Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day
My parents always told me that if I haven’t got anything good to say, then don’t say anything at all. This has been one of the main reasons I have stalled in writing a blog post for a while. Chatting pure breeze is all well and good, but I have to give a shit about the breeze in which I chat! It has to make my head buzz, make me shout out loud and hit caps lock on my keyboard in a furious sweaty frenzy. I also have been preoccupied with writing a new novel (because apparently, I enjoy self-flagellation of writing stories that may or may not stir unsuspecting members of the public to voluntarily poke sharp objects in their eyes.) But today, on Dr Martin Luther King Jr Day, I find myself moved to scream, dance and throw glitter onto my computer screen!
The first school project I ever completed at primary school was on Martin Luther King. My friends went down the route of writing about dolphins, baby seals or their favourite football team, but I wanted to assert my ‘blackness’ on the entire class by narrating ‘my people’s’ struggle with as much subtlety as Oprah… at a Black Lives Matter march… dancing to reggae! I memorised his I Have a Dream speech, I drew a picture of him with felt tip pens and I borrowed/stole a framed art print that usually hung in the sitting room of my parent’s house… because visual aids are key!
Everything about MLK made me so proud of my black skin. The civil rights movement in America along with the parallels of what it meant to be black in a predominately white Britain, was poured into my ear like a bedtime story. Instead of “…and they lived happily ever after…” my father substituted fairy tales with real life. “Don’t forget that we have to work 10 times as hard to get the same opportunities as our white peers… know your history… understand the struggle… oh and Jesus was a black man!”
I grew up loving my blackness. Even when I was being called a black jack, black bitch, or black bastard. Even when I was told to go back to my own country. Even when I was asked to move on a public bus. Even when I was reprimanded for having ‘a chip on my shoulder’. Even when I was rejected by a crush because “black girls were ugly.” I found pride and strength in what some saw as an unsightly weakness. I wore my loud ‘black is beautiful’ t-shirts. I won a public speaking competition discussing racism. I wrote my university dissertation about the black diaspora in Britain. I longed to open a black interest bookshop. And when I write, I insist on harnessing as much flavour, attitude and punch as my grandmother’s rice and peas with curry goat!
You see, there was a time when all I used to stress about was getting my homework diary signed in time for Monday morning registration at school. There was also a time when trivial shit pissed me off like when U2 decided to impregnate everyone’s iTunes account with an album nobody actually asked for. But now it’s like my worries and fears have tripled in frequency and intensity… and I wish it would all just slow the fuck down.
Being black and proud doesn’t seem to mean shit to the ‘leader of the free world’ Mr Trump, who is openly racist and shrugs his shoulders. Loving my melanin doesn’t matter to those folks who believe that Brexit gives them a platform to be vile bigoted individuals. And loving the skin I am in is just stale, tired rhetoric when we are all living a racial nightmare that pisses all over the brave efforts of those who came before us. Yet, somewhere amongst the confusion, lost hope and the twisted notions of the growing minority, I hope that there’s another young black girl out there who is dying to tell her classmates all about MLK and why his story is more relevant today than ever before.