To end Black History Month, YDR Events* threw a party in the Chinatown section of Manhattan New York. The goal was to raise money for the United Negro College Fund and have fun while we were at it. Not surprisingly, in my general philosophical disposition I entertained the implications of the space and my emotions while there.
In the midst of Black people, most of whom I did not know, I felt no anxiety--the kind of anxiety that you find yourself feeling when you have to meet and impress new people. It was a safe space where I enjoyed music, food and drinks. I spoke to strangers because of where they were positioned to me and spoke of things that weren't relevant to the Black person's plight. I was a person.
I so often fall into conversations about places where Black people can be safe--not the safety from bodily harm that is equally as important, but a space where we can be ourselves, dance
our dances, sing our songs and be free from the shame that the mainstream has perfected. Safety from those who 1. deem our existences inferior and 2. consistently remind us of their false suppositions. I appreciate these small moments where freedom truly exists.
To the YDR collective's chagrin though, moments leading to the launch of the event, they faced the not so subtle racism we all know and try our best to ignore. Event after event and comment after comment the three YDR founders were accosted with the reminder that there really isn't a safe space for us to enjoy a night on the town--even in New York City.
Having tried to find a Black owned space, the three couldn't find something that fit their budget (after all, the party was free) and size capacity, so they widened their search. They thought they found a suitable location with suitable people to work with. (ominous, no? haha.) But less than two weeks prior to the event they received an email request and as per hotel management:
"As we are still in the process of opening, apologies if I hadn’t expressed it sooner - we have been notified that the hotel doesn’t want us playing hip-hop or rap in the space. I will totally understand if you need to bring the event to another venue, or perhaps pull from our playlist.”
Once there, the ignorance didn't stop--as it tends to do. The (hotel provided) security guard told the ladies:
“..we don’t want girls with big hoop earrings, boys with their boxers showing or ghetto looking people, they will get rejected.”
With the goal of preventing the party from looking like a "Ruff Ryders video" (yes, that's a direct quote) hotel management at the Wyndham Garden reminded us that they view Black people as a monolith--a group that, no matter how hard we try or the variety of the things we indulge in, will only be seen as one characteristic and treated as such. And with the positions that they hold, they reminded us that they have power behind their ignorance.
The unfounded perception of the hotel's general management and the gall of the security guard are no less surprising to me than Donald Trump's comments half of the time, but that didn't make it any less painful and harmful. The invisibility of racism and the manifestation thereof is ceaseless in its pursuit of causing trauma to those it impacts and taking its money all the while. The people it takes hold of and the actions that are born as a result teaches us unsavory lessons. And at the very least, it teaches us where not to party.
View photos from #Down4theCause: #THEBLVCKOUT: http://d4tc.tumblr.com.
*YDR Events is headed by three women: Maritza Myrthil, Abby Uzamere and Ariel Nelson whose goal is to fuse partying and philanthropy around New York City.
Ruth Jean-Marie is a graduate of New York University where she received her Master’s of Science degree in Global Affairs. Dedicating her life to the alleviation of misery around the world, her greatest goal is to become a superhero. Her interests include fashion, equality for women and Black people--that real equality, not the surface level stuff, traveling around the world and writing. She's excited about life and intends on living it. She also has a mild obsession with shoes, shopping and sharing her opinion. You'll hear all about it. Follow Ruth on Twitter at @lesocialnomad and on Instagram at same.