"You're Pretty for a dark skin girl..."
Theses words don’t hurt anymore because dance told me they weren’t true. I choreographed my life experiences in my room and watched the reflection of my shadow sway back and forth against the white walls. I did not want to face the pain in the mirror, because I knew it wasn't pretty and I couldn't bear to stare.
I was born in Shreveport, LA where it was predominately black and raised in Santa Cruz, CA where I was the only black girl in class. There were days I didn’t like myself because I believed in societies lies of beauty standards as long hair, blues, and pink gums on white teeth. Even if there were women of color to "represent" us, you seen her with light skin, long hair and pink gums on white teeth. Since the first grade I have been hesitant to smile because a little white boy told me my gums were dirty, so I covered my mouth every time I laughed or smiled. Even though my mother told me it was normal for black people to have black gum I still thought something was wrong with me because my gums weren't pink like the white women I seen TV. I don't blame the little boy for his comment because he was only reflecting on society’s standard of beauty. It has been taught since slavery to be closer to the appointed standard of beauty, and that is the master’s wife. The white woman, and her man rivals a black mans power. Now that he has taken him prisoner, his black woman’s place is taken from the standard of beauty to an angry, poverty stricken and faceless being.
Black men treated me different from my bi-racial friends because I wasn’t exotic enough. I silently took jabs of ignorant comments that left me feeling like the third wheel. Some light skin women called me ugly, and it hurt my soul the way my own kind treated me. I didn’t understand it because every shade of black looked beautiful to me
Dance was the medicine that cured my mind, body and soul during my darkest moments. I closed my eyes, press play and popped my chest to the 808 beats until I i was drenched in sweat. I stood in the shower and let the water run against my beating chest as I reflect. Dance made me feel beautiful and reminded me that i was enough.
Living in my dark skin has taught me so much about life that no college degree can teach. I tell my story to turn my sistah’s frown upside down. I know why you are angry, but you don’t have to be because you are more than enough.
If we don’t embrace our beauty who will? So, the next time you see your sistah down remind her how powerful she is. Our melanated skin is able to absorb energy from the sun because we are goddesses. We nourish and shed light for our earth to grow. Therefore, we are more than our stereotypes. It is time to demolish negative thoughts that have held us back, because this world belongs to you too. I know that every black woman has a memoir about their life that has shaped them into who they are. My mentor Jennifer Forman told me, “Don’t become your pain.”
Given these points, I challenge you to embrace your beauty.
I challenge you to dream big.
I challenge you to support your sistah's.
I dare you to perform black girl magic.
- Romonica Stephens