Editor’s note: During Black History Month, the focus is usually on historical figures who loomed larger than life, paving the way for the progress we experience today. But black history isn’t just about telling stories of our past. History is being made every day and has been made throughout our lives; it’s not just in books. It walks among us. So this month, The Root is asking a group of writers to tell us about the personal and pivotal events from their own lifetimes in a series we call My Black History. Writer Michael Arceneaux is 32 years old but moisturizes and listens to Beyoncé regularly.
I didn’t grow up with a lot in terms of money, but my mother never raised me to think I couldn’t be anything that I wanted to be. She made sure I went to black doctors and black dentists—something that I didn’t realize was a feat for some black folks until college. Even if she couldn’t afford to put me in the black private school she hoped to, I still went to public schools that had smart black teachers who pushed me to reach my fullest potential.
I didn’t have the language at the time, but I was affirmed in my identity for my entire life. I may have been screwed up in other ways, but in terms of how I saw myself as a black person, I never thought of myself as less than. I never let white people define me. Frankly, I was never raised to give that good of a damn about what white folks made of me.
So, thank you, Mama. I’m sorry I don’t like vagina and have yet to produce additional grandchildren for you, but hey, I am not a self-loathing black man. Praise the Lord.
I am from Houston, so even if that’s majorly just West Louisiana to much of my bloodline, there is no escaping the cowboy sprinkles spread across the city. For those unfamiliar, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is exactly as described—plus a carnival outside where you can get turkey legs, fried shrimp, lots of barbecue, and diabetes-inducing treats like fried Oreos, fried Twinkies and fried cheesecake. Don’t make that face: Fried cheesecake is worth the insulin.
Although Negroes attend the rodeo on various nights throughout its duration, we have a very special night on which we not only honor the tradition of the black cowboys but also feature entertainers who speak directly to us.
Talk yo’ shit if you want, but I have seen the following over my life: Luther Vandross, Monica, Brian McKnight (actually, we left early, but still), Destiny’s Child, Mary J. Blige, Kool & the Gang and Beyoncé.
You have not lived until you’ve congregated with 70,000 black folks watching cowboys, bulls and other wildebeests while shimmying with aunties to black-ass performers.
N-word with an a!
This was the most amazing tour ever. Well, besides the Lox, who were cool and all, but I didn’t want to hear all that East Coast rap back then. That aside, shoutout to my big sister for taking me and her other little brother to the greatest show on earth (at the time). Also, if you’re the woman who covered my eyes when the women were brought onstage for the “Back That Ass Up” contest, you wasted your time. I was looking at your little brother.
I wish someone had told me when I started high school that there was a way to leave the state of Texas for higher education if I really planned for it. But I didn’t think it was possible. After all, I wasn’t nobody’s Huxtable. However, a very attractive man who was a recruiter from Hampton (think light-skinned, ’90s-R&B-singer bae) convinced me that I could, in fact, leave my senior.
So I won 17 outside scholarships and got private student loans and left for the real HU. Sadly, private loans are the worst pain you can self-inflict besides voting for Habanero Hitler, but even as I curse my lenders every day of my natural life, I will always be grateful for what I learned at Howard.
It was the most diverse place I’ve ever been as I got to see every inch of who we are as a people.
I never believed in the America that Barack Obama spoke of in 2004. Or the one he gushed about in 2008. Or 2009. Or 2010. Or 2011. Or 2012. And, for damn sure, not in 2016. Still, I was moved by his gorgeous writing in his first book, Dreams of My Father, and for a brief moment during the Democratic presidential primary season in 2008, I actually wanted to believe that he was right about this country.
I had never seen white people cheer so loudly for a black man who wasn’t performing onstage or on some field or court. The feeling left me very quickly, but for that afternoon and a few hours after, I wanted to embrace the idea that real change was happening. To some extent, it did, but white folks picked that man as his successor, so let’s wrap up this mushy moment. Next.
You know damn well that, as the editorial director of the Beyhive, I was going to bring up my lord and gyrator. She is the beginning, the end and the body roll. She got me to stop playing around and dance like the big homosexual that I am. She has entertained me more than anyone else on this melting earth.
When she touched me in 2011, I immediately felt like a better man. And she’s from Houston. And she’s “one of them Creoles,” too. And she eats boudin in the parking lot. And she references UGK. She’s perfect.
She’s black excellence personified.