Brilliance is Within Us (w/ Brittany Janay)

Brittany Janay reminds us of our inherent brilliance. She affirms that not only are we our ancestors’ wildest dream, we are a manifestation of their gifts, their resourcefulness, their brilliance. Brittany Janay shares a few historical and present day anecdotes as example of how Black people have and continue to share their brilliance in community and with the world–from vaccinations to bonnets. In the context of systems literally set up for our demise the fact of the matter is this: our existence, our survival is brilliant, our innovation, no matter how big or small, is brilliant. Brilliance is within us. 

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Brittany (00:11): This is Liberated Love Notes, a podcast on the Living Corporate network, hosted by yours truly, Brittany Janay. I am the creator of Liberated Love Notes, critical self-reflections and affirmations for our culture. Y’all already know Liberated Love Notes is your source for weekly doses of self-reflection, affirmation, and re-imagining for us by us.

(00:38): Y’all, this week I’m really here to affirm our inherent brilliance. I’m here to affirm our inherent brilliance. I was having a conversation with a friend a couple of days ago. We were talking about unpacking some of the deficit and negative narratives that this culture. And by culture, I mean dominant white mainstream culture, specifically in the U.S. context. Lifts up those negative narratives, oftentimes lifted up as truth as it relates to blackness. As it relates to blackness. What do I mean by that? So we were talking about how white supremacy will literally be out in the streets suggesting that it has discovered, created, innovated just about everything. White supremacy, will really be out here, like it has discovered. And we’ve been taught this, that it has discovered, it is the beginning of all things innovation.

(01:48): When you think about the history in the simplest of terms, which is why this is all the more fascinating. White folks legit got off of a boat, that landed here in this Turtle Island. Turtle Island being the indigenous name of North America prior to it being colonized. Y’all legit got off of a boat and said, we’re here, we discovered it. Like no whole humans, like whole human beings already there. And they legit got off and said, Hey, we’re here, we discovered this. And for centuries, and centuries and centuries have continued to perpetuate this lie.

(02:38): That’s what we learned. That’s what we’re taught. It is laughable, but low key, like high key sick. High key concerning, came here, got off the boat. We discovered this. It don’t matter that whole humans is here, we discovered this. And, not only did they lreally believe this lie, it has been part of the narrative we’ve been socialized to believe it’s truth. That’s a lie. And yet, it is oftentimes, blackness that is pathologized made to be deficient.

(03:32): Nah. Nah, I was also reading also on this, if we stay on this lane of just how inherently brilliant we are. I was reading this story of an enslaved African. His name was, and I hope I am pronouncing it correctly, Onismus. I wonder if y’all are familiar with this story. It’s timely, particularly in the context of us experiencing a whole global pandemic, but anyway, was reading the story of Onismus.

(04:07): This is the 1700s in America. Folks is dealing with, I think it was smallpox. Folks were dying left and right. I think I read somewhere that the mortality rate was like 14%. That is a lie. To give you some context there. The mortality rate for COVID-19, I think is somewhere around like 2% or so. So, for smallpox at the time, 14%.

(04:39): Onismus was an enslaved African. West African I believe. And he shared, in the context of folks dying, colonizers dying to smallpox, he shared an African medicinal process with his enslaver at the time. Another colonizer. A colonizer. This medicinal process was called inoculation. Inoculation is a practice that has been traced back to West African countries. And so, essentially, what Onismus shared with the enslaver, was the process of isolation. In the context of smallpox, it essentially involved taking the infected pus of someone with smallpox, and so you have got to make a wound. Get the pus, and placing that pus on the open wound of someone who is not infected with smallpox.

(05:47): And so, inoculation is taking the pus of someone who has it, putting it in. So by way of incision, on someone who doesn’t as a way to inoculate. Sounds a little bit like vaccinate. And so, for awhile, as the story goes, the enslavers didn’t believe Onismus. Things got so bad that the enslaver decided to take his word for. And was able to come into contact with, I guess, a doctor, who performed a series of trials on folks that, ended up being successful. As the story goes, the mortality rate that was at 14% drops to two or 3%. All because, Onismus, talk about brilliance, shares, an enslaved, black African, West African shares a process. This inoculation practice that was part of his culture. Our culture. The process of inoculation is very much so credited as the roots of what we experienced today. Vaccination.

(07:11): When I tell you America does not deserve black people. When I tell you we are inherently… America wasn’t checking for inoculation until ancester brother Onismus shared. Oh, how we continue to give of ourselves. There’s something to be said about this story, the legacy of Onismus, that was new to me, one of those untold stories of our brilliance. It is not lost on me that in present day, in the context of COVID-19, a black woman, Doctor Kizzmekia Corbett has been on the forefront of the COVID vaccination. Talk about generational brilliance. Talk about remembering, talk about what is in us. Onismus, inoculation, a practice grounded in west African tradition. Fast-forward centuries and centuries, a black woman being at the forefront of hopefully ending, or being responsive to a global pandemic.

(08:25): I imagine our ancestor Onismus smiles broadly. And it makes me think about what we often hear. We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams. I would offer that not only are we, our ancestors’ wildest streams, we are a manifestation of our ancestors brilliance. Not only are we, our ancestors’ wildest dreams, we are a manifestation of our ancestors inherent, generational, pass down brilliance. It’s in us.

(09:01): Y’all, I was having another conversation with my parents and we was talking about, and I don’t know if this is a Baltimore thing or if this is, everywhere. But, when I was coming up, it was common to see folks trying to catch what we called a hack. And so, a hack is literally folks standing on the side of the road, waving your hands in the street, trying to catch a ride. And there were folks who literally would give them rides. That’s what they do. They were a hack. They were a hack. They would give folks rides throughout the day.

(09:40): Some of them, some folks that’s what they did for income. Pick up random people who needed rides. As my Mom tells it, there were actually communities. There were communities who had their own designated hacks. Now this was, I’m thinking, I’m 32, 20 years ago. I used to track and it’s still happening. But I just remember it being a thing, hacks. Fast forward, y’all, Uber what? Lyft what? Black folks are not new to this. We are true to this. I’m here to affirm that.

(10:25): Not only are we resourceful because in some ways I think hacks were stigmatized. How are you getting in a car with somebody you don’t know, but if that’s not resourceful, and a powerful, for example, of how inherently collective we are. How we make a way. If that’s not an example of brilliance, I don’t know what is. It is in us, y’all. Before Lyft, before Uber, black folks, at least black folks in Baltimore was catching hacks.

(11:00): There was actually this poem. When I was growing up, there was this poem, this story that we used to read for our black history stuff at church around the question, what would the world be, or not be if there were no black people? And they shared some of the ways we have contributed to this, here society. Everyday stuff. Y’all, when I tell you America don’t deserve us.

(11:25): By the way, unapologetic plug, I actually have shirts. America does not deserve black people, truth shirts on the site. Go grab one. I felt like that was a relevant answer and plug. Go ahead and cop yours. Surprise your colleagues on your next Zoom call, because it’s truth. It’s the facts. I actually think I’m going to find that poem, and legit might it for the next episode. Y’all we are inherently brilliant.

(12:00): Anyway, I’m here. I’m here to affirm our, your inherent brilliance. We are not only our ancestors’ wildest dreams. We are a manifestation of their gifts, their resourcefulness, their brilliance. We are not only our ancestors’ wildest dream. We are a manifestation of their gifts, their resourcefulness, their brilliance. It is in us. We are capable of solving for our own problems. Y’all, we are capable of developing our own solutions that meet our needs and sensor our unique experience. We create, we shape, we shift.

(12:39): Now, we don’t always have the capital, or infrastructure, or access, because white supremacy be like. But that does not negate the fact that we are inherently brilliant. I suppose sometimes, and I speak from experience we undermine our brilliance. We sell ourselves short. We strive for perfection rather than impact. Sometimes we find ourselves conflating white and mainstream validation with success, with impact. Let’s unlearn that together.

(13:12): Brilliance is in us. How we make a way, how we find a way it’s brilliance. It’s in the context of systems, literally set up for our demise. Our existence, our survival is brilliance. Our thriving is brilliance. Our innovation, whatever that looks like for us is brilliance. No matter how big or small it is brilliance.

(13:45): I did a vendor event on June 10th. It was my first vendor event for Liberated Love Notes, another unapologetic plug. Go and grab your deck. Anyway, there was a sister there selling bonnets. My current bonnet I had, well, the bonnet that I was using, I kind of have this like unstable relationship with. Because it one, it wasn’t big enough to contain my locks. And two, it’s still falling off. It just was not clutch.

(14:21): There was a sister at the vendor fair. When I tell you her bonnets, this is what I mean by like, no matter how big or small, brilliant y’all. When I tell you her bonnets were legit. So not only do my locs, which, Hey, by the way, a done in a bun right now. We don’t do much, but when we do. Not only do my locs fit, so they fit up in there nice and snugly. Y’all, there is access fabric that you use to wrap around the bonnet so that it secure. When I tell you for the last couple of days that I’ve been using this thing, it has not fallen off. When I tell you, Sis is brilliant. When I tell you that was a tangible need, met solution, for us by us. We are brilliant, y’all. We are brilliant. Appreciate you Indulging, for allowing me to indulge in that story.

(15:30): I want to affirm, and I’m going to share a Liberated Love Note that gets at this. And I will offer it to you as you kick off your week. It reads, “I possess”. That’s one of my favorite ones. This is one of my favorite Liberated Love Notes, y’all. “I possess the intrinsic wisdom and intellect to build organizations, products, tools, and resources that are responsive to the needs and desires of my community.” I‘m going to read that again. I think that’s worth affirming. “I possess, we possess the intrinsic.” It’s already there. “Wisdom and intellect to build organizations, products, tools, and resources that are responsive to the needs, our needs and desires of my community.And this is the kicker. I support black people. We support black people who do this. Not only are we brilliant, but we are supportive of the ways in which brilliance shows up in our brothers and sisters, our siblings. Not only are we inherently brilliant, but we lift up and affirm the brilliance, all the ways that brilliant shows up in each of us.

(17:03): I just think that’s worth affirming. I hope you feel that. I hope you know that. I hope you believe that. Really, really, really believe it. Everything about this world would suggest otherwise. But you are, we are inherently brilliant. I promise.

(17:28): I’ll catch y’all next time. Peace.

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