Remembering Who I Am

Remembering Who I Am

| Note from the curators |

When was the first moment that you became aware of your blackness? Did you accept it? Survey it? Or have you torn it apart and placed the stripes aside for another day's safe keeping?

We present these events of blackness to give new life and context to the word, views and emotions behind it. Whether you ascribe the assignment of Black, or refute its notions of breathing into you any life whatsoever, we come to you and ask: what is blackness?

Iman Person + Rachelle Knowles


 

Kimberly R. Daniel-Brister 

 

My purpose on this Earth is inextricably tied to remembering who I am…

the gifts that were given to me by the Divine before I entered my mother’s womb,

the healing that my body holds for myself and for others,

the wisdom and stories of my ancestors whose blood flows through my veins,

my identity in this Black, female body.

 

In each day of my life, I remember bit by bit of who I am while also facing the challenge and complexities of what it means to be me in this world. And today—in a society that continues to be fueled by systemic issues of injustice against black and brown people—my particular awareness of remembering who I am is heightened.

 

I am Black.

 

When I think about when and how I discovered my identity as a being in a Black body my mind is flooded with stories and images.

 

I knew I was Black when…

my tight, kinky coils magically transformed to long, straight hair with the stroke of a hot comb, wreaking of the smell of burnt grease against metal.

 

I knew I was Black when…

I sat at the dining room table with my siblings as my father educated us on the significance of Kwanzaa and our roots.

 

I knew I was Black when…

    a middle school classmate unaware of his white privilege and ignorance called “you people” niggers.

 

I knew I was Black when…

my parents and grandparents shared stories about being Black in America and the racism that permeates this country’s fabric.

 

I knew I was Black when…

I stepped into an all white congregation in which my father was requested and called by the denomination to be the pastor—a church whose cemetery held Confederate flags and whose location sat near side streets known to be populated by Ku Klux Klan members.

 

I knew I was Black when…

I visited the sacred land of my ancestors—acres of land that held memories of my family and was passed down from generation to generation for more than 150 years, including those who were once enslaved. A rare story for Black families.

 

I knew I was Black when…

I was pulled over shortly after getting my driver’s license. The result: three drug dogs, four cops, a car search, and a pat down of everyone in the car with an exception of my 9-year-old baby brother. The cause: a blown headlight and driving while Black.

 

In moments like these, I began to discover my blackness.

My pure, innocent eyes and rose colored glasses became aware of the realities of society. These experiences unearthed my identity as a Black little girl growing up in an intricate world. And while this only gives a glimpse into stories that shaped my identity, they capture the significance of my experience of my black body, the education from my family, the history of my ancestors and the realities of society.

As I live each day remembering who I am, I stand with pride even when systems of injustice stand against me and those who look like me.

These systems were never designed for me,

my ancestors or

black and brown people.

 

I live with caution and awareness of what it means to be a Black woman in this world.

 

But in remembering who I am, I know resilience, wisdom and strength reside in my DNA.

And when oppressive structures of society knock black and brown people down,

I am reminded that while there is a thread of deep pain,

there is deeper reservoir of strength and hope.

 

I am a Black woman.

 

I am called to honor my voice

to take pride in my Black identity

to advocate for marginalized communities

to carry the wisdom and strength of those who have gone before me

to show up in spaces where I must be heard.

 

I remember who I am.

 

I know who I am.

 

“Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.”[1]

 

 

[1] Maya Angelou, "Still I Rise," Poetry Foundation, 1978, accessed February 13, 2017, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/46446.

 

 

 

| all content is property of the artist |

 

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