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  • Saturday, July 13, 2024
   
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Why I’m Black

 

Why I’m Black.

Please don’t errantly place a comma. 

I thought this would be a great moment to share that little detail about me.  I mean “little” because it is a small, but important part of who I am…not just who I choose to be. But recently, events have put me on point to say something…in my own way.  I can’t say I like what is going on in this country, but I also can’t say it has been just recent circumstances.  It’s almost a lifetime of building up strength to deal with “shyte” we shouldn’t have to normalize.  Things as simple as being followed around Walmart, or not being helped in department stores, or thrown on the hood of your car based on a non-signaled lane change.

(Sidenote: That is another story for another time. I don’t want to get y’all “Just watched ‘Roots’” mad.) 

So, I, like many of you, have endured what has been dished and thrived.  Not despite it, but because of it.  See…I’m proud, determined, smart, and ready!  Proud of who I am, determined to succeed, smart enough to learn from every situation-- even the bad ones, and ready to help others in their moment of need.  I am Black, not just grateful for opportunity, but like Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson…I am deserving of the opportunities. It’s how I was raised. But please stay tuned and keep reading.

I was born Black.  It means something to me.

I am a child of the 70’s.  I witnessed people expressing Black pride… turning it into disco music and creative names that started with a hard consonant and ended with vowels. To my chagrin, much like the Supreme Court Nominee (Ketanji). My elementary class had to be a substitute teachers’ biggest nightmare.  Names that drew reference to great kings and queens that heralded of a great people with a great history.  Kings and Queens that somehow only made note in representations provided by calendars from Budweiser (more formerly known as Anheuser Busch).

(Sidenote:  Please tell me you remember the “Black Kings and Queen of Africa” calendar found at every barber shop and alumnae hall.  They seemed to gather anywhere a Jet or Ebony magazine could be found. If you don’t have this frame of reference…stop reading NOW!  You simply won’t get it.)

These calendars routinely appeared in Sunday school classes as reference materials or were handed out by crazy uncles, who proudly suggested they were “making sure that we got the truth!”  The fact that these calendars existed, along with those Ebony and Jet magazines, and the fact that every black household had them leisurely about, says something. Even though those pages had been ruffled by hands young and old alike, they were never torn, never disheveled, excepting for the neat crease on page 44.  And while most would eventually succumb to a third-grade poster project or an unattended three-year-old brother, who never got the same whippings that trained us along the “straight and narrow”, they represented something that we, as Black people had.

My school curriculum and history books had no mention or room for Black Queens and Kings.  The greatest of black history started with Harriet Tubman and ended with Martin Luther “the” King.  Sure, we heard mention of Crispus Attucks, but only in his death. Not that he was a Black and native mulatto escaped slave, fighting for his right to work as a seaman, just as much as he was fighting for a country, that refused to recognize his right to dignity and humanity 252 years later.  

I am sure they didn’t care enough.  Enough to set our place in this world; enough to show that we counted, that we mattered.  I grew up in the 70’s with no expectation that they cared or should.   

(Sidenote:  If you don’t know who “they” are, unequivocally… you are not a child of the 70’s. You are too young, so stop reading.  No worries-- I get it…nowadays “they” could be anybody, “they” could be us; but back then, “they” had an identity, “they”was widely known. “They” wasn’t us, and we were both thankful for it.)

I grew up watching “Roots” and “Good Times”. My grandfather handed me “The Negro in the Making of America” at age 7 and I finished my first reading of the “Song of Solomon” by age twelve.  My belief that “anything was possible” was strongly anchored in “if you do it yourself”. That’s what I was taught as a young black man, and it only has been proven true as I grow up in this ever-changing world.  It’s one of the few things the internet hasn’t changed. It ain’t fair, but it was never supposed to be.

No expectations. That’s how you become great. That’s how you get a calendar and a holiday. That’s how you get a weekly and monthly periodical that celebrated being black with cool names like “Jet” and “Ebony”.  “They” weren’t going to do it, so “We” had to do it ourselves! You’ve got to work harder, be better… it was how I was taught.

I remember racing to the kitchen phone in response to the ring, fighting off my sister as I placed the hard plastic to my ear.

“Hey baby, tell your mother that Glynn Thurman is going to be on ‘Hawaii 5-0’ tonight”, my Aunt would hurriedly usher, as my house was only the second house on her long list of calls to make.

Yeah…we celebrated every milestone, every inch, every opportunity to participate. Not by being just grateful or expectant, but by being deserving. The triumph of will and spirit that became a culture!  The partakers of the world’s greatest experiment continually demonstrating the imbalance of liberty and freedom when pinned to economic scales. Show me who else…tell me how else; no other examples exist.

There is no prouder vision in my mind than the Black experience. No prouder vision than a black woman standing in front of asinine attempts to discredit her.  Thinly veiled efforts to draw anger from their audacity. Not realizing we’ve been dealing with your arrogance our whole lives. Your cancerous conclusion of us based on our “Blackness” in America will not be the powder keg you intend, because like Justice Brown-Jackson (I’m calling it!), and like so many of us since Crispus and Harriet, we are not just grateful…we are deserving.

So, I will remain Black. Rooted in the creation of a culture and lifestyle that triumphed even in tragedy.  Identified by the color of my skin but excelling because of the content of my character.  I will remain as you see me, because I have value in what I see in myself. I will remain Black at least until we all recognize the best we can be are God’s children.    

 
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Edselle Cunningham
I have been at it for a long time. Homeless at 18, a father at 21. I have been celebrated and canceled. I have contributed and distracted. I have often been right and confoundingly wrong. I continue to learn that with God and perspective nothing is beyond me.

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All Comments (1)
  • Tara C.     2 years ago
         Well done article!

 

 

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