“Am I Black enough?”
Blackness — More than just Melanin
Those who’ve followed my podcast Chatting with Casey from its very first episode know that this isn’t the first time I’ve asked this question.
If you considered the archetypal Black man you know from popular media—rocking an oversized hoodie; listening to rap music full-blast; and having a deep affection for curvaceous women, basketball and ballin’ outta control—not only would you fail to capture what my Blackness means to me, but you’d entirely miss the point of why we’re doing this in the first place.
Every Black person I know has had to come to terms with what Blackness means to them in their own way. There’s no unifying guide to being Black like what the Bible does for Christianity or the Quran for the Muslim faith. We use it as an identifier for our culture, but Black literature could mean books from the Congo to St. Vincent and back. It’s an oft-debated and loosely defined term, but we all understand what we mean when we say it.
My Journey with Blackness — The Moment that Forever Outlined it for Me
Not coming from a huge Black community myself, I guess my idea of Blackness hasn’t always synced up with how others might see it.
Sometimes You Just Need to Wake Up.
There’s a conversation I had with my Dad once that really drove this point home for me.
Okay—”conversation” is generous; it was a very heated lecture once he realised I wasn’t pulling my weight in school—but even though it happened twenty years ago, I still think about it with my views changing about it the older I get.
What my father wanted me to remember is that no matter how smart I might be or how popular I was at school, I didn’t have the luxury of getting bad marks. As one of three Black kids in a private school of 500+ students, I wasn’t like everyone else. My family didn’t come from money. Or guaranteed anything once I finished high school. But maybe most importantly of all, people would see my skin colour before they saw me, and that wasn’t much to my advantage.
So what—exactly—is Blackness?
What, Exactly, is Blackness?
Blackness is something you can’t shake. No matter how you change your demeanour or appearance, the world will still see you as Black—it’s either something you embrace as part of your identity or continually struggle with as the world feels stacked against you.
And the sad truth is that it often is.
But as the saying goes—we don’t divide; we multiply. While it’s unjust to lump us all together, on one hand, it’s the very act of lumping us together that give us some of our best traits. Resilience. Persistence. The ability to fight back even when it feels like the world’s pinning us down, and for me, that’s a core aspect of what Blackness is!
One man does not a culture make, though—there are 1.2 million other stories that make up the Black Canadian Experience (and counting!), so it’s important that you hear from some of those voices as well so you can see what differs between us and what universally holds us together!
For day one, I chatted with Asante Haughton, public speaker and mental health advocate, about what Blackness means to him, and what we can all learn from considering the question. In Asante’s case, he particularly caught my attention by overcoming many of the stigmas associated with young Black fathers and ultimately came out stronger for it in the end.
I encourage you to give our conversation a listen and really let some of his experiences sink in.
Blackness is What You Make It — Let’s Just Keep Making it Something GOOD.
So I hope you enjoyed our first post for this year’s Live from the 3.5, and a big thank you to Asante Haughton for being the first to step up to the plate, and Mental Health T.O. for hosting the Twitter chat that brought us together!
Be well out there and come check us out tomorrow for 2019’s Live from the 3.5, Chapter 2: Being Black in the Great White North!
Until then, I remain,
poet, thinker, researcher, and a speaker
Passionate about positive social change, equality, and mental health, Asante Haughton has dedicated himself to endeavours aimed at building stronger communities. He is a poet, thinker, researcher, and a speaker who believes in people, global interconnectivity, and positive personal change. Not only has Asante made several TV appearances and featured in the documentary “Three Voices”, but he’s also spoken internationally, presenting in Canada, the United States, Colombia and most recently, Ireland. When not trying to save the world, you’ll find Asante laughing at his own jokes, Netflix’ing, watching cartoons, and frustrated with Toronto sports teams.
More than anything though, Asante aims to deliver a message of social awareness, social justice, community betterment, and above all, hope.