Telling Our Story
Updated: Aug 18, 2020
Have you ever thought of an idea, dismissed the idea because it was too elaborate yet it kept biting you in the ass, reminding you of its presence? That was my initial feeling towards this complex campaign titled Save The Ballroom. This idea first graced my frontal cortex during MAIP’s phenomenal Strut Through History: Framework Our Future, where we were educated by the best queens of the their time. They introduced us to the wonders of ballroom culture, exemplifying each category with such poise and talent, as they dived into the obstacles they faced each day and how their life’s narratives were truly impacted. That moment when Leggoh JonVera, the queen himself announced the following categories, allowed me to reflect and think of the beautiful melaninated community that I have the honor of being apart of and ancestors and creators that have built and molded this community to who we are today. From the black activists fighting for change, to the black programmers coding their way to the top, the melanated punk rockers screaming to the latest tune, and the black hipsters embodying peace. There are so many more beautiful melanated people that create and impact our world today, yet our history is rarely discussed or even talked about.
Sure they discuss slavery and the pinnacle underground railroad, but what about the first black playwright or the creation of jazz and blues that created solidarity and peace within difficult times. From the walkouts to the sit-ins our history is plastered on museum walls dedicated to us and created by us but what about within the education system. When I was a little girl the only piece of history I recall from my black ancestors was the underground railroad, and you know how that was taught? By creating an Underground Railroad reenactment where little boys and girls would run down the hallways solving puzzles and mysteries in hopes of making it to "freedom". How sick is that, and the worst part is that I beat myself up everyday because I would look forward to this day as a child, not realizing they were creating games and fun out of my ancestors hurt and pain.
Why is it never brought up that Marsha P. Johnson, a gay liberation activist and fabulous drag queen, was a notable figure for the Stonewall uprising for the LGBTQIA+ community. Or even the fact that Camilla Williams was the first African American opera singer that became notably famous around the world for her passionate soprano. These people created change made across the world and especially in America, they built this foundation and made us who we are today, yet are never discussed or highlighted beyond our pain within slavery and the civil rights movement.
Interestingly enough, many of the dances, pop culture references, everyday applications, and daily routines were created and implemented by the black community. It's crazy to even think that a nation who steals from our culture and appropriates it for their own likings refuse to tell the story of the culture that builded that nation. This occurs quite often as the people who create these stories and concepts are never recognized or given the props they deserve, thus leaving our community confused and frustrated. That frustration stops now, as I am creating a campaign to not only acknowledge the lack of black history told in our education system but to amplify our history even further and allow students the opportunity to learn the true history of this nation and all those who have impacted it.
I want little black children to grow up knowing that the narrative the nation has told us time and time again does not apply to our community, but that our ancestors time and time again created a future and built foundations out of nothing. We created culture and happiness from nothing and still manage to overcome systemic racism, oppression, microagressions etc. in nation that wasn't built for us. We played a game that didn't acknowledge our presence, yet time and time again we succeed and go above and beyond. Everyone is constantly fighting for a seat at the table, yet while they are fighting I am determined to build a table for my community and our uprising, created for us and by us. Will you join me in this fight and help build our table?