What does being Black mean to me? How does one answer?
I was taught that I have to be strong, work hard and constantly do better. In learning that and adopting those traits, I am still soft, warm, and I try my best to be graceful and take every opportunity to relax. I have dug and found resilience, innovation and growth. I have found excellence, I have found failure.
Being Black to me highlights that I am a Black woman, second generation African, a Black Brit, a Black Christian. Deeply pigmented. My definitions are both internal and external. This gives me a sense of community, but also individuality at the same time.
Some might say that ‘Blackness’ in and of itself is a socially constructed concept used to describe people based on a combination of their appearance, culture and history. Personally, there is a feeling within me that draws me towards other Black people around the world. Maybe it’s the prevalence of systems around the world that have been designed to disadvantage people based on this combination of traits; maybe it is something deeper and of a spiritual nature.
What I am sure of is that so many have come before me, and so many will come after me. I follow the footsteps of fearlessness and fear at the same time.
Ultimately, Being Black to me, means being seen, hopes of being heard and being understood. In all my complexities and my simplicities.
My definition of Black has no space for racism. Although it can be disheartening/challenging for me, I have grown to value ‘not fitting in’. I have found that both ‘sides’ can be conditioned to create environments that maintain structures of systemic racism. I recognise that my experiences of race and racism are far from horrific stories of violence, hate and discrimination, but they still demonstrate how invasive and absurd racism, and the system it has created, are.
With that being said, there is no legitimate or illegitimate way to be who you are. Create your own definition, embrace it, live it, be it – I am proud to be a black woman.
We also asked colleagues what does Black History Month mean to them: