Introducing Zayn Malik and other non-black cornerstones of Black History
Paula Akpan and Grace Barber-Plentie
26 Oct 2016
In the UK, Black History Month has been in full swing for a number of weeks now, providing welcome relief after what has been yet another trying year for the black community. Typically characterised by talks, music events and screenings that celebrate individuals, groups and movements who’ve had a hand in shaping what it is to be black, one Students’ Union decided to do something simply revolutionary with the month – revamp it, if you will. Because frankly, why just commemorate black people during Black History Month? Why focus on plain old black when you can focus on the politically black instead? Why pour all this energy into highlighting one race when you can just lump those ethnic groups all together?
To kick off their All History Month, the Students’ Union at the University of Kent decided to celebrate Zayn Malik, the black messiah of English and Pakistani descent that we didn’t know we had or needed. Sure, he’s not “technically” black but he’s from a minority group so close enough. But why stop at Zayn? For years, we in the black community have had the audacity to exclusively uplift and acknowledge ourselves and that must end today. It’s time to acknowledge all those who are almost black, “politically black”, dance like they’re black and those who were probably black in another lifetime so here’s our list of the people we feel have been overlooked one too many times during Black History Month…
We’ve always gotta ruin a good thing for ourselves, haven’t we? Afropunk FINALLY comes to London, complete with stellar politically black headliner M.I.A, and what do the black community do? We complain until she gets kicked off the line-up. But after all, isn’t M.I.A exactly the type of activist we should be acknowledging in Black History Month? Not only is she keen to weigh in on American Problems, (your gal’s from Hounslow) but she’s also eager to let everyone know that she’s a big time All Lives Matter fan. (“It’s interesting that in America the problem you’re allowed to talk about is Black Lives Matter … Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters? That’s a more interesting question.”) Non-black women trying to insert themselves into black spaces and remind us that it’s not JUST black lives that deserve to be celebrated? Now’s definitely the month to celebrate M.I.A!
Photo: Annie Kuster/The Guardian
Pioneer of all things transracial, Dolezal has taught us many things over the years – most specifically that you don’t need to be black to actually be black. As long as you identify as black and “feel black”, that’s more than enough – though it doesn’t hurt to go a few shades darker with the fake tan, invest in a vast selection of wigs and weaves and intentionally mislead the NAACP chapter you preside over. This woman’s grit and determination to not let her whiteness stop her from achieving her goals and her tireless thievery should be an inspiration to all. Dolezal, thank you for your service.
Who needs Tupac and Biggie when you’ve got Honey? Bringing the girl power back to hip hop, as well as proving that older women can STILL have successful careers, (Honey G by night, successful IT manager Anna Gilford by day) Honey G’s taken the sick urban flavours of the streets and brought them to the mainstream. With performances of artists such as Missy Elliott and Notorious B.I.G on X Factor every week, Honey G’s bringing black acts back into the public eye through the palatable guise of a 35 year old white woman who asks the audience to reaffirm her name by getting them to shout it back at her every week. Every. Damn. Week.
I once overheard a radio interview with Quentin Tarantino that gave me a true insight into the man’s head – on BBC 6 Music he described how he would watch Soul Train with a great fervour every week “just like every other black child”. Those who scorn Tarantino because they think he’s appropriating black culture need to think twice, because it’s not that simple… oh no, the man himself genuinely seems to believe that he’s black. And just think of the ways in which God of Cinema Quentin has enriched black lives! He’s given us so many different Angry Black Men played by Samuel L Jackson, and even better than that, he gave us the hero we’ve longed for – and proved that slavery is okay because sometimes you get to kill white people and hang out with German dudes – in Django Unchained. Thank you Quentin, without you there’d be a lot less white boys quoting the bible in a “black” voice and throwing the N word around.
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite
It may come as a surprise to some people to learn that Melania Trump’s name doesn’t come from the amount of glorious melanin a-poppin’ in her skin tone, but she’s someone we want to pay tribute to nonetheless. How often have women stirred the hearts of many with their moving speeches? It doesn’t bear thinking of how long and hard Melania must have toiled over her National Republican convention speech, but what is important is that with her TOTALLY UNIQUE AND ORIGINAL words, she’s out here representin for all the sistas. Michelle who?
So, this Black History Month, don’t forget to honour your favourite non-black person because apparently, even in a month dedicated to blackness, it is possible to de-centre black people.