Can't Steal Our Crowns: 10 Affirmations to Remind Black People of Our Inherent Glory6/25/2015
by Tracey Michae’l Every day last week, it was something. Before I could wipe the crust out my ey...
by Tracey Michae’l
Every day last week, it was something. Before I could wipe the crust out my eyes good and let my feet hit the floor in the morning, news and social media smacked me in the face with another appalling event that would trigger my heart to racing and mind to spinning. First, there was the ridiculousness of Rachel Dolezal, then another brutal police attack on a 12-year-old girl in Ohio, and the so-called "ethnic cleansing" in the Dominican Republic, and finally the heart-wrenching massacre of nine members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. This rollercoaster we’ve been on as Black people lately (lately, as in at least the last 400 years, but I digress) has been more than exhausting. It’s been soul-sucking. Not only is self-care a must for those who are actively working in the movement against injustice, all of us must take time to speak life and love and uplifting words to ourselves and each other, even as we soberly navigate these emotional and psychological land mines.
Despite all the rhetoric in the media and at the water cooler about what strategies will work best to accomplish the task before us, sometimes it’s good to just remind ourselves of WHO we are. Black people across the Diaspora, let’s affirm ourselves by remembering that…
1. We are BEAUTIFUL.We come in every hue. From mother-of-pearl to black-blue. Our skin retains its youth like no other group on the planet. Our tresses (from bone straight to glorious kinks) and our features (the lips and the brows) are often poorly imitated. Our bodies, also diverse in size and structure, have a kind of grace that belies the totality of our history. From the switch in Mama’s hips as she moves through her home to the swag in Brother’s glide as he heads off to do his thing, even the air around us bows to honor our movement. Yes, our skin, our hair, our bodies, our features are without a doubt beautiful. The words of one of our own stunning elders, Ruby Dee, reminds us: “The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within—strength, courage, dignity.”
2. We are BRILLIANT.What is that glow you see? That shine that both consumes and confounds? That acumen that has no bounds? That’s just Black folks simply being. Only brilliance births a Harriet Tubman and a Fannie Lou Hamer. Martin and Malcolm. Dubois and Carver. Toni Morrison and James Baldwin. Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. That kind of exceptional talent and intelligence calls out to future generations, demanding the same to continue to show up. And it does. Every. Single. Time. Ask Gabby Douglas and Steph Curry. Ask Jessica Care Moore and Phillip Agnew.
3. We are ENTERPRISING.Have you ever rolled through the ‘hood on a Saturday afternoon in the summer and really paid attention? There’s brother-man selling bottled water for $1 on the corner, flipping that $3 case into $24. In any other setting, that would be called a 700% profit margin. Sister-girl is sitting on the stoop braiding hair for $150 a head, figuring that $18 beats minimum wage any day. While the media will replay the unemployment rates and poverty indexes in our community ad nauseam, and it’s certainly something we should be concerned about, we cannot forget that at the end of the day, Black folks all around the world are coming up with ingenious and enterprising ways to survive and thrive.
4. We are DYNAMIC.Nothing stays the same. Not even being Black. We are the keepers of reinvention. Just when society thinks it has us figured out, when our styles and ideas are already on the cultural copier, we switch it up. Black people are both the noun and the verb of this affirmation. We are not only just constantly undergoing change, progressing toward destiny, ever evolving. We are also the actual catalyst for change. We are the spark that stimulates progress and catapults both our advancement and the advancement of others. Check our history! Whether through the use of subtle shifts or massive movements, we are a dynamic force to be reckoned with.
5. We are PASSIONATE.There’s absolutely nothing that gets our passions flowing more than a good debate. Whether it’s Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James, relaxed hair vs. natural, Sharpton vs. West, Nikki Minaj vs. Lil’ Kim, nonviolence vs. insurrection, or Tyler Perry vs. Everybody, our opinions and perspectives are varied but always deeply felt. Go to any barber shop, beauty salon, church picnic, family reunion, or college campus and you will likely find Black folks having profound (and yes, not-so-profound) conversations, expressed with intensity and enthusiasm.
6. We are RESOURCEFUL.MacGyver ain’t got nothing on Black folks. Need a hair bow for your baby? Go on over there, cut, and pull apart that Christmas bow. Got a squeaky door hinge and no WD-40? Ain’t nothing a little Vaseline can’t solve. Got to stretch your last paycheck until your new job starts? No problem, let’s get everyone at the church to help with meals. Only drive your car distances greater than five miles. And whatever you do, don’t run that A/C until it’s at least 90 degrees—that’s what front porches and stoops are for! Black folks have been making ways out of no way since always.
7. We are VIGILANT.We are watchmen and watchwomen. We stand guard. The lived experiences of our ancestors have thrust us into a perpetual alertness. We are attentive to the needs of our people. We are discerning when danger lurks. Though assimilation and cultural appropriation try to siphon away our concentration, we remain on our posts. We commit and recommit to protecting our families and our communities with vigilance unparalleled. Despite whether or not we matter to anyone else, we always matter to us.
8. We are CREATIVE.When our resourcefulness, our enterprising ways, and our brilliance converge, the creativity that surfaces is mind-blowing. Black folks have created whole genres of music; invented many of the technologies that the world takes for granted; and reimagined storytelling in film, books, and the arts. Reference ANY field where Black people have been freely allowed to be our creative selves, and you will certainly find excellence bar none. Let’s own this as our truth: In work, play, and life, we are some of the most creative people on the planet.
9. We are POWERFUL.Alice Walker once said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any.” Therefore, this is probably the most important affirmation we can say to ourselves and to each other, particularly at this time. We are powerful. Better yet, let’s say it this way: We are FULL of power. The connotation here is that we are filled with all we need to accomplish our individual and collective goals. Though we often feel empty, we can always be replenished by remembering who we are—from our beauty to our power. We can stand tall in that fullness and affect change.
10. We are RESILIENTEnslave us. Separate us. Colonialize us. Segregate us. Lynch us. Redline us. Discriminate against us. Suppress us. And yes, infiltrate us (side eye to you, Rachel). We keep pressing. We keep pushing. Even now, when others try to kill us, we keep rising up. We keep birthing greatness. We stay believing in all that was put in us from the dawn of time. As Mother Maya Angelou taught us, “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” And we won’t be. We are here. We won’t die. We are resilient!
Tracey Michae’l is a regular contributor to For Harriet.