There’s a sense of community that comes with being Black. A shared culture experience that transcends time and space. Regardless of where any of us are from originally, it always feels like home any time we come together. It’s in the way we speak; it’s in the way we move; and, ultimately, it’s just who we are.
We are a melting pot of different voices, cultures, and experiences that fit together perfectly like puzzle pieces. Each element is distinctly unique from the next but still manages to form a perfect picture. It’s not our sameness that connects us, but our differences because we are not a monolith. We are a movement made up of countless individual steps that are leading us towards a future of unlimited potential.
This year, as part of Black History Month, we celebrate this diversity with 28 Things About Me, a four-part editorial series where members of our own community share their personal stories around Blackness. Closing this out is Complex anchor Pierce Simpson, who reveals why Black excellence is a way of life.
1. What does Black excellence mean to you?
Black excellence to me is taking every day and maximizing your opportunity for success on your path. All of our paths are different, all of our goals are different. Oftentimes, Black excellence is only celebrated for entertainers or celebrities but Black excellence exists everywhere. From a daycare in Oak Cliff, Texas to the White House—it’s everywhere.
2. Where were you raised and how did your hometown influence the person you are today?
I was raised in Dallas, Texas and Austin, Texas—both cities have a unique feeling of home to me. But growing up in Texas, that feeling of pride we share—especially Black Texans—it’s nothing like it. I wouldn’t change my upbringing for anything.
3. What foods most remind you of home?
Hall’s Fried Chicken in Dallas, Texas and my pop’s crawfish or gumbo.
4. What’s one lesson about Blackness that your family or an elder passed on to you that you still carry with you today?
My grandfather made it a point to educate my brother and I on the history of racism in this country. Whether in society, politics, or even sports; he kept things super-honest. For that, I’m extremely grateful because it made me aware of potential blind spots and how to navigate a world that will always exhibit forms of racism. Whether implicit or not.
5. How is your personal style a reflection of your Blackness?
It’s literally everything.
6. What is the Blackest thing you own and what does it mean to you?
My durag. I call it my crown. Growing up in Texas, my folks would be hesitant to let us wear it in public because of perception, especially being in the South. These days, I’m wearing my durag everywhere—if you’re uncomfortable, that’s on you.
7. What is a hobby or interest you have that isn’t typically considered a “Black thing” but is 100% part of who you are?
I’m going to intentionally not provide a response to this question because I feel that labeling something “a Black thing” is limiting to us. We can do whatever.
8. What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “Black and unlimited?”
We are infinite. Our legacies are infinite. So, when I think of the phrase “Black and unlimited” I think of forever.
9. What is the best thing about being Black?
The culture we exude by just being us. The rich history we share together and our ability to overcome generational adversity, and ascend to unforeseen heights each generation. Look closely, and you’ll see that we are American Culture.
10. Which prominent Black historical figure speaks to you most and why?
I could name so many but Gordon Parks is an icon to me. His imagery helped showcase so many Black faces to the world and his ingenuity helped foster tentpoles of Black culture like Shaft and Essence magazine. As someone who loves photography, his work always held a lot of value for me.
11. Which modern-day Black creative do you admire most and why?
Jay-Z. He’s someone that I look at and I feel we share a lot of the same characteristics; and with that, he is a great inspiration for me when it comes to career and aspirations. That doesn’t mean I have any plans to be a rapper [laughs].
12. What piece of Black literature has had the biggest influence on you and why?
My grandmother used to collect the weekly issues of JET magazine and that really piqued my curiosity. Then rap-specific magazines like Vibe, The Source, XXL became a reoccurring read for me. While they might’ve been corporate-run entities—they still highlighted Black culture.
13. Why do you feel celebrating Black History Month is important?
It’s a reminder to how far we’ve come and how much further we’ll continue to take things. But to be honest, we celebrate Black History daily.
14. What piece of Black history are you most inspired to have experienced in your lifetime?
Every day we make history. Our collective experience is something I’m inspired by.
15. What TV show from your childhood defined the Black experience for you at the time?
Black TV shows gave me perspective on life. There are so many shows to name from Martin and The Steve Harvey Show to The Bernie Mac Show and My Wife & Kids to The Wayans Bros and The Jamie Foxx Show… the shows are endless and pivotal for my life. Those same shows also created moments of family time.
16. What’s your favorite movie with a predominantly Black cast and why is it so special to you?
Dead Presidents is one of my favorite movies ever. It’s special to me because it’s incredible storytelling with pieces of love, pain, and soul.
17. Who is your favorite Black actor/actress and what about their on-screen work appeals most to you?
Denzel Washington and Larenz Tate. They both command the screen without even having to say a word.
18. If you were making a playlist that would be the soundtrack of your life, what song would be your intro and why?
Jay-Z’s verse on “3 Kings.” It’s been my song of aspiration since I was like 21. That verse speaks to me.
19. What song would be your outro and why?
“Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly & Maze. I think it’s arguably the greatest song ever made.
20. What does Black culture mean to you and how do you represent it every day?
Black culture makes the world go ’round. Whether it’s music, movies, sports, Twitter, TikTok… Black culture feeds everything.
21. Why are HBCUs so important to the Black experience?
HBCUs are foundational pieces to African-American curriculum in this country. The rich history and the lineage of individuals who have gotten degrees from HBCUs and subsequently changed society can’t be understated.
22. If you could travel to any Black nation in the world, where would you go and why?
Honestly, I would just love to explore the entire continent of Africa. But if I had to choose, I would love to travel to Lagos.
23. When someone says “Black is beautiful,” what is the first thing that comes to mind for you?
24. Who would you say is your best example of Black love? How have they influenced you?
My parents have been my greatest example of Black love. They taught me the true meaning of partnership and what that entails. Having someone by your side that’ll never let you face your battles alone. No matter the distance, no matter the time, no matter the space—they’re always there for each other. I pray I find the same.
25. What are some of your favorite family traditions?
Our biggest family tradition is Thanksgiving dinner whilst watching the Dallas Cowboys. Something about that day will forever be special to me and I can’t wait to carry on the same family traditions of just being in each others’ presence.
26. What does your family name represent for you? In what ways do you look to honor the legacy of your ancestors?
My family is everything. They’re my “Why;” they’re my purpose.
27. What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be something that lives far beyond me. I want to be remembered as a great man, a giving man, an honest man, and someone who was a leader in the truest sense.
28. Why does your Black life matter?
Because I matter. We matter. We’ve always mattered.