Absorb the Light

What is Black… a color, a race, a culture, a phenomenon, a way of life?

According to James Baldwin, To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.

Is that the only experience, or is it bigger and broader or more limited? What is Black, to be Black, and the general experience of Blackness? Or is there even a such thing? Have we been defined by a word that doesn’t even begin to define who and what we are as a people?

Color Me Black

The very definition of Blackness is as broad as that of Whiteness, yet we’re seemingly always trying to find a specific, limited definition. –Issa Rae

We don’t have to seek to limit who we are to understand who we are. History tells us, without doing any serious research, that when America was colonized, Native Americans and African slaves were categorized as savage, as a justification for robbing them of their indigenous land, and forced labor and oppression. Their dark skin categorized them by color, and therefore distinct from White people. Science, religion, and intelligence were manipulated to further strengthen the position of White superiority, and hence the construct of race was born. Our dark skin put us on the lowest rung of the totem pole in America.

But America isn’t where this separation by skin color began. Plato and Socrates learned at the feet of African philosophers in Egypt, where concepts such as language and mathematics actually began… not Greece. However these truths were erased from these men’s history over time, and these modalities attributed only to White philosophers, because the admission that these men were educated by Black people would interfere with the global manipulation of race as a measure of intelligence and civility. Ultimately, race is a political construct to justify power, control, and wealth. Black is the term we were given to identify us… ultimately it means nothing.

We range from vanilla to deep dark chocolate, every hue of brown with oranges, peaches, and yellows, toned up or down with white or black pigment. Our color is very real. Our race is the pigment of the oppressor’s imagination.

I guess I’m darker than the shadows of the darkest alley, that they always scared to go in, Boo! -Brother J, X-Clan “Funkin Lessons”

Phenomenal Culture

My skin absorbs the suns rays and my hair defies gravity. You can’t tell me I’m not magical.Unknown

So we know what they told us Black is… but what is it really, who are we, and what have we made it?

Black culture is American culture. Bodies that curve, hair that salutes the sun, skin kissed by it, style influenced by global art and urban youth, hip hop, rhythm, swag, creativity. We are simultaneously a people and a phenomenon. A people and a phenomenon.

As a people, we are both perfect and imperfect. We are made in God’s perfect image with human imperfections… just people. Flesh and blood and veins and capillaries. We bleed when cut, we cry when we are in pain. We love and fear and hurt and holler… “the way they do my life.” But mainly, we live. We tend to live a bit louder as a result of years of silence. So we flex harder. We hustle harder. We dance more freely. We dress more creatively. Our speech more colorful. Our laugh more robust. Our hair bigger. Our swag doper.

It’s a result of the African drum beats in our souls. The taste of the custard apple on our tongues. The smell of lavender fields in CapeTown in our noses. The bright colors of wax print batiks dancing on our rods and cones. The feel of our fingers in our ancestors hair, coils and links, curls and cottony soft clouds.

It’s our call and response…

MC:”Somebody say oh yeah…”

The Crowd:”Oh yeah”

It’s our swag surf, our milly rock, Black Twitter, slang, cornrows, box braids, and #beardgang. It’s in our community and our sense of community. Buy Black; Black Lives Matter; Black mixed with Black; I’m Rooting for Everybody Black. It’s in our harsh judgement of each other, both despite and in response to our harsh judgements from the outside. Don’t watch Empire, build an Empire; Stop Jocking Jay-Z and Judge Jay-Z; Buy a Popeyes not a Popeyes Chicken Sandwich.

We are perfectly imperfect. We are human. But be clear, we are lit AF!

Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me. -Audre Lorde

The Light

Imitating us… and still, they’ll never be us, nigga. –Rapsody “Nina”

A whole entertainment family has profited off of our culture, so much so it’s entire set of progeny bears our blood. White pop stars show no shame copying our entire performances for their profit and popularity. And while art has no bounds, pop locking has taken over country line dancing as their dance of choice. They visit doctors to get our lips and asses. They feign our urban dialect to be down. Yeah, we are the shit… it’s true. It’s also irritating and disrespectful AF, but let’s stay on topic.

As much as we are painted as unAmerican, our very culture has been pilfered by this countries haves. The truth is, we are the chosen ones. Who else is this disrespected and this coveted all at the same time. To be Black is to be so amazing that we who we are is wanted and desired so badly, we are loathed.

Black excellence we gon let em see. Jay-Z, “Legacy

It has been exactly 400 years since we set foot in this country. In that span of time we have transformed ourselves from stolen Kings and Queen treated worse than dogs, to business owners, billionaires, artists, philanthropists, and everything our imaginations could conjure. Black people have positioned ourselves to be on par with the haves through hard work, intellect, and hustle that was kept from us by oppression, violence, and politics. We started from the bottom, and now we are definitely here. Barack. Oprah. Beyoncé. Wakanda. And while we are still very affected by the systematic use of race to threaten our rise and success, the very real truth of the matter is this…

Rainbows are one of God’s miracles, an arch of of every color on the spectrum reflected by the sun through droplets of water. The color black is the result of an object absorbing every ray of color produced by the light.

Black people carry inside of us, every color from red to violet. On the outside we are every hue of brown from the most muted beige to the most saturated umber. We are God’s human rainbow.

So, what is Black? Black is the way we walk, talk, live, and love. Black is our truth, our rhythm, our blues, our soul, our jazz, our hip, and our hop. We don’t stop. Black is the light. A people and a phenomenon.

(Thanks to Courtney Springer for the topic. He’s a comic, he’s Black, and he’s funny… {told you, we are all the things}. Check him out at Courtney2Funny )

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