To celebrate Black History Month I decided to dedicate and speak about a black female heroine, one that many didn’t know about, every day of the month. It gathered some attention and I was asked to do a little interview about why.


Here is the transcript of the interview.


*note that some of the questions may have been made up.


First and foremost can you let our readers know who you are and give us a little bit of information about Black History Month?  Just your thoughts around the month and if you’re mad that it’s on the shortest month of the year.


My name is Kelechi Chinaemerem Osunwa, doer of dope shit in the North, admirer of those who still acquire cheques, loyal servant of Nina Simone, reader of James Baldwin and lover of blackness.


….riiiiight – mister lover of blackness – tell…us…about…Black…History…Month?


Sorry I got a little lost there.


Well Black History Month is the dopest month of the year man (I get two now that I live in the UK) and it’s basically dedicated to shed light on black excellence and to you know…thank people like Abe Lincoln –


I dunno if you know this but Lincoln was white…


Nah you see that’s what the schools have taught you, you need to peep that Mike Pence game and know that Lincoln is black as hell. I mean the Vice Rresident of the USA wouldn’t use a month for black excellence to talk about Lincoln would he?


Ok…maybe Lincoln was black. But you don’t mention one black man on your list…why the focus on women?


So it turns out that history isn’t just racist –


What ALL of history!?


Well not all of it –


Then why are you saying its racist? If anything its racist in favour of black history…there isn’t a “yellow” history or “green” history or even a White History Month.


…. *Kelechi stares with squinted eyes towards the interviewer*

What?


Ok first of all, you’re gonna have to stop interrupting me and let me finish my statements alright, and I’m not even gonna dignify the rest of that statement with a response.


But because history is written by winners and the winners have tended to be white, history has been written by white people. Now the writers and remembers of history have also tended to be men.


So, by virtue of history being written by white winners, a lot of black history has been lost/forgotten/ignored/deemed unimportant or worse, and has been whitewashed so that white men are seen as the heroes **cough** Jesus of Nazareth **cough.**  Now a lot of black or indigenous history was passed down through word of mouth and not really written down so that of course has contributed to things – but because history has been written by white folks, white folks have generally been painted in good light.  Are you following me here?

 

This is Zenzile Miriam Makeba of South Africa. She was a singer and activist who was known as "Mama Africa" as she was the first to truely send African Music around the globe in the 1960's. While touring around the world she spoke against Apartheid and her contributions in film and music won her a grammy and a critics award at the Venice Film Festival (well the film she featured in anyways). South Africa didn't appreciate this and revoked her citizenship and banned her from entering her country... What's dope about her? She insited on touring with no make up and or alterations to her hair (#donttouchmyhair), she performed at the rumble in the Jungle, stole the show at JFK's birthday without jumping out of a cake (but then had her visa and record contract revoked after marrying Stokley Carmichael!), she spoke at the UN General Assembly and also won the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace prize.

This is Zenzile Miriam Makeba of South Africa. She was a singer and activist who was known as "Mama Africa" as she was the first to truely send African Music around the globe in the 1960's. While touring around the world she spoke against Apartheid and her contributions in film and music won her a grammy and a critics award at the Venice Film Festival (well the film she featured in anyways). South Africa didn't appreciate this and revoked her citizenship and banned her from entering her country... What's dope about her? She insited on touring with no make up and or alterations to her hair (#donttouchmyhair), she performed at the rumble in the Jungle, stole the show at JFK's birthday without jumping out of a cake (but then had her visa and record contract revoked after marrying Stokley Carmichael!), she spoke at the UN General Assembly and also won the Dag Hammarskjöld Peace prize.

Ok, but what’s this got to do with women?


I’m getting there, you can’t rush black history man…we take our time!
Well history is also sexist too.


HISTORY IS RACIST AND SEXIST!? Common now this sounds like a whole lotta hateration towards white fellas playa…


I love white people…nobody love white people more than me…on the list of people who love white people the most it’s myself then Donald Trump then it’s Sage Steele...


Ok I don’t LOVE them but I at least LIke them…capital L and I but as I was saying.


Women are constantly over looked or ignored and in some cases not respected enough to have a sphere to do dope shit that could potentially be historically dope shit.  Now if history tends to be racist (ok maybe lower case r) and sexist (again lower case s) it makes sense that the people who are effected the worst by history are those who meet at the intersection of race and gender right?


Intersection…where did the car come from…?


I dunno how you got the job but I’m not mad at you player you keep getting dem cheques!


Ah we get paid in direct debits Kelechi


**Kelechi lets out a deep sigh before dropping his head backwards, looking towards the heavens and after a brief moment of silence utters what seems a little prayer from above. Audre Lorde, please give me strength!”


I basically wanted to focus on women because black women are constantly treated like shit (especially dark chocolate women too) despite being on the front lines of black liberation and constantly carrying more of their own weight.  So despite all this, their contributions are pushed to the side. Plus my little cousins are growing up and I want them to see dope shit from people like them.


For example look at Mary Seacole, and this is my last point before I’m done.  She’s the black Florence Nightingale, who had just as hard if not harder story than Nightingale. She was forgotten for 100 years, and after they started to teach about her in schools the government petitioned to stop teaching about her in school.  Like the GOVERNMENT OF BRITAIN wanted to take her off the curriculum and we don’t get to learn about that so I figured screw it lets learn some history.

This is Mary Seacole of Jamaica and Britain. She established a nursery behind enemy lines during the Crimean War and was named number 1 on the list of great Black Britons.

This is Mary Seacole of Jamaica and Britain. She established a nursery behind enemy lines during the Crimean War and was named number 1 on the list of great Black Britons.

So you didn’t do this to get laid?


Good question….


Are you gonna answer?


…when the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea… hashtag stay woke.
….


I suppose I’ll ask how you decided who would be on the list?


Ahh… Finally a tough question.


So there were two main criteria’s. They had to be dead and they had to be black – although there is one woman on the list who is alive but her story fits with the entire point of history being forgotten.


Dead because I wanted it to emphases them as a historical figure and black because you know, it’s Black History Month.


I tried to also make sure we had black women from all over the world and not just America or Africa. So we’ve got Caribbean women, European women and even a couple from Australia too.  The more I’ve looked into it the more I’ve learned about dope black women from all over the world – sadly many couldn’t make it on this list as they were alive.


So you say they needed to be black but you’ve got a white woman on your list and you got some light skinned women too – like how black did they have to be?


Now we’re talking – Interesting question again.  I can see that you have this “stun them into a false sense of security by thinking you’re a moron and shouldn’t have your job before catching them off balance with actual questions” style of interviewing…I like it.


Wait what?


So yeah that was the most interesting part about this – asking the question of who/what is black? I mean Hypatia is considered Greek despite being from Egypt in a time where the racial mixture of Egypt resembled brothers from Sudan.  Mary Seacole is supposedly ¾ white (even though someone told her that she needed to have her skin bleached) Queen Philippa is painted as a full on white chick plus would the Maori of New Zealand be considered black? I mean their complexion is similar to a person like Malcolm X right?  And what about the dark skinned brothers and sisters from South Asia? So there was this constant questioning about what it means to be black and who decides.


I kinda wanted to also highlight how you can be black in one place and not be black in another and point to the ridiculousness of the theory of racial hierarchy. It was great looking at the work of Mary Prince and Philis Wheatly which I think were both before Dickens wrote about the novel savage…So as Dickens and a whole host of other thinkers are labelling black people savages who were built for slavery, black women had produced sensational pieces of writing in the same country they lived in. As I said in one of my post’s it shouldn’t be a surprise though – folks have been calling other folks “savages” and “barbarians” since the Romans.

 

This is Hypatia of Eygpt. She was a teacher, astronomer, inventor, mathematician and total bad ass. She refused to get married (actually used her menstural pads to wade off suitors lol) refused to convert to Christianity and insisted on wearing clothes reserved for scientists rather than what women were typically assigned to wear. People didn't like that and she was murdered by Christian fanatics. What's dope about her? The narrative of "strong black woman" takes a seat. She's obviously strong but she was the only recorded female mathematician for almost 1500 years. Nobel savages' huh? Sadly her story gets whitewashed so bad that some sources only write her as a "Greek mathematician" and her complexion and hair slowly gets lighter and straighter. Kinda like Jesus

This is Hypatia of Eygpt. She was a teacher, astronomer, inventor, mathematician and total bad ass. She refused to get married (actually used her menstural pads to wade off suitors lol) refused to convert to Christianity and insisted on wearing clothes reserved for scientists rather than what women were typically assigned to wear. People didn't like that and she was murdered by Christian fanatics. What's dope about her? The narrative of "strong black woman" takes a seat. She's obviously strong but she was the only recorded female mathematician for almost 1500 years. Nobel savages' huh? Sadly her story gets whitewashed so bad that some sources only write her as a "Greek mathematician" and her complexion and hair slowly gets lighter and straighter. Kinda like Jesus

Well has it been hard? I mean you had to find 28 famous black women…I only know Beyoncé and Oprah.


Well I’m not going to lie a couple days into the project and I was like “how am I going to find 28 women!” But with two days to go I keep finding more and more women that I’ve not spoken about or that I’ve left out. I was tagged in an article of 30 something black women from just America. I’ve found website focusing on just African women, some only about Nigerian women and some only about black English women.


I suppose the difficulty is the criteria of them needing to be dead – I mean if I did one with just people who were alive that list would be endless. Assata Shakur, Winnie Mandela, Cathy Freeman, they are just three from the top of my head.


Why is it harder talking about dead women?


Speaking about women who are no longer here puts an emphasis on history and the fact that black history is history.  If everything began in Africa, as science believes it did, then it should really be a “White History Month” because history is, was and will always be black.


But sadly many believe and teach that black history begins with slavery and ends with apartheid.
The narrative of “you were oppressed but not anymore, it’s all good now so get over it” is played out and the stories of great black inventors, contributors to culture or lessor known contributors on the fight for equality get over looked.  Everyone learns about William Wilberforce but not every one learns about Toussaint Louverture (his last name has a red squiggly lines under it as I write this*) and even less learn about Sanité Bélair.  You learn about Tubman and Parks but they forget to teach you about about Colvin and Watkins-Harper.


People also don’t learn of Greek philosophers getting mad at Egyptians for not sharing their secrets, or the Empire of Benin building a greater wall than that of China, or Ethiopians boasting a mathematical formula so complex Europeans couldn’t understand it or Napoleon stealing the obelisk from Egypt?  So this was also a chance to speak about history that you don’t get to hear and that’s easier with women who are no longer here.


But the Egyptians were white?


Is that why they cut off the noses of the sphinx?


... touché   


Stay woke brah…stay woke.


Will you continue *to* post about dope black women? Or will you stop with Black History Month being over?


First of all I’ll post about my favourite black woman of all time that isn’t my mum and then I’ll post a bunch of links out for people to get a feel of other black women if they want to learn more.
Will you continue you post about dope black women? Or will you stop with Black History Month being over?


Women’s History Month starts in March so who knows, I could start a Black Futures album of black women who are doing dope shit right now and women to watch out for – but I think my newsfeed has had enough blackness for the time being. Too much of anything isn’t good for you, you know.  And like I said earlier, I live in the UK and the UK does its own Black History Month in October so who knows I might do something then.


End.

 

My name is Kelechi Chinaemerem Osunwa, doer of dope shit in the north, admirer of those who still acquire cheques, loyal servant of Nina Simone, reader of James Baldwin and lover of blackness.

Follow Kelechi on Twitter @kelech_osunwa

Read more of his musings at consciously unconscious 

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