BLACK Pt.1What does it mean to be black

Black: noun – colour

“(of) the darkest colour there is, like night.”

Black: adjective – dark skin

“of or belonging to a group of people having skin that is brown.”

Black: adjective – bad (without hope)

“The future looked black.”

Black: adjective – bad or evil

“A black-hearted villain.”

Source: Cambridge dictionary 

Black: adjective

  • characterised by the absence of light – “a black night”
  • old-fashioned + literary thoroughly sinister or evil : wicked – “when the king heard of his black deed…”
  • indicative of condemnation or discredit – “got a black mark for being late”
  • characterised by hostility or angry discontent: black resentment filled his heart”
  • distorted or darkened by anger: “his face was black with rage”

Source: Merriam-Webster dictionary

The prejudice against black people is systematic at every level. As a native English speaker, we are born into a language that denotes an explicit bias towards those of ‘darker hue’. We are born into a language that serves to indoctrinate rather than educate. We are born into a language that instructs black people from an early age that we are bad, without hope, or evil.

Think of how this flawed ideology has impacted impressionable minds for centuries. In the ‘white-dominated’ Western world where young black boys and girls have an ingrained bias towards us to fail, our counterparts are nurtured to continue an air of dominance and superiority . This is inherently wrong! Though I speak in broad generalisations which is flawed in itself, the reality remains: It is systematic at every level.

From the Pope Nicholas V’s Romanus Pontifex of 1455 granting “Portugal exclusive rights to territories it claimed along the West African coast [granting the] right to invade, plunder and “reduce their persons to perpetual slavery”; to Queen Isabella of Spain “invest[ing] in Christopher Columbus’s exploration to increase her wealth [by] establish[ing] an asiento, or contract, that authorized the direct shipment of captive Africans for trade as human commodities in the Spanish colonies in the Americas”, to 12.5 million men, women and children of African descent were forced into the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to the emancipation and diaspora of those enslaved, to the classrooms, and social/professional settings we are now LEGALLY permitted to inhabit, the subjugation of black people has served to boost the “economic and geopolitical power” of the European nations that sought to capitalise on the immoral practice of slavery.

To quote the late, great and honourable El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, better known as Malcom X: “We are oppressed, we are exploited, we are downtrodden, we are denied not even civil rights, but human rights.” In some circles, these practices may be referred to as a ‘broken system’. But I say broken to whom? The system isn’t broken – it was designed this way.

The recent murder of George Floyd has once again put America in the spotlight on a world stage for the wrong reason. In this self-proclaimed “land of the free, home of the brave” that asserts to be a bastion of belief, they have once again proven to be a corrupt citadel of capitalism. Though our black brothers and sisters across the pond have gained their independence, like any black person in the Western world, we are not at peace. As brother Malcolm prophetically proclaimed: “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom.”

Though we have come a long way since literal slavery, the war for mental emancipation wages strong. Though shackles of doubt attempt to penetrate our sense of pride and purpose, we must deflect. Though the pain from a weaponised language used to inflict scars of subservience takes aim at us, we must shield ourselves with valorous acts of achievements against the odds. This is our vengeance.

Despite black having covert and overt prejudices based on archaic notions of superiority, we have proven beyond a doubt we have immeasurable resilience. We do not condone to those ideals. We do not conform to those principles. We do not comply to those values. To begin to understand Black identity is to have an honest dialogue with those who identify as black. To begin to understand Black identity is to commence said dialogue with one simple question:

“What does it mean to be Black?”

Grace

Grace: Photographer / Storyteller 

“To be black means to be powerful; to be beautiful, to be creative, to be strong, to be able to be emotionally vulnerable and still be seen as strong. To rise up to any challenge that comes forward and becoming the best person you can be.”

Compton

Compton: Assistant Team Manager / Photographer

“Being black means being myself, regardless of where I’m at, who I’m with, whether it be my White friends, my Black friends, my Asian friends, whatever – just be myself and be as unapologetic as possible.”

Chanice

Chanice: Actor / Dancer / Model

“To me, being black is a privilege because I understand what my culture did for me and if it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”

Corey

Corey: Recording Engineer / Producer / DJ

“To be black means you’re powerful; royalty.”

Danieka

Danieka: Model

“What it should mean to be black is to be proud of who you are; to embrace your heritage, to feel empowered, to be uniquely beautiful, to be kings and queens. But what it means now is that you have to prepare yourself daily, mentally, to fight against oppression and the stereotypes to prove to yourself and the rest of the world that you’re just as good as anybody else in a world where they wanna keep you kept in a box.”

Dao

Dao: Actor / Filmmaker

“It means lot of things to a lot of different people, but to me it means just basically a beautiful human being who deserves to be treated as such. I feel like we should be judging people on the contents of their mind; their actions, the way they speak to people, the way they act around people, the way they treat people and the way they treat the earth, not on the colour of their skin or their race. So to me, I just see every ethnic minority that holds value, so I see black people as valuable in every sense of the world.”

Darian

Darian: Senior Business Analyst

“It means to be connected to people from different cultures all across the world – to feel like a part of a family and to feel magic.”

Demz

Demar: Photographer / Writer

Black is powerful. It’s knowing who you are, where we come from, and where we wanna be. Black is knowing that you have to work twice as hard probably for a quarter of the pie, but not allowing that to define who you are. Black is getting up every day knowing that you are great, you are beautiful and you will do something to change the world.”

Georgette

Georgette: Dual-trained Barrister & Solicitor / Entrepreneur

“Everything. I’m more than just my culture, it’s my heritage. It’s the food I eat and make. It’s my body shape, it’s my features. But it means that I am resilient; I am tough, I am hardworking, I am ground-breaking, and that’s what it means for me.”

Dias

Dias: Fashion Image & Styling / Creative / Model

Black is resilience; it’s strength, it’s power, it’s knowing that I’m part of a bigger cause, of people who’ve survived and have been through a lot. It’s skin, it’s melanin, it’s hair, it’s versatility, it’s our features, it’s a lot of things, I think blackness is so unique.”

Amesha

Amesha: Student

“To be black is to be proud, knowing it’s not just you that’s fighting. Everyone of your bloodline has fought, has either suffered, but still survived to this day and that you still have a voice. It might not be heard straight away. You might not think that it’s being heard, but it is. To be black is for the culture, to dance to sing – for even the things that people want to take from you as a trend to know that you had it first, you had it naturally, to know god has blessed you with that trend. It’s not a trend! It is you. To be black is to be yourself and to be the best you can be and knowing you had an impact on the world.”

Hayden

Hayden: Student

“To be black means you have twice as hard of the oppressing race, to get even a fraction of their assets. To be black it means whenever you’re driving or walk past the police, you have to worry about whether you’re gonna be stopped or even arrested.”

Jermainah

Jermainah: Small Boutique Owner / Medical Patient Coordinator

“For me personally, I’d say standing out from the crowd whether I want to or not. Having to work that little bit harder than my non-black peers – being overlooked in some senses. But it also means strength, resilience, peace in some way.”

Marcel

Marcel: Teacher / Coach / DJ

“A rich heritage. At the end of the day the way I look at it for me, if all men are made in god’s image and the first people on the planet were black, then that shows that you’re part of a greater being.”

Murkz

Eli: Lawyer / Musician

“It means to be beautiful; to be intelligent, to be creative, resourceful, loving, strong – mentally and physically.”

Yinka

Yinka: Plastic Surgeon

Black is more than just a colour; It is the colour of my skin, but it permeates so much deeper. It is my heritage – my Nigerian parents who came here and gave me my values. It is the strength that comes from within. It is the resilience that I have to use from time and time again.”

Tilly

Tileasha: Fashion Designer & Fashion Illustrator

“Unity. Powerful. Strong-minded.”

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