Recently, I raised the question of why we as Black people dont have a Black flag? It would be difficult to come together as one to agree on its style, purpose and meaning because across the diaspora, there are darker skin Brazilians, Indians, Spaniards, etc that have unique struggles. However, all of us are connected by our love, culture and pain. Unity within communities and cultures builds confidence in its youth and restores faith to invest into those communities.
Within the Black community, the fist symbol is a sign of unity and the acknowledgement of achievements through resilience. Jazz, Rock & Roll, Funk, Hip Hop, etc are all expressions of celebration, pain, and resistance. The Afro and natural hair has made a third comeback as a statement against beauty standards and conformities. Same with the n-word. It is not meant for mixed crowds and even within the diaspora, it cant be controversial for some, but our people know the efforts we have put into redefining it exclusively for our use. I see the shackles as another version of reincarnating pain and struggle into power and love.
The first person I saw wearing a shackle as a piece of jewelry was a tall honey colored man in Atlanta with long gray streaked dreads that made him feel ancient. His smooth face told me he was probably in his forties. I wanted to stare at him all day and not necessarily because of his beauty but because it seemed like his wisdom flowed through alll of his pores, his purposeful movements and especially through his eyes. As I was cashing out in the boutique shop, I noticed the shackle on his wrist as he handed me my change. I was like a child with my wide dopey eyes! Other than in a museum, I had never seen one in person but I recognized it immediately, there’s no way to mistake it.
“Thats a shackle!” I pointed at it, forgetting all social norms. “You’re wearing a shackle.” I smiled in amazement hoping he wouldn’t take offense to my outburst.
He laughed in this deep voice, “Yea, it is.”
I just kept smiling and said, “Do you know how cool that is?! Do you know what that means to me?!” At the time, I didnt have the words for it, but he was “woke af,” if you know what I mean. I stood there gaping at him, a Black man running his own business wearing one of these relics from our ancestors. He had brought them with him instead of feeling the shame of his history. He was the descendant of the slaves the white man couldn’t kill. It was like meeting one of the founders of the Five Percenters. It was what I imagine meeting someone who’s personal life coach is Erykah Badu, herself. When a person has the chance to reclaim their identity or redefine something so negative, it is the embodiment of hope and adaptation.
This is only the start of our New Civil Rights Movement. More and more, in every city I visit, I see the light coming on for marginalized people that are frustrated with the system as it is. I even see the light coming on for people of priviledge. I love it, unity is so beautiful to witness! However, not everyone is a protester and thats ok. We have to realize that protests are the ground-level of change. Its the emergency alarm going off letting you know there is a fire that will burn down everything. You still need firefighters, an ambulance team and of course funding for the emergency to be addressed properly. So I know the trend will grow because more people are looking for ways to express their solidarity; be it with a fist pound, a bumper sticker, or by investing in their own communities. Best of all, people are speaking up when they would have remained silent before. Never underestimate the power of a “neighborhood watch” because now, everyone is watching. As naive as it may be, I believe in people and the piece of God that lives within them.