Too black for black people?

 When we think of black identity and racial self-essentialism (imposing limiting identities upon ourselves based upon  race/ethnicity, built upon manufactured representations of blackness), what comes to mind are conversations that normally sway in the direction of being told  you are acting too ‘white’ if you step out of the unspoken guidelines of the widespread representation of blackness and black cultural norms that we see in mainstream media today.

But what about those at the other end of the  spectrum? Can you just be TOO black?

In younger years, I remember when one black person would tell another that they were ‘so black’. This was normally said in jest, when the subject person had displayed what was deemed typical ‘black’ behaviour. Such ‘black’ behaviours, which commonly are behaviours synonymous with what are considered ‘ghetto’ behaviours, were the source of the joke. Being told you were ‘too black’ was a verbal seal of black authenticity from your peers.  Nobody got offended, nobody was irritated. It was all good.

But then there is the other type of being ‘too black’. The type that is always causing trouble, making black people feel bad about themselves and their lives. You know, the menaces to black society?  Causing mayhem and breaking laws.

I’m Just joking, they are actually just speaking out about black issues and advocating for change.

giphy (3)

Being labelled  as ‘too black’, ‘earthy’ or my personal favourite,  having my cousin sing “I am not my hair” by India Arie to me whenever I say anything even suspected as having a  pro-black agenda, make me chuckle and frown at the same time. Even if not meant to insult,  I have come to associate these types of  comments with criticism of what I  feel is important, and not the constructive type.

Having an opinion as a young  person regarding black society and it’s issues is often met with lukewarm, actually no sorry; a stone cold reception. Either because others just want you to shut up, turn on the BET channel and ‘be young’, or because in their opinion, you have no business challenging the status Quo and the black images of dysfunction presented as normality  in the media.

In addition to refusing to buy into the guise of post-racialism, a black person who draws attention to issues that can be improved in our community, sign-posts sources for further reading to others regarding our history and cultural origins, and stays well-read in an attempt to remain knowledgeable whilst navigating as a black person through white social spaces; is not being too black, they are practising racial and cultural awareness.

I do not believe one can ever be ‘too black’. Do you?

 

 

 giphy

 

 

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Happy black history month! – Black history month and it’s events are still so important

We are halfway through October, Britain’s black history month and yes, I am a little late. However I am wishing you all a happy black history month!

Due to it being a very busy month for me so far, I have not been able to attend any black history events as of yet this month (much to my dismay). However I will be attending as many as possible before the month is over, plus additional events throughout the rest of this year, and I encourage you all to do the same!

Nottingham, the city I live in, has an array of events taking place in October to mark black history month, and I feel so fortunate for this.

 This post is for those who do not see the importance of black history month as a time for reflection and remembrance of important people in black history and as a time of cultural expression, and have no intention of attending any black history events this month.

Here are my top five reasons why black history month events are still so important  for both you and your family to make time for.

Day Trip 1960s, candy floss rocks, ice cream, Esmal May
Jamaica hidden histories- sugar was king art exhibition New Art Exhange, Notitngham, 5th September-1st November 2015 Admission: free. Photo credit and further event info : http://www.nae.org.uk/exhibition/jamaica-hidden-histories-sugar-was-king/84

1. For black historical variety

In mainstream British education, many black children are taught primarily (if at all) about American black history, the civil rights era and other than that? Well yes you guessed right: slavery.

Although these are pivotal events in black history, many black history events available at present offer an insight into specific black influential figures,  historical black subcultures and the overall influence of black culture on modern day British society, providing more historical variety for you and your  family.

 I think our black children need a little bit more than being shown the whole ‘Roots’ saga in a classroom full of white children during history lessons at school, don’t you?

2.Combining cultural engagement with family time

Children are expensive.From October onwards is the time of year when children begin to cost the most. The price of Christmas, indoor activities, and if you are from where I am from, Goose fair; all add up pretty quickly.

Saying this, apart from the obvious educational and cultural benefits to your family and yourself, black history events are nearly always free or low priced. Most importantly however, you will get to spend some quality family time together.

 It seems more sensible to take your loved ones to a black history event, where you might even get a conversation out of them about their views on the information they learnt that day, than it is to spend £xx.xx at the cinema to sit in a dark room (which if we are honest, you can do at home for free) and then be told that the film was (just) “alright” at the end of it all.

Footballer Brendon Batson discusses race and sport. Thursday 15th October 2015 6.30pm. Admission: free. Photo credit and further info: http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/blackhistorymonth/2015/09/29/events-for-black-history-month-2015/brendon-batson-poster/

3. Networking & meeting new people

The main gripe I have with being an avid consumer of black cultural content is isolation. Of course I have friends that  I can converse with about all things cultural, but it is always nice to be in a room full of people who have mutual interests.

Black history events allow us to touch base with other black people in our local community who are just as  concerned about improving  their cultural education  as you are. We don’t attend an event in honour of our history just to ‘badface’ other people, so be friendly and you could meet some new friends.

Photo credit: http://www.nae.org.uk
Urban Expression- a grassroots project working with young people showcasing talent through dance, music, drama and spoken word. 23rd october 2015, 7.30pm-10pm, New art exchange, Nottingham. All welcome. Admission: free. Photo credit and further info: http://www.nae.org.uk/event/dream-presents-urban-expression/310

4.Self education

“EDUCATION is the medium by which a people are prepared for the creation of their own particular civilization, and the advancement and glory of their own race.”

Marcus Garvey, The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey 

Musically mad- Film screening followed by Q&A A film detailing the humble beginnings of reggae music, to being internationally renowned. Nottingham Art exchange, 19th November 2015, 7pm-9pm. Admission: free Photo credit and further info: http://www.nae.org.uk/event/musically-mad/322

5. Because you should!

What is a people without their history? Without knowledge of the influential individuals that have made a difference in their community and contributed so much to literature, art, fashion, academia, cultural progress and British society as a whole? And what is the fate of this history if it is not observed?

There is nothing wrong with actively seeking black knowledge and black collectivism through events, and black history month is a perfect time to test the waters.

Going along to black art exhibitions and plays in October is not about attending for the sake of attending because it is black history month. It is about commending and acknowledging those in times past, those who have paved the way for black people to have the influential role in British society and culture that we do at present.

Nottingham black history event sources:

http://www.nae.org.uk/page/black-history-month/82

http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/blackhistorymonth/2015/09/29/events-for-black-history-month-2015/

http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/blackhistorymonth