By Tiffany Telemaque, Vice President PR
My Black History is Black History
When I think about Black History Month, I immediately think of the contributions of the ancestors that came before me. I thought about Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Stokely Carmichael, Malcom X, and Shirley Chisholm — and how their work helped move the needle in advancing human rights and equality for Black people. I am forever grateful for their sacrifices and contributions. I would not be where I am today without them. But I also thought about my own Black history. That within my own family tree my Black history is deserving of celebration.
Sweet, Sweet T&T
My parents are from Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost island in the Caribbean.
My paternal grandmother (Granny) had 12 children, all single births. She had her first child at 18. If she were alive today, she would tell you “two pickney went home to be with the Lord as infants.” My father is number 6.
My maternal grandmother had 10 children, all single births. She owned a small grocery store where she sold food and alcohol to the local villagers and school children. My mother is number 7.
I often joke that since my family is so large, I could never date anyone from Trinidad and Tobago because we might be related. Luckily, my husband is Haitian; but scary that I did almost date someone who turned out to be my dad’s first cousin (that’s a story for another day!)
Granny died when she was 98 in 2019, a month before her 99th birthday. She was proud of her lineage and would tell me that whenever I visited. She came from and grew up in very poor circumstances, but she was resilient. She taught me that even if you don’t have much material things, we all have innate gifts and talents to contribute.
Home of Public Enemy and De La Soul
I grew up on Long Island, NY. Ever since I was a kid my parents made sure that my sisters and I were aware and proud of our Blackness. My parents were intentional about the toys we played with. They would search all over for the Black version of things — Black Barbie, Black Kid Sister, Black Cabbage Patch Kids. My parents were also deliberate about the TV shows and movies I watched growing up; they made sure that the programming I consumed had Black actors and actresses (i.e., Reading Rainbow, Family Matters, or A Different World.) At a young age, it showed me that people who look like me are more than just athletes or rappers despite what society shows.
Adulting is hard
Much of my experience as an adult Black woman has been learning to survive in white spaces. As the only Black person in the room at times, I’m often expected to represent an entire race and culture. People expect me to know about all things Black, but also be different than an everyday Black person. This is infuriating on so many levels. First, there is the notion that I am different from the everyday Black person. Second, is the assumption that there is something wrong with being an everyday Black person.
House of Telemaque
As a parent, I understand why my parents made sure I had positive images and examples of Blackness in my life. But more than that, I realize that my life is a contribution to Black History. I am Black History. 24/7/365. My son is Black History. My marriage is Black History.
As I reflect on Black History Month 2021, I am humbled by the contributions of Black Americans who came before me and left their mark on history despite the considerable odds against them. I’m honored to be part of the collective journey.