Happy International Women’s Day everyone but especially to all my ladiesssss! Women are amazing. Women of all colors, ethnicities, occupations, and living in countries all over the world. We are powerful. We are strong. We are beautiful.Read More
I’m sure you read the title of this article and figured it would have to do with the MANY diversity and racial issues going on in the United States right now. However, this is more so a open letter or venting session of how hard it is to be a Black woman living in Montana sometimes.
I haven’t had any aggressive or negative run ins with people of any color here in Montana due to my skin color. This, unfortunately, is not the same story for my husband, but that’ll be a topic for another day. If anything, Montanans have been genuinely some of the nicest people I’ve met in my 27 years of life. People smile and speak when they walk by you, and most even stop to ask you how your day is going, and expect a response! Crazy, right? This is still something I’m adjusting to coming from living in Chicago prior to living here where people don’t even make eye contact with you let alone truly care enough to speak and ask you how you’re doing. I share this information before getting into what I want to vent about because I don’t want to paint Montana as some unfair, terrible, place to live, when in reality…my life in Montana isn’t too bad. But at the end of the day, I still live in Montana, and as I’m sure most of you know, Montana isn’t know to be home to many people of color or much…diversity.
Montana lacks diversity so much that when we go out to eat people usually automatically apply the military discount to our bill because we’re Black, dining in Montana, and the only explanation of us being here is the military LOL. I’m reminded every time we go visit another city or state how much I miss seeing people of ALL colors on a daily basis. When we first moved into our house here on base and met our first set of neighbors, apparently she shouted to her husband (who is Mexican), with excitement, “WE HAVE BLACK NEIGHBORS”! Hahaha! To this day this is one of my favorite stories, but one of the saddest at the same time, because seeing a Black person in Montana is like seeing a unicorn. I have a handful of other stories like this one from run-ins with other people of color who were happy to see another one of “us” lol.
However, the hardest part of living in a place that lacks diversity, are the lack of culturally different activities and lifestyles around us. I sometimes get jealous seeing my Facebook friends and Instagram and Twitter followers post pictures of RSVPs to concerts and events I know I wouldn’t be able to find in the entire state of Montana. Some examples are R&B/Neo-Soul concerts, blues/jazz lounges, festivals, upscale evening lounges, restaurants, etc. When you live in a place where diversity is lacking you miss out on all of these amazing things to do, and see, which add appreciation and cultural value to our lives. Do you all know how much I took having authentic Thai and Caribbean restaurants within 10 minutes from my apartment in Chicago? Do you know how much I appreciate walking into a Mexican restaurant and seeing a menu in Spanish and seeing an all Mexican staff cooking my food? Do you know how much I would love to go to a Jill Scott concert for a date night with my husband instead of the two options we have here of dinner and/or a movie? Do you know much it means to walk down the street, through a store, or drive by people of all colors, ethnicities, shapes and sizes? For my friends who live in places that offer all of these options and then some, take a minute to just soak up the beauty that is diversity surrounding you.
As a military wife I try my hardest not to complain to my husband (in a non-joking manner) because I know he is/we are here because it is what is needed for our family at this moment. I also try to remind myself of the countless military spouses whose loved one is overseas or died serving this country before I complain. As upsetting as it is some days that I’m not surrounded by everything I want I remind myself I have everything I need. I know there are plenty of people who would trade places with me if it meant being with their loved ones everyday. Sometimes it’s hard to not be selfish and think about what I want, but I’m human. However, I feel it is important, no matter who you are, what you do, or where you live to be exposed to life outside of your little bubble. It’s much harder to understand someone else’s life and experiences if you’ve never had the opportunity to explore their culture and lifestyle.
As much as Montanans love their bejeweled flare legged jeans, cowboy boots, country music, hunting, rodeos, and cowboy hats…I miss professional sports, multi-cultural authentic food, big name concerts, date night in a little black dress, and round trip plane tickets for under $200. But the upside of being a military wife also means this won’t be my location forever, but man, it sure does feel like forever when diversity is missing.
Today is February 1st, 2016, which means it is officially the first day of Black History Month. As a Black woman who has gone through life being taught to celebrate every aspect of what makes me different from everyone else, it’s a month long celebration I both enjoy and will always believe is much needed. If you’ve been paying attention to anything regarding the media in the last year or so, you have without a doubt seen much talk about race, and specifically what it means to be Black in this country. We don’t even need to go in detail of how critical this years presidential race has been in proving racism being an issue. As nasty as some people can be hiding behind their keyboards, talking about race and what makes us different, and causes us to lead different lifestyles, with different opportunities, is a LONG overdue discussion. There will always be people who immediately go on the defense when discussing racism. Then there are those who have expanded their minds enough to want to talk about it, and learn as much as they can to make the people around them feel comfortable.
However, to those of you who get uncomfortable when talking about anything racially related, I challenge you to learn how to be comfortable talking about race starting this month. You would be amazed how enlightening it will be for you and your friends when you sit down and have intelligent but passionate conversation about uncomfortable topics. The biggest lesson I hope all non-people of color (and people of color) take from Black History Month this year is the understanding that celebration does not equal exclusion. I have plenty of friends, who are not Black, who enjoy and celebrate Black culture the same way they celebrate their culture(s). You don’t have to be Black, or a person of color, to pick up a book or research: Black activists, actors/actresses, doctors, inventors, musicians, politicians, teachers etc. and learn what contributions they made to this country that directly effect you every single day. Your eyes will also be opened to learning there are more to Black people, and we have contributed so much more than slavery, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to America as our history books have taught us since elementary school.
My challenge to people of color this Black History Month is to take the time to teach your children about the thousands of amazing Black people who have done amazing things in this country. We can no longer use the excuse of school not teaching our children when the information plus more is available at our finger tips to teach them ourselves. As parents and guardians, we are our children’s first teachers, and we should be teaching them to celebrate and understand the bravery and sacrifice those before us endured to get us where we are, today. Have your children read a book, or go to a museum, to teach them about people such as Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and W.E.B. Du Bois. How else will the children learn about their history if we don’t teach them what isn’t taught at school? Which is almost everything about Black History -_-.
To those of you who know me, you know I am a person who has family members and friends every shade of the rainbow. I love the people in my life, and to love them I celebrate the important aspects of their lives which makes them who they are. I expect the same in return, and one of the largest parts of being, Brienne Jamieson, is being a Black woman. Don’t tell me you’re “colorblind” or “you don’t see race“, because you are denying a large part of ME. If you move to, or visit, another country you want people to know you’re an American, right? Or on the flip side, if someone from another country moves to America we don’t expect them to reject their heritage, and all of a sudden call them selves an American do we? No. So think about these examples next time you tell someone you’re colorblind. Don’t let my Blackness, or anyone else’s Blackness, make you uncomfortable. Instead, see us for who we are and join in the beauty, celebration, and struggle, of being close to someone who loves her heritage. In turn we get to celebrate one another through our differences and similarities year round.
Happy Black History Month everybody.
Always remember Black History is Our History.