Friday, November 28, 2014

Bathing in the Beauty of Blackness




Last weekend, I checked out. I left the building because I needed to insulate myself from the ugliness of racism. So, I wrapped myself in the beauty of Blackness instead. The constant barrage of negative press and off-handed, mean-spirited and misdirected comments were wearing me down. I could not take one more “news” story or opinion from the keyboard psychologists and the armchair forensic experts on anything and everything from Cosby to Ferguson. I simply did not want to deal with anymore widely polarizing views on these and other issues plaguing Black America. 

This was before the grand jury decision in Ferguson, so as the country waited to hear what we already knew, I left the darkness of a country still deeply divided by race to seek solace in the love I have for my own people. I yearned to see people like me living life. Being normal.  Not being characterized by race. Not being demonized or victimized. I needed an alternative view of what makes me, Me. So, I took a respite from media and conversations around the proverbial water cooler and chose to focus on the strength and the beauty of Black culture. First stop: film.

On Saturday morning, I rose early and went to see Beyond the Lights. I love the work of Gina Prince-Blythewood, and I had been following the back story for Beyond the Lights, so I was ecstatic when it was finally released. And even though I had seen it opening weekend, it was worth a second look. On the surface, it was a simple universal love story, and who’s not a sucker for a good lover story? But below the surface it is a story of why it's important to live life authentically.  And yes, love is universal, but it's as refreshing as the first spring rain to see faces on the big screen that mirror me. And so I cocooned myself in Noni and Kaz's story and rooted for the happily-ever-after. Second stop: dance.

Saturday night I went to see the Dance Theater of Harlem (DTH) at the historic Auditorium Theater.  It was their first time in Chicago in 10 years. When DTH stopped touring years ago, I was saddened by the news. But when I found out they were coming to Chicago, I bought tickets and the timing couldn’t have been better.  As I sat in the audience watching those beautiful Black bodies in motion, I was in heaven. It's no secret that classical ballet is comprised of those mostly of a lighter hue, so there are very few dark spots in that sea of whiteness. But DTH founded by Arthur Mitchell the first African-American Principal dancer with New York City Ballet and Karel Shook In 1969 has been a training ground for African-American ballet dancers. The company is definitely diverse now, but there was enough color filling the stage to satiate my desire for cultural recognition and reconnection.  The first two dances were typical classical ballet, but the last dance was ballet to the hits of Aretha Franklin and James Brown, and it brought the racially-mixed audience to its feet. Next stop: church.

Still not ready to return to the ugliness of a racist reality, on Sunday I settled in for some good ole’ down-home religion. I am not an avid Church goer, but I love the faith of Black people. Since coming to this country we have learned to fill our spiritual well when it runs dry. Gospel music is a balsam for my wounded psyche. And on Sunday evening, I tuned into the Trinity United Church of Christ broadcast streaming live on the internet. The choir was dressed in African attire and Pastor Moss had on a jacket made from African fabric. His message was on immigration, and Pastor Moss spoke of the parallels between the African-American experience and that of current immigrants. He cautioned us not to get caught up in the rhetoric around the issue of immigration and forget where we came from. I watched the church service and was in fellowship. Last stop: Literature


Then I curled up in the bed with my favorite African-American historical romance writer Beverly Jenkins who weaves little known history into the stories of Black people.  I am reading the third one in the Destiny series. This one is about Pilar, a Black pirate who steals the ship of Noah, one the Yates men in the series.  My choice to bask in the beauty of Blackness would cause some to label me a racist, but as a woman of color with little power, I am far from being a racist though I can be prejudiced and bigoted. But I'll save that for another conversation.

Weighted down by racism and oppression, I needed to take the time to take that weight off me. Bathing in the beauty of Blackness reminded me on whose shoulders I stand. It reinforced for me that I come from a people who are tenacious, who are resilient, who get knocked down again and again but like the Phoenix will rise. I bathed in the beauty of Blackness, and my soul is soothed.

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