I grew up in the suburbs where I was one degree of separation from all Black people in my school. Either I was related to them, or my siblings were friends with them. Thankfully though different activities — I was able to create a circle that was inclusive of different cultures, colours and religions.
Looking back, high school wasn’t bad for me. I fit in (for the most part) - which is what any young person wants. My friends didn’t see colour, they just saw a girl who shared their love of high school clubs, school cafeteria french fries and Spice Girls.
Moving away for school, to a very international city, forced me to view things differently. In my freshman year, my group of friends mimicked the one I was most comfortable with: vanilla ice cream with sprinkles of colour. I realized that if I wanted the same things my peers had (romantic interactions) - something would have to shift.
My group of friends was drastically different in my 2nd year. Many times I didn’t feel Black enough to hang when we were talking about certain things like food, music or culture. The only time I’d been ever made to feel like my Blackness was up for debate was by people of my own skin tone. Who saw my speech as being too white. Who despite them being products of their surroundings — didn’t believe in letting me be one of mine.
Throughout the years since finishing school, I've ebbed and flowed between the me I thought I knew and the me I think I wanted to be.
Enter social media. A world where people can interact and communicate with like-minded persons. You can find your tribe based on every possible commonality. While Facebook was a list of everyone from childhood friends to recent connects — my Twitter timeline was overwhelmingly Black.
I was given access to a world of PWI vs HCBU. Of Black Greek life. Of sweet vs savoury grits. A lot of my topics of discussion (both verbal and written) came from that space which was both educational and entertaining.
I’ve been trying to pinpoint the exact moment where my outlook to the world changed. Was it when I brought a human being into the world? The biases that I was able to ignore because it didn’t effect me on a micro level was about to become something I have to prepare to battle everyday?
Was it when baby-faced Trayvon was killed for nothing other than being in the right place at the wrong time? Was it the birth of Black Lives Matter after tax-paying citizens were being treated like war criminals on the streets of America?
Was it when CaShawn popularized a term that encapsulated everything we've ever wanted to say about ourselves as Black women?
It was likely all of the above.
I was used to being the only person of colour in the room, now I wonder why that’s the case and how to change it.
It used to not matter about representation in beauty, books, movies, various high paying sectors - and now it does. From cartoons to stock photos — positive images and stories of people of colour are desperately needed.
I used to not really think of why Ebony, BET and Blavity were important, until it became blindingly clear why they are.
This year, I have taken on a Black media company, steered by a young Black woman CEO as a client. The first event was a Black woman’s empowerment conference.
I have founded a Black mom's group on Facebook, which has grown by leaps and bounds to almost 1,700 in a year.
My new business created with support of my accountant. Logo and website designer. Copywriter. Event partner.
I didn’t set out to focus on building a community that is oft times divided amongst itself. But I am a Black woman. I am raising a Black boy. That is an irrevocable part of who I am. I will be received as such and my contributions to the world will be treated that way.
I know that this new me, the Black-ish me makes some of my old friends uncomfortable. When I didn’t "always" talk about race. When I wasn’t being indignant about racial injustice. When I wasn’t writing about it. When I neutral on issues that affected me. But the beauty of being a human is to evolve. And change. And adapt. And grow.
The world is a different place now than it was before. The voices and views of the oppressed and the shunned have been lifted. (Safe) Spaces are being created. Powerful target markets have emerged.
With the recent passing of Muhammed Ali, I am reminded that Blackness isn’t a coat to be conveniently removed. It is a character trait and a value. He wove his identity as a Black man into his story, never to be erased.
I am a woman. A mother. A daughter, sister and auntie. I am a business owner. Those things, can shift and change as time moves forward. But I have always been, and will always be: