A Letter to my Son
“I make Black history every day, I don’t need a month!”
By Marcel Stewart, Outreach Director
I just finished the first episode of the Netflix documentary, Jeen-Yuhs. Directed by Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah, the documentary is about the life of Kanye West. Yup, that Kanye West. The same Kanye West whose lyrics I’ve recited countless times while rocking you to sleep. The same Kanye West who once walked onto the Def Poetry Jam stage and proudly said, “I make Black history every day, I don’t need a month!”
When I was in my late teens/early twenties, making my way through university, that quote was my mantra. It was the mantra for all of us (us = my roommates at the time. All Black men). Consciously, or subconsciously, we were preparing to graduate from university and enter the professional world to make Black history every day in our own way. There was the banker, the business marketer, the sports manager, and the artist (me!).
I make Black history every day, I don’t need a month!
From a young age I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but spending my adolescence moving from Bristol to Scarborough to Mississauga to Brampton, I didn’t really have access to great art in my communities. I did read a lot, eventually. Baldwin, Hansberry, Morrison, Butler, and countless others. Black books became my gateway to other forms of Black art (movies, TV, visual art, music, dance, comics, etc). Black art became my salvation and survival. A form of morse code used to speak with my communities and ancestral energies when I felt alone and isolated. Black art lives counter to any narrative we’ve been fed and sold about our experience or history. From Millie Small to Johnny Guitar Watson, our art has not only spoken to what it is but also to the possibilities of what could be. From Bob Marley singing ”Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”, to Kendrick Lamar shouting “We Gon Be Alright”, our approach to art-making has been a powder keg for many a movement. It has always been, and it will always be. Making history every day.
If you, my son, decide to make art one day, I hope it is your truth. I hope it pulses in your veins. I hope it vibrates at your fingertips. Your art will be historic even if that art is just a new TikTok dance (or whatever the technological craze is in 10 years); or the first time you draw our family in kindergarten (that picture is going right on the fridge, trust me); or make a collage of all the Black Jewish men who came before you (aka a Lenny Kravitz and Daveed Diggs Appreciation Post). Simply because you are you, you are Black, you are Jewish, you are a composition of many difficult struggles over centuries of time you are historic. Above all else, just choosing to live in the fullness of you is enough to make Black history every day. When you do that, can’t nobody tell you nothing.