This Black History Month, and really every month, my goal is to decenter cis(het) Black men in favor of uplifting queer Black folks, Black women, and other marginalized or unheard groups within the Black community.During Black History Month we gird ourselves for the inevitable white-centered mentions of Martin Luther King Jr. and his supposedly pure non-violence compared to our supposedly recent civil unrest, à la the Black Lives Matter movement. We spit curated “facts” about everyone from MLK Jr. to Madam CJ Walker to The Black Panther Party and we have our paragons lined up and ready just the way we learned them in school: Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass, etc. What happens when we center people like Marsha P Johnson, people like Trudy of Gradient Lair, people like me? Well, usually what happens is an immediate shutdown. Someone brought up colorism in regards to Rosa Parks success as a public civil rights figure and people were up in arms. Instead of placing Parks into historical context where colorism is definitely relevant, the response was an All-Lives-Matter esque, “We are ALL Black.” The same thing happens with Beyoncé — but that’s nothing compared to the uproar a mention of MLK Jr.’s infidelity brings. In conversations about our Black idols we are encouraged to forget their very human transgressions or imperfections in favor of “preserving the legacy.” Perfection over reality or relatability engenders idolization, and that’s why political leaders preferred monotheism to paganism — control.
Learning more about Black history is highly necessary to understanding who we are and where we are from.DNA testing for ancestry and ethnicity is increasingly popular and a number of companies offer a careful breakdown of our lineage. Black buyers especially should prepare themselves for the truths that lie within the DNA results. This means learning a bit about Black History: the brutal truths and treatment of slavery, including the separation of families and sexual assault at the hands of the white slaveowners. This also means learning about how populations moved from the South to the North, as Black families sought to escape Jim Crow and find work opportunities. So many of the anomalies that people are sure to find in their own DNA may not be so surprising after reading the books on this list. Prepare yourself for the truths that lie in your results by reading the following recommendations.
"The Book of Negroes"There were slaves in America during the Revolutionary War. Those slaves were offered a chance at land and freedom if they fought for the British. This book is based on a journal that cataloged the men who were deemed “loyalists” and sent to Nova Scotia to claim their land. Nothing prepared them for the harsh weather and the reality that going north didn’t mean escaping the brutalities of racism. Lawrence Hill’s novel explores this era through a female character who was brought to America as a child and lived as a slave until the war broke out. "The Book of Negroes" will give you a good look at the beginning of the slave chain, where the bodies were snatched and stowed on a boat bound for bondage.
"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass"The famous speaker and abolitionist with the unmistakable coif was also the author of one the most famous slave narratives today. This book is one of three biographies that explore the life of the slave in the clear and honest voice of a survivor. Learn what it took for your ancestors to survive that life and preserve your family DNA. Douglass also details his escape and freedom in the tome, which is just as educational.
"Queen"Alex Haley’s follow up to "Roots" was "Queen", the tale of a girl born of the assault by the slaveowner. The novel was a fictionalized version of a true story. Just like the girl in the book, Haley’s grandmother was born in slavery and was the daughter of the master. She is thrown out into the world and must fend for herself. The book tackles subjects like “passing” and the conundrum the biracial people often found themselves in. Ostracized for being the master's kid by black people, but too tainted with black blood to be white. Haley didn’t live to finish the book, another writer did so. However, the insight this book brings will enlighten those who open a test to find the unexpected European ancestry.
"Kindred"Another look at the slave era in American history, Octavia Butler’s "Kindred" is actually a time travel story that starts in the 1970s and ends up in the 1800s. Dana is somehow connected with this white kid from back then. Her first trip back in time lasts a few minutes, allowing her time to rescue the boy from danger and return home. She figures out that the boy is her white ancestor and she must keep this often racist, a spoiled child living long enough to create her line—long enough to rape her black ancestor. This book pits a modern woman against the slave atmosphere to amplify the atrocities and injustice. "Kindred" is a fictional, but eye-opening look at a time that is most vital yet most mysterious to Black people today.
We welcome Black History Month on our born day, and we set our intentions for this month.After what seemed to be an interminable first month of the year, January is finally over and we welcome February after a full moon filled with purpose, set intentions and energy. Wear Your Voice turns four today(!) and our birthday is not only a celebration for us, but for our dearest readers too. While times are difficult and fraught, we have consistently been in awe of what our fellow creatives, activists and witches have been building and nurturing. There is no better time than the present to actualize projects which intend to help our Black and brown communities. Over here at WYV, we have been creating resources, developing ideas and opening up discussions which prioritize OUR voices — the voices of the marginalized, the voices of queer and trans BIPOC who have been systematically tokenized or ignored in favor of white cishet voices. This is truly a space for us, by us. We welcome Black History Month on our born day, and we set our intentions for this month. As managing editor, I am thrilled to say that this “Letter from the Editor” will be the first of many monthlies to come and it is only natural and fortuitous that the first edition of these letters should be today. This Black History Month we celebrate the Black queer women, femmes, trans and non binary people who are often left out of the discussions of Black History Month in favor of cishet male voices and historical figures. WYV is also celebrating Black women through our marketplace, with our Black activists and creatives shirts featuring some of history’s most groundbreaking women: Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Angela Davis, Octavia Butler, Lucy Parsons, Assata Shakur and many more. The intentions I am setting for Black History Month include making Wear Your Voice an even safer space for our readers as well as our writers. WYV would be nothing without the hundreds of voices we have been lucky to make space for on our site, and part of the integrity of our magazine means making sure our writers’ voices are not only nurtured, but safe. This being said, our editorial team has decided that we will no longer have a comment section on our site. Readers are welcome to engage with us on our social media platforms instead. As an intersectional feminist publication, we are targeted by misogynists, racists, queerphobic people who simply show up to derail conversations and threaten our writers with bile. Nothing good can come from making space for that kind of energy and there is no such thing as a good debate with people who don’t consider us as equals or even deserving of humanity.
It is Black History Month, and we're at the midpoint! If you haven't done anything yet to celebrate, allow me to invite you to do any or all of the following: 1. Support your local, non-gentrified, authentic Black-owned establishment. Don't just peruse,