Cede the floor. Pass the mic. Move from the middle.
I was born in Jamaica, and grew up in Trinidad and Barbados. I just got my Ancestry results back (more on that later) and the tl;dr is that I’m Blackity Black Black Black. (Mostly. Because slavery.) ✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏾✊🏻
A lifetime ago, I was a trained dancer.
A lifetime ago, I was semi-fluent in French.
A lifetime ago I found myself living in France, teaching ESL.
I missed dancing, so one evening I went out to danser un peu with a girl who had befriended me. We were cutting a rug in the bar, and then some Bob Marley came on. (They LOVE some Brotha Bob!!)
Phenotypically, she and her forebears hailed from the territories in Zhun of Caucay. It appeared that they had been existing unseasoned, unwashed, and unable to find the beat, for centuries.
(Don’t come at me for the “unwashed” comment. The metro in summer is not for the faint of heart or sharp of nose. There is a reason why French perfume is so good. It’s a necessity.)
Ok so…Bob Marley comes on, and my Jamaican, Barbadian, Trinidadian, rigorously trained dancer’s body starts moving to the music I have known my entire life. This pale person, who had taken one “Caribbean Dance” class, proceeds to tell me that I am “not doing the dance right.” She then took my hands in hers to guide me in the right way to dance to reggae. Because, you know…she had taken a class. 😐
This is how a lot of y’all – you know who you are – look and sound co-opting cultures that aren’t yours.
This is how you look and sound leading initiatives, movements, and companies that are not yours to lead.
This is how you look and sound on your monochromatic panels, regurgitating what you stole from us, cosplaying thought leadership.
Your weekend course – your “one dance class” – does not make you more qualified than those of us with lived, embodied experience.
We are qualified by LIFE.
- Don’t make yourselves look ridiculous by trying to teach back to us what we already know.
- Don’t make yourselves look mediocre by showing up with only pale skin and privilege while we present ourselves with experience, education, degrees, and qualifications.
- Don’t make yourselves look opportunistic by siphoning our experiences second-hand, and trying to profit from them. It’s giving Robin DiAngelo.
During Black History Month UK (and, tbh, in general), we implore you to:
Cede the floor.
This is our time.
Pass. The. Mic.
It was never yours to begin with. It was stolen, along with our bodies, treasures, cultures, artefacts, ideas, and opportunities.
Run it back.
P.S. Agreed: “Not all,” but way too many. If it don’t apply, then scroll on by.
P.P.S. You should already have booked (and PAID) your BHMUK speakers, but BHMUS is coming up. Start sourcing Black speakers now. Don’t wait til Jan. 15 to reach out with “exposure” opportunities.
Pipeline problem, you say? No such thing. Please reference the Black Speakers Collection.
Also: Black speakers don’t only “do” DEI. We are experts in a variety of fields and topics.
Unless otherwise stated, text and images ©Lisa Hurley