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Race Conversations: Her Black Is Beautiful

I had to take pause the other day and catch myself feeding into the negativity that permeates society and its perceptions of black girls. I am truthfully partial to dark skinned people. Their inky skin serves as a perfect backdrop for any color clothing under the sun. Their smiles leave me breathless. Strong, pearlized teeth anchoring smooth skin. I look at my brown paper bag arms and I have secretly yearned for skin that hides all imperfections and strike fear and lust or both in the hearts of men. 

But waxing poetic about dark skin hasn’t kept me from making a faux pas in my approach to working with Black youth.  I find myself emphasizing to my black girls that their dark beauty is to be envied. But for my Black boys–nothing. This omission has led me to admit to myself that society has already embraced the Black boy/man. Why don’t I spend equal time convincing the Black boy he is handsome? When women from other cultures hang on their arms like prized possessions, there’s no need to convince the Black man that he is beautiful. The white culture has already deemed him so. No added stamp of approval needed. 

It is the dark-skinned Black girl who needs the convincing. She needs to be convinced that her natural curls don’t need to be straightened or brought under submission with some drug store product. She needs to be convinced that she can wear any color and that magenta, kiwi, or citron has never looked better on anyone else like it will look on her. She needs to be convinced that White America cannot and should not be her beauty litmus test. If her thighs scrub and she never sees a gap, oh well. If her nose flares when angered, such is life. If her brows grow thick and unruly, que sera, sera. If her wide set eyes seem a bit too intense, tough luck. How many times have I had to convince Black girl that her features will one day be the envy of others?! I keep a speech on repeat for those many times I have had to share this coming of age truth. 

I’m guilty of going out of my way to remind my black girls that they are beautiful, that they matter. The bi-racial girl is a prized catch. The Latin girl is too. And need we say more about the white girl? But our black baby girl. She needs the constant reminders that her Black is truly Beautiful. 

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalms 139:14

And can’t nobody tell me different. 

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Angry Black Woman

The curse of the Black woman. A face that would put that of those on Mt. Rushmore to shame. A speech pattern that is known to be firm and direct. A voice tone that is more deeper, more sultry than our white counterparts. Where our curves are considered scandalous in clothing that if placed on another less endowed, would look like a nun’s habit. 

The Black woman is expected to “pop off” at a moment’s notice. Never mind that I haven’t fought since the fifth grade and I don’t even cuss. But it’s expected. It’s even permitted. Because that’s just what Sistahs do. We are supposed to act cray-cray at a moment’s notice. Well I got nothing but an extensive vocabulary with more than four letter words. I got nothing but the ability to remember my mother’s home training and ignore the foolery. 

The Black woman is expected to rule her husband with an iron fist. I’m no wilting flower or carpet, but my husband takes the lead in this home. I just offer my thoughts on a regular basis is all. This is a partnership isn’t it? Last I checked I had a voice too. My mama and my daddy didn’t raise no fool. And my darling husband will be the first to tell you he didn’t want to marry a fool either. 

The Black woman is expected to be materialistic and shallow. As if one too many pair of shoes makes me a hedonistic despot. When you are raised as a people to bathe regularly, dress in your finest, make yourself smell good, and be presentable all to go to the doctor or travel on a plane, one fully comes to understand that appearance is the first mode used to judge. As Black women, we stay being on the offensive. Hence, our appearance and personal carriage goes a long way in helping set the tone for interactions in the workplace and life in general. 

There are no two Sistahs that are made alike. We are as varied as the textures of our hair. Some have accepted the Angry Black Woman myth as their persona. Most have not. We love hard. We play hard. We laugh hard. We joke hard. We love our children and our men hard. We don’t play about ours. We speak our minds. We are loyal to a fault. And all the while we look hella good doing it. 

If that translates into being an Angry Black Woman, then I will gladly embrace this misnomer. 

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I Want Their Life 

I have an endless curiosity about people. How they live. What makes them tick, what their triggers are, what drives them. I guess that’s why I have preferred connecting to people via Instagram rather than Facebook. The visual learner in me is satisfied with the photos and brief blurbs of human existence. 

You would think I would spend a great deal of my time envying those folks who are in St. Tropez one day and Australia the next. Nah…But there are two people these days that I’m kinda wishing I was living their life right about now. It’s not glamorous by any means, but they ‘give me life’ every time I experience living through their lenses. 

The first is my mother-in-law. She’s just a bit over sixty. She’s on all types of medication. She can stand to lose some pounds. She stays with the constant doctor’s appointments. To top it all off, she’s seen her last child fly the coop. From a house of four boys down to a house of none. Living with a caring but curmudgeon for a husband has it pluses and deltas too. 

Then there’s my six month old niece. If the Michelin tire man ever had kids, she would have been his dead ringer. With chubby rolls on both arms and legs, she has proven that love and breast milk is all you need to survive out here. I placed an APB on her neck cause I haven’t seen it in months–she’s so chunky! She’s at the mercy of her parents. If they are out fruit picking, she’s tightly strapped to her mama, enduring the hot sun whether she likes it or not. The life of one diaper change after another, watching her older siblings run around and do what she would want to be doing is her lot. Decisions made for her or about her are beyond her control. 

So why would I want the life of two apparently helpless individuals? Two human beings who are living life based on the whims and actions of others. 

I would trade my anxieties any day for one day of not worrying about what I’m gonna eat, or what I’m gonna do. When I told my mother-in-law if she was traveling to Haiti this year, her response in Creole was, “Si yo voye-m, mwe prale. Si yo pa voye-m, gelen mwe pap prale.” Simply put, I go where they send me and if they don’t, that’s okay too. 

Such a natural acceptance of what life has to offer without the push back that we tend to give when things do not go our way. Such a natural acceptance of how life happens to us. Being at peace with our lot and making the best of any situation. Living the routine life of an aging woman or a curious toddler definitely has it perks. Granted each is living with challenges that are unique to their existence. There’s nothing romantic about getting older or waiting for your diaper to be changed. 

Yet the sunset and sunrise of their lives is filled with a simplicity that isn’t found anywhere else on the continuum of life. There’s no hidden agendas. No people to please or impress. Life just is.