Ah Black History Month it’s that time of the year where everyone remembers Black folks exist…or at least fool us in to thinking that they do. Commercials, media outlets, podcasts, panels, work emails, you see our contributions everywhere.
Now, in the midst of all of this you’ll think hey cool, this is amazing. You may also think: huh, I’m noticing Black folks in certain places, spaces, and industries I don’t really see them in normally? — This isn’t just your imagination. If you’re Black you may think huh, I’m not really seeing people aside from us really celebrate Black History Month — this too isn’t your imagination.
We’re 7 days into the month and it’s time to get real. Are people (non Black folks) really being genuine about supporting us? Is it all just merely being performative? The answer is probably all the above folks. Part of me calls this month for what it is; seasonal diversity. Alternatively, this month feels like “I have a Black friend™”.
Again, for the infinite time, recognizing the achievements of marginalized people doesn’t require a designated month. Marginalized people are making history and or remembering it throughout the year. The bare minimum is to remember this and acknowledge our humanity. Or at least look like you care.
The major piece of this of course is allyship and what that means. I can’t tell you how you define it. For myself allyship means work, real constant work. It’s people actively getting out of their comfort zone to allow space for others. It’s understanding highlighting a few minorities a month doesn’t make you one of the good ones. You also don’t need someone to call one of the good ones to really help, your an unsung hero.
If there’s ever a time to question the legitimacy of people’s intentions, it’s definitely Black History Month. Question it if it feels phony and appears to be a show. Ask: why am I the only Black person a part of this event or production. Watch as the tension turns as you ask where are people needing you now*. You’ve been available for work all year round, but hey February shows up and you’re suddenly popular. Yes, I know it’s not a good feeling but we gotta see people for what they are and aren’t.
I know, I’m being highly critical but it’s a new decade and let’s stop fooling ourselves her. Now, I admit the song and dance has to be a thing. If any business, platform and etc didn’t at least acknowledge Black History Month they would run the risk of appearing culturally insensitive. So are businesses really here for us or are they just making sure the gravy train continues? I don’t know but the way society operates can you blame us for questioning those intentions?
Before we continue, let’s discuss what proper acknowledgement of Black contributions look like. We have to examine the entire spectrum we encompass — aka being human.
In no particular order but we first need to acknowledge the humanity of those of us whom are the most marginalized within the Black community. In part, this would be those whom are queer. They’ve been forgotten and passed over again and again. Yet they’ve been some of the most powerful engines of change for history. So, honor Marsha P Johnson her activism and her work for queer youth. Remember James Baldwin and his powerful dissection of racism being a disease to both oppressor and oppressed. Never forget that Black Lives Matter was created by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, three queer Black women.
Our other Black heroes whom get forgotten too are our disabled members as well. People such as the late Johnnie Lacy, whom was a leader and advocate for disabled people of color. She challenged the views that able bodied people (including those with melanin) didn’t see the potential of disabled individuals. We also have unsung heroes like Bradley Lomax, a disabled Black Panther Party member. His work with disability advocacy really pushed the BPP to support those efforts. This eventually leads to the forced implantation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. I could could go but I think we get the point.
I believe we have to be honest during this month too and brutally so. History is not all good, warm, and positive. It is ugly, harmful, and leaves scars. Our present shapes our history too. Let’s not lie to ourselves and others. Racism and all other forms of inequality aren’t gone. — I mean go checkout your local schools in white and Black neighborhoods as proof — We need to only look at what’s wrong and how that gets more difficult with the more intersections they occupy.
Please by all means embrace this month and the good vibes. If you’ve never had the chance to be unapologetically Black, my god friend this month is it. I mean society is giving you a free card! Ok, they really aren’t, I’m encouraging you nonetheless. Let’s also use this month to highlight and recall the complexities of Blackness. Recognize your individuality and immerse yourself in relevant history. Above all else appreciate your Black excellence is friend. It’s you, me, and other whom may not believe they can achieve all that they want. — This is your right and no one can take that.
As you move through this month, take everything with a grain of salt. The Black voices, and faces you see everywhere. Ask yourself will you see them with the same frequency throughout the year? Last time I checked when the month is done, we’re still Black and exist.