Black History, Present, & Future
Issue #44 — 5.0 minute read
👋 Hey phi-lazy-phers
Please remember that I do not represent the voice of all Black people; we are not all alike. The full extent of the experiences and joy of Black people cannot be understood by listening to one Black person. You can enhance your perspective by educating yourself through (not all-inclusive) literature, self-reflection, film, art, and dialogue.
Black History Month hits different each year. Maybe it's because I'm Black, and the celebration of my people is not limited to a month. Or because what it means to be Black (for me) evolves as I learn more about the world within me and others.
Perhaps it's because I know that the past, present, and future are inseparable. The potential to create a liberated future relies on understanding and learning from the past; which requires us to nourish ourselves in the present.
Maybe it's that Black history is about more than enslavement, resilience, and struggle. It's about joy, creativity, wisdom, and hope. This beauty is evident through our voices, movements, bodies, stories, and timeless cultural impact.
It's normal to feel uncomfortable being honest about our perceptions and treatment of people. Still, it's the first step towards change. It can be helpful to honestly assess where we fall on the racism scale (which you can substitute with people from any nationality/ethnicity other than white). Even as a Black person, I wouldn't say I've reached 'abolitionist' yet. I'm still processing colorism, how it upholds white supremacy and benefits me while oppressing others.
Let's open our hearts and minds to what Black people have shared throughout time:
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.
I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
The very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.
We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.
My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
When I dare to be powerful to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.
Dr. Mae Jemison
Never be limited by other people's limited imaginations.
Defining myself, as opposed to being defined by others, is one of the most difficult challenges I face.
It's important for us to also understand that the phrase 'Black Lives Matter' simply refers to the notion that there's a specific vulnerability for Black people that needs to be addressed. It's not meant to suggest that other lives don't matter. It's to suggest that other folks aren't experiencing this particular vulnerability.
Coretta Scott King
Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.
I learned that racism, like most systems of oppression, isn't about bad people doing terrible things to people who are different from them but instead is a way of maintaining power for certain groups at the expense of others.
It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.
When you become the image of your own imagination, it’s the most powerful thing you could ever do.
Fannie Lou Hamer
When I liberate myself, I liberate others. If you don't speak out ain't nobody going to speak out for you.
Marsha P. Johnson
History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable, it happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.
I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I'm a human being, first and foremost, and as such I'm for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole.
I want all Black people to find community, safety, economic freedom, spiritual alignment, equitable healthcare, and so much more. To be unapologetic about the spaces we occupy and not accept the bare minimum. I want us to express our sexuality, gender identity, and fluidity without fear. I want our liberation.
Black liberation cannot be accomplished solely through social media campaigns, political elections, hashtags, catchy titles, or black squares on Instagram. As mentioned in the guide I authored, Black & LGBTQ: Approaching Intersectional Conversations, we have to reach beyond performative actions. Here are just a few (of many) ways to start:
Do your research. It is not the job of Black people to educate you. Seek out resources that allow you to engage in meaningful dialogue with Black people on their lived experiences so that you can fill in the gaps of your understanding.
Get uncomfortable. You may find that you are wrong or that your opinion is harmful. This will make you feel uncomfortable, and it's okay to acknowledge that and learn from the experience. Unlearning assumptions and biases about race is required.
Hold yourself accountable. Everyone has conscious and unconscious biases. With this knowledge, consider the role that you or anyone from your community plays in shaping the lived experience of Black people. Examine how your biases create or reinforce harmful conditions for Black people.
Listen. Understand without the desire to be heard. If you are in dialogue with someone, acknowledge that they may come from a vulnerable place. Respect their experience even if it does not align with yours.
Take action. Use your voice to uplift Black people, educate others, support Black businesses, creators, and organizers. Think about how you can use your privilege, platform, money, time, and access to support all Black people.
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