In 2009, India Arie and Akon came out with “I am Not my Hair,” Not even that level of affirmation gave me comfort in the texture of my hair and the color of my skin.
11 years later it took me to realize, I am my hair, I am my skin and that is the most liberating thing I can be.
I know what India meant, how at the end of the day we are all just people. And I agree with that… Beneath my dark skin and textured hair I am just the same as the person sitting next to me. But my dark skin, my thick, curly, braided and sometimes straightened hair tells the story of my brand: who I am and what I represent.
I have learned to be unapologetic for my hair that defies gravity and grows upward toward the God given sun.
The same sun that I used to hide from on long summer days out of fear that it would darken my skin and I’d be further disconnected from my best friends who would go on vacations or to tanning beds and like to put their arm next to mine and compare shades, “I’m almost as dark as you.” As if the politics of skin complexion was never used to oppressive my ancestors.
I just think it’s funny how they want to look like you without actually being you.
Who would have thought that they might be better for it. That because you are your hair, you are your skin, you are walking representation of survival, bravery, elegance and strength.
Someone fought for your existence, but your history teachers led you to think that someone was one of the founding fathers of the U. S of A. land of the free home of the brave.
You can’t roll your eyes at people like me, who are just beginning to love themselves, their curls, their dark skin, their culture. We didn’t ask to look in the mirror and not like what we see because we don’t look like our friends at school who got all of the attention from the boys, fit into Limited Too jeans and didn’t have to wear swimming caps during summer camp.
We did ask for that feeling of belonging and we’d take it any way we could get it, for however long we could have it.
And here we are now, unapologetic for all that we are. Don’t take our happiness, our pride away from us because you fell in love with yourself before we even knew who we were.
Representation matters because it is a reminder that we matter and we too are capable.