By Ifedayo Ward

“Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet?”

-Malcolm X

This morning I was in the mood for some old songs…you know the melanated spirit-lifting types? I sang my soul out ’til I actually listened to myself sing. The problem now wasn’t my usual croaky voice .  I am used to it by now.  I just didn’t believe what I was hearing. Afraid to say it out loud, I hummed it in my mind this time.

🎵I am not my hair…I am not my skin…I am the soul that lives within🎵.

No shades at India Arie or any black woman who loves this song but I had to delete it immediately. I calmed my jumpy self down and asked looked up the lyrics.  The song wasn’t all that bad considering the fact that she added the verse on hair loss in cancer patients. It’s a great song that has made great waves over the years but it just isn’t for me.

Most of the time, we get caught up in utterly irrelevant standards, particularly societal “standards” of our physical appearance. “Your skin is too dark for you to be beautiful”, “Straighten that mop of your hair so you can look professional and presentable” are statements most African women hear everyday. We grow up in societies that stifle our sense of pride in our ‘Africanness’ and dismiss everything natural about us as inferior. Over half the time, we are combing tresses that have been cut off some poor Indian woman and rubbing our skins so vigorously with concoctions in an attempt to “enhance our skin tone”.

This is not a ‘ better to straightened-hair’ message but a call to embrace the locs in our hair, the glorious kinks that have been gracefully passed to us by our ancestors. It is a prompt to break the misconceptions about natural African hair and skin and be an inspiration to the younger ones to love themselves and keep up the black culture.

I love my hair, my skin and everything within. My consciousness and experiences are shaped and tied to my physical appearance as an African woman. My experiences are shaped by the history of my people. My nappy 4c hair, the colorr of my skin, the shape of my nose, my lips and the rest of my melanated body is me. I won’t change that for anything in the world.

*plays to India Arie’s 🎵Video🎵*

🎵I’m not the average girl from your video, and I ain’t built like a supermodel/But I learned to love myself unconditionally because I am a queen.🎵