To my black skin—my strongest ally,
Do you remember reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? Do you remember the lines that still stick out to you 10 years down the line? I’ll remind you. “It was awful to be a Negro and have no control over my life. It was brutal to be young and already trained to sit quietly and listen to charges brought against my color with no chance of defense." For as long as I can remember, you were marginalized, ignored and pushed out of conversations—communities, brands, mainstream media and leading industries refused to see you for all of your glory. You would walk into beauty department stores and be met with shades of ivory or blanc—shades stopping no further than tan. You would flip through magazines and see no one that looked like you or represented your voice. You would turn on the TV and see advertisements that didn’t acknowledge your existence or news broadcasts that shined a warped “reality” of your community. The monumental shift started when brands within the mainstream market started to pay attention to your voice and included you in major campaigns. The launch of Fenty Beauty, the sheer magic of Pat McGrath Labs and Uoma Beauty—they are a few brands that actually turned heads in the boardroom. You could finally see yourself on shelves outside of your local hair and beauty shop.
Society defines you as a disgrace, a let-down, someone else’s leg up or proxy. They turn you down for a job or reduce their expectation in interviews solely based on your last name or how you look. Society forces someone to follow you around luxury boutiques and department stores because of your attire and the complexion of your skin;, they force you to deal with name calling, “innocent” jokes and underhanded taunts. Society defines you as having to work 10 times as hard to meet your white counterpart and work three jobs on a minimum wage just to survive. You are not to be fetishized over for your darker complexion, wider hips and thicker thighs and you aren’t an object to be glared at for your fuller lips and wider nose. Society likes to group you together and remove your individual identity; it enjoys parading you as the system’s mascot. But what you are not is a body that society and the system can kneel on, suffocating your worth, breath by breath.
What you are is the testament of time. You and your ancestors have experienced 500 years of oppression, slavery, discrimination and injustice. What this shows is strength, resilience and courage. Your ancestors have reigned on thrones and led countries; you have royalty running through your veins. You are stronger than the name calling, and “innocent” jokes, and your curves are greater than the white man’s gaze—your beauty knows no bounds. As the sun hits, you glisten and your melanin comes alive like a philharmonic orchestra and equally matched, you are intelligent beyond means. You are talented—your ancestors created the music and sports culture that the world knows today. You deserve to be seated in the boardrooms side-by-side with your counterparts as CEOs, directors and upper management. You are beautiful, you are worthy, and you are worth the meaningful and committed conversation that leads to a long-lasting change.
Don’t give up hope. Keep your faith, as “a change is gon come."