Preserving Culture in Black Literature
Happy Black History Month, Sistah Girls! Now you all know a thug loves sharing a story with you. So, grab a glass of fermented grapes, settle into your favorite reading spot, and let me tell y’all about the time that a young Takeah Latimore went to apply for her first job.
Picture it! The year is 2000-and-some-change; Yonce’s “Single Ladies” is blowing down the airwaves. Obama has made history as the first Black president of the United States.
And every teenage girl is obsessed with vampires and werewolves. Thanks to the biggest love triangle since Dre stood next to his wife and told his best friend Syd that she was the “perfect verse over a tight beat”.
Now, it’s important for me to let our younger Sistah Girls know that back in the day if you wanted to apply for a job, you had to physically go into the place of business and apply on the spot.
An employment rite of passage that I was too thrilled to partake in since that cellphone I needed, to talk to my lil boo thang, was not going to pay for itself.
There I was looking every bit like a professional bae, filling in the tiny boxes of the application for the jewelry store. Having volunteered at a food pantry during the school year, I proudly listed my references and experiences first, before commencing to the next portion asking if I spoke or read any other language besides English.
In my head, I’m thinking, “I sholl do”. I boldly checked yes, then scribbled my answer in the box marked, other. What, you may ask, was this empowering second language I was ever so eager to boast about on my application for financial freedom?
Sistah Girls, it was Ebonics. Or as the vibrant youngins of Generation Z have dubbed it, AAVE (African-American Vernacular English).
AAVE is the abbreviation for African-American Vernacular English. Despite non-melanated people’s recent attempt to “discover” the roots of this tongue, this sacred ever-resurrecting language is a descendent of the same home base as everything else appropriated in American culture today; from the Black folks.
Way before Black bodies were stolen from their homelands and forced into the deviously inhume and generationally adapted ways of slavery, humans of the African Black diaspora have always had a way of communicating with one another that was all our own.
An in-house transmission system that has been used for everything from letting our brethren know when to run north. To one Sistah Girl affirming another by saying that her eyebrows are on fleek.
When I think about it, even our mamas had the same way of letting us know she was not one of our little friends.
(Sidenote: Does anyone know who BooBoo the Fool is forreal?)
African-American Vernacular English is such a powerful tool of communication in the Black community that most times–even if the person is a complete stranger–we do not have to utter a word to know we are thinking the same thing as one another.
Whether it is eye contact between two skin-kinfolk who peeped certain behavior in public that wouldn’t fly in our Black households. Or the face we make when someone yells some off-the-wall comment.
Y’all know which one I’m talking about…
Nonverbal communication is yet another way that AAVE remains intricate to the lives we lead as Black people in a country that won’t let us step foot in their clubs. Yet they will still try to pander for invitations to our cookouts.
Speaking of nonverbal communication, I have just recently discovered that Black American Sign Language is very much a thing! All love and flowers to Nakia Smith (sign name is Charmay) for bringing BASL awareness to TikTok!! Sistah Girls, make sure you all follow and support her.
Since joining the online literary community, I have come across too many occurrences where Black literature is being dragged through the mud for being too much of this and not enough of that.
What’s even worse about this degradation is that nine times out of ten, the call is coming from inside of the house.
Now I cannot speak for everyone nor do I want to. However, when it comes to the disrespectful commentary regarding Black literature not being diverse enough. The language being deemed “too ghetto,” or the characters not being relatable because, “I didn’t grow up speaking like this,” a Sistah finds herself wishing there was a way to evacuate all of the posers from our literary world. Locking the seasoned gate of Black culture behind them on their way out.
Whatever it takes to keep Black culture and the language we use to share our stories from being the brunt of constant attack. Because let’s face it, those that want to get it, will. And those who do not, will Karen their way across every virtual book space until they get the approval they’re so desperately seeking from individuals who wear Black culture as a costume.
This author/reader says, no more! I personally believe that it is time for our style of communication–be it AAVE or BASL–and our literature to be protected as fiercely as other people desire to protect the right to bear arms.
HOW DO WE PRESERVE BLACK LITERATURE?
By introducing the young readers in your life to young adult stories with characters who look like them–you can preserve Black literature. By supporting your local libraries, buying directly from Black authors’ websites, and sharing about a book you loved–you can preserve Black literature.
And yes (when absolutely necessary) by clapping back at that misguided skin-folk or the posers when they try to demean Black books, you can and will be doing your part to preserve Black literature.
Sistah Girls, when a Black author (especially a Black indie author) publishes their work–regardless of if they are telling a love story, sharing poetry, or any other genre fixated on the Black experience–that person is using their voice to brand a piece of Black history into the literary world forever, ever.
The importance of preserving Black literature is so the unaltered voices of Black people are not white-washed, silenced, or forgotten. If we leave it up to other people to tell our history or illustrate our black-inked escapes from reality, then we are leaving the door open to be told who we are as a people by those who may only see us as 3/5ths of a human being.
And I don’t know about you all, but this Midwest Gypsy is not with the shenanigans.
So to the Black authors penning Black stories far and wide, know that you always have my support, my appreciation, and my unwavering respect.
Well Sistah Girls, that’s all the table-shaking I plan to do for now. Until next time. Remember: if it ain’t Black Lit, it ain’t lit at all. And that’s on PERIOD!
OH YEAH! I know you all may be wondering whether or not my bilingual capabilities got me that job I wanted. The answer is yes. Thankfully the hiring manager was someone who got it. Peace!
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