As someone with no discernible ties to the Caribbean, Africa or hell, or even Nova Scotia, in February, instead of feeling "prideful" about being from somewhere other than Canada, I usually want to hide.
Black History Month is the time when reggae, calypso and jazz bands, African drummers and veteran Canadian hip-hop and R&B artists emerge from relative obscurity to hit Toronto's "chitlin' circuit" - the GTA's handful of black-centric bars and clubs.
But jaunts to these celebratory events leave me feeling not only socially and economically disenfranchised, but also questioning my place and presence within these communities.
There's a kind of black respectability politics that tells us what we should do and be to be proper black Canadians (a mythological animal, of course), but this is extremely limiting of individual self-expression.
Let's talk, for instance, about the historical contributions black rock artists have made and still make in terms of performing a musical genre accessible to all.
Rock music was born of the sweat and perseverance of black musicians, who kept working even after it was co-opted by whites and dismissed by middle-class and bourgeois blacks. These musicians fearlessly expressed their individuality in an era when there were no visible gains to be made doing so.
In the 1990s, Canadian artists like Molly Johnson (Infidels, Alta Moda) and the now defunct Blaxam continued that legacy, giving some much-needed spice to Toronto's musical landscape.
Rock performed by black musicians commonly incorporates race-centric lyrics that narrate the joys and hardships of all black people, regardless of their cultural background.
At a recent Black Rock Coalition show in New York City, watching singer Garland Jeffreys and Living Colour perform I Was Afraid Of Malcolm, I thought, "This is a Black History Month song." The powerful and painful lyrics encapsulated an issue that we all have faced in our lives in North America.
The individual stories of outsiders' internal struggles to develop black pride are what Black History Month should honour and what every North American of African origin can understand.
Researching my book on black women involved in the metal, hardcore and punk scenes, I found it challenging to find black female Canadian fans. I was dismayed to realize why.
The women dressed in punk, goth or metal gear whom I approached on the street and then contacted by email declined to be interviewed because they feared what their friends and family would think.
Listening to non-black-centric music or having an interest in alternative music cultures meant their black cards could be immediately revoked.
Here in Canada, unlike the U.S., where black women are fully entrenched in the punk, hardcore and extreme metal scenes, the parameters describing how black people can individualize themselves and still be considered "black" are more limited.
Yes, we need to acknowledge and respect the black people who shaped the cultural fabric of this country, but we should also celebrate the diversity of thought and preferences within our communities - something that was not always an option for our ancestors.
Laina Dawes is a the author of What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman's Life And Liberation In Heavy Metal (Bazillion Points). She reads at Another Story Bookshop Thursday, February 28.