|This cartoon from a show in Nigeria is exactly how I drew myself growing up.|
Celebrating Black History Month for me is also a time to celebrate what makes me unique among my people. Not a month goes by, that I am not reminded of how "counter culture" I am in the black community. Ironically, it was a comment from a melanin challenged co-worker/friend a few weeks ago, that started the latest episode in this saga.
He greeted me in the cafeteria at work with a loud "No you didn't go all 'NeNe' on us. Love the color!" I was sporting a new lighter color in my natural fro and took the compliment vowing to myself to know who 'NeNe' was the next time we saw each other. I looked her up and found that 'NeNe' was NeNe Leakes from the Bravo show "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" and my new hair color is in fact one thing I have in common with her. Upon sharing this story with several friends, quickly I noticed stark differences in how my friends reacted to my lack of knowledge about NeNe. My black friends laughed and threatened to revoke my "black people card" while my white friends just laughed at my ignorance of both the show and one it's most famous characters.
And this is the story of my life.
Like clockwork, several times a year, my 'blackness' is challenged by friends or family members and it used to bother me. No matter that my skin tone, features and for the last three years my natural (code: super kinky) hair scream "Black Woman", they are segments of black folks who just don't get me. For a long time, I'd try to convince these people in my life that we were alike and that I could relate to them on other things besides what the world tells us is 'black culture.'
I'd do that dance that until I came to terms with a simple truth: I am who I am and part of that is a Black Woman. No apologies necessary.
No apologies for not watching BET.
No apologies for loving only old school R&B and having no interest in any today's R&B.
No apologies for loving Christian Contemporary Music - mostly sung by melanin challenged folks although Mandisa, Nicole C. Mullen, Ayiesha Woods and TobyMac help me stay connected to my musical roots.
No apologies for having birthed "blaxicans" with my handsome Mexican husband.
No apologies for feeling at home in any country where Spanish or Portuguese is spoken.
No apologies for never seeing a Tyler Perry play on stage but only discovering Madea on the big screen.
Today, I assert that I am black culture, too. And should be celebrated as much as Ms. Leakes
This post is a SALUTE to all us black women who walk to a different beat.
Just as there are many different shades of black people, there are as many experiences that we as a people embrace and call our own. I don't question what others choose as their experience nor do I judge. I accept and champion all people and their experiences.
Let's start celebrating our differences! Isn't that what we are asking the rest of the world to do?