An Ode to February

Sharing my light with others has encouraged others to shine their light as well.

Enter Lil Homie.

I briefly mentioned him in a couple of my posts; strong, inspirational educator who is winning in so many ways that only can be explained by his membership in the Illuminati! That’s the only way he can win constantly and consistently the way he does…only way. We met during my senior year; he was a freshman starting his academic/track career at that school in Providence. We developed a big brother, little brother friendship organically, once I got over the fact that he was from Brooklyn. Though I am the elder, I feel that he mentors me and teaches me so much more than I do for him. He approached me one day with an idea for a post during Black History Month, and I told him, “Why don’t you write it?” And he did. Check it out.

An Ode to February

Black History Month is my favorite time of the year.  As someone that is unabashedly and unapologetically black some ALL of the time, this is my month-long opportunity to be as obnoxious about my heritage as possible and not feel self-conscious about it.  And I know it’s already March – which sadly means that we I have about fifty more weeks until the next time I can quote Booker T. and W.E.B. with professor-like precision and pretention, or simply change my last name to the letter X – but the previous month’s 29 days made me think more critically about something interesting I’ve noticed about my people:

All blackness ain’t the same.

Let me explain.

I’m black.  I’m also West Indian.  Throw in the fact that I was born in the United States as the proud son of immigrants that came to the U.S. from the Caribbean (with our ancestors Middle Passage-ing it from Africa) and you have someone with a unique take on race and what it means to be black.  Coming of age in Brooklyn, and particularly in my subsection of the greatest place in the world, the only black people I saw were West Indian.  This was so true that my pre-adolescent, elementary school self actually believed that all black people came from the West Indies, no matter what those silly teachers and history books told me.  But this context makes for some very interesting conversations with my friends – many of whom did not grow up with the same distinct experience with blackness as I did – and observations in my personal life.  Below, you’ll find some CLASSIC examples of what I mean.

Food
Food is one of the ultimate staples of a community.  West Indians love themselves some curry.  Give me some curry chicken and/or goat on a roti and I’m good to go.  And my heart literally melts when I get some oil down or provisions.  On the flipside, embarrassingly, the first time I ever had collard greens was when I got to college.  Sad, I know, that I was missing this Southern delight growing up.  And sweet tea?  Huh?  Where the sorrel at?

Music
Music is another thing that represents a culture, and something else that both celebrates our greatness and shows our diversity as a people.  You have reggae, dancehall, and soca on one end and rap, funk, and soul on the other.  I have an immense appreciation for all of these types of music, though when this song comes on, I get belligerently elated and nothing else matters.

Country Reppin’
I love repping where my parents are from.  I’m reminded daily of where my family originated through a combination of accents, conversations of what it was like back “home,” and slang terminology (if you know what liming or steups means, please buy yourself some Ting or shandy and toast to yourself).  This incessant need to shamelessly claim your country – or region/state/’hood – everywhere you go might not necessarily be a West Indian thing, but politely get out of my way the first Monday every September on the Parkway.

Growing up in the Midwest with roots that can be firmly traced to a plantation in the South provides a very different black-American cultural experience when compared to a West Indian from Brooklyn with family from, and currently living, abroad.  It’s so amazing, and wonderfully enlightening, to see how different our respective cultures really are.  There are a million and one ways to think about black people and our experiences, which is only made more complicated by history, geography and where along the Atlantic Ocean your ancestors’ boat docked slave ship let out.   But the reason why I love February so much is that we put all of that aside to just celebrate how incredibly dope we are as a people and commemorate those that have made an impact on the world.

February should be every month.

Word.

-LH

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5 thoughts on “An Ode to February

  1. I have a nomadic geography of self as a black woman (the term I prefer to African American) born in Scotland to a Grenadian mother and a Ghanaian father. Blackness was defined in multiple ways in my growing up in four countries and three continents. . . I ate callaloo growing up and didn’t taste collards until my twenties–I’ve been told too many times that I’m not black “enough.” I dare someone to define my blackness for me. . .thanks LH for reminding us that blackness is a spectrum not a monolithic identity. . .now, if only I had a Ting in my hand to toast his wisdom.

  2. Thanks for reading, all! Just sharing one person’s thoughts that I think others can relate to. Anonymous, your entire story (“born in Scotland to a Grenadian mother and a Ghanaian father”) provides yet another context in which we can examine blackness: born in Europe to African and West Indian immigrant parents. Being ‘black’ in the U.S. is markedly different than being ‘black’ in Europe, which is also different than living in Africa (though all of Africa is not the same by any means), Latin America or South America. And what about other dark-skinned people? How do we reconcile skin color and race? Gotta love the diaspora. I wish I knew more about the black experience in Europe. I would love to hear more! Anonymous can be my European representative, jk. Makes for great debates and conversation. Glad you liked the article!

  3. Great post! I think race gets too generalized. When people talk about being “colorblind,” I think we miss out of really getting to appreciate where people come from and what their ancestry is. Your thoughts are very well articulated.

  4. Pingback: Guest Blog From One of My Students « Between The World and Me

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