Now that Black History Month is winding down and open letters to twenty-somethings is all the rage — I can’t help but draw from Nina Simone’s anthem because it’s simply too hard to resist.
I’m also struck by what she meant and why it translates into our present until it doesn’t. For me, it no longer resonates and I’m not sure I was even conscious of when it did.
But there is no doubt that for Millennials of color — this is the ideal time to be young, gifted and black.
Twenty years ago when I could’ve claimed that description, I knew there would be a time when you could apply for a job on your mobile phone or self-publish your work by simply hitting a button. I just wished it was happening then.
In my day — the methods of seeking employment or attracting the attention of editors mirrored what our parents did when they were young adults.
Everything required more effort and it took way longer to get stuff done. A well written letter was a valued commodity, and relying on the efficiency of a mail delivery was the only viable option of communication.
But most importantly, as a young black woman who moved to New York City in the mid-nineties — with the hopes of forging a career as a writer — I can look back and vouch that my timing was less than ideal.
The landscape was a lot more dense with very little flexibility and there was no blueprint for executing a career in publishing other than rigorously pestering editors of the publications you admired until they either responded or you gave up.
As a writer who happened to be black — there was the issue of figuring out where you belonged. This was not a period bursting with online pubs that catered specifically to women of color.
There were really only a handful of those in print form and they weren’t necessarily encouraging young writers like me to join the fold. Gaining access was a challenge.
It was the “me” generation — nobody was compelled to “pay it forward” specifically black women. You pretty much had to sink, swim or drift with a life preserver until the next wave hopefully repositioned you on a better course.
I definitely succumbed to the latter. And while I am grateful that I held on long enough to swim to the shore of fruitful results — I am quite jealous of all the assets black Millennials have at their disposal. In in a good way — of course.
There is so much to be excited about and a plethora of ways to express your talent without relying on the post office to decide whether or not you made the cut. Or an internship to groom you into what you already are.
You can blog your way into a thrilling career and force impressed editors to not only notice you but enthusiastically court your skills.
You have access to networks that are dedicated to uplifting, celebrating, and empowering you in ways that will undoubtedly change your life for the better.
Diversity and the crusade for its validation is a wonderful enhancement to the creative community at large and if you fit the bill — you will utilize what this means to your advantage.
It goes without saying that there will be avenues leading to exactly where you need to go — all you have to do is remain in the drivers seat.
Even making the life-altering decision to quit alerting the texture of your hair can amass an instant feed of followers who will give you unrelenting support — for free.
You can truly be the full time writer with a head full of nicely coiled tresses, curating a shit load of kick ass pieces that could one day transform into a TV script that will fall under the banner of Shondaland.
That’s if Issa Rae doesn’t get her hands on it first.
I may not be young but I’m also not old which is a confusing place to be. Trust me, if you’re lucky — you will live long enough to get it.
The point is — despite the bleak truth that comes with being black in America — there is also the goodness of being young in America at a time when one tweet can catapult you to unimaginable heights.
You have the power to make a difference now instead of waiting for “maturity” to settle in and dictate your validity.
And that’s dope.
Timing is everything. If you’re young, gifted and black — you know that already.