I Changed My Mind About Black August

by Trelani Michelle

Black August is for black people (also by black people, which is important to point out), but it felt super patriarchal. Black August started as a month to mourn, honor, and reflect black activists. But all the activists who were ever mentioned were all…men.

I didn’t feel the need to speak out against it. Just felt like it was more for black men than black people. Then one of my writer-friends sent me an article on Black August. The article stated that:

“Black August is a time to reflect, revitalize, revisit, and refuel…August provides perspective in a way that allows productivity.”

At the beginning of August, I started eating lighter and going running again. I also started playing hooky from work. Although I work for myself and manage my own time, I gotta be careful not to lose myself in goals and deadlines. I’m living my dream, but I gotta make sure it FEELS like I am.

I took off today too! Turned my phones off, lit some candles, shut my room door, and climbed in bed with a book and a notepad. The book, Hormone Intelligence, asked me to reflect on my beliefs on my body’s ability to heal itself, my attitude about my monthly cycles, and how I felt about being a woman. It also asked for my mama’s beliefs and attitudes on these same subjects. Whew! That was some necessary reflecting.

The mention about Black August being a time to mourn has been heavy too. August is the month my stepfather passed at 43 years old, which brought to mind my best friend dying at 35. Both of cancer. That shit ain’t fair. And I’m learning how to make space for grief instead of compartmentalizing it and getting back to work.

That’s what the system pushes us to do. It wants you to hurry up and “fix your face” so you can get back to work. It wants you to “rise and grind.” To hustle now and sleep when you die. It wants us stuck on the never-ending cycle of setting goals, making more, spending more, then restarting the cycle: setting goals, making more, and spending more.

Director of the Beach Institute’s Genealogy Resource Support Center, Dr. Deborah Johnson-Simon told me one day, “Don’t forget to do what can’t nobody else do for you.” Can’t nobody rest for you. Overworking is stressing us out. Stress is killing us too fast. Black August says put your foot down.

Black August is also a time to hold the unjust accountable.

Trelani Michelle at The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

In my line of work, that looks like checking black history and black culture. We can’t overlook our local game changers–past and present. In The Healing Wisdom of Africa, the author says it’s important to call the names of those from your birthplace. Y’all are connected. Look ’em up! Find ’em! Study ’em! Tell people about ’em!

We also gotta stop overlooking the women. Forget titles. Who’s putting the work in? The preacher might have his picture on the wall, but who’s actually making sure the church is organized and financed? Who are the mothers and aunties and grandmamas that looked out? Who fed the neighborhood? Working in the daycares? How many teachers would be left if all the women quit? What they doing in the hospitals and nursing homes?

Overlooking our local heroes and women is a way of shooting ourselves in the foot. We also shoot ourselves in the foot when throw the whole apple away because it’s a bruise on it. I’m talking about me and Black August. It rubbed me the wrong way when I first met it, so I tossed it aside. It has so much potential for my people though. We can’t be afraid of correcting each other. And being open to being corrected.

So thank you, BreAnna, for bringing Black August back to my attention–reminding me of my right and my responsibility to rest and reset and nudge my people to do the same…’cause, truth is, we all ti’ed.

Previously posted on KrakTeet.com.

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Trelani is today’s Zora Neale Hurston, outchea recording history and culture by gathering the people’s stories. She earned a Bachelor’s of Political Science from SSU, a Master’s of Fine Arts in Writing from SCAD, and interned with the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center.

Crowned Savannah’s best local author, Trelani has written several best-selling titles, including Krak Teet, an oral history of Savannah’s Gullah Geechee elders, and Women Who Ain’t Afraid to Curse When Communicating with God.


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