Another year, another February in the books…
In the first national celebration of Black History Month in 1976, president Gerald R. Ford had this proposal to the nation: “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” 42 years later, black people/African Americans most definitely feel the honor and recognition from the rest of the country. In the same breath, too many of us are still victims of police brutality, gentrification, and institutional racism, among other harms. A telling sign about our safety, or lack thereof, in this country includes us remembering the sixth anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s murder. Meanwhile on a smaller yet personal scale, I am approaching the anniversary of my last (and most traumatizing) stop & frisk. I note this because this was how I eventually found myself connected with Blues Dance New York.
In the following weeks after my fateful encounter, I made a silent vow to myself to not let fear and hatred consume me. I wanted to be stronger, but not at the expense of my loved ones. I wanted to be at peace. That included seeking more therapy, acquiring a gym membership, and following a new friend’s advice by taking up blues dancing. Nearly one year later, I am in a much better place physically, mentally, emotionally, and on the dance floor. In addition, I joined a community full of fun, talented, weird, and dedicated individuals who inspire me to be a better person with or¬ without my dancing shoes on.
Unfortunately, I’m seeing animosity brew within the community. As more time passes, I find myself one of the few black people coming out to the social dances. It wasn’t until a recent and controversial blog post that put the lack of attendance from people of color into perspective and made a lot of us come to a haunting realization: white people don’t make black people feel welcome within the blues dance community. What was a dance meant to escape the evils of racism and celebrate the culture of proud people seems to be whitewashed, perhaps even gentrified.
While blues dancing has been my respite from the outside world, this controversy is absolutely valid. I’ve definitely felt microaggressions and senses of uneasiness during my relatively short time dancing, but that’s never stopped me from participating and dancing as much as I can. Is this past the point of mitigation? That’s not up to me to say, nor is it in my new job description.
I’m here to provide a voice for an increasingly voiceless demographic within our community. I’m planning to offer history and retrospectives about black culture; focused on, but not limited to, music and dance. I hope to give a platform to those within our community that feel like they don’t have a voice. Ultimately, I’m so inspired by my blackness that I want to share my knowledge and experiences with anyone willing to listen. While another February in the books means another Black History Month behind us, black history is forever. Hopefully this new blog will do it justice.
I am your Blog Master, Andrew “Marcus Drew” Abbensett. Welcome to Black and Blues.