Outside of my window dark clouds have slowly gathered together to form a harmonious display of thunderous power. I can see drops of water begin to beat against the pavement, my tree slowly sways bracing itself for a storm that is eager to make its presence known. I close the curtains and take my seat in my favorite writing position. I catch my mind slowly drifting as childhood thoughts randomly take root. I’m temporarily brought back to reality as the television hums in the background. I can hardly make out what is going on over the fan that’s blowing cool air against my neck. If I listen closely, I can hear it’s a news anchor. I reckon it’s probably something negative; in fact I’m certain of it.
Writers block begins to taunt me as I stare at a blank page. “What can I say today, that would inspire my brothers and sisters,” I ask myself. A deep sigh followed by a familiar uneasiness comes over me. To stifle my sudden bout of restlessness, I walk into my bathroom and that’s when I catch a glimpse of my reflection. I pause for a moment as I admire myself for a moment. I study my dark face and old memories began to bubble up to the forefront. I smile, before becoming serious. My thoughts churn. Nobody talks about the Black boy blues, I whisper under my breath. Growing up darker than most, felt like a curse. But you see this blues I speak of is not about being Black in and of itself. No, never that. It’s about a journey through an ecosystem that despises your very presence. It’s a system that labels you before you-even-say-one-word, although in many cases you’re the smartest in the room. It’s about a challenge to feel like you belong, even when your own tries to evoke a false sense of privilege over you. I’ll share this personal journey of pain and confusion with you. I believe it will inspire you.
Dark skin, oh dark skin, we’ve been on quite the journey,” I thought as I studied my face in the mirror while combing my course beard one morning. Staring back at me was a reflection of a man who had once heard the color of his skin would make life difficult. My mother always told me, it was a gift to be Black, but the world had done all it could to challenge her wise words. “Why are you so dark,” I’d remember some kid asking me back in middle school. More than just an inquisitive question, I sensed the jeer behind his mischievous grin. This was the first and certainly not the last time I was introduced to the concept of colorism since he himself was a young Black brother of a lighter complexion. Those words burned the fabric of my self-esteem causing me to wonder what was wrong with the way God designed me.
My brush with inferiority was birthed out of a lack of understanding of my heritage, purpose and destiny. I allowed my self-awareness to be defined, manipulated and further exploited by systems and people who had no idea of the power I possessed. These moments became my right of passage into the Black experience. I had to learn to overcome this strange notion set in place by faux standards that made every natural feature seem unimpressive, ugly and a one way ticket to oblivion. I’m sure you’ve heard people elude, course hair and dark skin meant jail and crime. These reckless ideals seeped into my sub-conscious, thus activating an insecurity within me that I had to overcome. “What’s wrong with being dark ma,” I’d ask in a curious manner. She’d look me in the eye and say, “Nothing boy, there ain’t nothing wrong with the way you look. You look just like me.” After our many talks, I’d watch her try to hide the pain she felt. She knew the kind of world we lived in and did her best to prepare me for it.
As the years went by, I’d hear others make disparaging comments about skin tone that were often swept to side as jokes. I’d laugh on the outside but inwardly I recognized the painful comparison that appeared have to been passed down from generations long before my own. Rooted in slavery and cultivated by our own, I felt it’s affect with every wisecrack and sly comment. “I ain’t that dark man,” I’d fire back with a grin. It’d all be fun and games until I found myself alone long after the jokes were over, thinking of those words uttered by “friends.” The hardest part was trying to look past what I thought was social proof, that seemed to give those words power. It was all an illusion fueled by lies.
Now that I’m a man, I continuously aware of people who walk with their head’s hung low, afraid to live their best lives due to the way they feel about themselves. Beauty was said to be in the eyes of the beholder but some of our lenses had been tainted by broken standards and outdated stereotypes. I myself stumbled through my teenage years wearing a mask of confidence to hide the little Black boy that yearned to understand how to love and accept himself. Unbeknownst to me at the time under all of the self doubt and feelings of inferiority was someone I could be proud of already. There I was hiding behind a wall built by fear which blocked me from seeing clearly— perhaps, you can relate.
Deep within our souls, we long to freely be ourselves without judgement. The shameful reprobate standards that exist within the fabric of our country are built on racism, prejudice and inequality which have infiltrated the world with its awful benchmark of all things beautiful. Learning to love myself took time and it was worth the effort. When I discovered all that truly mattered was what I thought of myself, I began to witness the walls of inferiority come tumbling down at my feet. I take immense pride in my Blackness. We must each learn to see ourselves as gifts to the world. We must begin to understand the good Lord makes no mistakes. You are who you are, and you must be proud.
There is nothing inferior about you. You’ve got to remind yourself of these facts each morning you set your feet on the floor. I stand before you today to asking you not to allow the opinions of others to define you, for their opinions are not your reality. Cast aside the world’s assessments of you. Buried under feelings of inadequacy and inferiority is a bold beautiful person who has the power to change the world. Lift your head up in strength, feeling completely confident in who you are. Once you do that, you’ll impact the world around you in a way others will never forget. Far too many people are discrediting themselves and I hope these words give you life. It is a gift to walk this path; It is an honor to walk in these shoes.