Posted by Tyra Fennell in Arts & Economic Development, Blog, Kommunity Kiki, Tyra's World on July 20, 2015
My mother who has always rocked an Afro, was active in the National Welfare Rights movement in the 1960s and heavily involved in acts of civil disobedience on campus in the name of civil rights at Alabama A&M University. When my sister and I were little, my mom with all of her consciousness abhorred the lack of positive Black images available to little Black girls. I remember her only purchasing stuffed animals or coloring the white characters in books with brown crayon because she knew how important it was for my sister and I to be affirmed in our Blackness. She also made sure we spelled Black with a capital ‘B’ to refer to the people of the African diaspora and not simply a color. She was righteous and in her righteousness, raised daughters who always stood proud in their brown skin. I felt invincible and still do.
Being raised in Washington, DC, once known as “Chocolate City,” and raised by my parents, Rosemary and Tyrone Fennell (aka Akua and Kwesi—there African names), I was exposed to all sides of Black life from the Howard University professor to the African diplomats walking along Embassy Row to the drug dealers on the corner. It always felt so good to be Black however, as an adult, I begin to see the complexity of wearing the “I am proud to be Black” banner and noticed feeling proud of Blackness was perceived differently than being proud of being Irish or Latino or Queer. For example, African Americans have contributed to popular culture in a way that has influenced the globe including blues, jazz and hip-hop but we are constantly made to feel ashamed of attributes that make those contributions so great. We are made to feel ashamed of our bodies, our passion, everything that makes us who we are as a people, we are often trained from an early age to suppress.
Frantz Fanon explains it the best in his book, Black Skin, White Masks:
“When people like me, they like me “in spite of my color.” When they dislike me; they point out that it isn’t because of my color. Either way, I am locked in to the infernal circle.”
Yesterday in Bayview-Hunter’s Point, three lionesses, Etecia Brown, China Marchae and Leigh Davenport-deBoer undertook the major job of reclaiming Black pride and unity by organizing the first Black Love Festival in San Francisco and what a poignant time to declare such a sentiment with the valuing of Black life regressing with 15-year old girls being tackled by police officers, Black men being choked to their death with final words “ I can’t breathe” and a President who has endured a level of disrespect never seen before by a Commander in Chief. The Black Love Festival brought out hundreds of people while also reclaiming the old PG&E plant, a space many have attributed to the abnormally high rates of cancer and other afflictions seen amongst Bayview-Hunter’s Point residents who suffered from twice the average U.S. rate of asthma, cervical, and breast cancer, and had hospitalization rates that were three times the national rate for congestive heart failure, hypertension, and emphysema. Bayview-Hunters Point and the bordering neighborhood of Potrero Hill also had noticeably higher rates of bronchitis and other upper respiratory diseases in children.
It was all love yesterday…Black Love; Black Love in support of self-love for the sake of all love because in order to be strong advocates equality and the rights of others, one must first value themselves. Thank you Black Love Festival. My mother and others like her who fought to bring awareness to Black pride in the name of Black love would be proud.
See you next year!