I love the fuck out of Black people.

It gets no realer than that. I have an intrinsic bias for which I make no apologies. We are some of the most brilliant creators and innovators, in addition to the most beautifully, wonderfully-made beings that have graced the planet.

Ancient Egyptians gave us hieroglyphics. What is graffiti, if not the hieroglyphics of our time? This won’t be a history lesson—not today. This is more of a reflection and affirmation of love for my culture.

Maybe this is more of a testimony. I feel like I might need an organist and maybe one of the church mamas to tell me to take my time.

A few days ago, a picture popped on my timeline of a cake made of cornbread, mashed potatoes, gravy and fried chicken wings. It was one of the most creative cakes I’ve seen in a while—and I’ve seen plenty. I had to double-take on the caption because I thought it was some re-vamp of the whole chicken and waffles thing. Not so. I checked the original post to confirm if the one who crafted that culinary masterpiece is Black–and sure enough…..

“I swear, I love my people!” How could I not, though? Realizing just how much I say this—and the familiar, soul-stirring feeling I get every time I get to witness some epic Black shit. I couldn’t help it if I tried.

Cultural norms? We absolutely have those. Some are unwritten, unspoken, rules, laws and bylaws, that align with our daily survival. For many of us, it’s ritualistic. There are things we just do off instinct while navigating through life. It could be a bar, restaurant, store, event, or any place where we’re the minority. We scout for allies. We survey “the land”, scanning for exits, as well as others of us. I know for me, I try to identify the skinfolk in the space and take note of how deep we’re rolling. If we make eye contact, we either give the nod of recognition or some other gesture that says, “I see you”, if distance is an issue. Depending on the verbal or non-verbal feedback, you recognize who’s down or not, should things take a left turn. If the nod or that patented look/glance/friendly glare of recognition doesn’t happen, or the other party avoids eye contact, we know that one ain’t tribe.

I remember being in a 7-11 downtown before work one morning making coffee. There was me, another sister, and this dude who seemed a bit off. He was on my side fixing his cup, mumbling, standing far too close for my liking, and just doing some off-kilter type shit. The sister looks at me, I look at her. That glance/eyebrow raise/side eye (like, you see him?) combo we exchanged was a silent conversation. Dude finally walks off. “I didn’t know what was up with him.” Laughter. “Girl!” More laughs. “You know I was ready, right?” We agreed that we were ready to jump if need be. We never exchanged names. I couldn’t even to this day tell you what that lady looked like, but in that moment, we became fast friends and ready to go to war if need be. There’s been so many other instances of similar situations with complete strangers that just know the code and fall in line.

That look, though. It’s the look of Black people universally, that lets you know if today is the day or not. The look that stops you right in your tracks as a mischievous child—or else. You could be across the room and lock eyes with just about any Black person and know what time it is. A look that’ll get your whole life together in a mere second. Anything longer than that to straighten up is a danger zone.

We stay making lemonade out of lemons making painful experiences bearable. Remember that #NiggerNavy fiasco that happened earlier this year? I was having a rather fucked up morning. Anything that could go wrong did—and I ended up having to miss a funeral. I was a mess. I sent a text to the friend whose family member was being laid to rest explaining my series of unfortunate events. I sulked for a while afterwards, meditated, and finally decided to check out ‘Black Twitter’. I initially refused to do it to myself, but ended up changing my mind after a few of my trusted Facebook friends had mentioned all the funny I was missing. I was glad I did because it took me all the way under in the best way. I laughed so hard and so much, I was in tears, my stomach hurt, and my disposition was much better than it was earlier. Black people came through with the come through and it was comedic gold! It was none of what I anticipated (a racially- motivated shit show). It was such good medicine, and so right on time, I took my improved mood to Instagram to express my love and appreciation.

Constantly, we are setting trends while the world not only watches in awe, but also tries to stake claim and make it their own, hence, cultural appropriation. However, fact checks and clap backs don’t lag too far behind. Sometimes, somebody’s ‘late to the party’ ass gotta get a piping hot serving of “What You Won’t Do” and read for filth in the process. I’m here for it, along with hundreds of thousands of play-cousins, aunties, uncles and the like.

If it’s a new dance, we probably invented it, perfected it, made it fly, spread it like wildfire—and the rest of the world copies—per usual.

If there is a party, wedding reception, crab feast, cookout, or maybe even a baby shower, the Electric Slide is bound to happen, and if ‘Before I Let Go’ isn’t played at least once–your party is trash. That’s law and tradition.

I watched a video of some kids dub-steppin’, pop-locking and some other fly shit to a remixed version of a ‘Switch’ song and it was FIRE. Others would be hard-pressed to out-dance us from the NeNe, Dougie, Milly Rock, Stanky Leg, or any other thing that requires rhythm, coordination or finesse. We got it down to a science. Not that wypipo can’t dance or don’t have rhythm, it’s just not a normal thing to see some Billie or Becky doing so with such flawless execution.

Speaking of parties….

Any party that is thrown by the average Black family, whether it’s for an infant, toddler, grade-school aged child, or teen—liquor will almost always be served. A few games of spades will be played and shit-talking will ensue. If you can’t hang, don’t do it to yourself—and you better not renege. You could never live it down. My friends and I still, from time to time, talk about a spades game that went down at least four years ago. It’s that serious, but I digress.

Our hair, no matter the texture or length, we’ll make art of it. Nobody works hair or hair accessories quite like we do. When wypipo decided that they would try to culturally appropriate braids, Black people quickly got their asses together. You could almost hear the collective: “No the fuck you didn’t”, coming from first “responders” and ancestors alike.

Linguistics is an art and a science. We take language, flip it, pick it apart, scrap some of it, give words an entirely new meaning and connotation. Staying “out of grown folks’ business” was just an unwritten (but very much vocalized) law for us growing up. If you merely pretended to mind your own, your acting skills would need to be on some professional thespian society membership type of perfection. You better be Angela Bassett or James Earl Jones with the acting–or your ass was toast. There was no asking what it meant when some adult mentioned that your uncle came home late and “was feelin’ no pain”. Your curiosity just had to wait it out and make the connection as an adult, or if you were blessed enough, maybe an older sibling or cousin took pity on your green ass.

When “yo” started becoming a thing, my aunt hated it. I don’t remember when it stuck, but it did. At this point, I’m pretty sure I’m gonna use it til I’m gone. I sometimes think about what I’ll sound like as an elder still saying “yo”. Shouts out to “dope” too, though. That’s not going anywhere either. I’m also now wondering about “Ayyy” and aight”. Like, am I gonna be seventy plus, still calling people “yo”, still saying “dope” and the others? Likely, and very much so. We are innovators of communication. If that’s not brilliance, I don’t know what is.

Shout out to Black. Ass. Names. And no apologies for them. A super special shout-out to everybody with a Black ass, multiple syllable having name that you refuse to allow people to shorten or sidestep. Speaking of names, let’s talk about nicknames or monikers, if you will. Every Black person that grew up in a predominately Black neighborhood has at minimum one friend whose nickname is all you knew until they were called out either by a teacher during roll call—or some other ‘government name’ mandatory situation. Shout out to every Peanut, Junior, Mike-Mike, Reds, all the Dante(s), all the variations of Keisha, Tisha, Lisa, Kim, Kia, Nikki, Toya—all the Trice(s) and Tonya(s), all the -etta(s) and -eeka(s) with honorable mention to anybody that was blessed with some combo or variant of both their mother’s and father’s name.

Don’t even get me started on food. Black people and food is not a game. There’s too many things to mention, but no Black person on this planet should be using prepackaged gravy. I rebuke you. I will, however, mention that Black people’s potato salad, greens, chicken, and macaroni and cheese is real–and you damn near need a Ph.D., in order to be considered qualified enough to make those things for any important event or holiday, such as Thanksgiving. If you’re not good at it, we might not tell you, we’ll just whisper warnings or make the look that tells us that’s not what we wanna do.

Music. Who does it better? The most rhetorical question there is if there ever was one. This isn’t even a debatable topic. Hip-Hop culture alone is enough proof to shut down any argument. It lives, it breathes, and reproduces. There are many subcultures that are the fruit of this rich, kaleidoscopic, multidimensional entity.

You can’t mention soul and not relate it in some way to Black folks. That’s just the rule. Soul has a sound that invokes feeling and emotion. It’s the passion and vibe that I equate to the very essence of Black people.

Shout out to eye-rolling, neck-twirling, hands on your hips, gum-poppin’, mean muggin’, wishin’ a nigga would, double-dutch jumping, rolling dice on side streets and back alleys, hand games, Saturday Morning cartoons, Soul Train and Showtime at the Apollo on Saturday nights.

Shout out to melanin.

Shout out to being anywhere, talking to nearly anybody and get hit with the, “God is good…..” You know the rest.

Shout out to giving thanks with sigh of relief knowing that the ones you love made it home again safely and pourin’ a lil liquor for the ones we now create sacred spaces for.

Shout out to third-eye open awareness, against all odds and still rising to the occasion, loving who you are (or learning to), from whence you came, and recognizing yourself among the beautiful things.

Shout out to my people.

-Z

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