Black Expression in a Post-Black North America

It’s been a trying period…for the Western world. Tensions have heightened for the international landscape and we’ve entered a state of uncertainty. Without delving excessively into this post-U.S. electoral vacuum, people have been woken up to the realization that the world is not as it seems to be. No, the world is not as progressive as it portrays itself to be. The racist, sexist, and homophobic finally have a face (and bad spray tan) to raise their pitchforks and stand behind. The mere shock already has the world on its toes.

You could be one of the many people that have jumped on the “I knew Trump would win the election” or “I always thought this is what America was like” bandwagons, but in reality many more of you are just shocked and clinging to any kind of superiority that will help make sense of all this. And maybe that’s part of the lesson. We don’t know the world as well as we thought. Every opinion piece and analysis is being fumbled over to explain how a man that was laughed at quickly became the leader of the “Free World”.

While important to understand what happened, we will eventually have to move forward. And how do we do that in a world that still keeps us at bay? We express ourselves in that avenues that we’ve created and maintained.

Touré Neblett wrote the book “Post-Blackness in his book Who’s Afraid of Post Blackness? What it Means to be Black Now”. Among the Black figures that Touré interviewed, he manages to pen the term ‘Post-Blackness’ as an individual’s substantial search for Black identity. In this search is the rejection of any single defined definition of Blackness. Believe it or not, that is a simple idea that many of us struggle with, but with so many complex layers attached to it.

We are a people of writers, artists, poets, activists, class clowns, dancers, aggressors, and oppressed. That’s how we have to maintain our community. Firstly, by acknowledging that we are a people with an inherent sense of diversity. Keeping this in mind, being aware that we can express our pain, joys, and other experiences into a wealth of creative forms. Now keep in mind, “creative” isn’t necessarily restricted to the traditional art forms, but can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It’s not for anyone to categorize you into something, but for you to navigate your journey.

There’s a Pete Rock song entitled “Truth Is” (Featuring Black Ice) and it houses lyrics that still give me goosebumps when I listen to it. Released in the early 2000s, the song is reminiscent of the past revolutions and movements.

When you look at me and my brothers what’s your first impression
Does the sight of us leave you guessin or do you understand the stressin
The aggression, the look of no hope on me and my niggas faces
Like the lord overlooked us when he handed down his graces
You see embraces, fall short on the numb tips of street entrepreneur fingers

It’s aggressive, unapologetic, and embodies so much of what I love about the diversity within Hip-Hop (which a lot of people take for granted in times like this). Sometimes you need a wake-up call to remind yourself that it’s okay to be uncomfortable with where you are. And it’s equally okay to want to share your frustrations (whether it reaches an audience or not).

In this dissonance, I ask “what the hell do we do now?”. We fight..maybe not on the scale we want to, but for ourselves. Self-empowerment and support are perpetual themes that can give us at the very least a safe space. Take the time to know yourself and give the room to grow. You can look back at the 50’s, 60’s, and the remainder of the Civil Rights Movement, but those days are lost. Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. fought their fight. We can’t cling onto those days anymore. It’s detrimental to dwell on the past while the world keeps turning. So you have to recognize your own struggle and fight your own fight.