Black people are brilliant. Say it with me: Black people are brilliant.
Just by uttering those words, we are one step toward reclaiming and centering our worthiness. Our genius is unstoppable and we are responsible for so many of the world’s innovations and creations.
We are creators. We are captivators. We are the culture – so much so that everyone steals it. The fact is folks want to talk about our ‘credit worthiness’ when we deserve credit for our worthiness.
Sadly, we have been taught to believe otherwise. We have been told that we are “less than” – that our lives aren’t more than signs on lawns from allies and meaningless gestures.
Since Black people were forced on the shores of this country, we have been TOLD what we are instead of what we ACTUALLY are. From Sambo to Jim Crow to Aunt Jemimah and Jezebelle, white-created, racist narratives have shaped perceptions of our capabilities and characteristics.
These early narratives, sown into the fibers of this country, are harmful and problematic…impacting how cities are built, how wealth is acquired, and how schools are funded. These carefully-crafted disparaging caricatures of Black people intentionally tried to strip us of our brilliance.
But we won’t let them. We have to unlearn centuries of oppression that told us we weren’t worth ANYTHING when we are worth EVERYTHING.
I had to unlearn these things myself. When I was a middle school student, I liked to read. I loved the smell of the library and would look forward to visiting once a week to check out new books. My school must have had a sizable budget for book buying because we always had new books. Our librarian would share the books and all the kids in my class would get excited. At first I would too, eager to see what new characters I would meet. But, as time went on, I discovered that there were very few characters that actually looked like me. I discovered Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry; it was the only book I could find that centered Blackness. I checked out that book more times than I can remember, finding peace and brilliance as I turned the pages. My well-meaning teacher would encourage me to find other books but I always went back to Roll of Thunder finding an unexplainable connection to the characters. I was longing for her story and other stories with Black main characters.
For 13 years, I have worked as an executive coach, helping Black women, Black people, and people who work in allyship with Black people.
After the senseless murder of George Floyd by police violence, like many Black Americans, I was forever changed. George Floyd’s murder was a reminder that the world was not built for me as a Black woman, for us as Black people, for Black children, and definitely not for our ancestors.
So, I decided to do something.
Through my pain and sadness, one morning, I thought, What if Black people were viewed as the heartbeat of our society?
I got obsessed with Black brilliance, searching for it everywhere — and it was everywhere…more than what Google will tell you. Trust me. I know. I tried 197 different search questions and keywords, but found nothing beyond the usual Harriet Tubman, MLK, Frederick Douglass narratives.
I started collecting stories of Black people who were creators, inventors, activists, entrepreneurs, poets, musicians, you-name-it. As I talked with people about what I was learning, they shared their stories and added names, too.
Before I knew it, I had a book – a children’s book. What started as a list of names on oversized Post-it notes turned into a book, B is for Black Brilliance, that uses the alphabet as a guide to display the brilliance of our ancestors and those who have come after them, to give every child the determination and courage to change the future as we know it.
But this movement is more than just about a book. I founded B is for Black Brilliance because I love us – all of us… our joy, courage and hope.
The reckoning was not enough! We must move past posting Black squares on social media and co-opting Black holidays like Juneteenth. To address systemic racism, we must radically love and respect Blackness – not marginalize it.
I am choosing to live with Black intention…to love our people without abandon. I am choosing to disrupt harmful narratives about me, my family and my people. We are more than struggle and sadness. We are more than what people THINK we are and way more than the oppression we have internalized.
We are truly our ancestors’ dreams who lived and died for a future they couldn’t fathom.
Join me in creating a new narrative of Blackness – one that affirms, uplifts and centers Black innovation, genius and creativity.
We must all inspire future generations of Black innovators who will carry on the legacy of this movement, live in abundance and change who we think of as creators and curators of genius. I want my babies to know how brilliant they are and all Black babies to understand their genius from birth.
That’s why we’re committed to creating, aggregating, and sharing educational materials developed by Black educators, wellness workers, philanthropists, athletes, artists, musicians, and scholars. Our educational materials introduce new, transformational pro-Black images, characters, stories, and exercises to kids and caregivers.
The truth is Black creators have contributed to the fabric of America in ways big and small and must be celebrated and centered. Our children must learn about them and our history – whether your governor or your school board, under the guise of “CRT,” wants to ban it or not. Because what they don’t want you to know and frankly, what they are threatened by is that we are everywhere, and our leadership and visions will lead to the solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. We are unstoppable. We are incredible. We are Black brilliance.
B is for Black Brilliance
Author: Shawna Wells
Categories: Blog Topics, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
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