VIII: The Flavour of the Month
Photo of author | Image Credit: Isak Vaillancourt
Before I can start writing I need to select the perfect font. Each time I type I become engulfed in the moment with serif letters, all caps or cursive font. The beauty of each letter kissing the pages of my virtual document, it is truly something special, something I love. It may sound silly, but these small moments are among the purest sensations of happiness in my life. Tonight, just past midnight here I sit in front of my dimly lit screen in a dark room and I feel incredibly at ease with myself. With each sentence, I’m taken farther and farther into a literary journey, with no idea where it will end. Does it have to end?
This new year is already a month in and believe it or not I already feel like an entirely new human. Sometimes I look bad in pictures of myself and wonder where that girl went and when she left. Each day is a step into womanhood, a step in a new direction, a step down a bright path filled with infinite possibilities. And yet, somehow the world has a way of making us feel boxed in at times. In the fall I read a piece for one of my classes and they talked about this idea that Black people, our bodies are invisible and yet hyper-visible all at the same time. Nothing makes me feel more like the embodiment of that sentiment than Black History Month.
February, the shortest month of the year. While I don’t fully understand the concept of leap years, there is something spectacular about February 29th. During those years we get one more day of this month, one more day where society centralizes my ancestors, one more day where all eyes appear to be on me. Dear Black people, is it just me, or does the occurrence of February suddenly make you the centre of the world? Suddenly I’m everyone’s best friend, suddenly everyone wants to hear my opinion, suddenly everyone wants a piece of me, my body, my deep dark, melanated Black soul.
I hate the snow. I hate the cold. But, I hate nothing more than being the flavour of the month. If you’re unclear about what I’m talking about I want you to think back to 2020. So many Black lives were stolen and suddenly Black was the flavour of the month. BLM chapters formed across the world and within moments everyone wanted to know a Black person, everyone needed something from us. People wanted presentations, rallies, social media connections, the world wanted it all. Take and take and take society did. I’m sure most Black people are still recovering from the trauma, exhaustion and tokenism that we experienced.
2020 was an outlier because people suddenly decided they cared. Typically people (mostly white folks), only pretend to care around February. So, as we roll into yet another full Black History Month, I felt I owed it to myself to speak my truth and take the weight off my shoulders and put it back on the world. Despite my tone I don’t hate this month. I love that for 28 (sometimes 29) days the world is rich with Black content. Beautiful Black bodies, Black hair, Black stories everywhere. I love seeing my people live their best lives and knowing that I am right there alongside them. Where the problem arises is with non-Black individuals.
February is a time when organizations decide that anti-Black racism is real and that representation matters. Folks come out of the woodworks begging for Black speakers and clinging to Black people they knew a lifetime ago. I cannot count the number of times that I have been asked in January to speak the following month, the number of times people have endlessly emailed me for a piece of my time, the number of times I was suddenly an expert and the world just had to hear from me. It is a lot, hell it’s too much. It’s a heavy burden to bear. Before I continue with my cynicism I’ll give folks the benefit of the doubt. Maybe people don’t understand that Black people are allowed to speak out during the other 11 months of the year. Despite popular belief, I can in fact string together a few words eloquently enough to pass as a speech, presentation or workshop outside those cursed 28 (or 29) days each year.
All I want to do during February is share beautiful Black content (like I continuously do year round). No, I won’t like your copy and pasted MLK quote (read up on him, yes he did a lot but by no means is he the one I want to uplift above all else). No, I will not tell you if XYZ is racist, problematic or offensive in any way, Google exists, use it. No, I don’t want to come speak at your job, school or afterhours group, not unless you’re going to pay me that is, I DO NOT DO THAT SHIT FOR FREE (certainly not if you are not Black)!
When I was in my late teens my dad started having our family watch a different Black movie every weekend of Black History Month. And when I say Black movies I mean ones not about trauma, suffering, slaves and Uncle Tom types. I mean stories of Black love, life and experiences. 12 Years a Slave? Judas and the Black Messiah? Django Unchained? Selma? Harriett? The Book of Negros? Women of the Movement? No thank you, kindly keep that shit away from me during these 4 short weeks. Have I seen many of these, sure. But, the key is to not centralize Black trauma during the one alleged month we are allowed a year. I say allegedly because in my house Black History Month is every motherfucking month.
So while I watch people post their performative pictures and quotes, buy all the kente cloth they can afford and post about slavery all over the damn place, know that I’ll be ignoring the caucasity and focusing on my joy, my icons and inspiration. I will not be burning myself out so that equity and diversity committees can pat themselves on the back. I will not be educating ignorant individuals with a million resources at their fingertips. No, instead I will be sharing Black joy (for my people), I will be listening to Black artists on repeat (for my people), I will be connecting with my family and Black friends to maintain connections in this white supremacist world. Things I do each and every month, things that February has nothing to do with. So fuck the flavour of the month, melanin is sugary sweet 365 days a year.