I have been on a bit of a februarian hiatus (yes I made up the term) due to various assignment deadlines and general demotivation for life, but it seems like I’ve re-emerged just in time to participate in the best day of my social media membership thus far.
Black History Month has just wrapped up in America and it seems to have a big month for the black race. With Kanye West alluding to racial discrimination in the Grammys, the groundbreaking civil rights film ‘Selma’ being left out of many Oscar nominations and yet more black teens being wrongfully killed by the police; this hasn’t been the best month to be black. But a very wise tumblr user @Expect-the-greatest proposed the idea of a day on tumblr where all the beautiful melanin-infused people post selfies of themselves and reblog selfies of other members of black tumblr. A simple idea quickly turned into a revolution as March 6th became dubbed as #BlackoutFriday, and the selfies came pouring in.
Ok, time to be honest. When I first saw this post rolling around on tumblr, I thought of my timeline, usually full of poetry, visual art and the occasional rant, now being filled with picures of strangers’ faces and I wasn’t too keen on the idea. But as the day drew nearer and the whole of my tumblr-sphere got increasingly excited; fan art was made and confetti was thrown, and eventually, it wore me down. All week long, my mind was on March 6th. And it did not disappoint.
I stayed on tumblr from the minute my eyes opened till I returned to my bed (my degree got in the way a bit but never mind) and for the first time since joining tumblr, hit my daily post limit and had to learn the ‘add to queue’ function. A true celebration of blackness reached places far beyond I think any of us could have imagined. The disabled were represented, those with vitiligo, albino, chronic illnesses, transgender and other marginalised subgroups of the black community were held up and reblogged all around the world. It grew and grew till it spilled onto twitter and became a top trending hashtag, got a few celebrity participations and received media interest from sites such as buzzfeed, abcnews and BET.
For me personally, I felt it was more important and necessary than even I realised. Growing up in the multiculturally diverse streets of East and South London, I definitely took for granted being surrounded by people who looked like me. People who came from a similar cultural background and people who understood things about me I never felt I had to explain. But 3 years ago, I moved out of my bubble and journeyed to the city of Southampton to complete a degree and to get a chance to experience a different cultural environment.
Well there was more ignorance than diversity and the shocking comments and questions I’ve heard these past few years have really made me realise how much I took for granted what I had back home. Having people who can pronounce your name in under 3 explanations, who understand how and why your hair changes monthly and even know what is appropriate to say to someone from a different ethnic group than you. It can get pretty frustrating having to explain to someone for the millionth time why using the N word is NEVER ok, and making comments like ‘Have you always been that dark?’ or ‘Oh, Africans never learn do they?’ is completely inappropriate.
And if social media has shown me anything, it’s that what may show up as mild to moderate ignorance face-to-face can often translate to quite aggressive discrimination and racism behind the scenes. Oh they may make an offhand comment about your new braids/locs hairstyle like ‘Ooh how exotic’ but in the safety of their friendship group, it turns into ‘She looks like she smells like patchouli and weed’. Though Guilana Rancic gave a grounded apology after making that statement on fashion police, it doesn’t completely erase the sting; because we know these thoughts are similar to those of our potential employers, our colleagues and all those who don’t quite know what to make of cultural styles they’re unfamiliar with.
Blackout Friday was so important for so many reasons and the fact that it extended to a whole weekend just makes it even better! So to all my fellow chocolate skinned warrirors living in a pool of ignorance, discrimination or hatred, I hope movements like this make you realise that no matter what others say, you are wonderful, you are appreciated, you are Black Excellence.
We are beautiful inside and out.
Peace and Love