Do you remember the 21st night of September? I do, oh so vividly. And it will be one I cherish for a long time.
A few weeks ago, I was blessed to have one of the most black, queer, rejuvenating weekends in sunny Los Angeles with my longtime college best friends. I left work early and made the short, but traffic filled, journey from San Diego as I prepared to see two of my favs: Blood Orange, and my queen, Beyoncé.
(I should also take the time to let my devoted Beyhive siblings know that this article is not about Beysus, so you can put down the Twitter fingers.)
My little heart could not be more excited as my friend Jordan and I drove up to The Greek Theatre to bask in all that is Dev Hynes. The whole car ride I was overwhelmed with nostalgia, thinking about San Francisco college memories. My sophomore year of school was painted with Tumblr photoshoots, cheap vodka and Blood Orange’s Cupid Deluxe album. To say that I was an uber fan of Hynes would be an understatement.Everything was beautiful and nothing could hurt. I cried my heart out to old favorites, such as "Champagne Coast," and danced my small booty (tiny, but mighty), to the new album, Negro Swan. Now, more than ever, Hynes’ new project resonated with me tremendously. Negro Swan truly captured the heartache that comes with being ostracized while simultaneously narrating a journey of leaning into your blackness.
As much joy as I received from the spiritual experience of the concert, as I left the gates of the venue it began to feel like an episode of the Twilight Zone. We made our way to the merch table to purchase the airbrush style t-shirt that said “Negro” on the front with hearts. My credit card was ready and I had to have it. With my luck, I got the last one — which put me at odds.
Confused, my friend Jordan questioned, “How does a shirt with the word 'negro' sell out to a theater that was not filled with negroes?”
As we left, I looked around and gasped as I saw so many white concert goers leave proudly with their negro shirts in hand, off to enjoy the rest of their Friday night.
I felt hot. I felt flustered. I felt mad. I left trying to process why I was so upset. How did I all the sudden go from feeling so appreciated and validated, to feeling like a spectacle.
Blood Orange makes amazing music to be cherished by all, and in no way will I ever negate that. However, unless you have ever been called any variation of the word “negro,” what are you doing with that damn shirt?
In the past few years, there have been so many conversations surrounding art consumption, appropriation and appreciation. With all the dialogue, it seems as if some just don’t care and can’t accept that some things are just not for you. Even with the folks in social circles who think of themselves as socially aware, liberal and not like “those white people,” we still see these harmful acts perpetuated.
As Solange said, “You want to be the teacher, don’t want to go to school. Don’t want to do the dishes, just want to eat the food.”