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Lehigh University

I am black. Since my undergraduate collegiate career at Lehigh University, the idea of “blackness” was never a debate to me. If you had melanin in your skin, and came from the African diaspora, whether you were African, African-American, Afro-Carribean, Afro-Latina/Latino, Afro-European, or the original Asiatic Blackman, you were considered black, to me. The concept of blackness was directly correlated to having melanin, not whether you had a direct connection to Africa that you could trace back. Quite frankly, white supremacy has erased or kept hidden that cultural connection back to the mother continent. My Africana Studies courses, didactic learning from the Nation of Gods and Earths (5 Percenters), black scholars such as Bro. Dubois, Dr. Afrika, Dr. Welsing, and the whole cast of Hidden Colors helped me realize this. To be melanated is to be of color, and to be of color, means you are black, and your roots trace back to a similar lineage in what is clearly identified to all humans as black.

To the oppressor, to be black, you are viewed as less than, and your innate divine spirit would be forcefully contained by oppressive beings to submit to their will and agenda. To be black, you must work twice as hard to get half as far, in this capitalist, white-supremacist patriarchal world, which is evident by most countries around the globe dominated by melanated peoples who have been negatively affected by European colonization. White supremacy is powerful, and can infiltrate the minds of our own black people to also think that to be black is to be inferior. My own blackness was questioned in a place where I felt my spirit and being belonged, in the mother continent, in Ghana, Elmina to be exact, home of the first slave castle in Ghana.

The post-colonial mindset is real, and colorism exists in places where one may never imagine, at least I didn’t imagine it to be so. I was walking with my group, and multiple times I was called “Obroni” which is an Akan word that means “foreigner” or truer, “white man”. I was called this not because my skin was more brown than black, but because of my curly hair, which stood out to the local people and the typical coarse, kinkier hair which they were used to seeing. They saw the injecting of white man’s genetics into my being from generations past, and associated me with the like, fully. I immediately had to ask my professor, “How do I say I am a black man?” because I was not about to let my fellow black people be misguided into thinking I am something I am not, and did not want them to be unknowingly identifying me as the other. “Me ye bibini,” my professor responded, meaning “I am a Black Man”. This was one of the key phrases I learned during this journey. We kept walking, and the disdain for my appearance grew even more amongst some locals. One man shouted from the deepness of his chest, “Obroni, you are WHITE! You are not a black man. You are White!” I shouted back because of his distance, “No, me ye bibini. Me ye bibini.” He disagreed, not even surprised by my little knowledge of Twi, and continued to proclaim my lack of being black.

This experience opened my eyes that even to some people in Africa, the idea of blackness has nothing to do with skin color, so what does it really mean to be black? What did it mean for this man to be black? Did it have to do with his struggle? The “black struggle?” If so, this man should not have judged me, for I know the black struggle as a Black man in America. As melanated people, we must realize the black struggle is intercontinental, we all share that struggle. We need not to separate for simple differences, but realize the blavital (black gravitational vital) force we have as a collective people across the world. Find the connection, brothers and sisters, find the linkage, recognize the roots. We must win this lifelong game, but united we stand, divided we fall.

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