It's Black History Month and one of the filters on Snapchat reads "being Black in America is..."and I knew I couldn't pass the opportunity to speak on it. I've had this post in my draft for about two weeks now, but after seeing Black Panther last Friday I knew I wanted this post to be collaborative.
Seeing so many talented black minds excel together to create a multi-million dollar empire is something I have been aching to see since I was a kid. I knew this experience wasn't unique to me. It may seem like I'm using my friends for free labor on the blog, ( the gag is, I AM! :P) I am not an anomaly. I wanted to use the voices of my talented black friends to also create something that my sole perspective couldn't and cannot.
Being black in America is a distinct dichotomy that never allows you to feel whole.
- Sade, 23
Being black in America is obviously not the easiest thing, as we’re still reaching and grasping for the freedom our ancestors were promised. But at the same time, it’s one of the most empowering identities I feel lucky to claim. I am able to stand with the most resilient, beautiful people in the world each day, and my existence is a form of rebellion against everyone out there who doesn’t think I’m worthy of success or praise. And that’s really exciting to me. As much as we’re misunderstood and put into unfair boxes, we are also constantly turning heads and changing stubborn minds. I wouldn’t trade being black for anything, and I feel lucky to live in an era when we’re so proud to exist in our skin.
– Chloe, 22
Being black in America means to find yourself while people may have already chosen to define you. It’s learning to embrace culture before colonization. Being black in America is beautiful because your melanin inspires you.
– Angelica, 22
It means growing up feeling abjected, because having my mother’s hair coupled with my father’s skin (my mixed heritage– my black and my white) made me an anomaly both within my own family and my community.
It means that even though I experienced a distinct pain, it is different from the pain someone with my mother’s complexion experiences in this country.
It means that I seldom saw girls like me in the books I read and movies I watched so now I’ve taken creating that content into my own hands.
It means taking your hurt and turning it into healing, the best way you know how. Not just for yourself, but for the ones you love.
– Anonymous, 22
Don’t get me wrong, there are challenges I wouldn’t face if I weren’t black, and it’s a constant source of consternation. But the other night, I stayed up til’ 3 am watching Juice and Dave Chappelle’s block party. He gets a bunch of prominent black artists to perform; Mos Def, Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Talib, The Fugees etc. I just kept thinking about how much I love black culture and how if I were to die I’d just want to come back black. There’s something indescribably beautiful about large gatherings of black people. Felt like I could smell the coconut oil through the screen, you feel me?
– Damarr, 23
Being black in America means knowing / understanding that my blackness is subject to criticism. From the way I talk, to the way I move, to the way I choose to wear my hair. It means recognizing that my standard of beauty will always come secondary to that of the white man. To me, my hair is my crown. My hair is a representation of where I am from. It is my heritage, my culture, my history. To the white man, my natural hair as it grows from my scalp, in its beautiful kinks and coils, is unkempt, unprofessional, and “too distracting”. Being black in America means having to tote the line between being black and proud and being just black enough to appease the white man.
– Beatrice, 23
Being black in America is a generational opportunity; walking art and history, our bodies and legacy as black people continue to impact every aspect of life. Various diasporas come together into this social and psychological puzzle of the various definitions of what blackness is. Being black in America being strong in America. Being black in America means loving the fact that you’re black in America. Because it’s something I’m blessed to be born with. My skin, the stories, the joy I feel when I claim being black in a nation that doesn’t want me to project that claim. That is what being black in America is.
– Malachi, 25
Being black in America is always feeling like you have to prove yourself. As an African American female who will be attending law school in the fall, I feel that I always have to prove that I am just as good as the majority, while working twice as hard as them. Though this is not the ideal situation, it does bring about a sense of determination to always work your hardest and do your best so you no longer have to prove you deserve it.
– Elizabeth, 21
Watching my 6 year old cousins point to the Black Panther poster and say "I wanna be that one" gave me a chance to appreciate the strides our community is taking. For years I've sat behind books, TV screens, and magazines 'understanding' what a white life was like because it was all I saw. Even with my black Madison My Scene doll, or reruns of shows with the token black cheerleader friend, I never understood my own culture.
I'm not saying this movie made me realize I'm black, I kinda figured that out a while ago. But it made me appreciate what little 'understanding' I had about being black because now I know it only gets better from here, but it's already so good. Hearing my friends' points of view reiterated the fact that there's no cookie-cutter black lifestyle that I am meant to understand.