50 Shades of Black

Moving to the states, exposed me to a different beauty of blackness. By that I mean, I was introduced to a different type of black people: the Black American. Before I moved here, I thought all black people were African, which in itself it’s not a wrong statement. We all are one. However, what I came to learn here, in the States, were the cultural differences between the two. I observed that my Black American friends were different from my African friends. I also found that some of my African friends, who were born here, shared some of same characteristics, behaviors more similar to the Black American than I (born in Africa, “straight from the boat”) understood or related to. It was eye opening.

But sometimes, especially during high school being surrounded by Black Americans and “African-Americans” (and I use that term as in 1st generation americans with african parents) sometimes I felt kind of left out. And not because I felt excluded by others (one thing I’m always grateful for is how welcoming people in my HS class were because I definitely thought I was gonna spend my first lunch in the bathroom like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls); but because I did not get the references they made from their culture.

From the food, the music, tv shows, sometimes I had no idea what was being spoken about. Til this day, sometimes I still don’t get some references because I did not grow up here, I’ve never watched an episode of Martin or any Madea movie, when people say “they’re invited to the cookout”, I did not grow up with that barbecue outside experience, I never ate soul food (which I had to google what it meant, the first time I heard it). I have been told I don’t sound right saying some slang, mostly because of the accent, but also because sometimes I would not use it in the right context.

Nonetheless, throughout the years, I’ve come to understand more about the Black American experience, from learning about historical systematic oppression against Black Americans by this country, to the pride of the Divine 9 (fraternities & sororities), to the cha cha slide, the pop culture created by Black entertainers/influencers and the lit energy I find when I’m surrounded by Black Americans (or black people in general). It’s certainly different from experiences I share with people from other cultures.

All to say, I’m glad to be living among and learning about Black Americans. Black Americans and Africans surely have our differences (which I think are equally important to be aware of) but I think that just adds to beauty and complexity of blackness. Also, I made the commitment a couple of months ago to start watching shows that are considered substantial to the Black american experience. I completed this “survey” of black movies a person has watched and among more than 20 movies, I had only watched 2 so… I need to be cultured. I used to watch “My Wife and Kids” in Italy, and I loved seeing a black family on tv (the only one at that time, in addition to “That’s so Raven”, that was shown on Italian television actually); I just finished Living Single and I loved it. Let me know if there’s anything else I should watch (or read)!

Book of the month: Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd

Article to read: “Slavery and the Holocaust: How Americans and Germans Cope With Past Evils” by Deborah E. Lipstadt (The New York Times)

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