The Beauty of Blackness

Sep 11, 2015

The US has a great Black life tradition. Unfortunately, most outsiders are acquainted with only the negative aspects of Black American life.

This is an excerpt from a series of correspondences I had with a dear Nigerian friend who lives in Europe. In this letter, he had asked me why I love things that are Black, without actually using those terms.

I suddenly realized he as never had a “Black Experience.” He has only lived the Nigerian experience and doesn’t see himself as part of the larger Black diaspora. Its unfortunate that my friend and others like him have let people who are not descended from Africans, define who they are. It is tragic. In so doing, their eyes become blind to the majesty and beauty of black life. The following is an excerpt from one of my emails to them.

The US has a great Black life tradition. Unfortunately, most outsiders are acquainted with only the negative aspects of Black American life-the often historical fear of Blackness, and the American invention of Black criminality as a cognitive balm to reconcile the evil of slavery and its on going progenies. Most outsiders don’t get to see the other side of that coin. They don’t get to see the strength of a people. They don’t get to see how Black people have fought hard to maintain some form of filial bonds even when government sanctioned institutions fought to dehumanize them and rend their families apart. They don’t get to understand the transcendent joy of Black music, Black artistry, Black writing and so forth. They don’t get to see the beauty of Black life. I have lived that experience.

There is barely a major institution in this country of ours that has not being touched or shaped by the Black experience. As I seat here in Washington DC, just a couple of blocks from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, every thing my eyes see and touch, has been shaped by the Black experience. Blackness has a rich and deep history here in the United States, that it can’t have in Europe. “Black folks ain’t got no right to any European kingdom”. While we have a right to this land here. It is this inherent right of ours, that causes us to continually agitate for full freedom.

That much bandied about American phrase “towards a more perfect union”, is the story of Black life in America. The first slaves landed on her shores 1619. It took Black people another 300+ years to get to the civil rights bill of the 1960s. Consequently, we can say that Black people have had their freedom for 40+ years now. And in that time, they have been able to send one of their own to the White House. That story is truly emblematic of the capacity of the Black experience to lead to self-transcendence. That is remarkable! That is the beauty of Blackness. This is what I wanted to share with you.