What is Black excellence? – letter to the editors

Black History Month is a time when Black excellence is celebrated, a time when accomplishments by Black Americans of note are highlighted. Never achieving anything of note, I always found the concept of Black excellence to be a foreign concept, so Black History Month wasn’t high on my list. As I got older and became acquainted with the ongoing history of Black oppression, I was forced to revisit and reassess my previous beliefs about Black excellence. 

Olujimi Alade in Philadelphia, May Day 2021.                                 WW PHOTO: Joe Piette

Of course, my feelings about the concept still stood, but it was given more heft and depth than before. The names most brought up in February to commemorate Black excellence are along the lines of Thurgood Marshall, Michael Jordan, Ben Carson, Barack Obama and even Madame C.J. Walker. 

While these names are ostensibly noteworthy people, they seem to be held up by the bourgeois-buttressed mainstream because they fit the respectable image that is becoming to capitalism. There are millions of stories of Black excellence that are unheralded that are happening every day. Just because they don’t fit the myth of “rags to riches” doesn’t make them any less exceptional. 

A Black teenage boy arriving home safely to his family in the face of the police brutality plague is Black excellence. A Black single mother working as an Uber Eats driver finding out she was tipped $10 for exceptional service during her delivery run is Black excellence. A Black homeless man buying a cup of coffee to warm himself up on a cold winter day is Black excellence. A dark-skinned Black woman looking in the mirror and learning to love what is staring back at her is Black excellence. 

Black excellence doesn’t have to occur on Wall Street or on the Supreme Court or even in the White House. It is already occurring every single day in the streets of the United States in a society that constantly devalues and dehumanizes Black lives. It is time to gain a more diverse understanding of Black excellence and learn to celebrate that in all its diversity.


Olujimi Alade

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