Black and Proud! – AN AWAKENING

In her speech during the Essence Black Women in Hollywood, after her first Oscar win, Lupita Nyong’o addressed the issue of skin colour so eloquently. She started the speech with a reference to her fan mail which starts, ‘I was about to go out and buy lightening cream when you came on the screen and saved me.’ This was about 7 years ago and we are still grappling with the same.

Close to two weeks after the fact and the protests still rage on in the name of the unjustly departed. And of course, we all have opinions on these things but the truth is that the world is being hit with the ugliness of this reality. It has been a rallying call for years but now without any other distractions (because coronavirus has slowed us down a bit) we can finally hear this loud and clear. And this is a good great thing. We have started to examine situations particular to us.

As Lupita finishes that speech, she invites people on a journey of self-validation of their skin colour. The story you are about to read below (is that a little too dramatic?) is my own journey.

Taken from my journal.. And no, I don’t scribble like that usually, just to make it hard for nosy people to read my thoughts.

The clearer script of that because it might be hard to read ‘And I have no reason as to why I’m writing this, apart from the fact that it demands to be written, because it may come across as petty. I’m clearly looking for a little validity to tell me am not as invisible or forgettable as the world has me believing’

I have lived in postcolonial Africa all my life and I may not know that overt racial inequality (except how teachers were always more lenient with the foreigners than their own people…let’s not even get into that) as some have experienced it. But what I have definitely seen here is tribalism and colourism.

TRIBALISM. In Uganda alone, there are over 50 tribes. That means over 50 different languages and cultures that must find a way to come together and move forward. It is humanly ingrained to gravitate towards people who speak your language. You see a kinship even though they don’t expressly say so. Trevor Noah tells this in his book ‘Born a Crime.’ When you speak in someone’s language you speak to their heart and they react intimately to that. And I especially do. Once I know you speak my language, Lusoga, I’ll have conversations with you in that beautiful language.

I’m all for culture and tribes. I think they are beautiful in their own right and we always have something to learn from the different ones around us. A study of one gives us greater appreciation for our own…or at the very least deeper understanding. The problem comes when leaders in public spaces refuse to use a public language and some people are left out, when you dictate to your children whom they can associate with or even marry, when just based off an experience with one you stereotype an entire tribe!

Now, I don’t know if this is what happens in other countries, but we have certain tribes that we know are in power and every major office in the country. So much that my brother said in his high school…(note please high school), he has got classmates who tell the rest of them that they don’t need to read so hard because they have jobs assured for them in future. This sort of thinking, of entitlement without effort, swims around in the mind of young children.

How do we fight this? When does the teaching start and the hating stop?

But much as I celebrate the differences, I want to rise above this pettiness and it was so overwhelming in university. I don’t want to be held in by those divisive beliefs of ‘them’ and ‘us’. To free my mind of those ‘victim’ thoughts that cramp my expectations and experiences to fit those who think they should dictate every one else’s existence.

COLOURISM. We somehow find ourselves enamoured by the lighter things. And probably with that indoctrination we attribute the same to skin colour. That if someone is lighter, they are immediately more beautiful and...better? We can say all we want about women that ‘bleach’ themselves but something drives them to it. No one is born with the perspective that their skin colour needs to change. It’s something society heaps on them.

Lupita talks about this in her speech and subsequent conversations. How she wanted to be lighter, maybe based on the media she grew up with and the perceptions of the people around who found her sister more beautiful because she was lighter. She prayed away her blackness and I can only imagine the despair she had fallen into to resort to that. I’m not sure I’ve prayed away the blackness but I definitely wanted to be lighter.

I’m usually the darkest person in any photo. Too dark that when I tell people my tribe, they always give that comment ‘but you don’t look like them’. And they never mean this in the nice way if there is one, well even then though, I’ve never taken it nicely. But this is a reality. As evidenced in that journal excerpt (yes, so I’m deeply insecure and trying to rise above it). Constantly requiring validation for a number of things including my skin colour.

Just read Angelou’s ‘Letter to my daughter’ and its very enlightening.

SELF-LOVE. The awakening here is that it starts with you. YOU have to believe you are enough as you are before you ask the world to see you as that. YOU have to believe that you are worthy of the spaces that have been locked to you before you get the world to open them for you. YOU may not be able to control the world but you can choose your thoughts about your self. Let them align with the truth that you are wonderfully and beautifully made.

And I know self-validation is not as easy or as comforting as we would love to think. I can tell myself over and over that I’m a writer and wake up tomorrow and doubt the process. But if someone says it I’ll probably hold those words like precious diamonds in my jewellery box.

We are relational beings so we want to leave an impression on the people we associate with and we would like to hear the positive feedback to confirm what we have been telling ourselves. And that’s fine except if we make that our foundation. People’s opinions are always shifting that’s why you’ve got to trust your validation and your Creator’s validation a whole lot more.

I do understand that this is a journey and for some people it takes longer. So all month, this month, I’ll be exploring my journey as Black and Proud. I hope you come along for the ride.

With all the global reactions, it is clear to see that this is an emotional topic. I would love to hear your thoughts, maybe your own journey in the comments below…don’t be shy😉.

9 thoughts on “Black and Proud! – AN AWAKENING

  1. YOU may not be able to control the world but you can choose your thoughts about your self. Let them align with the truth that you are wonderfully and beautifully made.
    People’s opinions are always shifting that’s why you’ve got to trust your validation and your Creator’s validation a whole lot more.

    Such precious truth you are writing here. Well I am not black so I never wished to be any other color, my hair yes but not my skin. Your ability to write your heart words is like going around corners and finding such beauty that you think there cannot be more but another corner comes up and there is more. I pasted a couple beauties that will stay with me. From a little girl to now I have fought myself to like me. I wanted something else too..I wanted to be loved unconditionally. My Dad called me and my brothers pitiful so deep inside me that word became a picture frame that I heard everything through. At 35 I became a believe, a born again, blood washed women of God and He couched me outside myself day after day, truth after truth. He is still couching me through your words. To see me through His eyes drives all the pitiful away.

    I understanding a wee little about tribes for we are missionaries with Ethnos360 formerly New Tribes Missions. Our fonder Paul Flemmings went to Borneo, seen the need to bring the gospel to the people there. He called them Brown Gold. He and several other men of God formed New Tribes with the purpose to reach those of other language group whose language had never been written down. If a group of people allow you to move into their village its for the purpose of learning their language and culture, teaching the to read and write their language, their heart language, what they speak at home. While this is going on the bible is being translated into their language. When key bible stories are done you start teaching and hopefully have readers then too. Why translate if they cannot read. It’s a long process but so worth it. Our mission is in 29 countries all over the world. We don’t work in cities where the trade language is spoken but in remote villages where most do not go. New Tribes started first with Bolivia, SA and I think there is 9 or 11 different languages. Papua New Guinea has 800 different languages. I loved to read you love to speak your heart language.

    Not sure why I wanted to tell you all that except your comments about your heart language took me back to those years overseas. Also I want to tell you I love that I sense no hate in your writing. No feelings that I need to apologize for me being white rise up in my heart. You really are a good writer, easy to follow and I sense you do not have an agenda to hurt with your words, only to bless and teach and widen others world. You are a blessing to read. Sorry I am so long. Good writing does that to me. Wait…not just good writing but truthful writing. I’ll be back for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Betty, for reading and commenting. I’m glad that you were able to find a way to relate to this. I do know what it’s like to fight to like yourself. I’ve had my fair share of that battle, and some days it feels like I’ve just started even when I’ve been in it for so long. It’s a shame your dad didn’t see you for the treasure you truly are but it’s wonderful to know God is rewriting that.
      Thank you for sharing that bit about your mission work and for going when sent. It’s definitely worth it. It’s lovely to know how it has shaped your perspective on this. I agree, why translate when they can’t read. There’s is clearly a lot of work to be done. Even in my own native region of Busoga. I’m pleased to state though that we have the Bible translated in our tongue.
      Also, that you enjoyed my writing is joy unspeakable for me. Thank you so much.

      Like

  2. Wow.. this is an amazing piece.
    Over here in Nigeria, there are definitely Tribalism issues just as you explained in Uganda. Yes, it’s amazing that there’s a connection with someone of your tribe but that shouldn’t translate to other tribes are inferior .
    And on colorism is such a horrible concept. The amount of times I have to convince people ( even my sister ) that their black is beautiful. It doesn’t have to be lightened. I hate the idea that the only black that is beautiful is the light skin.
    I wish we all just loved ourself. Love from the place that God created us uniquely yes, but also beautifully.
    Thank you for this post!
    I enjoyed reading !! 🙌🏾👌🏾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with your perspective. We can be different and co-exist in a world of love and compassion. And black is beautiful! Wish there were definite ways to help people appreciate their own skin colour rather than seeming to preach to people who won’t listen.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your story! I believe colorism is just as harmful as racism. Many of us experienced colorism long before we experienced racism. My great grandmother was the one who always brought up skin tones. It was like she was obsessed with it. She never had anything good to say about people with darker complexions. Even when speaking to someone darker, she would use harsher, degrading tones. It was terrible. So glad my mom taught me and my siblings to love the skin we are in. Again, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your brief experience too. It is just as hateful because no one chooses their skin colour. Of course some could meddle with it but it is terrible. I’m glad you got that skin-love early on. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Siss!!! Are you speaking or what??!!! C’mon!!! Yes!!! Self-love and self-validation are one of those things that need to be ingrained in everyone from the time they are literally out of the womb!.
    Love this!!
    May we all be better at affirming those around us.

    #BlackandProud
    #YouAreTheMostAmazingWriterIKnow
    #KeepOnKeepingOn

    Liked by 1 person

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