Did you see the Grammys last night? I did. I rarely watch award shows, or TV in general for that matter. However I happened to be at the boyfriend’s last night and we ended up watching it.
So…Kendrick Lamar. Kendrick Kendrick Kendrick! My mind is so blown, I am not sure where to start. That performance stole the entire show! His spirit, his fire, his lyrical talent, his artistic vision, his message! I was so proud to be Black in that moment. Throughout his entire performance, I was completely enthralled, not caring who else was in the room and what they were thinking or experiencing. Not caring if his passion and directness made anyone uncomfortable. It was for me. He was…
Unapologetic. Not feeling or showing regret or shame. Without apology or qualification.
This is such a sharp contrast to the general conduct of Black folks in the Corporate workplace. The last thing the average “dual citizen” wants at work is to be recognized or characterized as Black or African or Nigerian. Rather than be proudly associated with our heritage and culture, we shy away from it because in truth, we are worried about the perceptions of others.
Will I make them too uncomfortable?
Will they like me enough to promote me?
Will they think I’m lazy or unqualified?
Will they think I’m too ghetto? Too loud? Too stereotypical?
If I hang out with other Black folks, will they feel threatened? Left out?
If I speak with my authentic accent, will they understand me?
As a result of being overly concerned with these, we limit ourselves drastically and contort ourselves to fit into a mold that was never designed to contain us. We conform to standards of behavior that in fact have nothing to do with actual job performance, but everything to do with creating a comfortable feeling for the White majority.
Kendrick is in great company. We have always had socially conscious artists throughout history. Artists like Nina Simone, Public Enemy, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def are a few that come to mind. Beyonce’s Superbowl performance of Formation lent her powerful voice to the ongoing conversations. However, with race relations remaining persistently strained in this country, it is increasingly important for Black people to….wait for it…
Be Black & Proud. In whatever field or, industry, through what ever medium. Just be You. 100%. Take up space. More space. You are no less qualified to be here than anyone else. Do not confine or refine or define yourself by the standards of anyone else. Why should anyone dictate how you are to be?
I know that this is not easy. We have “learned” to be the way we are now and may not even realize when we are being regretful or shameful of ourselves. So here are some small ways I plan to start making a change.
- Eat what I want at the company picnic…I actually happen to love watermelon above all fruits.
- Stop trying to force my natural hair into a ponytail so that it’s less…”whimsical”.
- Hang out with other Black people at work.
- Stop trying to soften my voice to sound more… “chipper”. Didn’t realize I was doing this but when you sit around 20 – something year old White women at work, all of a sudden you start noticing the extra depth in your voice compared to theirs.
- Do not censor my likes or dislikes when talking to my White coworkers. For starters, when discussing the Grammys, I will be proud to say my favorite part was Kendrick.
Because his performance reminded me of something very simple, yet important. To live an authentic life. Unapologetically so.
Any take aways from the show? Please share your thoughts and experience on race relations and Corporate America.