To start of Pride month I would like us to acknowledge the contribution of black activists to the LGBTQ+ movement.
Black LGBTQ+ people have paved the way for the entire queer community. In particular, we have to thank Marsha P. Johnson, American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen, who took part in the Stonewall Riots of 1969.
Marsha P Johnson was amongst those who protested and fought courageously for their rights to be heard. Johnson was the first one who threw the first brick. Amongst Johnson, was Stormé DeLaverie, a bi-racial butch lesbian and Civil Rights and LGBTQ+ activist, who is said to have been the first person to throw a punch at a police officer.
These acts of bravery and strength are what ignited a new age of revolution and uprising for the LGBTQ+ community and influenced the gay liberation movement.
We will never forget the influence black people have made and continue to make to the LGBTQ+ community! Never be afraid to be who you are! No matter the cost. We thank Marsha P Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie and many others for fighting for their rights. Without them, today we wouldn’t be able to celebrate at Pride or Black Pride.
This is why it’s important to never stop fighting for what you truly believe in. Change will come even if it takes some time, it will come. ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼✊🏻✊
There is a stereotype, a haunting shadow of a stereotype which screams that the fearless, outspoken black woman is merely an “Angry Black Woman”.
Black women have been countlessly silenced. For example during slavery, in the workplace and with their lack of media representation. The world shuts them out and if they speak up they are instantly labelled as angry.
Black women often feel the need to keep quiet about their wants and needs with the fear of coming across as too aggressive.
I’m enraged by the way society undermines black women. And angered by the discrimination that we face and have had to endure. I am infuriated. Yes, I am a black woman. However I will not subscribe to that narrative that I am an angry black woman.
You don’t have to silence yourself because of the fear of this shadow. Be loud. Be outspoken and be proud!
The black community can have is this warped view, passed generationally, that having a mental illness is shameful. Within my family mental illness is seen as something that should be hidden, swept under the rug and definitely not discussed.
The belief that seeking professional help is weak in the black community enforces the idea that mental health is something we should be ashamed of.
This opinion that black people are indestructible and can’t be weak may stem from colonial times. Harriet A Washignton’s “Medical Apartheid” speaks on the horrific medical experimentation on African Americans. She describes the cruel treatments they experienced and how they were treated like subhumans, unable to feel pain. Black people may feel the need to conceal their pain like they had to centuries before.
However to tackle this negative stigma of mental health issues in the black community, we must speak up and accommodate people who suffer with mental illnesses, not isolate or shame them!
Black history month is a month where black people, culture and history are celebrated. What first began as Negro history week, was expanded to a whole month by President Gerald Ford in 1976.
Some question why the history of black people is celebrated for only a month and seemed to be ignored for the rest of the year?
In a world where the media can be saturated with negative images of black people, it’s fundamental to have a month where these ideals are shattered and influential black people are praised for their profound contributions to society!
To name a few: Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman and more recently Stormzy, Meghan Markle and let’s not forget about Oprah Winfrey.
It’s beneficial to have black history month so black children can have something good to look up to instead of constantly internalising the negative stereotypes and labels that are hung over their heads.
For years there has been a lack of representation of dark skinned women in the music industry.
Black empowerment movements seem to be at their zenith in today’s society, black culture is celebrated and black superheroes exist! (Black Panther, 2018). Despite this, it seems difficult for dark-skinned female rappers and singers like Ray Blk or Little Simz to top the charts when light-skinned artists like Jorja Smith do so with ease.
This issue of colourism has even been raised by Beyoncé’s father, who said that his daughters Beyoncé and Solange, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj’s success are attributed to their light skin. Without it he questions how successful all of them would’ve been.
The music industry continues to reinforce what is deemed as an acceptable face of black womanhood. Arguably, one that is more digestible to the public eye, lighter skinned black women.
Historically, the natural state of black people’s hair has been subjected to scrutiny by society and characterised as “wild”, “unkept” and “unprofessional”. Which meant that they often chemically straightened their hair or wore wigs.
In the 70’s, during The civil Rights movement the Black Panther Party popularised the afro and used it as a political symbol of defiance.
“When you have natural hair that is Black, it stands up and it is not really considered mainstream”
Despite this black women are dismantling Eurocentric beauty standards and wearing their natural hair like a crown and we are here for it!
The proliferation of this movement is changing the view that natural hair is subversive. Chris Rock’s documentary ‘Good Hair’ (2009), Solange’s song ‘Don’t touch my hair’ and with Hollywood actors wearing their natural hair such as Lupita Nyong’o, conversations about natural hair are being made!
Colourism is the discrimination against a group of darker skinned people based on the preference for lighter skin tones. It is a seed planted and deeply rooted in society by white supremacy, however it is watered by many communities, like the black and Asian communities. In these communities skin bleaching is sometimes used to achieve a lighter and therefore more beautiful Eurocentric skin tone.
These women are willing to compromise their health to achieve this standard of beauty. They are inclined to put their health on the line for more relationship and financial opportunities as a result of their darker complexion, which is seen as undesirable by some.
The increase of discourse on colourism, however, is burgeoning and therefore opening the minds of people who may have been naive to such issues. Movements like the natural hair movement continue to uplift and inspire black women to see the beauty in their natural hair and skin!
In these 19 years that I have lived, I have cared way too much about what people have thought about me. This excessive self consciousness has consequently destroyed my life! Okay fine I’m being a tad dramatic. However, caring about what people have thought about me in the past has really set me back in many ways. For instance, starting this blog.
Writing is something I’ve always loved. It is a way I can express many of my deepest fears, worries, desires and passions. But unfortunately due to my lack of confidence and the reliance on the opinions of others I have hindered my own personal growth as a writer and a creative. So I thought I’d finally have a blog that wasn’t anonymous, that I could share with the people who don’t think blogs are too dated…
I have given so much power to others – especially the power to control the way I view myself- which is honestly so frustrating and a hard cycle to get out of. I have relied on others to tell me what to do and what to be. That has ultimately made me forget the person I once was and obstructed the person I could’ve been.
So when did this dependency on others begin you may ask? In secondary school. This is where my prepubescent, oblivious self learnt that people actually cared about your appearance and who you were. I realised a lot of people started questioning my character and everything I did seemed like it was examined under a microscope. I was trapped under a bell jar. Feeling like subject of everyone’s experiment, I felt like my every move was judged and interrogated by others. Thus I became slightly paranoid and very self conscious. I remember this boy in year seven who told me that I was “pretty but I’d be way more prettier if I lost a few pounds and did my eyebrows”, I had a thick fluffy unibrow. I never had a problem with my eyebrows before that, I didn’t even know what a mirror was let alone a unibrow. Heck, did I even need deodorant in the early days of year seven?! I don’t think he knew that this comment would scar me as much as it did. But it really did, a few weeks later after he had uttered those words to me…guess what I did. I begged my mum to get my eyebrows “fixed” and so we went to get them done. Threading. It was not fun and very painful. I even started carrying a mirror everywhere I went and going to the bathroom after every lesson became a habit. Yeah you guessed it, I was obsessed with the way I looked. How everyone else saw me was how I saw myself. That was the first of many times I let someone’s opinions or comments drive my actions. Even now till this day I sometimes look in the mirror and probe my appearance the same way he and others have done to me.
Secondary school was just completely different to how things were like in primary school. Before secondary, I was so sociable and vivacious, I didn’t care about what anyone thought about me. I was just a chubby carefree kid. But secondary school kind of dulled that down and I was left with an almost empty shell of the person I once was. I consider allowing people to dictate the way I saw myself, to be one of the greatest mistakes of my life. I have made many more mistakes after that but those stories can be told another day.
So how did I change all of this? Well in year 11 I had a mini mental breakdown and ultimately I just didn’t know who I was and where I was going in life. That’s when I realised something had to change. Like they say first step to recovery is acceptance. I had to accept that there was something wrong with how I allowed others to control my self perception. I found new interests. Instead of focusing on looking a certain way for other people I looked good for me and started wearing clothes I liked. I started reading more, I wrote more and I started doing street photography.
But let’s be honest I am still lost and I am most definitely not the most confident person in the world. But one thing I will say is I am getting there. I will get there one day!
I am not perfect and I do still tend to dip in and out of my old habits. Old habits do die hard… very hard. Like SO hard. But creating this blog is one of my first steps to murdering that bastard of a habit. I don’t care what people say about this blog I just want to share my experiences and thoughts and opinions. So if you can relate then great we can be on this journey together.
Long story short… Don’t care about what people think about you because you won’t be you anymore. And there’s nothing worse than not knowing who the hell you are. Caring about what people think about me is still something I struggle with till this day however it’s something I can and will overcome. You can too! Something I’ve learnt is that the worth of yourself or your work should never be placed in the hands of others. As a creative, it is yours to have full dominion over. Don’t let anyone else define who YOU are or your work!