The transatlantic slave trade attacked every aspect of Black freedom, including self-confidence.
True confidence comes from self-knowledge, and this is one of the ways Black freedom fighters harnessed their power throughout generations.
They gained true faith in themselves by learning about who they were through finding where they came from. Their history, culture, principles, mannerisms, and talents were all shapers of identity. Some were naturally drawn inwardly, while others enjoyed a more social presence. Some had roots hailing from Ethiopia, others from Uganda. Yet, whatever comprised them, they stood within it boldly. To be unapologetic in representing the fullest of yourself is to never accept an identity less than the gift of who you are.
“Yes, I am a Negro.”
A Montreal courtroom in 1965 echoes Gloria Baylis proudly proclaiming her Blackness. In the plaintiff seat, she is suing the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, which refused her job application despite her extensive experience as a bilingual nurse, for no reason other than the colour she carries.
This proclamation, as a refute to the ridiculous argument we didn’t even know she was Black, is a challenge to every person who equates Black skin with scarcity when it has only bred and nurtured abundance.
They swear Black people are unintelligent, yet the Black community facilitated our everyday lives, from inventing the three-light traffic signal to the elevator and fire extinguisher. They swear Black people created poverty, yet the wealthiest man ever to walk this earth was a Black, Muslim man who ruled the Mali empire named Mansa Musa. His wealth only increased from his charitable nature and easily exceeds the richest five billionaires alive today combined. They swear Black people could never be beautiful, yet all beauty was placed in the Black woman, descended from the Black woman, and raised by the Black woman.
Baylis’ statement and subsequent victory would not only set a precedent, as the first-ever case of employment-related racial discrimination in Canada, but it gives freedom to all the Black men and women who are made to feel too Black to be capable, too Black to be worthy, and too Black to be anything other than an enslaved person.
Claiming freedom in the 21st century mirrors the confidence of every Black person who has taken their rightful space to live, learn, grow, and prosper.
In 1774, at a time when slavery was rampant across the South, Rose Fortune would be birthed physically enslaved. It was through the Black loyalist migration that she and her family would settle in Nova Scotia. Fortune would discard her previous reality, holding freedom with both hands and faith in her soul.
With this, she would follow her heart’s desires, taking on entrepreneurship and starting a successful baggage-carting business while also implementing order along the docks. In her image depiction, her head is raised, shoulders back, proud of who she is, in all that she is. Her confidence remained silent and flowed into a room as an aura brave enough to recognize its glory. A foundation made firm by a spirit that fine-tuned the speech of becoming. Sings its praises. Believes in awareness. With this energy, she commanded respect from people of all races.
Every Black freedom fighter held onto their self-confidence as the most powerful weapon in the face of oppression. When the goal is to reduce you to the worst of what you can be, the defence is to rise to all that you know you can become.
To be truly self-confident is to stand within your truth, and to stand within your truth is to live in your freedom.