“That’s when the idea of being a carefree black boy—pioneered by the likes of Charles Barkley, Andre 3k, and Prince and maintained by names such as Frank Ocean, Jaden Smith, and Chance the Rapper—became its own fire, a “bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction.”
Piece by: Kabelo Ntlaloe
On Masculinity and Self-Emancipation
For years, masculinity has aesthetically and behaviorally been portrayed as synonymous with strength and dominance, but as someone who has always been skating the fine line of androgyny, masculinity has always been placed at odds with how I perceive myself; not fully a part of my performance, like this thick wool-blend blazer with exaggerated shoulder pads that I could put on and feel powerful, or even more respected. But the truth that I have come to see is that this thing that I put on, which—admittedly—can make me feel good, is just a set of learned mannerisms and affectations that portray a certain gendered performance. And it seems almost ridiculous that even abstract things such as liking a certain colour, expressing certain emotions, wearing certain items of clothing—interests that could have, theoretically, been borne in a vacuum—can influence how strong or how male or female someone can perceive you to be. That’s when this blazer, that would normally make me feel important by inclusion, begins to feel hot around the collar, scratchy, and sticky on the wet patches down my back.
Growing up as a black boy in the society that we live in, it felt like this blazer was the dress-code for any social setting or group that I found myself in; the uniform of belonging. And with age came the *non-returnable—or refundable—gift of self-awareness, which, in turn, made me more aware of the changing looks being sent my way. So, I began tailoring the blazer; longer, bulkier, to show less. And for a while it was ok, I could get by. But the biggest slap to the face was when mainstream media, the main informant on how this blazer “should” look, began using it to antagonize us in a society where it was already difficult to be; black men and boys became “scary”, hoodlums, thugs. Suddenly, this blazer that I had unwittingly turned into a safety blanket began to stifle and suffocate, inciting a wave of violence aptly described as a Racism Renaissance. In the roaring heat of headlines, shootings and other violences in 140 characters or less, it became apparent that this blazer wasn’t only snuffing out the boy inside, but leaving a trail of black bodies (the nuance of which I could go into great detail).
That’s when the idea of being a carefree black boy—pioneered by the likes of Charles Barkley, Andre 3k, and Prince and maintained by names such as Frank Ocean, Jaden Smith, and Chance the Rapper—became its own fire, a “bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction” (Collins, 2013). Well, at least that’s what it became to me. A weapon or superpower that I could call on in times of triumph, tragedy, self-doubt. A rebellious, sun yellow brooch that became my very own Scarlet Letter; removing me from the egg-shell constructs society expected me to sidle around and trip over; allowing me to explore the cacophonic wardrobe of clothing the world has on offer, even to wear my skin louder. A form of self-emancipation.
*I’ve kind of been torn between this and “self-awareness: the gift without a receipt, which, in turn …”
“Why is he in his feels?”
“That’s gay bro”
“He’s got issues”
Heard this before? The following sayings are what you usually hear about black men across the spectrum in society. Whether it be in person or Twitter or Instagram or any other social media or mainstream media outlet. Man, I’m even to blame for some of the comments. The black man has been reduced and inhibited by his own Patriarchy, cultures and ‘standards’. Whereas the white man have dealt with nonconformity much easier and have been given the flexibility to do so.
However, the care free black boys movement is a shinning light to this old and misconceived perception. It aims at breaking down these barriers and constructs from how black men ‘should’ be to rather what they ‘want’ to be. Being care free gives black men the opportunity to be: who they are, wherever they are, in any shape or form . It does not only aim to redefine masculinity but blackness as a whole. It gives the new generation of black men a new defined perspective, where they aren’t stereotyped and put in a box full of ‘facts’, opinions and tradition. One does not have to conform for the sake of it and one does not to have to pretend for the sake of it. It allows black men to breath and to be set free.
Being care free is a rebellion / protest to literally be themselves. We can be loving, happy, successful, faithful and much more; the opposite to what has been labelled upon us over the years.
YOUNG, BLACK AND FREE
THATS HOW ITS SUPPOSED TO BE
Piece by: Unami Kombanie
For me, being carefree and black: a carefreeblackboy is more than just an aesthetic, a label or a fleeting fad. It’s a decision I have taken to consciously challenge predefined and learned gender roles and gender associated expectations as a black man. Masculinity is not inherent, it is learned. Masculinity, a learned behaviour/concept that I have seen as being more occupied with appearance and projection than human interaction or preservation.
The expectations (or lack thereof) of society on black men are damaging and suffocating to those that don’t fit into the mould. (Fragile) masculinity as we know it strengthens and continues to birth interaction and relationship based on the fallible premise that men are more capable than women. Our failure as men to listen; unlearn and learn is a glaring flaw in the core make up of the modern man.
To be carefree and black – to be who you choose to be, because you are enough, and your greatness is a warm and bright light that needs not to be abrasive or aggressive but inspiring, uplifting and liberating.
Photos by: Thembelani Moyo (@em_oh_why_oh)
Patson Manda (@patson_manda)
Kabelo Ntlaloe (@pvstelcoastline)
Unami Kombanie (@unamikombanie)