When people discuss privilege, I think it’s important to understand what they actually mean. Growing up I knew my family was different and not the “typical black family” you’d think would be residing in Baltimore. We're Haitian, living in the suburbs and most of my family went to private schools. I was always reminded how good we had it, compared to where we came from. “Always finish your plate because there are kids your age who don’t have anything to eat” was a common phrase to make sure we knew we were making out okay. Growing up, I always hated the question - what do your parents do? Because without hesitation, once I answered, the common response was “oh you must be rich!” No, not quite the way you see it, but whatever. To some, yes, we’re privileged, but understand that it came (and can come) from much sacrifice. So what do my parents do? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that for my dad, he didn’t have much of a choice. More on his story, later. We’re all privileged in the sense that we share the same breath, the same air and have the same amount of time. I recently attended an event for the launch of Abernathy Magazine which centered around eleven speakers sharing their stories on race, privilege, identity & lessons learned from those experiences and how they intertwined with each other. What struck a chord with me the most is that everyone who spoke had a different sense of what privilege meant to them.
Hearing each person speak invoked a story or time where I felt something similar – a time where I felt different - but couldn’t articulate at the time. I wrote a post the other day about how I noticed I was the only black woman that was part of a seminar, yet what kept me grounded was the fact that I was surrounded by people who think like me. Looks didn’t matter then and the irony now is that at this event, looks did matter, but not for the sake of being excluded or ridiculed.
Every time I think about what transpired at the event, I get more inspired to share my story and keep the conversations going, because it’s that important.
Even though we’re all different, we share the same identity, the same common thread: individuals who stand their ground for what they believe in, no matter what. Close to 50 people attended this event and what shows is that there’s a tribe that supports this movement: the idea that our identity matters, that what we stand for matters. The beauty behind this event is that even though these stories were shared once, it left an opportunity for deeper conversations - those worth spreading.
So, the lessons learned for me? Define who you are, know and understand your roots – for these are what keep you grounded. Believe in your truths. Keep the conversations going. Because of this, the momentum keeps building that will make a difference on how the world sees you.