The Beauty That Is Luke Cage

Not long ago, I shared a Keke Napep (Rickshaw/ Tuk Tuk, my main source of transportation and inspiration) with two of the most unpleasant human beings I have ever encountered.

I was on my way to a wedding on the outskirts of town. Baffling as it was, it didn’t occur to these two people that since the area is remote, we just may be going to the same venue; which we were. And so they went on with one demeaning word after another about the couple, whose wedding they travelled from another State to attend, and for whom they  bought a humongous gift. I was shocked and thought I had heard the worst till the guy said:

“And after acting all polished and classy in school, see the kind of extremely black man she is marrying.” 

At that point my jaw dropped and my head pivoted of its own accord to have a proper look at the guy. My intent was obviously clear to him because the next thing he said was:

“I know I am dark skinned but I am not that black.”

#Speechless but not really.

Many times, I have said and proven that the most disparaging remarks about dark skinned men with characteristic African features, have come from dark skinned men with characteristic African features.

Every time I stumble on conversations where black men are being mocked for the darkness of their skin, their “wide” nose and “full lips”, it is usually done by the darkest skinned man in the room. This is the same guy that you would find posting a picture of a very dark skinned guy on Facebook marrying a white woman or lighter skinned girl with the caption, “HOW???” or something worse that strips all the layers of humanity off the skin of the man in the picture. Don’t believe me, take your own survey and listen to the data speak.

Do I blame dark skinned men that do this? Do we even want to retrace the origins back to slavery when darker skinned men were assumed to be the strongest and then chained to ships to be slowly dehumanised based on the quality of skin that got them selected in the first place? Do we even want to go the way of the visuals that focused more on making black men more disgusting and comical to look at and infusing that into the collective conciousness of the whole world? Or even worst, the visual representation that made dark skinned African men irrelevant and obscure characters in stories so they were therefore forgettable?

Do I blame them? No, because even in my own life, I have been accused of dating only light skinned guys. Meanwhile the truth is I have also dated really dark skinned guys and those coincidentally have been my longest relationships. Let that sink in for a minute… Remember what I said about dark skinned men and the word forgettable… Yeah…

These accusations have been from close relatives; and it is done in a way that I am forced to defend myself by mentioning the names of the dark skinned Ex’s. And then I get:

“Oh I forgot you dated him, and you were so happy then fa!”

But do I blame them???

Yes, because I believe as human beings we are meant to think hard, challenge ideas and status quos. We are also not meant to forget the golden rule, ‘do unto others what you want to be done to you’. 

It seems in this reaction by black people against black people, we forget it is a continued perpetuation of crimes against ourselves and a constant alienation of people that look just like us.
However, hope has arrived in the package of a delirious gorgeous dark black skinned super hero; Marvel’s Luke Cage. 

How do I  know that this new development will change anything? Because I know how much I was affected by the possibility of being a beautiful princess from watching Pocahontas as opposed to watching Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

In Pocahontas, I saw myself: a thinking intellectual princess questioning what was assumed to be the natural course of her life, questioning John Smith and the outsiders right to take her land and regard her as a savage just because she does not look like them. It had its hiccups as a story but it was like freshwater to my young drying soul.

So this is me being confident that the more dark skinned men see themselves in this super hero roles especially like Luke Cage who does not have a sordid past or even seeing more varied representations like I believe will happen with The Black Panther movie; the more they would be okay with their existence in this world. Not because they are perfect human beings but it certainly won’t be because of the shade of their skin.

Images via Flickr, Netflix and Disney


Embracing The Dark: On Loving My Skin.

Poetry is not my strongest suit. But, like most things that pique my interest, I gave it at least one or two attempts, just to know I can. However, not all things get that one attempt no matter how much I am burning with curiosity.

Sometimes what ends up happening is a dance around the interest. This is like when we were kids and played ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’; we went round and round then crumpled down to the ground.So in that same way, one of the things I danced around but never did, was bleach my skin. And we will get to that before this post is over.

Let’s  start from the end of the discovery and it begins with an attempt at poetry. I wrote a poem to capture my moment of clarity titled ‘Embracing The Dark’. And it goes like this…

Heart racing, Palpitations
Twitching eyes,  Shaky hands
Ah! A new day has begun
Morning has come…

 

Yesterday, I was reminded once again
That progress moves faster in the light
I mean for the light
Or is it to the light

 

I always get confuse
And I try to rationalize
This is what leads me to my pathos
This is what leads me to my pawn broker
And our constant trade in unused jars
Of lightening cream

 

Throwing out and then replacing
And throwing out some more
And then replacing… some more

 

I stare at the jar on the table
and it snares back at me
beckoning, gleaming with a vague promise
I still do not understand
And another new day I resist the urge
Today will not find me slipping
Today will not find me dipping

 

Now I am good, I am dressed
I am ready to go
Opportunities abound, my goals are clear
Reality slaps me once more not to forget
Not to forget my mantra
It makes me believe in myself
For my children
And their children’s children
That is what this is really about

 

My mind clears it throat
let’s begin it says

 

Black is beautiful, I must not despair
Black is beautiful, Love without unnecessary compromise will find me
Black is beautiful, Black is my identity….

Let’s go…

 

Please don’t judge the quality of the poem, it was written six years ago and I probably broke a hundred rules of poetry. But hey…  I have learnt when inspiration strikes, you must run with it or lose it forever; so I took the chance.

 

But now we must go back to the beginning, where it all started.

In childhood being the darkest of my sisters. my mum decided to honor this fact by constantly referring to me as “the black one”. This wasn’t a problem while growing within the confines of my house, drenched in so much love that my ‘title’ was a special bond between me and my mum. But once I started school, black came with the understanding that it meant ugly and sometimes unwanted, outcast, unsuitable and a plethora of other things that really does not necessitate journeying to my Primary and Secondary school memories.

Thankfully, I’ve realize that there is a  confusingly merciless and unthinking part of our culture that gives people a pass to say whatever comes to their head; without fully weighing the consequences. One part of our culture I can’t stand.

Anway, what changed or helped?

Well…

First of all, growing up, my head was always in the clouds dreaming up all kinds of wonderful alternate realities. This means most things registered but didn’t stay with me. And at the end of every school year, I noticed all shades, complexion wise in the top and bottom according to our exam result. Immediately dark meaning dumb (a word we use here to mean unintelligent) lost all truth plus it helped that I got a lot of double promotions and recommendations to skip grades.This gave all the evidence that I wasn’t even near dumb or unintelligent. So… victory number 1.

When the boys started coming by, they were in all shades. From really light skinned to deep dark skinned. I always joke that it seems like I had dated the United Nations, not in the number of people but in the variety. But In all honesty, two things really changed my view of relationships as it pertains to skin color.

The first is, whether white, black or mixed, it really didn’t take long for me to ‘forget’ what they looked like. Somehow, skin color and complexion gets pushed back into my sub-concious mind and the individuals character and personality comes to the fore front. It is really hard for me to explain this but when I realised that, I chose to believe it was the same for them as for me.

The second thing and person, whom I have to give a lot of thanks to is Halle Berry.

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And it was the moment in her life that she was treated so badly by a man. I was extremely unhappy about it because like most people I felt and still feel she is a beautiful person. But her moment came with clarity for me; and if this can be done to Halle Berry a world(media) proclamed standard of beauty, then if the guarantee for happiness in a relationship is solely based on looks, no one will be spared from bad times.

I have reached my destination of total acceptance of my skin complexion. But I would be lying if I say there aren’t days I do not wish for a lighter shade. This has to do with my hair texture which some people naturally associate with being mixed race. I really could do without a day of inquistion. You can read all about it Here to understand what I mean.

However if the many Ethnicity tags, Mixed girl tags and the numerous ‘Where am I from?’ tags floating in cyberspace are any indication; it is safe to assume that if you do not totally fit a stereotype, people are going to have questions and opinons. Just the way of the world.

Bottom line, I have learnt through actively seeking to love all I have been given that, having the most widely accepted or favored skin tone comes with ZERO guarantee for a happy, fullfiled and purposeful life.

If you are unhappy and miserable about your life then no matter the ‘passes’ the world gives you, you will remain unhappy and miserable about your life.

And the world’s standards do not have to be yours. End of story.

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Silly poetry sometimes carries a ton of meaning.

 

So do you feel having your type of skin tone has helped or encumbered the quality of your life? I would really love to have as many perspectives on this as I can, if you would please indulge me. Much thanks in advance

 

 

Images via Flickr

The Thing I Fear More Than Death

Don’t get me wrong, the fear of death is very powerful and potent. One that can consume and drive an individual beyond the edge of reason if allowed. I know this for a fact because at a very young age, I was forced to acknowledge that death was a real part of life. After that, I struggled with insomnia and claustrophobia for a long time. I couldn’t sit at the back of a bus or a one door car and worst of all, I couldn’t give the real reason for my refusal. If my position in the car did not allow for direct contact with a window and oxygen, I just could not sit there.

Thankfully, this is no longer at the top of my fears because of my Christian journey. When the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I laid my fears at the feet of Jesus and through the word in the bible, this fear has  been laid to rest; pun intended.

Mr_Happy

Mr Happy via mrmen.wikia.com

So what could be more fearfully than dying you may wonder. Well this one begins with an encounter with Greek Mythology; the story of Narcissus.

Narcissus was know for his beauty and no one argued with that. Some people say I am pretty but mostly I hear that I am cute and I believe all these people; so no arguments here. Mainly because these people have nothing to gain. Now if I was the President’s daughter or some oil magnate’s wife; I might be a little suspicious. But when you are a writer and the best you can do is edit or critique application essays, it is safe to assume that the truth is being told.

On the other hand, this is my own test for how pretty I am.

1) I walk down the road or into a room full of people.
2) Carefully examine the look on their faces: do they recoil in horror? Are they immediately terrified?
And the most important one.
3)Count the number of people that run away as fast as they can while shielding their eyes from my face?

The answer so far has been zero. Therefore, since I have been passing my own litmus test…  #PrettyasaPicture is the verdict.

But…

There is one thing that I have been afraid to do, which might just be the true test of my own contentment with ‘my beauty’. And this is wear FALSE LASHES. I put it in capital so you can understand that it is a big thing for me.

I have seen through weddings and social media the power of false lashes to transform a normal belle into a goddess of unspeakable proportion. Girls that look like we could be neighbors are morphed into sophisticated women who look like they would never speak to me. This generally means that their beauty looks unreal but therein lies the problem.

Extremely super duper fine with my kind of beauty is my current state of mind. I am however truly terrified to take myself to those heights only to go to bed and wake up the next day to reality. Because the process of going to bed involves washing off the illusion.

This scares me!

Especially after seeing a perfectly pretty girl feel so ugly without her makeup and eyelashes. This girl had zero confidence to look up at the camera during her before pictures. But the moment it was all piled on her, she couldn’t stop posing. This was one of the saddest situations I have ever seen.

As a resident of the head community, living on the cloudy street of thought and knowledge while searching for wisdom and discernment; I generally do not know how I feel about a situation till it practically happens to me. Right now, I love my look but what happens when an artificial and “better” alternative is presented? How content will I be with reality after that? I do not want to know.

It is bad enough that beauty is being redefined through all these carefully curated pictures online. There are a lot of pretty girls who do not feel good enough because of these images. And a lot of confused guys who cannot date good looking girls because a new standard is being created for them.

I would rather stay on my side of the line and not cross it. Maybe I am so centered that wearing FALSE LASHES makes no difference to my life, maybe I am not, maybe one day I find out. But until then, my face remains a no FALSE LASHES zone..

Narcissus knew he was beautiful but didn’t know the extent of it till Nemesis attracted him to a pool where he could see his reflection. There Narcissus fell in love with the reflection not realizing it was just an image. He obsessed over this image and couldn’t leave it alone. As a result, he lost his will to live and basically stared at himself till he died.

The pictures, Instagram and all that are just images and reflections; reality on the other hand will always be different from these. Sadly, the line of truth when it comes to this is gradually being blurred.

So tell me honesty, how did you feel when you wore your first false lash and what was your immediate reaction to your make-up free face after it was taken off?

I am terribly interested.