HAPPY BLACK HISTORY MONTH! In a public school K-12 education there are only a few Black figures we are taught about every year during these brief time. We learn about Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and MLK Jr. I watched “My Friend Martin” enough times in elementary school to probably still have it memorized. While I do think knowing about these historical figures is important, it’s also important to know the vast different monumental contributors to Black culture and literature. My attempt at rectifying this is sharing some of my favorite quotes from 3 (of many) of my favorite Black authors. Hopefully these quotes resonate with you and awaken your passion for life!
Zora Neale Hurston
First of all, I absolutely love Zora Neale Hurston, the QUEEN of the Harlem Renaissance. She has been always been one of my favorite writers (overall, not any subcategory) and I really just love her. I quoted her in my graduation speech at SDSU’s Black Grad and I will probably quote her throughout my career as a creative because her words just speak to me.
“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
This quote has come to be one of the quotes that I use to navigate my life. In 2018 I had a particularly rough year that was full of me asking so many questions. I questioned God. I questioned myself. I questioned my relationships and if they were serving me. 2019 was a year of answers to the aforementioned questions. It was a great year full of more self-discovery and killing it on certain goals that I had set for myself. I’m not sure which type of year 2020 will bring but I trust the universe in knowing which one is that I will need. Zora Neale Hurston was onto something when she said this. I honestly live by ZNH quotes so i couldn’t pick one. Here’s another!
“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”
I love this quote because honestly it is such a mood. There was a time in my life when I was so angry with racist people existing. That’s not to say that I still don’t have days where the fact that this country was founded on racism makes me want to act a fool… but my current acts of revolution include living a happy life where I achieve everything my heart desires. Despite most things not being created with me and my fellow black people in mind, I’m out here living my best life and making shit happen, which is something many people like me can only dream of. So if people want to have a nasty, discriminatory ideas about me, forget them! Their loss, not mine. I refuse to be perpetually angry and base my life off of racist stereotypes held by others. I think many Black people should also subscribe to this quote and try to live as happily as they can given our circumstances. Although, I also understand the need for using anger as fuel to change the world and activism. We all are doing our best to navigate what it means to be Black in America.
The first time I read Audre Lorde’s work was in undergrad when I took a woman’s studies class. We were assigned various excerpts from her book “Sister Outsider” and I really enjoyed them. There is something that is so inspiring about a proud out lesbian black woman when our community is still learning how to respect & honor the LGBTQ community. Audre refuses to let anyone take her voice away or dictate her experiences and I love that. I have two quotes from her as well because they both are words I strive to live by.
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
Similarly to Audre Lorde, I live for myself. I’m at the point in my life where I am no longer living to fit anyone’s definitions or ideas for how they’d like me to be. I think it’s important for all people, especially black women, to remember that we have to define ourselves! We have one life to live and you don’t want to look back when you’re older and wish you had actually lived life the way you see fit. I really love this quote because it constantly serves as a reminder to ask yourself “Am I defining myself? Am I living life they want I want to and not based on what I think I should* be doing?” These are good questions to ask yourself every so often to make sure you are in alignment with your truest self.
Toni Morrison is from the same town I was born in, little Lorain, OH. While I’m not a small-town girl by any means, it’s always brought me great joy to feel somewhat connected to this wonderful writer and powerful woman. I’ve had a picture of her and Angela Davis as my Twitter header for years. I honestly have had it there so long I couldn’t tell you what I had before that. When she passed away last year I cried and cried and reflected on how her work impacted me. I could write a whole other blog post about that but if you’re not familiar with her works then you need to change that, ASAP.
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.”
I love this quote because I believe it is so important to lift as we climb. I’ve always been someone who believed that when Black people come together as a community, great things happen. I can’t wait to be in a position where I can help fellow Black people pursuing legal careers or other endeavors with not only cheering them on but providing access to resources and monetary support. I still do these things now but I’d like to do them in a larger capacity. The main thing I can say that people should take away from this quote is to LIFT AS YOU CLIMB and HELP OTHERS. ❤
There are so many other beautiful & brilliant black people I could quote and I might make some other posts later on but I hope you enjoyed these. These are definitely quotes I always keep in mind and I hope they change your life!
Do you have any favorite quotes from historical figures in Black history? Leave a comment below and share!