Profiles: Discovering What it Means to be Black

Profiles is an ongoing series, seeking to create spaces of affinity, where similarly identified folks have a space to talk about the perceptions, nuances and actualities of their identity.  



The concept of black identity has been one fraught with a single narrative and stigma of what it means to be black in America. With diverse images and stories beginning to show and develop in mainstream society, there have become more ways to express blackness. Blacks are now left with the job of taking on their own understanding of being black, without adhering to what society tells them they must be or how they should act or who they can be. This is their world, this is who they are, who they deserve to be and will never fall victim to being anything but themselves. 

TRIBE, The Real Inseparable Black Experience, is the name of our affinity group here at Catlin.

Being black, African-American, Afro-American African, a ‘Negro’ as they use to say, back in the day just means being a part of such a rich culture and history. Now, what is black culture, is an entirely different conversation on its own. Being able to connect with people who look like you on that level. It’s like being exposed to an entirely different world.
— Juma S, 17
Being black means having to live in a society where you were set up to fail from the beginning. Being black is being followed around in a store, and being afraid for your life when you get pulled over by the police. Being black is having your culture constantly mocked, but also having it, while other minorities try to mimic.
— Jordanos L, 18
I just really think being black, means to be beautiful and strong and powerful and resilient. If I had to pick one word to describe black women, it would be RESILIENT.
— Aaliyah J, 17
What does it mean to be black? I think it means being whoever you are. Thats how I answer that. There are so many different variations of skin tone, personalities and jobs and the way people speak. I think whoever you are as a black person, is what it means to be black.
— Damien G, 34

Christina: Cultural Identity, Gentrification and the PDX Suburbs

Born in a suburb of people almost all the same and finding her multi-heritage skin the difference among the similarity, a young woman must find a way to fit in, especially when she is not even accepted by the very people she stands up for everyday at school.

Christina Spires (17), and a senior at Catlin Gabel, battles a fight that many people of color face as they attend private schools, while at the same time making an effort to be apart of their cultural community.

This complexity of cultural identity, finds it way in many of the issues our society faces, especially gentrification.

At first glance, her broad smile and witty charisma convey a sense of guaranteed happiness and joy, but as soon as her words process in your mind comes a surprise that someone of such appeared kindness possesses the ability to articulate feelings so personal and strong it could puncture the homogeneous, fluidity of the suburbs-- a break, her diverse family may have caused in their wake.

Yet, she has not allowed such negativity to bring her down, succeeding in academics and athletics, as her infectious spirit to never ceases to capture the hearts of all she meets.

Bring a smile and a notepad, as you listen to Christina’s Story.