By Kennedy Daniel.
Black people do not have the choice to be activists. The second we emerge from our mother’s womb with glistening brown skin, we carry with us a burden of responsibility. This responsibility has been etched into our DNA when we were abducted from our continent and sold for the profit of the white man. Our DNA is woven with genes that give us hair that defies gravity and skin that shines in the sunlight. But it also gives us centuries of baggage- centuries of oppression, of injustice, of economic poverty and of heartbreak. Black children aren’t allowed to wake up one day and decide to care about social inequalities. We aren’t given the option to pursue politics as a “hobby”. Black people are born as activists because we have to fight every single day to prove to the world that we matter. When I sit in class at my predominately white institution, I am not only pursuing higher education but I am also a symbol to my school that this black girl is smart. When I waltz across a stage at a packed theatre, I am a symbol that black girls are graceful. When I get up in the morning following the news of another instance of police brutality, I am a symbol that I am resilient. And when I one day have the honor of birthing a child of my own, I will be a symbol that black girls are strong.
Everything a black person does is inherently political. When you live within a society that is motivated to kick you when you’re down, anything you do (no matter how big or how small) is in direct opposition to American culture. We do not have the option of being activists and we do not have the option to fight for what is right, because no one gave us the option. Our world doesn’t allow us to “opt out” of politics, because once we put our fists down and silence our voices, the outcome is often a death sentence. We all know this reality as our truth. We walk this line everyday. My experience as a black woman is hard. My experience is messy, layered, strange, happy, sad and fucking complicated. But despite these conflicting moments, my blackness is my favorite thing about myself.
Many non-black, American individuals have become so comfortable with seeing black individuals as inferior. We are painted as people who are constantly disenfranchised, lost and disconnected. And although black people suffer from extreme economic, political and social inequality, do not think for a second that we do not cherish our blackness. Although the media likes to portray us as drug dealers, baby mamas, sassy best friends and mammies, we represent so much more than that. My blackness is my power. It is my lifeline to ancestors I have never met. My blackness is me. I cannot begin to describe the rush of energy that fills my body when I hear the words of James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison. My body goes into overdrive when I hear the musical stylings of Kendrick Lamar, Stevie Wonder, Solange, Chuck Berry and Prince. My people are proud. My people are strong. And while I wasn’t given the choice to be an activist, I am proud to be one. I am proud of my people and I am proud of myself.