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.”
“I woke up like this. I woke up like this. We flawless…”
“Your children are so clean. Would you like to work for me? Be my maid?” – Miss Millie to Sophia.
Y’all remember that scene from The Color Purple? (If not here it is)
Somehow I connect this scene to the social media and online frenzy over Blue Ivy’s hair. That Sophia’s children were “clean” in the eyes of Miss Millie (read: Miss Anne) was a testament to Sophia’s character, right? Because most Black women don’t know how to take care of our children, right? Most of our children run around wild, dirty, and unkempt, right?
So for Sophia AND her kids to be out looking clean and being well-behaved (well, except for the little part when Sophia socked the mayor in the face) meant that Sophia must have been a good Colored gal, good enough to work for Miss Millie. In her house no less!
Well Miss Sophia wasn’t having it. Y’all see how she went out.
Miss Millie was right about Sophia – she wasn’t like most of those Coloreds. She didn’t give a damn what White folks thought about her or her children.
But again, Miss Sophia ain’t most Colored folk.
Why do we care so much about Blue Ivy’s hair?
Someone started a Change.org petition. Petitioning Blue Ivy to comb her hair.
“As a woman who understands the importance of hair care. It’s disturbing to watch a child suffering from the lack of hair moisture. The parents of Blue Ivy. Sean Carter A.K.A Jay-Z and Beyoncé has [sic] failed at numerous attempts of doing Blue Ivy Hair. This matter has escalated to the child developing matted dreads and lint balls. Please let’s get the word out to properly care for Blue Ivy hair.”
5,000 signatures needed. 4, 200 gained. In less than 2 days.
“This matter has escalated to the child developing matted dreads and lint balls.”
Remember when school officials in Tulsa, Oklahoma sent 7-year-old Tiana Parker home because according to school officials and school policy, her “dreadlocks” were “unacceptable” and a “distraction?” And the baby was on the news, holding her head down, crying? And folks all over the world, especially Black mothers, were outraged? Yeah, well it wasn’t Miss Millie’s kin who sent Tiana home.
Tiana’s hair was a distraction but the school’s founder’s weave wasn’t?
Comb Blue Ivy’s hair and then what?
Some days her hair isn’t combed.
Some days it is.
Sounds like the hair experiences of most little Black girls, or should I say their mamas –
some days we feel like doing hair, other days we don’t.
Folks don’t understand how Beyoncé, who was named People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman in 2012 and Time Magazine’s Most Influential Person in 2014, could walk around looking like she does, while Blue Ivy walks around looking like she does.
Yoncé told y’all “Pretty Hurts.”
Maybe her mama isn’t being lazy, but deliberate. Maybe Blue gets to be what Bey can’t – FREE.
How can Beyoncé and Jay Z demonstrate the very best of who WE are and what WE are capable of and then turn around and embarrass US like this?
This is why we can’t have nice things.
What Beyoncé (other Black women) need to do to show that they are good indeed good mothers.
- Apply a thick dusting of baby powder under the child’s neck after bathing, no matter the time of day. Be sure the baby powder if visible.
- Buy the child name brand clothing, but only those items that prominently display the brand’s logo. What is the point of buying expensive clothing if no one knows that it is expensive?
- If the child is a girl and her hair is “good,” enhance the “goodness” by brushing down the baby hairs along her hairline. You should only need Vaseline and water for this task, but in some cases, a little gel may be helpful. Good haired girls may wear their hair out. Not to worry, no one will accuse them of being “too grown.”
- If the child is a girl and her hair is “bad,” hide this condition by any means necessary, including but not limited to chemical hair relaxing and adding false hair. You should simulate good hair by creating baby hair along her hairline. You will need a fine-toothed comb, a toothbrush, a little brown gel, and a steady hand.
- Another option for a girl child with “bad hair,” is to have the hair braided (with or without extensions) and add an entire pack of barrettes, beads, or bow-bows to the ends. This will give the illusion on hang time. It will also provide your daughter something to swing until such time that you believe that she is ready for tracks.
- If the child is a boy and his hair is “good,” do not cut his hair too close, otherwise no one will be able to appreciate the goodness. A curly fro with a simple shape up will do. In the case of older boys, he may want to get a temple taper.
- If the child is a boy and his hair is “bad,” have his hair cut weekly, faded high and tight. In cases where the hair is incorrigible, apply a texturizer or chemical hair relaxer bi-weekly.
We need another petition:
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.