Rhonda Rokki Harper, surfer
Identity is an interesting element for all living people. It changes over time, and for some of us, it may even be fluid. But regardless of how we define ourselves and our identities, I think we can all agree that a person’s identity should at least be of their own consent and choosing. This is not always the case in our culture. Stereotypes and consistent media conditioning have communicated messages to us about how certain people are supposed to look, dress, speak, eat, dance, socialize, and otherwise live their lives. To step outside of this pigeonholing can feel risky and uncertain, but for black women and girls this is a must.
Unfortunately, unless you are reading DDS Magazine or a similar type of publication, the “versions” of black womanhood offered up to you probably are not enough to encompass all that you are. Black women are unique, intelligent, inspiring, and we come in many different forms. Sure, we can cook, we can clean, we can birth some babies and get down on the dance floor, but we can do a lot more than that.
For example, black women can make music with instruments. We are not all singers. We can study molecular biology and embryonic stem cells to unearth breakthroughs in modern science. We are not all medical assistants or orderlies. We also comprise the largest demographic of entrepreneurs in the United States, currently (I am still pulling numbers for how we fare on the world stage with entrepreneurship). We are not all employees of other people.
Malina Mote, American singer songwriter and lefty guitarist
And some of us may truly be filling these aforementioned roles, but the point here is that these roles – these prescribed ways of being – they are not all of who we are. We can and should encourage each other to try new avenues, thus bringing our blackness to areas otherwise declared off limits to us in the past. We must actively usher in the concept that black womanhood exists on all parts of the spectrum.
Some of us are tough and mentally strong, but some of us are fragile and must manage mental health issues. Some of us were raised to love our blackness, others of us are learning how to do so as adults and therefore are not as far on the self-love path as our other sisters. But all of these can be equated with black womanhood. When we do not fulfill our destiny and take the place the Universe has carved out for us, we reject part of who we are. Rejection of self can be damaging and problematic.
Mae Jemison, American engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut
Therefore, I implore dark-skinned women and girls to bask in the exploration of finding true self. It does not matter if you do not see many other black faces in the same arenas. All this signifies is that there is territory uncharted. You can venture out and be one of the firsts, showcasing the versatility of black womanhood. Serena Williams did it. Michelle Obama did it. Oprah did it. Lots of other women are doing it. You can, too. In fact, I think trailblazing comes with the territory of being a black girl or woman.
You might be the only one there, dancing, singing, putting points on the board in a sport typically dominated by your white counterparts. In those moments of isolation that you might experience as you search for evidence of other blacks to validate your presence there, do not question yourself or your worthiness. Instead, take your isolation as proof that you were meant for this, and be the best version of “this” that you can be. The lasting impression of this can one day be the inspiration for another dark-skinned woman or girl to jump in and go further.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as a writer/editor, podcaster, and yogini. When she is not designing courses or recording episodes for her podcast, she is usually busy enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.