Progressive: As In Black Folk Ain’t in the Equation?

The title I used amuses me, not necessarily because it’s a ridiculous concept or that I’m being sarcastic about race, or that I’m tired of talking about race, but at the moment, after speaking with a friend I might’ve been when I wrote this.

I started a social collective called, High Five the Movement: Safe & Accesible Spaces for People of Color in Lancaster PA, back in 2011, in response to the systemic race problem that targeted me and my folks personally on a regular basis, in damn near every establishment. We educate then we celebrate with community members of color and our allies about #afrikancentered teachings, ideals, social spaces then we celebrate via (dance party, art/game night etc.) It’s wild because even after all of the great lengths we went through to spread the word, to be inclusive via personal invites, canvassing, and social media NO ONE,  but us showed up. I would think is it our tone (skin and other wise)? Shit was deep because no one wanted to embrace what we had to say about the state of our community in relation to us back then.

That’s when I had to learn to be extra gentle with black people. Moments like that helped me to not internalize what was happening. Had to practice the same patience with them as I was teaching myself. Because let’s be honest, black Afrikan problems aren’t ordinary problems. Our shit is #systemic. Stems from posttraumaticslavesyndrome. Deep-rooted in racist, capitalist structures and misogyny. Our shit is extra deep, so we gotta be extra gentle with each other even just for those reasons.

I digress. Fast forwarding to when I moved away for two years, then came back this year. My extended friends and surrogate families made it an easy transition. Anyway, my point is is that I feel jaded and it’s irking to see that suddenly errrybody radical in the city. Got folks that aint even of #afrikandescent speaking on the behalf of our communities? Errrybody a spokesperson on race relations now? Coming out to speak on the behalf of colored folk with nothing, but book context? When us colored folks fight just to breathe in our own skin, just to not be a statistic, just to share a got damn sidewalk without being bullied into oncoming traffic by #msdaisy.

Not to mention #whitefolks calling Lancaster “the new Brooklyn” or as I overheard someone say “as progressive as Brooklyn? Huh? When? How? Hope we in context. Hope we in sync. Hope we NOT talkin’ ’bout #progressive as in #whengentrificationbringsracismtothehood (excellent article by the way)? The writer who is of #afrikandescent reflects on feeling like a stranger in his own #brooklyn neighborhood of #bedfordstuyvesent, in #2014. TWENTY FOURTEEN?! A whopping 3 years ago? And we are making such comparisons based on what we think we know about the progression of a place?

Hope that aint the #progress we think Lancaster is making? By pushing all black owned businesses to the edge of town, only to replace them with a million and one white washed coffeeshops, yoga studios, art galleries, and boutiques on every corner. When the only spec of color I see is myself and a print of #vincentvanghos #starrynight on canvass in a gallery that only offers the #wineandcheese to white folks. How they covet it when I reach, to get a taste, but they’ll never admit it.

Dat shit is almost as progressive as white hippies skating through the projects (thanks Jamed 😜). We gotta do better. We gotta set our own progress. PROGRESS that includes everyBODY. ‘Cause if black folks ain’t in the equation, ain’t shit progressive. #melaninmatters #coloredfolkmatter #afrikanfacepeoplematter #tag #girlrillavintage #theeamazinggrace #liberationaintfree

-Grace Berry

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