I’ve started reading Esi Edugyan’s Out of The Sun: On Race and Storytelling. So far she has captivated me by listing several Black artist subjects and how the arts rendering came to be, mainly through the erasure and silencing of real Black stories. Without spoiling the book, through vignettes, she explains old portraits of Black people, ghost stories (so far in the book) – some slaves, some not – and how they are depicted. Knowing history and seeing the juxtaposition in which these Black people are depicted forces Black people of today to reexamine the truth behind these portraits and the people in them. While uncovering the truths about the muses depicted, I learned about Black royalty in France, a Black slave who was saved, educated, and looked at with such high regard he was skinned after death and kept in a museum much to his daughter’s horror. These stories about Black excellence, Black bravery, Black history are outside the realm of education New Brunswick was able to give me.
I was thinking about this when I was asked by two different people about my personal Journalist Standards and Practices. One student, from the University formerly known as Ryers*n was looking for information about how to specifically do journalism for Black and LGBTQ+ groups in a way that treats them ethically. The other was asking about ethno-cultural diverse journalism and how journalistic groups could be collaborating to better represent visible minority communities. In both situations I reiterated why this blog is important, why my work with ByBlacks.com is important and it is to prevent the type of erasure I’ve described above. Yes it is important to share news, and pop culture, and controversies but it is ass important to tell Black truths, Black stories and to tell them from an empathetic lens, not a lens of trauma, sadness, guilt. My journalistic practices is to approach every story from an empathetic lens and as unbiased as I can be when speaking with others, while also using my lived truths to try to remain curious, engaged and being careful of someone’s identity and personhood.
As I said to both of these students, Black stories can’t only be about Black storytelling. We live in a political climate where Black stories, Asian stories, Indigenous stories need to also evoke an emotion that white readership and audiences can consume in a way that may encourage allyship and to evoke change. I try to consistently be conscientious of the white Black in the Maritimes readership that can very easily call their MLAs, MPPs, and change the state of NB if they cared, if they saw visible minorities as humans, if we hadn’t been erased so we could be fully seen.
Professor George Elliott Clarke talked to us about the amount of erasure white systemic oppression has done to visible minorities when he was on our podcast. On a recent episode Fidel was talking about the importance to educate yourself about politics so that you can understand who you are voting for, and why, and what they affect. In the same way, I think unfortunately, Black people need to spend an exorbitant amount of time educating themselves about their culture, their people, all other Black people and then relaying these stories to their family, friends, change-makers, politicians, teachers. As a Black person who has only recently started looking into these things, the erasure is deep- only the winners have been written in history and visible minorities have been scrubbed from the record unless it was to show how lowly they were, how much they suffered. Edugyan mentions in her book a museum exhibition with a talk centred on Black people who were muses in several paintings and white people were appalled and marched, thinking the paintings had been brought in to re-write history, to have a retelling of what they perceive to be the facts of the world. We were always there. We have always been here. You cannot erase our history, but you can try. If you really wanted to depict history, you would be able to say that yes a lot of white people colonized a lot of people of colour, but there are Black stories in every corner of the world, in every crevice of these art pieces there is a trace of Black humanity.
Only through listening and accepting the true history of our cumulative cultures will we be replaced in the stories we were always in.