By: Manal Murangi, Federal Fellow
I am just beginning to grasp Blackness and accept it as a growing and changing definition in my life, fluid as a river. I’ve been confronted with questions of ‘What does Black mean to you?’ or ‘What does Black History Month mean to you?’ These questions give me pause as I reflect on how best to communicate my 23-year journey, my history, my context, my Blackness.
When I think of Blackness, I think of descendants of enslaved people. I think of those who sang in the face of abject horror and trauma. I think of radical, defiant joy, and how every time a Black person laughs it is a triumph over our histories.
When I think of Blackness, I think of my father. I think of the man who chose to tell me about my history by taking me to see a play about it. We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884–1915. We were some of the only Black people in the room, certainly the only Mbanderu Herero people. That evening after the play, we met the actors and sat in a circle, as we told our stories of heartache, pain, and hope. One of the actors held my hand the whole night and did not let go.
When I think of Blackness, I think of my father. I think about how he never told me that our lighter skin likely came from the rape of our great-great-grandmother, a survivor of the genocide. I found out in a New Yorker article where he talked about being a descendant of the Herero Genocide.
When I think of Blackness, I think of my mother, Egyptian, who never knew how to identify because she didn’t want to take up space in groups meant for Black people, but knew she was different from her peers.
When I think of Blackness, I think of how my parents shielded me from their pain, so I didn’t carry their burdens as I walked through the world. Instead, they allowed me to craft my own identity, accepting and embracing me every step of the way.
When I think of Blackness, I think of the name they gave me. A name I wouldn’t give up for anything in this world. Manal Soad Murangi. Translating to Manal (MUH-NELL) – “everything you’ve ever wanted and more” (Arabic), Soad (SWAAD) – “good fortune” (Arabic), and Murangi (MOO-RON-GHEE)- “they who commune with the ancestors” (Herero).
When I think of Blackness, I see a river flowing through the diasporas of the world, changing shape and definition for every person, completely unique and unifying.
Manal Murangi is a Federal Fellow and graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a degree in Film Production. Since the beginning of her career as a filmmaker, she has been interested in the intersection between art and activism. She brings that passion to science communication and environmental justice. With Our Climate, she hopes to gain a better understanding of climate policy and how film and media can be a conductor of change in today’s society. In her free time, she likes to read, especially science fiction, and do all kinds of water sports whenever possible.