I’m a grown, empowered, magic having Black girl.
Standing strong in an identity that feels good.
Grateful because that wasn’t always my truth.
For too long, I understood Blackness in terms of light and dark skin – red bones that folks claimed, but we couldn’t see, and various ethnic mixes that watered down its potency.
That’s how Black identity was discussed – in measurements of everything else in your lineage – real and presumed.
Good hair was anything similar to cotton candy in humid weather, with edges that surrendered easily to water and coconut hair grease.
But even good hair was forced to succumb to hot combs, relaxers, and curling irons ablaze. Natural hair was the equivalent of being seen first thing in the morning before faces were washed and teeth were brushed. No ma’am. Not ‘round here.
Witnessing an episode of my mother’s hair salon anxiety remains a most affecting pre-teen memory.
The escalation from nervous concern to volatile panic was an unsettling ordeal for everyone involved. The extreme behavior had been brought on by sheer terror of us seeing her wet hair evolve into a voluminous crown of golden zigzags as she waited for hot comb taming.
There weren’t any ‘curl friends’ back then.
In fact, like my mother and her wavy-haired, freckled faced, butter-pecan hued, kaleidoscope-brown-eyed sisters, Black women had been trained to convert their naturals to straight-as-humanly-possible states, by any means necessary.
The world couldn’t see you like that. Even good hair wasn’t good enough.
Before I could honor the perfectly beautiful nature I’d been blessed with, I’d learned self-hatred and degrees of loathing for my people.
I was a dark-skinned, dark-eyed, bad-hair-having, standard model Black girl who didn’t bear features you could pin exotic, ethnic mash-ups on.
A ‘Beautiful Despite Being Black Checklist’ fail. That’s what my young ears and heart heard from The Village.
I believe every man, woman, and child around me heard it as well.
It’s my only rationale for boys who used the checklist to screen the first-time phone calls we endured as youngsters seeking puppy love.
Are you light-skinned?
Do you have light eyes?
Do you have long hair?
What are you mixed with?
Black girls who didn’t fit the ignorantly stingy narrative, required creative responses by Question 4 in order to remain a contender. The right degree of otherness could make those first three answers disappear.
I can only imagine how many other gorgeous, brilliant, and magnificent Black girls lived in a Question 4 reality. Many of them likely maintaining residences to this day.
Mind, body, and soul sold to get and keep the Black man’s attention.
It’s devastatingly unfortunate, but easy to understand.
We’ve all experienced the various forms of soul crushing from Black men proudly proclaiming that they not only refuse to date Black women, but hate them altogether. Claims that our similarities to mothers and sisters prevent romantic connections are seen as the lies that they are.
Touting preference as their ultimate reasoning offends the sensibilities even more.
By definition, preference is free choice. Eliminating an entire species of goddesses from the scope of beauty, desirability, and excellence is a choice.
You may not choose who you fall in love with, but snatching accessibility from Black women, certainly determines who you won’t fall in love with. No?
An unshakeable desire to bear children one day and love the vessel who would nurture them, compelled me to choose Blackness. I decided that it was a gift and from it would come even more honor. I could no longer see Blackness the way I’d been taught.
Brooklyn’s radiance at birth only deepened my enlightenment.
Cocoa dusted, brown sugared, creme bruleed magnificence.
A richer and more beautiful complexion than I could’ve ever envisioned. Melanin saturated skin that her father and I both cherished as an acknowledgement of our ancestors.
Unfortunately, several of his family members did not see the same glory. “She’s so dark” comments followed by “but” compliments about her ‘nice hair’ came frequently during first encounters.
More incredulous than annoying, I was only affected because Brooklyn looked exactly like I prayed she would. A reflection of myself and the legacy of warrior women also surging through her veins.
I saw their complexions, their noses, their eyes, their lips, their fingers and toes. Their strength and resilience on royal display – at only 4lbs, 15 ounces, she’d already proven she was a fighter.
Everything about her was mighty and blessed. But all they saw was the depth of her complexion.
Too bad they missed the depth of her complexion.
Dr. Josef Ben Jochannan once said, “Dipped in chocolate, bronzed in elegance, enameled with grace, toasted with beauty. My lord, she’s a Black woman.” The salute, adoration, and appreciation penetrate the soul.
We are the vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients. We are required. Our worth won’t be devalued. No lie, the humiliation of not being loved by our own is difficult to watch and harmful to live.
When you decry Black women, your mama is not excluded. Black people lose as a whole. The world loses as a whole.
Every day is an opportunity to champion Black women.
I am flawed and still figuring out how to do so in a way that feels like a comprehensive rendering of my voice. But I remain committed. Three amazing Black children are depending on me. My hope is that they will always see and seek the goodness in others. Especially Black people.
And my prayer is that my son will always honor Black women.
He has too many forces asking him not to.
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