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.
Frederick Douglass Asked This Question In 1852. It's Still Relevant Today.
“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon