So, I've been tuning into a ton of Buzzfeed content - I mean, everything from their podcasts to the viral YouTube videos on all things Race in America.
I was inspired to share my Black Awakeness story after listening to one of the older episodes of the Another Round podcast. Unlike many others I've heard from, my Black Awakeness didn't happen until the latter part of my life. College to be more exact. You see, growing up, I always shied away from discussing my blackness. I went to predominantly white schools the majority of my life, and didn't want to offend any of my classmates.
My blackness started to peek through in high school. Again, surrounded by mostly whites in my neighborhood, I felt myself recognizing ignorant and racially driven comments, from both students and teachers, about people of color. Comments that I never picked up on before were now being implanted into my psyche - replaying all of the time. I never spoke up because I didn't want to be an "angry black women" – 'cause you know, being an "angry black woman" is "wrong".
Sophomore year of college I joined one of the greatest organizations ever, You Beautiful Black Woman. How much more unapologetically black could it be? I was challenged to acknowledge my blackness and the unfair treatment of other people of color (both men and women) around me. I say "challenged" because it was just that. A freaking challenge. Where as before I would ignore the passive aggressive racism of my peers, the phenomenal women I now called 'sisters' would no longer allow me to do that.
Conveniently, during this same year I was fired from a local bar and grill because of my Black Awakeness. My manager (can't recall his name) pretty much told me that I was hired because he knew that their black customers would "identify" with me. I was pretty much only there to fill his quota - to be his "token blacky". His comments didn't sit well with me, and with my newfound Awakeness in tow, I spewed out pro-blackness word vomit (can't quite remember what I said), pretty much telling him that he was everything that was wrong with America. This, of course, didn't sit well with him, and about a week later I was fired.
Scared because I was unemployed and didn't know how I was going to pay bills, I called my mother in the middle of the night. Frantic. Crying. Not making much sense, I'm sure. I didn't get the reaction I was hoping for... She didn't console me and lie, telling me that everything was going to be 'ok'. Instead, she demanded that I abandon my pitty party, and stand up for what I believed in.
I immediately went home and wrote about it. The piece went viral around my campus, and the story was picked up by a local journalist. I wasn't ready to be the voice of this potential movement - hell, I was just getting used to seeing the world in a whole new light - so I cowered. Not to mention, my former employer had their ducks in a row, and I didn't. I was unprepared for that particular battle, but in a weird way preparing myself for the war.
Fast forward to today - 1 child and countless, racially motivated blog posts later - and I'm oddly taking part in the war I've been preparing myself for all along. No longer afraid of being an angry black woman, and speaking up when I see things that are dead wrong. It took 19 years of life to finally become comfortable in my blackness, and to view it as a privilege instead of a burden. I'm no expert, and I'm still growing – writing and challenging other young people to think better, be better, do and feel better.
What's your Awakeness story? Believe it or not, we all have one...