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leslie nikole
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22/F/MTL.

leslie.nikole at icloud dot com

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I didn't grow up with black creatives. Yes, I grew up in a pretty mixed up hood, where most of the residents were West Indians but I didn't grow up around too many artistic types. When I craved those surroundings, I simply hopped on a bus to New York and soaked up all the artistic melanin I could. Montreal, six hours from Toronto and eight from New York, was never what I would have called a cultural hub for black people. Recently, I was given access to this underground group of supposedly unfriendly but clearly still black hotties. Skin glistening in the sun from a thin layer of coconut oil and relaxing scowls thanks to living in a city overtaken by microaggressions, I sat on a warm roof with a glass of homemade lemonade wondering where these people came from. Yes, Montreal has recently had a surge of migrants from Africa and the Caribbean, but some of these people actually grew up here and I would have never known. Growing up in white neighbourhoods, going to schools that downplay your history (if by sheer chance they mention it at all), is difficult. We often don't realize how much we need communities that reflect us growing up, until we're much older, trying to unpack all the white influence on some one's rooftop. We know the size of the Italian community, the large Jewish community, but what about the huge, however almost invisible black community? Why is it just weeks before my twenty-first birthday, God willing, I'm finally discussing with people who look like me coming from similar experiences cultural markers like Nollywood movies, Dipset, Aaliyah, and Empire? Montreal might not be a huge metropolis like our two closest competitors -Toronto and New York City- but we're here and we're important. Safe spaces are still needed for young black people, because solidarity only goes so far when there's still levels of anti-blackness in Desi and Arab communities we're usually lumped along with; black people are still the lowest in the POC totem pole.

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