Was It Me or Was This Black History Month...Different?
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
And... just like that February came and went. The month of love. The last month of winter and— oh yeah did I mention Black History Month? A month when we spend 28 long, delicate days dedicating every single minute, of every single hour to the figures and movements of the past, present and future that celebrate black culture.
When I was younger, Black History Month was just like any other regular degular shmegular month to me. But as I grew up— and especially during my time at UVa— I learned to treasure my people, our history and all the amazing things we are capable of. More importantly, I learned that it does matter to engage in our celebrations, our recognitions, and our spotlights. We don’t get them enough, and Lord knows we deserve them all too well.
But this month. This particular Black History Month. February 2019… well… is it me or… was it just...different? I didn’t feel the usual powerful embrace of Black Joy. (Disclaimer: I feel this every day, but this is the month I’m so supposed feel it OVERWHELMINGLY. This is the month I should never allow myself to be apologetic towards who I am because of my race. “I'm black and I’m proud” should be ringing in my head on repeat. Take this video for reference. That is a whole Black History Month Mood.)
Things started out this way. February hit, and the snap filters were there, the black power gifs were there, the throwbacks, the beloved political figures— those taught to us in school and those who were not— it was all there... but as the month went on and more news came out concerning the black people of our era… I had no idea how to feel. There were ups. There were downs. There were “okuurrrrr!” moments, and there were (a lot of) “what the actual f*ck” moments.
To make it easier. I thought I’d list them out for you as we fully reflect on and digest this month together:
1. Jussie Smollett
When I first heard of Smollet’s attack, I was absolutely heartbroken. The incident took the world by firestorm and many celebrities spoke out in support of Jussie...but then things got a little confusing. Stories after stories came out about Smollet falsifying the claim, evidence got mixed up, the updates became so frequent and contradictory my head started spinning. First Jussie lied—then the police lied—now—no one is really saying a word. And with this whole entire media show, I can’t help but think the little good that could have come out of this tragic turn of events is now lost. The intersection of being black and queer is highly ignored across the globe. After the report, many people were talking about what it means to be both black and queer, and the oppression, discrimination, and isolation that may follow. But now, with the circus of media and lies that surround this story, those voices are once again silenced and/or ignored.
2. Jordyn Woods Don't Want Your MF Situation
If “I Don’t Want Your Situation” is not your entire shmoooood… I can’t help you, sis.
Ok, so I usually don’t agree with giving the most problematic people in the world—The Kardashians— any attention, but Jordyn Woods is our girl, and I need to let y’all know that this is the type of love I’m looking for from the people in my life. I’m talking about the type of love Jada and Will Smith showed Jordyn by letting the world know that this black woman was not made by Kylie or the Kardashians. She had friends and family before them, and she will go on. Regardless of what actually happened, we cannot separate the fact that people were unnecessarily threatening this young woman’s livelihood over a mistake. No one knows what happened except for them— and you shouldn’t care. What you should care about is finding friends/family who will take care of you like Will and Jada so no matter how hard they try to knock you down—you will not fall. (Also this natural makeup/no makeup look? Sign me up, where’s the tutorial?)
3. Green Book Wins “Best Picture”
Please bear with me, this is not a picture of anyone in the cast of Green Book, (no, that is not Marhershala Ali) but doesn’t this exactly encompass how you felt when you heard this was the “best picture of the year?” This is a movie that is supposedly centered around an African American man, but instead it’s just another one of Hollywood’s beloved white savior storylines. I can go on days about Hollywood’s willingness to include diversity so long as a white hero is in the middle of it… but for now let’s ponder in what world ever would a white man ever be teaching a black man how to eat fried chicken… c’mon now y’all...
4. Beyonce Wins Another Brit Award
I want you to say it with me: Beyonce. Don’t you just feel better? Do you just love black women supporting black women? Do you just love this gif? The answer is yes. There’s no debating. Similar to The Smiths and Jordyn— no matter how hard you try, you will not knock us down… and especially not on Queen Bee’s watch.
5. Malia Obama
Ah-hem—this is your daily reminder to leave this this young, black woman the F*CK alone… thank you.
6. 21 Savage Deserves A “Brit” Award Too
So many memes, so many jokes to be said… but at the end of the day, this whole situation isn’t that funny. This man has a family and the way his deportation was handled (on the claim that he is actually an illegal immigrant from the UK) was completely inhumane. In fact… ICE is inhuman. In fact, maybe we should— and this is just a thought here— abolish it???
7. Rest in Power Trayvon
I think I read somewhere that Liam Neeson is a reminder that there are people out there ready to start altercations with black people with the intent of killing us. Initially, I wanted to discuss him and the horrendous remarks he made, but I don’t want to give that psychopath any more media. Instead I will take this time to reflect on the fact that Trayvon Martin would have been 24 on February 5th this year. We love and miss you. Rest in Power.
8. I Don’t See Nothing Wrong With Finally Putting R. Kelly Behind Bars
Well, if any good came out of this month, let us rejoice upon the fact that R Kelly was arrested after being indicted on 10 accounts of aggravated sexual assault. Three of these victims are between the ages of 13 and 17 (Let that sink in… this man is 52). It’s also apparent that a new sex tape has arisen... Yes another one.. Yes with another underage girl… There’s so much to say about this man, but I’m gonna lay it down for y’all nice and clear: No “bop” is worth the safety our children. Ever. Especially these black, female, BABIES.
9. Surprise, Surprise: The University of Virginia Student Body Was Caught Being Racist… Again
There is so much to unravel here. I’m not going to pretend to be surprised that the yearbook at this very institution under the name of “Corks and Curls” includes a depiction of lynching amongst other horrid, racist acts. I will also; however, not allow myself to be desensitized to black pain. The bottom line is: The University of Virginia was literally built on racism. I’m reminded of that every day I walk past Alderman Library. I’m reminded of that every time I walk behind Bryant Hall, or New Cabell Hall just to reach the tucked-away Office of African American Affairs. I reminded of that every time I walk down three flights of stairs in Newcomb just to get to the Multicultural Center. This University has a lot of work to do. And a lot of action to take. And remember, ladies and gentleman, my race, ethnicity and culture are not mother-f*cking costumes.
10. We Still In This B*tch!
Despite this being a very odd Black History Month, I would just like to send y’all off knowing that Black People are still and will always be in every way, shape, and form: The Sh*t—unless, of course, you’re racist, sexist, xenophobic, transphobic, misogynist, etc… then we are NOT rooting for you.