Black History Month. A history too complex to be recognized in a day, week, month or year. A history of oppression, silencing and questioning one’s worth. A history that often reminds us that not much has changed and that the deep-rooted sentiments of racism are very still apparent.
During the Diversity and Inclusion Committee round table this month, I was given the opportunity to facilitate an open and honest discussion regarding Black History Month. I had brushed up on my research and tried to find a way to navigate the discussion. There are not enough words that could truly encompass the history of my people. Should I begin by reflecting on matters of the past with displaced or Black Canadians? What angle should I take? There was no angle. I went off script because being a Black woman, we are tired. Black people are tired. We are continually re-traumatized by reflecting on our ancestors on their knees, this represents the days of knees being rested on our fellow Black body (George Floyd).
The Black body and voice have always been forced into submission. Our very history that we are taught is negative and there is no mention of the kings and queens that used to reign in Africa. Our past has been erased and the only recollection we have is of modern Black revolutionaries such as Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X and Rosa Parks. When the status quo of white people is challenged, we are promised a fate of certain death, imprisonment and stigmatization of race.
During the roundtable discussion, it was apparent what Black people often have to put up with. This includes micro-aggressions and playing the role of the “nonthreatening” Mammy just to appease our coworkers. We often have to remain silent on pressing issues due to a lack of trust. Trust has gotten Black people nowhere before so there is distrust in a company or system that characterizes and polices the entire Black body. It is no wonder that we remain loud in our laughter and quiet in our suffering.
How can we make change? I propose that all Black people realize that we no longer need to play by the rules of fear. We’d like to encourage you to speak your voice; you’re not going to be less liked for speaking up. You are not troublesome, your voices and lives matter. Take time to reflect on your past and your current situation. Don’t be afraid of building new relationships and allies, as sometimes we see that people actually care when we ally ourselves with other races.
Black people have been speaking for many years and the world is going to listen to us, respect us and know that our voices and history are greater than the month we introduced, greater than the food we create and the dance trends we invent. We are not a commodity that can be used up and discarded. We see you; we hear you, and we value your efforts.
To everyone who cares about human rights, remember that Black history is a matter of the abrasive abuse of human rights onto Black people. Let us right our wrongs, avoid making assumptions (but do make eye contact) and try bridging that gap between yourself and the quiet co-worker who may be bottling their emotions just to keep their job. Please join in and lend your voice to our Diversity and Inclusion Committee; where your life matters, your opinions are heard and a difference can be made in shifting the pendulum one step at a time.