“The last place the colonizer leaves is your mind.” – Hari Kondabolu
I need that quote on a t-shirt. So it is December and you know what that means. It’s time to reflect on the year that was 2017. I was looking back on some of my previous posts and realized that I complain a lot (rightfully so) and education and systems piss me off cause they’re just racist AF. Not to mention that we got this rapey ass, Grand Wizard charlatan in the Pasty White House.
This time last year, while everyone was trying to find the quickest, cheapest way to pack their shit and move to Canada, I was like, this is the time to be Black as fuck because our lives literally depend on our solidarity right now. I’ll be the first person to admit that I was chillaxin’ like all the other Black folk when my president won not one, but say it with me, two terms against those hating ass, scheming ass pedophile supporters, I mean Republicans (same thing). I was singing, “My President is Black” until I woke up on Nov. 9, 2016 and my president wasn’t anymore. But 45 lit the spark under many people of color, especially Black folks.
I’ve heard so many people say that 2017 was trash and don’t get it fucked up, between the inauguration of this Psycho (which I refused to watch), the hurricanes and sexual harassment allegations being handed out like Halloween candy, it could be difficult to find the positive. However, I have a poster in my bedroom that says, “Happiness is an inside job.” In order for me to be happy, I realized that I have to be unapologetically Black and this post is dedicated to that CREAD principle.
I assess myself and other Black folks using my Blackometer and in my mind Blackness is rated on a 3 point scale:
- I’m not Black-I’m OJ (translation: pure self-hate)
- OK (I’m woke only when I’m shutting down a White person, otherwise I’m criticizing Black folks too)
- Unapologetically Black (Showing up and embracing my Blackness in mind, word, and deed; basically, quoting Malcolm X and Angela Davis even when it has nothing to do with the conversation)
I immersed myself deeper in Blackness as a result of our chaotic and dangerous times and it has kept me sane in an insane world.
So how does one immerse him or herself in Blackness, you might ask? Here are a few specific ways:
- Read Black Authors– I know what you’re thinking- Just start with The Autobiography of Malcolm X if you want to feel really Black. Wherever you choose to start is your business but I have been feelin’ a lot of Black women authors, specifically Audre Lorde and now June Jordan. You want to talk about intellectual, unapologetically Black women calling White supremacy out? These two women had me feeling insufficiently Black.
I wrote about praising the Lorde in a post a couple of months ago. But Ms.June Jordan’s essay, “White English/Black English: The Politics of Translation” is an entire read on the educational system and its purpose to lay the foundations of White Supremacy on Black and Brown children by trying to annihilate the way we communicate with each other. Sounds like slavery again to me. Educators, you should start your new year with this essay, I’m just saying.
I’ve also appreciated contemporary authors like Zinzi Clemmons, whose book What We Lose discusses the mental health issues we deal with after being the caretaker of a loved one and experiencing a loss. Even if you don’t read the book, which you should, I’m just here for her calling out Lena Dunham’s phony ass when Dunham refused to believe a woman who claimed that a friend of Dunham’s sexually harassed her. We see your foul ass Lena and I’m glad a Black woman called your ass out-unapologetically.
Lastly, I challenge myself every year to read more books than I read the previous year. In 2016, I read 31 books and as I’m writing this, I’m on my 39th book. One thing I realized was that 30 of the books I’ve read were written by Black authors and that’s not by mistake. I am actively embracing my Blackness and I enjoy hearing the different voices in the writing because despite the stereotypes, we don’t all look alike and we all don’t think and write alike. It has been amazing to read Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, Brittney C. Cooper, Susana M. Morris and Robin M. Boyorn’s The Crunk Feminist Collection, and Upile Chisala’s collection of poems in Nectar. Black folks are writing about history, feminism, love, heartbreak, politics, education, mental health, incarceration, you name it because you know we got an opinion about every damn thing and those ideas need to be shared. So bookstores have definitely been getting my money.
- Buy Black- Speaking of spending coins, this year, I was able to point to many items that I purchased from Black-owned businesses. I’ll just share a few. Natural Girls Rock is a Black owned business that sells my staple items, body butter and soaps as well as apparel and accessories. I had purchased a couple of pairs of earrings from this site before but once Dove got on their bullshit with that racist ad, I made it my business to start buying Black when it comes to my beauty products. I would recommend NGR because you can also pick up a cute tee as well.
Since everyone has a smartphone these days, another way to Buy Black is by downloading the Official Black Wall Street (BWS) app. This app shows Black businesses in any given area and it also alerts you when you are near a Black business. I just found a dope bakery in Harlem, Piece of Velvet, that has coconut Ciroq cake (I’m just saying) and you know Puff got Ciroq so it’s all about buying Black.
Another business that supports my first suggestion of reading Black authors is a business called Noir Reads. Noir Reads believes in exposing people to authors of the diaspora and they do that by putting together boxes that you can subscribe to monthly. Each box has a theme and you get two books. They also throw events in Clifton, NJ. I have attended one before and it was great. We ate, played games; they feature self-published authors and they build community around the love of reading.
- Sniff out Black Events and Gatherings– Which leads me to my final point if you are going to be unapologetically Black in 2018. You gotta go out and support Black events and be engaged in the community. I have gone to so many events this year and have seen people like Jenifer Lewis, Gabrielle Union, Ibram X. Kendi, the one and only Angela Davis, MacArthur Genius, Nicole Hannah Jones and so many others but I want to highlight a few specific events:
Afrobeat Fest: This event took place this past July in Newark and I believe it’s an annual event. It was basically a street festival with all Black businesses and live entertainment. There were bookstore owners, beauty and clothing sellers and restaurant owners. Let’s just say I had some dope ass VEGAN tacos. For anyone who knows me, I have to eat something that once had a face and a family but I was really digging those vegan tacos. I’m not converting to veganism or anything but those tacos have my vote for 2020. This event was so inviting and celebratory and I felt good when I went home broke.
Kendrick Lamar concert: Kendrick Lamar is one of my favorite artists and he is quick to let people know through his lyrics and his visual representations that he is unapologetically Black. My first piece for CREAD was written about the track “Fear” on his latest album, “Damn.” His video, “Humble” was one of the blackest things I’ve watched in 2017. I personally appreciated the shout out he gave to non-plastic, natural hair women. I was here for all of that shit. So it was more than necessary to see him perform on his Damn tour at the Barclay’s and he didn’t disappoint. I could’ve done without all of the White teens who kept thinking it was ok to shout nigga during the concert but you know how Wypipo do.
National Museum for African American History and Culture: Two words: 4th floor! I know I might get cussed for this but my favorite part of this museum was not the slavery exhibit. It’s amazing in its content and its architectural design but I tell everyone that the 4th floor is the place to be. This is the floor that celebrates art and entertainment and really highlights Black joy, something we need more than ever right now. I’m not gonna give errything away but if you like Black music and you wanna see some of the dopest outfits ever worn by Black performers; if you like Dick Gregory (R.I.P.) and Moms Mabley, Martin Lawrence, Richard Pryor and Will Smith, you need to go to the 4th floor and just take in all the greatness that Black culture has given the world. I think I got two shades darker after I walked out of there.
I plan to go back in 2018 because one visit will never be enough. If you think you are unapologetically Black but you haven’t been to that museum, you drop down to OK. I’m also going to politely and temporarily revoke your Black card. Let me know when you’ve gone and I will return it without a crease.
For those of you who want to be more involved in the community and be in more Black spaces, just follow your nose to the scent of coconut oil. I’m sure there’s some Black folks gathering. There’s always Facebook which is where I find most events.
- What books are you going to commit to teach that aren’t just the ones that are approved in the literary canon? What are you going to teach in addition to Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright and Alice Walker? Try The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and American Street by Ibi Zoboi that tackles issues such as police brutality, being an immigrant and just being a young person. Elementary educators, The ABC’s of the Black Panther Party is dropping soon by our very own CREAD family. If you listen to mainstream media, they’ll have the Black Panthers sounding like a terrorist group but they made so many contributions such as starting the free lunch program and free health clinics and all of the other things you’ll find out about when you get the book.
- How do we promote buying Black? We have to have conversations about money, not only about how to make it but how our children and their families spend it. I’m not getting rid of my Amazon Prime subscription any time soon but I also understand that I have to consciously make the decision to buy more within my community. How do we encourage our kids to become entrepreneurs and make products, services and money off of their talents? We gotta start early.
- Finally, what trips and experiences have you provided for your students? Are you taking them to local Black businesses? Are you bringing in guest speakers and having your own author events at school? Who’s taking their students on a bus trip to D.C. to go to the NAAHM? The possibilities are endless.
Black folks are making waves in art, entertainment, technology, and government and even when we aren’t winning mayoral races and seats in the Senate, we are using our voices at the ballot (shout out to Black Alabama voters by the way!)
As I go into 2018, I want to keep this momentum going. I want to do more Black everything. Right now, I am coming to the end of a 30-day writing challenge and one of the prompts asked, “What word are you taking with you into 2018?” and my word is uplift. I want to continue to uplift myself with daily words of affirmation and I want to uplift my community by buying Black, gathering in the name of Blackness and showing up in the world, unapologetically Black.
I’d like for y’all to leave comments on one thing you will commit to do for the 2018 year to be more knowledgeable about, involved with and supportive of all things Black. What are you going to read? Where do you plan to go? Who do you plan to connect with? What’s your word for 2018? If we gonna make it alive to 2020, we gotta do the work.
So with that, I raise my glass and wish you all the Blackest New Year ever!