I may have mentioned that I watch food and home reality shows. One of my favorite food reality shows is “Master Chef” where home cooks compete against one another for the grand prize.

Now I am a great home cook but I do not cook like those contestants. They are like gourmet home cooks. I don’t know any home cooks who cook like they do. I often wonder if they are given recipes on the show for those fancy schmancy five star restaurant dishes they create.

But, this is not the point of this post. Last evening a woman won “Master Chef.” At the end of the show she proclaimed herself “The first Latina Master Chef.” This is the point of this post.

In my limited observations, it appears to me that every culture openly and unapologetically celebrates its culture except African Americans. It is almost as though we have to hold back a little on the celebration lest we offend someone. We do not declare our pride in our history of determination or our traditions forged in the fire, and we are, too often, the first to apologize for being too visible. It is as though we learned the rules of assimilation too well.

The woman who won “Master Chef” last night stuck to the recipes of her culture just elevating them from rustic to gourmet. She never moved away from, in her words, “who she was.” In fact, every other contestant whose ethnicity would be considered minority represented and celebrated, for the most part, their culture in their cooking. The African American “chefs” sometimes offered “me on a plate,” but not very often and too often with calamitous results.

Here is my take-away from last night’s show. The time has come for me to celebrate me, to celebrate the pain and the traditions of my history, individual and collective.

I will celebrate the pain for it has taught me how resilient African Americans truly are. Trace the timeline of our history and recognize that no matter what we endured, and we have endured a lot, we have survived. It may be true that much of our pain today is because we have not come to grips with the pain of our past, but we must learn to celebrate the tenacity inherent in that pain. I will celebrate!

I will celebrate the traditions passed down to me from ancestors who created their own from scraps, who learned to lead while shackled in servitude, who clothed themselves in their Sunday Best after celebrating Black on a Saturday night. I will celebrate!

I will not apologize for the natural locks or the darker melanin.
I will code switch without explanation or apology.
I will not succumb to “I don’t belong here.”
I will not back away from the conversations that assume I have no voice or opinion about my place.
I will be visible in unexpected places.
I will sing my song of difference and dance my dance of uniqueness in homogenous venues.
Dressed up or dressed down, my confidence and pride will always show.
I will celebrate ME with no apology!

~My Mother back in the day

“Weekend Glory” by Maya Angelou

Some clichty folks
don’t know the facts,
posin’ and preenin’
and puttin’ on acts,
stretchin’ their backs.

They move into condos
up over the ranks,
pawn their souls
to the local banks.
Buying big cars
they can’t afford,
ridin’ around town
actin’ bored.

If they want to learn how to live life right
they ought to study me on Saturday night.

My job at the plant
ain’t the biggest bet,
but I pay my bills
and stay out of debt.
I get my hair done
for my own self’s sake,
so I don’t have to pick
and I don’t have to rake.

Take the church money out
and head cross town
to my friend girl’s house
where we plan our round.
We meet our men and go to a joint
where the music is blue
and to the point.

Folks write about me.
They just can’t see
how I work all week
at the factory.
Then get spruced up
and laugh and dance
And turn away from worry
with sassy glance.

They accuse me of livin’
from day to day,
but who are they kiddin’?
So are they.

My life ain’t heaven
but it sure ain’t hell.
I’m not on top
but I call it swell
if I’m able to work
and get paid right
and have the luck to be Black
on a Saturday night.

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