Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Social Media provides opportunity for Unity

Black Is

I do not believe black people need to do more explaining. As long as we simply live, our contributions to this nation and world are relevant. What we most need is to embrace ourselves and our heritage.
We need to collectively strengthen our socio-economic position and align (or realign) ourselves for ownership and control of our images and our messaging.

We have to push beyond the images that the media delivers to our communities, both nationally and globally, and re-frame ourselves as we want to be seen. We should consider expanding our conversations about blackness beyond even being non-monolithic to embracing our Diasporan ancestry and traditions.

I say this because I often find myself still trying to explain to white people the enormous intricacies of black life. I wonder if when I do this I'm looking for acceptance or because I feel the need to provide some type of authentic clarification of who I am in the context of black culture.

Many of us define blackness on our own terms. When President Obama and his family moved into the White House, it stirred the so-called melting pot. Instead of a hopeful silencing under the auspices of the term "post-racial," Obama's Presidency has been somewhat of an exposé, an unearthing of sorts to the not-so-hidden bones of racial and ethnic disparities in North America.

These disparities glow and flicker like industrial style florescent lights. The resurgence of the Tea Party, the multiple economies, unemployment numbers, housing, census numbers that reveal the number of blacks leaving the North and going South, the Academy Award's White Out (or Black Out), and countless other headlines and episodes illuminate and agitate the already chaotic environment.

President Obama's tenure has pushed me review and question my personal identity and question the notion of "collective" identity. His Presidency has put a spotlight on blackness in ways I did not imagine.

Outside of the Presidency, and looking at historically white colleges and universities, we still see that the number of black professors pales in comparison to white professors. Yet, look in the kitchen of a restaurant or other service positions and you see mostly black and brown faces. In news rooms, fire departments, and still Hollywood, we are under-represented and in service jobs (and prisons), we are over represented.

Black identity (as humanity), is nuanced and complex. The media has reduced and pigeon-holed black life to: blacks as entertainers and rappers, athletes, and suspects on the local news.

This leaves little room for multi-faceted black life, and the realization that there is a full-spectrum of blackness that includes people with families in suburbs, cities, and public housing, that there are active black father's, that we are artists, intellectuals ... citizens.

Marlon Riggs' 1995 documentary 'Black is Black Ain't' explores the discomforts and beauty of blackness. Fifteen years later, I began my project titled 'Same Difference and Other Meditations.' The 4-channel video is a reflection on blackness from the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the present -- a combination of silent visual meditations and voices of people from various walks of blackness. Like Riggs, I developed this project because we still need to let the people know we are here and we matter.

But mattering does not need explaining. We don't need to explain. We need to reposition, reassert. Be here.

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