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There is no way around it–Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter is taking over the planet.
I am astounded every time I see her perform, I am amazed. Even Dr. Michael Eric Dyson in the dedication for his latest book, The Tears We Cannot Stop, mentioned her and her dynamic talent along with her stage presence. I was a Destiny’s Child fan, supportive of her solo career and with LEMONADE? I submitted my (late) application to the BeyHive.
I’m. Just. Saying.
What I have always loved about her, through her career is her unabashed blackness. Even with her fair esthetic, and her Creole-New Iberia ancestry, she has never not denied any part of her that was, is, will always be Black. The beautiful thing I saw at Coachella, and on her last world tour before the birth of her twins, was the diversity of the women of color around her. Her dancers are every hue along this magical melanin spectrum. As popular as Beyoncé is, as easy as it is to rule her Queendom by the power of money and colorism, she doesn’t. As easy as it would be to only have one hue of dancer with her, she doesn’t. As minute, as mundane as that detail is, it should be a focus. And here is why.
There is a Black woman with a Eurocentric look, and able to walk into spaces as a full economic participant, able to orchestrate any vision that she has. In that orchestration, she is able to assemble the people she wants around her.
That is powerful. It is a reminder that I am still a Black woman, and as a Black woman, I represent Black women–no matter the esthetic.
In the midst of her April 2018 Coachella appearance, amidst all the unregretable Blackness, HBCU magic, I thought would Beyoncé be seen as this talented, this epic and this grand if she wasn’t ‘light skinned’?
The example I point to is Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald. Both women could sing and were drenched in talent–but because Lena was lighter, she seemed to always have an edge over Ella, who was darker. It was never about the presentation of talent, but the White acceptance of a Black talent along a melaninated spectrum: enter the ruler straight hair-brown paper bag test.
See that here.
That question made me so sad when I ruminated on it! I began to wonder for all the amazing she had done, for all her talent, for all her power, could that have been stymied if she were darker-skinned? The thought made my heart ache.
As a Black woman, I am proud of Beyoncé. I am inspired to do more, to build, and to serve. It reminds me that colorism doesn’t define me, does not stymie me, and will not separate me from my heritage. I understand that colorism is a real system, with real consequences, and my reactions to those consequences determine how colorism will be conquered or perpetuated!
Colorism is insidious to the confidence of Black women. It strips us of any sense of self, allowing our value to be determined by something innate and uncontrollable. Our value is beyond skin deep, beyond talent and we are worthy of love, respect and personhood. Black Girl Magic transcends skin tone. From Redbone to the deepest Ebony tones, Black women are gorgeous–and we need to remember that. The world can’t stop us–only we can.
[images from Google]
I cannot and do not count the number of non-black friends I have. I have no reason or desire to count the demographic of the diversity of people I encounter. Why? I have no need to be/search out/confirm who is the token.
To those unfamiliar, a token is the person that is among a social group to offset a homogenous appearance of said group. The/A token doesn’t hold any real status or power in the group but can claim some sort of exclusivity from some other social group.
Pro-Tip from Your Big Sis At The Ideal Firestarter:
DO NOT LET YOURSELF BECOME THE ONE BLACK FRIEND!
This type of nonsense opens you up to coonery and being the social fulcrum and focal point for the phrase, “Well, I have a friend and he is black and he’s not offended by ______.” Don’t do it!
By all means, associate with the well meaning world, but don’t cotton to madness either! If you look around your social circle and you are the only black person in it–and there are no immediate plans for that to change? Nall.
Don’t be used that way, fam! Don’t be set up to be sat out like that. Don’t become numb to the microaggressions and coded languages. Don’t become immune to what your spirit senses and reminds you is right!
Don’t allow yourself to be the one black friend because you may have no other black friend to help you when you wake from The Sunken Place.
[images from Google]
This act is defined by the reannouncing of something public and official.
According to USA Today in January 2016, here is history as to the legislative history around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:
On Nov. 3, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill marking the third Monday of every January, as Martin Luther King, Jr., day, according to the center. The holiday was to begin in 1986. In January 1986, the first national Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday was observed.
Coincidentally, 1986 was when I began my elementary education. Moreover, every president since Regan signs this proclamation every year, ergo it remains a holiday. Seems redundant.
However, in keeping with the man and the honor expected of today, I offer the same wisdom he did half a century ago:
It’s expected to say something today to be encouraging and profound today. The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is encouraging and profound. However, there are portions of his life and work, that don’t qualify him as ‘the good Negro’ he is sometimes classified as.
The work, social justice, civil equality, dismantling of systems of oppression, is not easy and is thankless. We see now the lust towards the power certain white people had generations ago where words and looks could, would end the lives of people of color. We see a march towards the reversal of things equitable, just and fair in favor of reestablishing what white supremacy has dictated to be the most right way. We see those using coded language for its implementation–and the silence of those whom have seen such an incarnation before, yet do nothing–because whiteness, its privilege and the profits gained or granted therein.
There is a romance to racism this country worships and imbibes which I’m sure that my grandmother could better explain, and my mother endured as a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Being alive to see this, it is easy to be afraid, and look for the rescue from the slow march to national destruction from Washington, D.C. Even one of my writing sheroes, Roxanne Gay, in an article from the New York Times details that no one is going to save us from this administration.
However, there was no one to protect us in administrations prior. We as a people began to do that–creating our own schools, businesses, and edifying one another. And we still had to fight to get a cat up off you because in the words of Barack H. Obama “Folk wanna pop off…”
On today, I want to know that you are valued, you are worthy, you are entitled to all this life has to offer. Today is a celebration of the life of a man that embodied one aspect, one facet of a movement meant to uplift and encourage people, and change the face of this nation. This work, social justice, civil rights, equality for all people, dismantling of systems of oppression is on-going. Now, in this dispensation it is our turn, my turn, your turn to fight. The rescue is in your mouth and resources–and what we as a people are willing to pull together to create the better we so desperately want and know what can have.
Today, we celebrate the life of a man who dared to look this nation in the face and call it a lie: in word, in action, and in deed. Today, we celebrate a forged path able to withstand those that walked with him, ahead of him, and us coming after. Today, remember your power is service–even when no one calls your name or sees you. You must remember the rescue you seek, you can create.
Today, let no one tell you that you cannot. History has proven that you can, you shall, and you will. We shall overcome indeed, but sometimes, you need to first acknowledge you first must get over.
Power is to whom you give it. There comes a time in this life where you will be forced to evaluate whom has power over you, and why.
Outside from the agencies whose existence is based in protection, there those in your life whom will try and tell you their intent is of a similar ilk.
This power, this influence, for the most part is wielded by people in your life whom only wish to see you win. It is wielded in benevolence, with courage and boldness to remind you of whom you are and can become.
However, more often than not this influence roots and lingers in under the beds Shakespeare says are crowded. This is from the people closest to us whom have seen us at a point of weakness–rather than helping us, they tell is what we did wrong, always do or will never do right.
They become evil sooth-sayers, casting hexes of discontent, bitterness, jealousy and apathy over all those in their pathways. They will tell you these things as if you have no concept of your own self. They have not lived a life or had experiences where someone celebrated them, wanted to celebrate them or denied their existence.
These people can only give you what they have: nothing.
Every day you choose whom you will become. Each day you are given holds the potential to be life-changing. I don’t say this as if the world around you does not present or beset you with unique problems. I say this because no matter how big the problem is, you will always be larger than the problem. You determine what you determine.
Some things spoken over you may be hurtful, disguised help or frank opinion. You do not have to accept this, even from from the people you know or love.
You don’t have to accept poison as medicine or influence as a Gospel. You determine what will steer your life–nothing and no one else.
I am fond of saying the first 18 years of your life may not be under your control, but the rest of your life is. Uprooting the weeds in the garden of your heart and head is never easy, I assure you. It took me a decade to get over what my father had said about me writing as a career.
What helped me what the feeling I had when I wrote. The attention I got as a I wrote and now that feeling could not be replicated by anything else.
Choose what you will listen to that will shape and empower you. All you are exposed to indeed shapes you. What does not add to you will only steal and a chief thieves of joy ads competition and envy.
What shall you become once you decide who it is you are?
When I was growing up, I wondered by my grandmother had named my mother Bessie. There was no other woman I knew named, Bessie. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I realized that name was short for Elizabeth. The only other Elizabeth I knew not in a Sweet Valley High book, was Queen Elizabeth II. My mother said that was whom she was named after. She believes it, so why not let her have it?
However, with the women my mother’s age the names I heard often where Esther, Estella, Dorothy, Elizabeth and Charlotte.
My adopted mother’s name is Charlotte.
I always thought the name sounded–hard. I think it was mean sounding because of the hard Ch that started that name. But there are few women I knew with that name who were mean.
It was this year that I found out why that name had the toughness that it did. It’s regal. Charlotte, Charlottesville,— the very name Charlotte–is after the British monarch Queen Sophia Charlotte, wife of King George III. And she was what was called a Moor, we would just call her black.
With all I knew, I considered myself to be well read until now. I literally found this out as concrete fact over the weekend! I had heard the historic rumors of her existence, but didn’t want to get my hopes up with research. But indeed this was fact! She was beautiful, multilingual, an abolitionist–and she discovered Morzart! Moreover, she was one of his early sponsors!
As I sat listening to News One, I absorbed this information in smooth waves. I searched Google for images of her. I needed to know what likeness there was of her. In seeing her, being able to associate name and face, I thought I would be able to further validate my own ambition. I wanted proof to be an ambitious, beautiful black woman was hereditary, not fluke. I needed the lingering parts of me settled about that. There was depiction of her I found where she looks like me or my mother when she was younger.
Names indeed have influence, prestige and lineage. Names let you hold you head up a little taller, especially if you know there’s a history behind them! Make no mistake, because you have the name you do, you already get to establish history and prowess with it. Need I remind you of *Quvenzhane Wallis?
Nikki Giovanni said,”If the black woman wasn’t made, she would have to be invented.” So accurate. It indeed is marvelous to be young, gifted and black.
*She the actress in the movie Beasts Of The Southern Wild, and most recently, Annie. She is an author, and actress whom was the youngest nominated for an Academy Award. There is a quote that is ascribed to the pronunciation of her name that the author, says requires one have ‘full use of the tongue.’ That article was in response to a Annie press interview Ms. Wallis did where the interviewer was having an issue saying her name, and wanted to shorten it. Quvenzhane said, “No, you can call me Quvenzhane.”