still, these are nothing more than ingredients in the recipe that’s been passed down to us for centuries. The finished product asks for an extra dose of freshness. Let’s take a trip through time and recollect a few of our most precious memories.
Blackness Beyond Borders
Today, our society benefits from an eclectic blend of the past and the present. It’s so refreshing to watch the next generation bob their heads to songs like Bruno Mars’ “Finesse”. Styled after the American television series, “In Living Color” circa 1990; one of the blackest sketch comedies of all time. Blackness proves to be a nostalgic dose of flavor in ya ear that can be cherished across gender and generational lines.
It’s the family reunion held in theaters around the world, as black and brown bodies marveled at the “Black Panther” debut. Blackness is the reason why a world that still suffers with equality and socioeconomic power struggles couldn’t stop drum circles from forming down the aisle while our youth gleefully immersed themselves in boundless black culture.
When we consider the life’s work of activists such as Viola Desmond, a powerful black woman who fought against segregation in Nova Scotia. Not one to settle for the remnants of a racially divided judicial, car trouble and the desire to catch a movie at the theater quickly evolved into an opportunity to combat oppression with poise and dignity. Her portrait gracing the face of our $10 bill is but a small salute to the courage and tenacity exhibited by one of Canada’s most glorious warrior queens.
Beyond the battle, blackness is the look of amazement captured on 2-year-old Parker Curry’s face as she awed over the painting of former United States First Lady Michelle Obama; hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. It’s the reason why young Parker looked at the portrait and only saw a “Queen”, not the first African American woman to ever rest on those walls, or the first piece to be commissioned by a black woman.
All around the world, our blackness runs much deeper than the narrative we’re told.
Black History Month is honored in Canada, the US, and October in the UK, still there are parts of the world that struggle to give us credit. Why is that?
Do areas like France still resist the magical addition of its black citizens because of the country’s refusal to acknowledge their role in the heinous slave trade that tilted the world’s axis forever. Even in province that don’t give us our due respects, we’ve somehow managed to leave our stamp. Take Christiane Taubira, the economist, writer, and French politician who stands as the founding president of the Guyanese Walwari Party. Her life’s work includes fighting to recognize the impact of slavery and human trafficking as a crime against humanity. Even with the acceptance of Taubira Law, like the former US First Lady, she was the target of attacks, threats, and insults. And they are not alone.
Rokhaya Diallo, French journalist and activist who never shutters at the opportunity to raise her voice, despite society’s condemnation. Maimouna Doucoure, a French director and only the second black woman to win the prestigious Cesar award (think French Oscars) boldly follows her suit. Praised for her contribution to the movie, “Mamans”, Doucoure earned the honor 33 years after the first black woman to receive a Cesar, Eugene Palcy. Let today’s generations learn from the unapologetic fire sparked by the brave women who’ve come before us serve as the guiding light that avoids another 30-year hiatus.
Blackness by the Generation
From the modern-day millennial who’s hellbent on leaving their stamp on the world to the seasoned input from Generation Xers who walk the Earth just before, blackness has evolved into a culture all its own. Remember rolling up to the skating rink to see your neighbours dipping, slipping, and flipping without missing a beat? Even as our world battled police brutality and a drug epidemic that destabilized entire communities, blackness set the tone for us to look beyond the struggle and focus on the horizon.
It’s our creative flair and style of dress. The reason why big brands like BMW asked South African artist Esther Mahlangu to dress its 525 in traditional paint; landing it a place in New York’s Museum of Arts and Design.
Blackness is the dashikis and the kufis and the kente print that has transcended from traditional garb to a political garment to an opportunity for big box businesses to profit off black patrons. Can we really blame the Kardashians of the modern era for rocking straight back braids and dying their hair like cotton candy? If you were on the outside looking in, you’d want to be a part of this exclusive club, just like them.
Televising the Revolution
While we sit back to enjoy pictures like “Hidden Figures”, let us allow the message delivered through powerful actresses like Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae remind us that we still need Katherine Johnsons, Dorothy Vaughns, and Mary Jacksons today. Black scientists and mathematicians have made remarkable contributions to society since the beginning of time. We can trace our revolution back to Imhotep of ancient Egypt and the astronomers of the Dogon in Mali, West Africa. From metallurgy to medicine, architecture to philosophy, blackness has always sparked the flames of global change.
Blackness is revolutionary within itself. It’s the fight, the bite, the bark, the resilience, the beauty. Let us marvel in our grandmother’s clairvoyant ability to heal all wounds, even if it was through the simplest words. Let us honor the dedication of black boys and girls who continue to exude excellence through their pores. Even as the hymns of Black History month slowly fade away, may we tighten our grips on the reigns that dictate the narrative we all follow. We will not allow the world the privilege to define us for us. Let phrases like #BlackLivesMatter carry a dualistic tone – one that calls for fair treatment and another that sings louder every time anyone tries to silence our voices.
The 28 days in February will never be enough for us to truly appreciate what blackness really means. For that reason, we’ll continue to love on ourselves 365 days out of the year.
Credit Photo: @ Paul Weaver
A literary alchemist. Since terms like author, poet, or writer don’t fully describe the sentiment behind the career path she’s chosen, our contributing journalist, Tiara Butler, had to come up with something more fitting. The hailing Washingtonian has spent the last five years perfecting her craft in the professional arena. Her resume includes impressive collaborations with some of the best minds in business as well as a few exciting appointments in the self-help sector. Living the life of her dreams, Tiara’s a believer in all things. She closes each assignment with her soul’s mantra, “Write the vision, make it plain.”