I am mine before I am anyone else’s. I do not belong to anyone except to myself. My worth as a woman is not contingent upon how desirable you find me. I am my own standard of beauty. I am art.
Art that doesn’t require an audience. To hell with your restrictive gender binaries.
I refuse to be your stereotypical, submissive, respectable African woman. My body is mine. My femininity is mine. Being a Black woman, I am expected to suppress my intelligence, my power, my voice, in order to be easier to swallow — in the words of Warsan Shire, “I tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake” — constantly expected to bend myself into shapes in order to fit societies one dimensional perception of us.
I refuse to bend myself backwards to appease those who exploit me.
To be Black in a white dominant society.
To be a black woman in a white dominant patriarchal society.
The constant fear of being deemed the angry Black woman, the fear of being subjected to misogynoir, the fear of the constant denial of our complexity and nuance — in order to combat these fears I find refuge in fellow Black women. I find refuge in myself. Because we are all we have. I have so much love for Black women. I have so much love for myself, and I no longer give a damn if my comfortability with myself makes others uncomfortable.
I love reflecting when I am closest to the clouds, where the blue sky drowns out my fears and the birds songs add rhythm to my words. So I am on the highest floor in my home staring out the window for guidance as I start my reflection on 2016.
I want to start by defining the year with a single word but it’s difficult to compact 365 days into just one word. Life would always be marked with peaks and falls, but I’ve seen that generally the good times outweigh the bad. The year started out with me determined to do more creative things, and put my creativity out there. So, I enrolled and got accepted onto the BFI Film Academy, which led to my script being chosen and developed into a film that was played at Focus Film Festival. This also led to me being accepted on another course with the BFI that focused primarily on screenwriting. As I sat on the train alone to Newcastle, I thought, imagine where else my words could take me. I also started the year determined to get better grades in my A-levels, especially in English Literature which I did end up getting an A in.
I started the year a very worrisome girl, who had fears of who she may become but I am ending the year with confidence in the work the Lord is doing within me. I have power resting within me whenever I am in battle because I am the daughter of a King. I’m ending the year in peace knowing that I am on the periphery of a full awakening. When the Lord renews me, my limbs would stretch as far as the horizon, like a new born out of the womb. I am growing comfortable in my own skin and I no longer have visions of life behind my neighbour’s fence.
I am grateful for the progress LAMBB has made and I am confident in the new direction we have decided on. I am grateful for actual taking a gap year because there was a time when it was just a mere thought. Being on a gap year has taught me so much already, it has wiped away the childlike comfort of school and pushed me to the edge of the earth where people told me who I should be. Yet I realised that I can run so far from their misconceptions of me and the box they try to tame me in. I realised that the world is governed by ideas, and the iPhone that we marvel over every time a new edition drops was once an idea in one man’s head. Ideas and dreams matter, nobody can tell me otherwise.
The way I look at life now is it is up to me. This year I discovered that we have more power than we have been made to think. If we all knew just how much power we possess, there would be a revolution. A revolution of minds, and we would no longer accept what is being fed to us subconsciously through all mediums. After feelings of inadequacy left my soul, I learnt that God is for the underdogs, He raises the low and He wants to see us successful and happy. A lot of the times we keep ourselves trapped within our own perceptions of who we are and what we can attain.
I hope that in 2017 I would allow myself to be happy. I typically hold my breath to happiness, and hope for everything and everyone to be perfect before I exhale. But life isn’t like that it seems, there are no absolute euphoric moments, and I think there would always be this imbalance until the Lord comes again. I realised from 2016 that life is hard, and perhaps everyone, both sinner and saint should be commended just for living, at the end of time. However, life is what you make it, and the universe is for you and not against you, so therefore 2017 would be a magical year if you will it to be. I have many hopes and goals for 2017, but my main intention is to be able to say at the end of it, “what a difference a year can make.”
I was brought up feeling ugly. Not from my mum (primary care giver) but from other close relatives whom I looked up to greatly. I developed a sense of inexistent worth and it stayed with me all through my teens and my early twenties. My mum is a rock and I love her to bits (despite what she might think), just the other day herself, my sister and I were having our girly chat and she said in summary;
“I never reinforced your confidence because I was so sure you had it, it was like I didn’t need to. I don’t know how you lost it.”
It really got me thinking about how important it is to receive praise. Now I feel like I’m quite a confident person, I’m not afraid to try new things; I stand up and speak out for myself and others, although time has taught me to pick my battles, but her comments did strike me a little. Some say that it’s not how you see yourself but how others see you; it makes sense as in day to day life you’re dealing with others not yourself.
I want to take you guys on a journey, back to my teenage years, one of the most awkward times of your life. You are transitioning from an individual that decisions are practically always made for you to having to make relatively important ones on your own. You’re finding yourself, growing into yourself. I was a bit of an awkward teen, dark skinned, a bit heavy and I wore glasses! I kind of grew into this acceptance of not being the prettiest or the loudest or the most intelligent and that was okay for a while, or so I thought.
Looking back at it, I can see that if I had more confidence within me, there are MANY decisions that I would have probably done better with. The older I got, the more I could see that the lies that were fed to me by peers, teachers, aunties were exactly that – lies. You know when you wear shoes that are too small for you? That is how I began to feel with my whole being. I grew so uncomfortable in my own skin.
I see how confidence can be broken down over time. I’m currently training as a teacher and it’s the same thing all over again! Thankfully I’m older and can handle it a lot better than I did as a teenager. I know myself and I know what I am good at and what I can handle, despite what other people may think or say.
I thought I’d write this just in case there was anyone out there who has gone through or is going through times when they’re made to feel a little less special than they truly are!! To thine own self be true.
I was vacationing with my family in my home country (Jamaica) and we were at the beach. My two cousins (both younger than I am and both way lighter in complexion than me) were playing in the sand. My cousin, who was around 8, said “Let’s play mermaids!” I got so excited and of course responded with much anticipation and joy.
My cousin then turned to me and told me that I couldn’t play. I was so confused and asked her “why?” Her response was “mermaids aren’t dark skinned.” I was so hurt. I think out of all of the times in my life that I had been left out or overlooked because of my dark skin that this was the first time that it had actually hit me like a ton a bricks. I NEVER expected to hear that. Now, this wasn’t my first time experiencing colourism but I felt like I had just been shot. I began to cry… I really didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want them to see me crying. It just hurt me so bad that my brain couldn’t even form a proper response. So I got out of the water and sat in the sand.
The crazy part is I’m 20 years old now and I have never told anyone, not even my cousins, just how much that ignorant comment affected me and my self-image. Isn’t it crazy how one small sentence or experience can just instantly destroy the view you have of yourself. Luckily, today I have never felt more beautiful in my skin. I’ve never been prouder of being dark. I feel radiant. I don’t care what anyone says. I can be a mermaid. I can be free. I am beautiful.
To all the women of colour being made to feel like there is no place for you amongst the sea of mermaids, there is a place for you here. Black mermaids do exist and we are so BEAUTIFUL.
As we are approaching the end of the year, I look back at the last 10 months in astonishment and amazement. I have never been one for reflection which is probably the reason why I am finally settling down into my career in my late 20s. I am learning to accept the truth about who I am and find my feet and place in the world. This year I made the decision to take ownership. Take active accountability and responsibility for my happiness and well-being. No matter how hard I may get pushed down; I HAVE to get back up! I have shocked myself with the strength that I have within. I have really come to understand the way in which God works WITHIN you as opposed to Him being a separate entity from yourself working on your behalf. That is how I used to see Him. I feel like a grown up, but at the same time as a real child of God who has been humbled into truth these last 10 months.
I have come a long way from the pathetic woman earlier on this year who was desperately and hopelessly trying to hold on to an imagined love out of pure fear. I have come even further from the young lady that has a pre-conditioned annoying voice of self-pity and disgust that often and randomly pops up every now and again. It has taken 3 pilgrimages; oceans of tears; honest conversations; spiritual guidance; true self forgiveness; late nights and early mornings; constantly reminding myself of my goals and my drive, to get to where I am right now. This has all just taken place in the last year! I am no longer running with the clock that society has tried to infringe on me; but striding at my own pace! I have clear vision. I know where I want to go and what I want to do now more than ever and it is such an amazing feeling – sitting in true peace. My path is God-set. That is how you grow. That is how you evolve.
I have just lost two long term relationships (I’ll tell you guys the full details in another post!), and as sad as this may seem I feel a sense freedom. Like I can take a sigh of relief and exhale. There are no hard feelings but they had simply just passed their expiry date. I feel like as I get closer to God, closer to finding out who I am and what impact I want to have on the world, there is no point in forcing relationships with people that want different things from you and that is perfectly okay.
The best art is made during the hardest times. The times where you feel like nothing you do matters. Or the times where you don’t know if it’s you or the world but no one seems to understand you. Those are the times that we grow the most – the most memorable and awakening moments. These heartaches are the blessings in disguise that are always a surprise. That’s how I discovered vision for Black Girl Politics; it came to me in a dream. Black Girl Politics soon grew into a distraction for me; away from the world’s problems, and away from my own problems of living as a young black woman.
I felt like I had something to prove – a small thing, no bigger than my room, a tapestry background and a canon camera. At first it was just mine and my best friend thoughts and a camera. I wanted to help others; because that was the only way I could help myself.
The dream then became an idea in a notebook, a hobby, as well as the only thing that saved me from myself. The more toxic my life became, the more the show served as distraction – a coping mechanism for me. I grew closer to a lot of people during that time; with Tajah – the other half of the show and most importantly myself.
Everything is a process so we are taking production classes, preproduction, building a team, failing, and trying again. We recently uploaded our fifth video and we are still excited about how much more the show will grow.
At this point, the show is still a baby, in the fundamental stages. I have so many more visions for the show and have so much planned that sometimes I feel as though I’m not working hard enough for the people and fans.
I tie my identity so closely with the show because the future I see for it is a personal mirror of myself. It was born from a very broken hearted lost girl, wanting to help anyone she could, and to see what it is now really shows the happiness you can gain from growing pains. It’s important to know there’s always room for more growth, welcome change with a strong heart and don’t be afraid to take the risk of succeeding.
By Wilhelmina Simone.
Wilhelmina is the co-founder of Black Girl Politics, alongside Tajah Ellis. BGP is a show by girls, for girls, about girls. The show focuses on intersectional issues in relation to being black, being a woman and everything combined and in between.
There was something different about this summer, something strange permeated throughout the air as soon as we were set free from the cages (schools). The summer was unlike any I’ve had, because on the other side of the warm, and faded nights, was the call for change. Summer didn’t feel like forever this year, it felt like time would soon run out and I had to do everything in a lifetime within just a couple of months. My friends were moving off to university, and communication within relationships started to break down. We all became too busy, trying to out run the earth.
Nowadays my mind scurries around thoughts of whom I would evolve and become. I am constantly trying to edit and define the woman that awaits me. What form would I step into? The process of shattering the shells of my cocoon feels like both pain and perfection. I let go. I let go of all that I was, because those ways do not suit me anymore. I step outside and each day the winds are new, and the earth’s plates shift so I never step on the same ground twice.
I began working at an office at the end of summer. My body was forced out of partying at unholy hours to being in an office at working hours. It was strange being in an office all day, when my heart is so rooted to the sun. I felt deprived, and as I’d come out for my lunch break I was reminded of how to breathe again. I knew that working meant no longer going wherever the wind goes it meant strict structure. I had to wake up for 7am, and be back by 7pm. I felt my life slipping into a strict format of work, sleep, and repeat.
I hit the ground running and there is no time unless I make time. I begin to fill my mind with words that are not mine. Sound evades silence. Reflective thoughts seem foreign to me, as if they no longer run deep in my veins, so I cut and see if I still bleed. I want to know if I am still living or simply hovering in human dimensions, no longer elevated by my imagination. I have no interest in debates amongst men on futile issues; my only wish is to paint the skies with the angels, using any colour of the rainbow. We would soar above rain clouds and reason, because they’re known to clip angel’s wings.
I welcome new winds this autumn whilst trying to adjust to this adult life. I’ve always believed that growing up was a trick, and when you’re an adult you lose all your imagination, all your magic. Yet the autumn is known to bring new leaves, new goals and new gold and I maybe must leave my old self to become better.
I am evolving slowly by degree, into womanhood and learning what the term truly means. I begin to watch my mother through gawking eyes, wondering how she didn’t allow the world to turn her heart cold. I stare at her in awe of how she stands unapologetically in her rich and golden skin. Through her, I’m learning that we as women, come in multitudes, and I can be both beastly and beautiful. You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth, all your jewels are already inside you, and all you have to do is realize it. Recognize that to be wild is to be wonderful, and to truly be yourself is to start a new revolution. Lately I’ve been telling myself that it’s okay often. I breathe in mistakes but I learn with each out breath. I am not afraid of being a wanderer, who hasn’t quite yet figured it out, and is still walking on the edge of life. Theories on life and evolution are multiple, yet the process is simple. To evolve: You strip, you relax into new forms and you dance to new rhythms, then the earth welcomes the new you.