Black history, Black culture, Black beauty; they're all interwoven and rooted in decades of heritage. It's in the books my father read to me so I'd have stories I could relate to. It was present in the museum visits about the journey of my ancestors. My grandmother's stories still ring loudly in my ears; how she immigrated from Jamaica; all her life's trials and tribulations; how she styled her hair every Sunday for church, fastened beneath an elaborate hat. I remember watching my mother spend hours each week in the salon getting her hair braided. These memories breathed life into my Black experience.
Like the sun, Black beauty is a life source that pulls us in and inspires influential creators and artists alike. It's full of wisdom, depth, hope, joy, and pride. Although it has been wrangled and overlaid with prejudice, ignorance, persecution, and subject to foreign gaze, Black beauty stands with strength. It surpasses you, me, our family, and our ancestors. It is a birthmark imprinted on the world—full of confidence, difference and uniqueness. As a muse, capturing the artist's soul, Black beauty's impression and interpretation are as vivid and free-flowing as strokes on a canvas.
History and society have tried to lay claim on Black beauty; to label it the way that they see fit. Those labels infiltrate the way we style our hair, wear our makeup, and the way our features take shape. In school, I'd look around at all the hairstyles and hair types around me—feeling like an alien with my vibrant afro hair among a sea straight-haired blondes. I begged my mother to let me use the hot comb on my leave out, so I too could rock straight hair (little did I know breakage would soon follow). It wasn't much later I recognized my affinity for straight hair was the an unspoken societal expectation denying our cultural richness. But through Black beauty, we can be free.
Black beauty is complex—it can't be defined in the Oxford dictionary or on Google. Believing there is a single definition is an outdated notion and does a disservice to the beautiful complexities within all of us. It's not just about the natural hair movement, the body stereotypes, and our melanin-rich skin. Black beauty is bigger than any one person or trend can define. It weaves in one direction and splits to the next. It connects skin tones, hair textures, facial features, beauty rituals, methods, and stories. Open up a group chat amongst Black individuals and you'll immediately note the instant connection, memes, and experiences. It's ever-present.
Although tied to our past, our culture is also our present and future. We are living in shared history that binds sisterhood, brotherhood, and community. We are to celebrate every inch of Black beauty and find happiness in its unapologetic shape-shifting, Let's uplift every inch of it. Our blackness, unique to you and I, should be the greatest love story we've ever told.