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As We Go On…

14 May

In the spirit of graduation season I can help but think about moving forward, growing up, creating new goals and forging ahead past all obstacles to reach them. Right about now, students all over the world are finishing exams, taking a breather, anxiously awaiting that moment when they can stand in line and hear their name called signifying to many that they have made it! Finally, they have made it!

Writing this blog over the past few months has been a very teachable moment for me. I began with the mission to write for a specific audience. An audience who I felt in some way needed me to clarify and teach them a few things. I think now though, that in my writing I have discovered a few things on my own. Towards this ending though, and I say this ending because it is only one ending leading me to the beginning of a new journey, I am fully aware that the prejudices, the racism, the discrimination, the sexism, the stereotypes, all of that does not end once we have become aware of it or conscious to it. No. It does not suddenly disappear and upon gaining this knowledge we do not acquire some innate power to overcome all of these trials and tribulations. Fairytales make it so that we believe this is what happens. Disney makes it so that this is what we believe (though we know a lot about the images Disney portrayed by now don’t we?).

Like graduating from 8th grade into middle school, high school into college, college into the real world, learning all the while; becoming knowledgable about oppression not only in our hegemonic society but in the world calls us to act. If students graduated from 8th grade and just stopped doing work, they likely would not make it through to graduate high school. The same could be said for high schoolers and college grads.

And so in working on this blog this semester, and visiting other blogs centered around similar topics, I have held on to one thing: we must take what we have learned and move forward with it. We must be hungry for education and knowledge.  We Must not let our privilege shield us from the realities of others and most of all we must see the struggle of others as our own struggles that we may be strong enough to combat it as a collective unit. Paulo Freire said that the oppressors are not strong enough to initiate the struggle against oppression because they seem themselves as too far removed from the situation to want to do anything about it. He said that only the oppressed have the power to act because they are angry enough to work towards a change. We as a people must recognize that we all have a role in our oppressive society. We have to learn what that role is, and then work towards a change…

And black women, our black is beautiful for so many reasons, but we too must realize that the struggle is not only ours. As we fight negative stereotypes, media representation, and hurtful comments, we too are fighting against oppression of all people.

THIS is how we fight:

dinner for action 2

We Organize…

Westfield State University's 1st Annual "Dinner for Action", March 2013

Westfield State University’s 1st Annual “Dinner for Action”, March 2013

Collectively...

Collectively…

We Travel...

We Travel…

We become that 1 in a crowd..well, in this case we are 5 in a crowd

We become that 1 in a crowd..well, in this case we are 5 in a crowd

RA Life 2013-2013

RA Life 2013-2013

We Dance...

We Dance…

We Step...

We Step…

As a Family, We Achieve...

As a Family, We Achieve…

We SMILE through the pain....

We SMILE through the pain….

Smile some more...

Smile some more…

We Share Our Stories, WSU Vagina Monologues,2013

We Share Our Stories, WSU Vagina Monologues,2013

We Gather...(Kind of like the Consiousness Raising Groups between women before there were Womens Studies Courses) lol

We Gather…(Kind of like the Consiousness Raising Groups between women before there were Womens Studies Courses) lol

We Graduate...

We Graduate…

And We Fight Back!

And We Fight Back!

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Letter to Little Brown Girls

1 Apr

Dear Brown Girl,

You are beautiful. You are radiant and unique and natural and pure. See how the sun rises as you smile and the rain falls when you’re sad. See how the moon glows in your essence. The world, this world, our world revolves around you brown girl, it just doesn’t know it yet. Hold your hand up to the light. You have a brown all your own. Little brown girl you are unique in that. Vanilla Chai to Caramel to that sweet Dulce con Leche, smooth cocoa brown chocolate , dark chocolate good for every man’s heart, and everything in between. Little brown girl do not be afraid of standing out. Do not try and hide behind a man that uses and abuses your brown; Makeup that lightens your brown, hiding that which God hand crafted, and he saw that it was good brown, creating us in his image brown. Money, that comes and goes. Fear.  It’s somethin’ about fear that makes you lose yourself–makes you forget your brown. Little brown girl always remember who you are, where you came from, and where you are going. Remember your roots, your ancestors: African, Dominican, Puerto Rican, West Indian, Caribbean. Little brown girl remember your hips. Embrace them. Move them to the beat of the congas, the ‘ting of the steel pan. Listen to the talking drum and remember what it tells you, remember the history, so that you can one day, pass that brown on to another little brown girl. The smell of mama frying sweet platanos, coconut tart, and curry on a Saturday morning , a mix all her own, and and dance brown girl! Raise your hands, reach towards the sun and remember all that you have done, and all that you can do. Brown girl, this world is yours, it just doesnt know it yet. Straighteners, perms, texturizers, extensions. Mariposa’s “Broken Ends, Broken Promises — Poem for my grifah rican sister” brown. Shout:

Black hair is beautiful.

¡Que viva pelo libre!

¡Que viva!”

And smile, little brown girl, because those who stare, point, laugh, taunt, they do not understand just yet that the sun rises with you, the trees sway when you walk by, the clouds shield you from danger, the grass grows for your comfort, the birds sing to put you at ease, and the moon shines because it knowns that even in the dark, little brown girl, even in the darkest places, your brown is beautiful, and it is all yours.

Brown girl, you are Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird”, her “Phenomenal Woman”, Neruda’s “Brown and Agile Child”, brown girl you are me. I have been where you are. hating your brown one minute and loving it the next. trying to match your brown, trying to find somewhere — anywhere it can belong, cutting your brown,giving your brown away, selling it for parts because no one has ever told you that “the world, it revolves around your brown”. no one ever told you, hold on just a little while longer cuz God has created someone special, someone just for your brown. no one ever told you there is no other like your brown.  Little brown girl, I am writing this to you, so that if no one ever tells you, “I love you”, well, I do.

27 Mar

One of my favorite things about this blog is the pictures the author finds to post that speak a thousand words about black women 🙂

Aafroscandic; Beauty, Culture & Life

My Black is Beautiful
Gladys Kyotungire
Uganda

Glad_o

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An Example…

27 Mar

It was solely coincidence that one week ago I wrote a list called, “The Top 5 Questions Women of Color get Asked out of Ignorance and Disrespect”. I created the list based on personal experience and the collaborated stories and experiences of women of color. Many of the experiences I wrote about were very personal, while others I have yet to endure. The first one, however, is a comment I am very familiar with; The loaded question: “Is that your real hair?”

Good Times!

Good Times!

I went to the mall Saturday evening with my aunt from visiting from Trinidad and with my mom, who also has locks. Oftentimes, as she likes it best, she wears her hair in a ponytail, as she did this past Saturday. While we were walking, my mother was asked by a group of guys walking in the opposite direction, “Is that all yours?” From behind, perhaps they thought she was yonger, possibly my age. But when she turned around they immediately noticed she was older, and tried to laugh it off saying, “Just kidding!”  My mom though, bold as she is, smiled her confident smile and said,”No, you weren’t, but it’s okay.” She conintued, “This is all my real hair.” The boys then, feeling embarrassed and awkward stood there as she proceeded to point me out next her with my hair loose and hanging down reaching past my back and asked, “Do you believe that is all hers?” They said yes because “mine was down and they could tell”, however something tells me that they had their doubts about the authenticity of my hair as well as my mothers. Something tells me their answer changed upon her correction of their incorrect assumption. At least we know they were taught some sort of good manners.

So there I stood dumbfounded almost because once again, I was conflicted with how it could be so hard for another to fathom that a black woman could have natural, lengthy hair. What makes this issue even more difficult is that it is not necessarily a black and white thing. The group of young men who asked my mother this question were all black! One of them, had dreads himself.

Whether one realizes it or not, often times when a women of color gets asked this question the underlying and often unconscious thought behind their inquiry is that it is uncommon or even impossible for women of color to have long, flowing, natural hair of their own. Thus, the problem. Among that central question, I have sort of archived a list of other very stereotypical questions that I personally get asked on a daily basis having dreadlocks:

Are you Jamaican?

Can I touch it?

Does it hurt if I touch it?

How do you sleep on that?

The ever playful,unintelligent, ignorant, sarcastic, yet equally insulting, “Can you give me dreads”?

Were you born with them?

Does everyone in your family have them?

Do you wash it? How?

Are they clean? Does it smell?

You must have nappy hair huh?

Did your parents force you to get them?

…Some of these may surprise you, some of these may sound very familiar because you yourself have thought them or asked them out loud. All of these questions I get asked on a day to day basis, as if my hair was some sort of anomaly all its own. Its funny, when I think of these things, or when I get asked any one of these questions because I shake my head and at that very moment, inside, I feel so out of place. You see, in my community, back home in Trinidad, dreadlocks are normal. They are a part of our culture as a people, and we take pride in having locks down to our backsides r as short as the nape of our necks. Men and women alike with thick hair, wavy hair, thin and straight hair all th same have locks. No one walks up to me and asks, “Is it real?” or, “Can I touch it?” I feel like I belong.

Caracas Beach in Trinidad and Tobago, 2008

Caracas Beach in Trinidad and Tobago, 2008

Little sis and Cuz,Caracas Beach, Trinidad, 2008

Little sis and Cuz,Caracas Beach, Trinidad, 2008

Care free and hair free...The place where I am most happy is the  place where I can be myself.

Care free and hair free…The place where I am most happy is the place where I can be myself.

Bother and cousins enjoying the beach, 2008

Brother and cousins enjoying the beach, 2008

Having grown up, and now being almost used to the questions and assumptions that are imposed upon me, being  a woman of color, and having long dreadlocks, these things , the questions and comments are not so much of a surprise to me anymore. Just because  am not surprised any longer, does not mean that they do not bother me so much anymore. What bothers me is when I think of the young brown girls who are growing up experiencing these same things, recreating the cycle.

I know, that much of these questions and assumptions that follow black women in particular and long hair stem from the way that media portrays them. Most famous black women do have hair extensions. Many black women in general do use chemical straigtheners or texturizers in their hair. The key word though, is “most”, not all! If you are reading this post and are asking yourself, well, what am I supposed to do, or what can I do you should, we all should take on the motto used so often in our judicial system that says, “innocent until proven guilty”. Assume that when you see a women of color walking past you on campus and she has long hair, that it is her natural hair. Give her the benefit of the doubt. Don’t allow the media, our stereotypical society decide for you how you will view the world. Create your own judgements. Refrain from treating a part of her that is so precious and valuable as if it is some strange and foreign thing on top of her head to be examined, and touched, pulled at.  Stop the cycle.

I have been battling with these thoughts for a while now. I wondered to myself where do we draw the line between exoticism and pure curiosity? When should I be offended and when am I just being overly sensitive? I have come to this simple conclusion: When I am treated like some sort of exotic thing, a rare animal, something never seen before, when I am treated that way, like a lab experiment, that is exoticism. Pure and simple. All of those questions I listed above are examples of exoticism, no way around it, and it is NOT all right. However, when I am treated as a human being rather than an object, and that includes everything belonging to me, every body part of mine, everything that is me, that creates me and who I am, hair and hips included, and some one has a questions or is interested to know more and approaches me as such, that is pure and honest curiosity, and I have no problem satisfying that.

Mix it UP!

27 Mar

Black is BEAUTIFUL because of the variety 😉