Celebrating Black History Month as a kid was something that I truly looked forward to. I remember the moments when I sat in class while my teachers played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech coupled with a watered-down lesson on the great Black heroes from the past. And even feeling a sense of pride knowing that the conversation is structured around the essence of my blackness. I was proud, enlightened, eager, and blinded by the hidden truths that the textbooks didn’t provide.
But now that I’m older and more aware of everything that surrounds me, I will never celebrate Black History Month in the same way anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to pay homage to those that have come before
me… (shout out to MLK). I will have respect for those that have made influential strides but aren’t well known… (I see you, Eugene Bullard). And I will idolize the dream-seekers and trailblazers that grace our lives today. But what truly pivots my perspective is the unconscious bias that follows me around every day because of my blackness.
(Candace Queen and Mel Gray, Digitas Chicago)
Thinking twice as I reach for the cell phone at the bottom of my purse in a department store to avoid any speculation of shoplifting. Wondering if that hairstyle that I want to get done will be considered as “ghetto” by others that don’t understand the beauty of natural hair. Or putting a dress back on the rack out of the fear of it being “too tight” or looking “ratchet” on my body because of my curves.
These instances have been my truth for quite some time now. Not voluntarily, but psychologically. And it pains me to say this out loud, because these thoughts associated with my blackness have affected the way that I’ve navigated this world.
The history behind the “second-guessing” or “cautiousness” are deeply rooted in Black History – the history that sets the tone for who I am as a black woman. The history that I was and will always be proud of. But I’ve been reacting to this history in the wrong way. So, from this point forward, I’m making it a conscious goal to STAND UP, BE ME, and celebrate my history through not letting unconscious bias rule my thinking. More importantly, to be unapologetic about my truth with the absence of fear.
I’m so proud to work at an agency like Digitas with resource groups like ONYX – where I can be my authentic self. To be present, open and honest without hesitation. This, and so much more pushes me to carry this newfound ideology around Black History Month into the essence of my being. To live my truth, unapologetically and not be afraid to share any and all thoughts with those around me. To be… ME.