I promised myself I’d commemorate Black History Month. It’s the last day, and I’m late. (But, can I really be late? Really?)
As you may remember, I took a DNA test about two years ago. To which, I have learned that I am mostly Nigerian, partly Cameroon/Congo & Western Bantu and a very little bit Scottish, Irish and Welshian (<<made that word up). Considering that I grew up “just” Black, this is delightful news! Now, when I my friends explain, ‘I’m part Irish, Russian and Scandinavian’ or, ‘I’m Mexican and Peruvian!’ or, ‘I’m Trinidadian, man!’, I can finally contribute to these identity-claiming conversations with something more than one colorful syllabic beat, “I’m… Black.”
Identity is super important. Growing up, I knew I was missing something — I never felt quite Black enough. I rarely felt like I fully belonged. Thankfully, this isn’t a foreign topic as of late. Lots of folks are talking about identity in all kinds of spaces. All kinds. And I’m here for it.
I have all sorts of friends, and I love them all. I will say that I didn’t really find my full self until I got with my Brown Bettie girls. Without discounting all my other experiences, there was something special about my friendships with the Betties. (Plus, I was older and had more ‘sperience being Black.) While we were quite similar, we were all very different types of Black women. And over the years, I learned that there was no wrong way to be Black. They would get on me about little things like not making good collard greens or not always getting lotion to my ashy ankles. While they would threaten to take away my Black card, it was always done in love in a way that was more about me learning about my own culture, than about shaming me because I wasn’t Black Like Me. They didn’t shame me for not going to a Historically Black College/University (HBCU ) as some of them had. They didn’t shame me for not being natural (well, not really; they gently coaxed and helped me to the long journey of releasing the “creamy crack” and not chemically straightening my hair.) They didn’t shame me for not knowing my full Black Power and how and why I should have it….they (and many others) taught me along the way, as I so taught myself.
Being Black is awesome. Being myself is equally awesome. However I personally show up to both is okay…as long as I know who I am. (Can I get an ‘Amen’?)
Are you feeling the same way, in any kinda way?
We aren’t all the same, and that is okay. We’re not supposed to be. We don’t want to erase people so that what makes them different is now invisible. We don’t want black girls to feel shame that our hair isn’t straight or doesn’t act the same way someone else’s does when it’s wet to the point where we black girls are trying to curl our sweaty hair with a curling iron after gym class only to fry our ends. Fried ends are not cute.
What we do want to do is notice is what makes us different and to not only celebrate that, but allow room for that difference, so people can be! Black people are not just black. We’re blackity black- black. (Ha!) We have so many syllables swirling within and around us that it can be a little dizzy-ing. We come from different places, we have different things running through our veins that make us look and sound different. We’re just different.
And that is a-okay, ’cause you know why? So are you.
This is a big topic, but since I’m “late” to Black History Month and I need to wrap this up, I’ll say this: What’s at the core of all this identity talk is self-pride. We ALL have to have self pride in order to love ourselves as we are and to see and accept our whole selves when others are blind to what’s really good: You.
If you’re feeling like you’re not [something] enough, tell your feelings to go screw themselves. You are enough, just as you are. What you might not have enough of is things around you outwardly confirming what is true. Please go surround yourself with those things.
One more thiiiing.
This past year, I’ve been working on a podcast, Lagralane Spirits. I can proudly say that I am a co-writer and co-producer of this delicious podcast where we discuss all things identity, culture and cocktails. Our hosts, husband and wife team Jason (Black, White & adopted) and Yvonne (Black and Filipina) talk about important stuff like how we claim our identities in storytelling and beyond, while sipping tasty cocktails.
Please take a listen while you learn. Sippin’ is encouraged, but not required. In the meantime, enjoy yourself, enjoy who you are now and who you are becoming.
All my Blackity Black Love,
PS, my friend’s new book came out!! Take a looook! Black Girls Must Be Magic by Jayne Allen.