BY BEETLE BAILEY
There is no monolith of Blackness.
Being Black is not all Black things to all Black people. A large part of it, sometimes, is simply being not-white. I’m not white. But my not-whiteness is more than just a sometimes-unfortunate skin condition. The not-whiteness is soul-deep—a mentality.
Whenever I apply for something online or over the phone, I'm not white, like a job or a school. The first thing I wonder when the communication ends well is: “Oh, dear. Do they know I’m Black?”
I mean, did I type or speak too code-switched? Maybe it’s just me, but…
BY ODELL WINFIELD
I always loved being a librarian. I’m a collector of information and stories. Until now I have only been a word keeper. But tonight I’m going to be a word “speaker” and share my story. As a kid, I believe my life doesn’t have its own meaning. My ideas come from wanting to be someone else. When we got our first TV, I start play-acting. I always thought of my father as a strong person but as my words, as my world opened up with TV I find other people I believe in and are stronger. I…
BY SHAI BROWN
My mother was my hero. She was the prettiest woman in the world, 5' 11 with caramel skin, short hair, amazing style, and swag. She had a body to die for. You’d never know she gave birth six times. At one point in her life she was a model for Ebony magazine. I wanted to be just like her.
My earliest memory of my mother is from when I’m six years old. We’re walking down the street one day. I think we’re going for ice cream, but we stop in front of Kmart. She kneels and says…
BY TWINKLE BURKE and EZRA HUBBARD
I’m not a teacher or a nurse, but I often play one on TV. See — producers and writers like to cast women of color as nurturers — teachers and nurses being the most popular forms in the acting world. Like the Modern Day Aunt Jemima — they are there to instruct and care-take.
This role seems to have permeated my life in the real world, as well. White people seem to gravitate to me for caretaking, instruction, and nurturing regardless of our relationship. …
BY CALLIE JAYNE
I grew up in a white neighborhood. And I mean white, only .6% Black.
Growing up around all white people messes my mind up. I have a sense of self-hate that’s hard to overcome. There’s massive pressure to be what the white world expects of me, fit in with people who don’t look like me, fit their standards of perfection — quiet, proper, well-dressed.
While receiving so many negative messages about people who do look like me, I grew up thinking that I was better than other black people because I spoke, behaved, and the way my…
BY RITA WORTHINGTON
At 24 years old, I don’t believe I’m a good mother. I don’t do drugs or neglect my children, but I’m unmarried, on welfare, and struggle to bond with my four children. I got pregnant when I was 15, had my daughter at 16, and 3 other children by the time I’m 24. It’s a generational curse. My grandmother had children when she was 14, my mother had children when she was very young. Babies having babies — a cycle I’m not even aware of until I’m older.
I’m told NO ONE will marry me because NO…
BY TAMIKA DUNKLEY
Throughout my scholastic career, I’m praised for being a “Wonderful straight-A student.” I’m the student body president and the leader in multiple choirs and bands. I spent six to seven days at church. I attend every bible study, worship service, and benefit. From a young age, I’m taught to walk with a certain persona; there was a level of professionalism and grace I’m expected to carry myself with. No matter how I feel or who I really want to be. Who I am doesn’t matter, as long as my family appears to be perfect. …
BY MARTIN DUNKLEY
I’m excited for my freshman year of high school. Finally, my life is coming together. I grew up in a dysfunctional home; fighting between my parents is the norm, and violence isn’t off-limits. If you aren’t my mother, I don’t have faith in your word. But, now I have a scholarship to St. Raymond High School, and I’m celebrated for my talent as an athlete.
Tonight the cafeteria is decorated with streamers and balloons for the dinner and ceremony to meet the person paying for our education. My mother and I find the table with my name…
BY ERICA BROWN
A fucking corned beef sandwich. It’s 2011. I’m at a St. Patrick’s Day parade with my family, and we’re supposed to be having a good time, but he wanted potatoes and carrots and cabbage. We’ve been together for five years, and I’m supposed to know these things. Of course. I can’t read his fucking mind. He always expects me to read his mind.
Everything I do, I take his reaction into account. I find myself tediously and meticulously putting things where he wants them, as I know that if a laundry basket or the vacuum cleaner is…
BY KESAI REDDICK
Growing up not knowing my dad is not knowing my masculine self, my Blackness, who I am as a person.
My only memory of my dad is from when I was 18 months old and learning to walk. I started late. I grew up in the East Village.
My mom takes me to Tompkins Sq. Park and lets me walk around the entrance of 8th St. and Ave. A. I remember her telling me, “Go, run to your daddy.” …
Amplifying Voices. Raising Awareness. Taking Action.