Sunrise - April 4, 1928
Sunset - May 28, 2014
I am a Black man. Still, I rise. The lives of Black people in North America are often marred by systemic and individual racism and systemic barriers. But we have also been blessed by laughter and light.
I love my skin color; Blackness is just so beautiful, and I am fortunate to be born as I am. I love our music, our histories, food, dance, and culture. I love our fashions, our hair, our sense of humor. I love being a Black Nigerian Christian. Although I grew up in Canada where most kids wanted to assimilate for fear of being different, all I ever wanted to do was connect deeply to Africa and see the sun rise in my ancestral lands.
In honour of Black History Month, I want to first begin by celebrating the late Dr. Maya Angelou. I remember being in California, in downtown Los Angeles when I discovered she had passed away. She is now the first Black woman to appear on the American quarter. She was a poet, civil rights activist, and artist. Her thought-provoking words spoke to my soul in a language it understood well. Angelou taught us that, "when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time."
Inspired by Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem We Wear the Mask (1895), Dr. Maya Angelou wrote The Mask. Her beautifully written poem speaks to the ways in which people can use masks (metaphorically speaking) in a performative way to cover up and most importantly protect what's inside.