Source: iOne Creative, Getty / iOne Creative
Dear Graduates of Bethune-Cookman:
First, congratulations! We are so proud of what you have accomplished. You have studied, prepared, planned, learned, and have earned what our parents, grandparents, and ancestors have had to fight, scrape, and die for in this nation. We are proud of you for that!
Beyond becoming graduates, we are floating this morning thinking about how you stood up to your university and protested the woefully under-qualified Secretary of Education who attempted to address you at your graduation yesterday. Watching you stand and turn your backs to her makes us elated. Overjoyed. Humbled. It was a day and a moment that should have been about celebrating you and what you achieved.
The world watched you protest the speaker you never should have had. We cheered as we saw so many of you refuse to acquiesce in the face of threats and calls for complicity. Your actions fit within a long tradition of Black people fighting back against those who attack our institutions and our very lives with their anti-Black policies and anglo-normative practices. Betsy DeVos’ commitment to dismantling public education and her egregious framing of historically Black colleges and universities as “pioneers” in school choice are just two examples of why she should never have been invited to speak at an event celebrating Black excellence.
Read full letter and see the 216 signatories at Cassius
An Open Letter of Love to Black Students: #BlackLivesMatter
“We are Black professors.
We are daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, godchildren, grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, and mothers.
We’re writing to tell you we see you and hear you.
We know the stories of dolls hanging by nooses, nigger written on dry erase boards and walls, stories of nigger said casually at parties by White students too drunk to know their own names but who know their place well enough to know nothing will happen if they call you out your name, stories of nigger said stone sober, stories of them calling you nigger using every other word except what they really mean to call you, stories of you having to explain your experience in classrooms—your language, your dress, your hair, your music, your skin—yourself, of you having to fight for all of us in classrooms where you are often the only one or one of a few, stories of you choosing silence as a matter of survival.
Sometimes we’re in those classrooms with you.
We know there is always more that people don’t see or hear or want to know, but we see you. We hear you.”
Read the full letter here: http://blackspaceblog.com/…/an-open-letter-of-love-to-blac…/
“My family is from Nigeria, and my full name is Uzoamaka, which means “The road is good.” Quick lesson: My tribe is Igbo, and you name your kid something that tells your history and hopefully predicts your future. So anyway, in grade school, because my last name started with an A, I was the first in roll call, and nobody ever knew how to pronounce it. So I went home and asked my mother if I could be called Zoe. I remember she was cooking, and in her Nigerian accent she said, “Why?” I said, “Nobody can pronounce it.” Without missing a beat, she said, “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.” – Uzo Aduba
“give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.” – Warsan Shire
“I’m glad that Shonda Rhimes saw me and said “Why not?” That’s what makes her a visionary. That’s what makes her iconic. I think that beauty is subjective. I’ve heard that statement [less classically beautiful] my entire life. Being a dark-skinned black woman, you heard it from the womb. And “classically not beautiful” is a fancy term for saying ugly. And denouncing you. And erasing you. Now … it worked when I was younger. It no longer works for me now. It’s about teaching a culture how to treat you. Because at the end of the day, you define you.”
Yesterday I made a new friend. She is four years old and her name is Lovely. When I first heard her name, I was immediately reminded of African naming traditions whereby parents give their children names that reflect who they are… or who they want them to be. Lovely is indeed lovely, only she doesn’t quite know it just yet.
A few weeks ago, my friend, Leslie (also featured in ‘Pretty. Period’ along with her daughter, Aja) contacted me to ask if I could include Lovely in the project, not just because she’s a cutie pie, but because Leslie thought it might help her. Lovely lives in Oregon where there are few people who look like her. And although her family works consciously to affirm her, she struggles with affirming herself. Lovely’s mother recently posted a picture of her on Facebook. The caption read “My princess for the day… before the royal meltdown about wishing she was White. Sometimes the place we live in makes me sad.”
Well, that’s all it took for me to have my own meltdown. OF COURSE Lovely would be in ‘Pretty. Period!’
Last night as I watched Lupita Nyong’o approach the red carpet, her mother, father, and brother in tow, I was enchanted into silence. There she stood – skin black like ours, hair tightly coiled like ours, wearing a headband on her flat top in a ‘Nairobi blue’ gown. In that moment I saw a new image of a princess (however problematic that imagery is in and of itself). Later, I watched through tearful eyes, as that princess’ fairytale, and ours, came true. WE won.
Much conversation today about Lupita’s win, what it means, and what it should mean. Does “Hollywood” finally see us? Will Lupita’s success open the mainstream gates for dark-skinned Black women everywhere? Has the game changed? Interesting and valid questions. My questions, however, continue to be turned inwards, towards the WE who won. Do WE finally see us?
As I wrote when I launched Pretty. Period.
I see Lupita every day. I see her as often on the streets of Philadelphia as I do on the streets of Accra. I see her in my classroom. I see her at the corner store. I see her at the mall. I see her everywhere.
And so do you. Only you don’t know it. If it took the media’s fixation on Lupita’s Otherness to introduce you to the beauty of dark skin, then you don’t know what you’re seeing when you look at dark-skinned women. Or maybe you don’t even see us.
This is a photo of Lupita before she was ours…
Just as stunning then as she is now. If she weren’t the Lupita handed to you by the mainstream, would you still have recognized her for the stunner that she is?
My point is this – we don’t need Hollywood to tell us we’re beautiful. We only need see ourselves differently.
Lupita is beautiful. Lupita BEEN beautiful. And so have we. So, please, next time you see “Lupita,” be sure to remind her that she is pretty. Period.
There once was a little girl. Her name was LaShawnte. On national television, she told her mother that she thought her skin was ugly. “I don’t want to be dark,” she said.
I watched that footage several times. And each time I felt a deep sadness, one that lived somewhere way back when. I never told anyone that I hated being dark, but it wasn’t hard for me to understand why LaShawnte
Looking at LaShawnte was like looking in the mirror, except I only saw her; she didn’t see me. I wanted to…needed to reflect something else towards her. I needed her to see herself differently. I needed her to see herself in me and much as I saw myself in her. Continue reading “LaShawnte’s Chorus”
by: Yaba Blay
It wasn’t until I graduated from college and started getting my hair braided at a shop owned and operated by Senegalese women that I began to appreciate bright colors on dark skin. No matter what time of year I entered that shop those sisters were wearing sunshine. Bold, bright, and full of life. Nobody can rock electric blue, hot pink, golden yellow, ruby red and any other color of the kaleidoscope like we can. Nobody. So why do so many of us who wear dark skin avoid wearing bright lip colors?
Growing up, I learned two things about red lipstick – only fast girls wore it and I was too dark for it. I avoided it for both reasons. I didn’t wear bright lipstick in general, choosing to wear neutrals and earth tones instead because somewhere along the line I also learned that those were the colors that best suited my complexion; colors that wouldn’t draw attention to my skin tone. Continue reading “Free Up! – Ruby You”