Am I black enough?
If I may ask, what exactly constitutes the value of a black card: deep melanin, magic, pain, or coconut oil? Is it reruns of Martin, or reciting every line to Paid in Full? Perhaps it’s the latest pair of Jordans you copped, or playing several rounds of spades with ease. If so, could I attain these attributes and still be seen as black enough? I desire to be woke and seen. The masses say that I am sleeping, but no one will wake me up?
I reflect on walking into the circular halls of my former high school as I would every weekday morning. My heart would pound as I made my way toward the locker area. It was the place to be seen and if your notoriety required it, you would be “posted up” against the rails that outlined our cafeteria. Piercing stares, smirks, and whispers were sure to follow your trail. I always wondered if that would be the day. The day someone decides to be confrontational because I think I’m “all that and a bag of chips.” My teachers tell me that the thesaurus is my best friend, yet I am reciting these new found words and meanings, and my black peers don’t welcome this new found relationship. Diction and intellect seems to bruise egos. Much like when I am working out my frustrations of life on the yoga mat. Unveiling what I knew and questioning my inner self. I do not wish to draw attention to myself, but that is difficult when you are one of few black students in each of your classes. The isolation is becoming loud and problematic.
I’m preparing to enter the real world and hanging onto a thread of hope with my 1100 SAT score. I am applying to colleges and proud to get on my way. Surely someone like me can get into Frostburg or Towson and be seen? There is a voice telling me that the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) isn’t good enough and too close to home. Black girls must to go Howard, Morgan, and all those other famous schools, but that’s not for me. Hell, just getting away from Cambridge, Maryland is praise worthy, but I just wanted to learn. Knowledge is power. The left side of me is ridiculing me for not going to a predominately white institution, but the right side of me is praising me for choosing an accelerated 4 year degree program that allowed me to obtain two bachelor’s degrees. I once had a relative who belittled me for attending UMES. Was I not black enough for my own family? My decision to obtain a higher education at the institution of my choice will not diminish your light. How naïve to think that we could shine together. Breaking generational curses sure is harder than what it seems like from the outside.
Now I am wondering the halls of my illustrious campus, The University of Maryland Eastern Shore. I am walking down the runway into our student center and I can hear the lyrics to Kanye’s Graduation Album blaring through the speakers. I am lounging in my dorm and my girlfriend next door is blaring Kiss Me by Sixpence None the Richer. It was absolutely beautiful and profound—the way I found space. Pause. Who knew that being black could be so multifaceted? Whatever this was, I surely couldn’t stay away from it and I was eager to spread my wings. I was living among the most beautiful shades of black I had ever seen, and immersing myself into a newfound melting pot. Bit of a country girl, but a whole lot of demeanor that would captivate the world. I wonder how many others are out there? Wanting to be seen and dancing a line between being culturally down, and corporate ready? Bending and molding to fit into spaces that don’t feel genuine.
Culture is tricky. It’s fluid and ever changing. Now I present to you a pocket full of confidence and publically listening to the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack has become the least of my worries. I am sitting in a coffee shop with my best friend in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, learning to play spades without shame. We take a walk over to local art gallery and tap into our creative senses. We are exploring the streets of Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans and embracing all the spaces. The stories. Suddenly being black enough has become a mere thought. It’s bothering me that it doesn’t matter if I listen to Gucci Mane or Chainsmokers; the government can still show up into my space and take my sense of dignity. Not even Kate Spade or Ivy Park could save you from injustice. Gucci threads won’t make you be seen in those uncomfortable spaces. It is the skeleton of Katrina which reminds me of this. Overlooked and swept under the carpet like the dirt trails of yesterday’s footprints. The disregard is loud.
And so I ask you again, am I black enough?