Race and identity mean different things to different people, even in ways it’s spelled. Some prefer African American over Black.  We asked different people in the community including photojournalists Jerrbul and Ali McPherson to investigate what “being Black” means to different people. Here are the answers they uncovered.

BLCK ZEN:  Guyanese-American, speaks Japanese.

By Jerrbul

Do you consider yourself Pro Black? 

I strive for excellence and striving for excellence the way I do makes me pro-black to many people. I live my life to be an example for others. Ultimately it brings me inspiration.

 What does it mean to Be black to you?

It’s like being in the best exclusive club but people try to sabotage you to get you shut down. Add half a millennium to that and that’s what it’s kinda like. Or like that meme “I Love being black, it’s kinda dangerous but it’s lit”

 Would you consider yourself verbal about and or unapologetically black ?

I’m definitely verbal about being black within proper context. I don’t randomly talk about being black but I appreciate being black.  I get certain benefits in being black even though society’s sabotage is super present to this day.

Ali McPherson: African American on my father’s side and on mother’s side I have family that immigrated from St. Eustachius and Barbados 

Do you feel pressure from racism and stigma?

Yes, there are times where I feel like black people, specifically black women are misunderstood and discriminated against. I do not feel pressured on a regular basis but I think that there is not enough concern and understanding for black women in this country, which is very frustrating.

Would you consider yourself verbal about your identity as a person of color? 

Yes, I try to verbalize whenever I can about how proud I am to be a black woman. I love black women’s strength and beauty. I always tell my black friends, that we are queens who deserve the world. I try to keep myself around positive, strong, black women.  

 What does being black mean to you?

Being black means to be inherently graceful, strong, and determined. It is not only a race, but a state of mind. I think there is a swagger, and beauty to being black. 

Adji Diatta: Senegalese American. I descend from Senegalese parents and I was born in America.

By Ali McPherson

Would you say, you’re proud of your black identity?

Growing up, I grew up not being proud of my identity because you know, kids are really mean, and I used to get picked on for my skin color. But as I grew up with instagram and social media, I became more confident, and I focused on people who related to me and looked like me. You can focus on things that represent you in a good light.  

Who would you say, is an important role model for you, that helped you to feel proud of your identity?

My mom hands down. My mother came from Senegal, and came speaking little English. She is the most confident person I know, she’s very kind at heart but doesn’t let anyone cross her. I learned how to be confident and kind from her. She taught me how to be confident in my own skin.  

 What does being black mean to you?

It means to have immense strength. I genuinely believe that African Americans are the strongest individuals on the planet. We have gone through so much oppression and have been ostracized throughout history because of our appearance.