Issues

Too Pressured to Be Carefree

By: Melcina Martin

“Long Live the Carefree Black Girl”

We’ve all heard the lovely expression: “Carefree black girl.”  It invokes feelings of melanated lightheartedness. We imagine beautiful smiles tied into impeccable fashion and trinkets of embellishments that make us stand out a crowd as we are parting it. These are the women of envy for many, looking as though they have no cares in the world.

A carefree black girl is one who takes on the world with a sense of self-worth and awareness, one who carries herself with a confidence that cannot be shaken under ordinary circumstances and of course, that aforementioned fashion sense that is bound to turn heads and change minds.

But what happens when we are too worried to be carefree? What happens when the reality of the genocide of our people is right outside our doors? When we are stuck around love and decisions are weighing our mind and hearts. When little black girls are filled with self-doubt? What will happen to the carefree black girl in a world full of worries?

The art of life, the heart of fashion, the roots and culture… Women have been the backbone of families and communities since the beginning of humanity. We rely on the elders for guidance and we look to the youth for inspiration. But it seems as though the dynamic of black womanhood has been losing its roots and foundations.

Ask yourself, what has changed? The pressures of society, for one, have changed. As black women we endure a lot of backlash regarding our appearance. We are now, too skinny, too fat, too light, too dark, etc. and this is taking a toll on most of our self-esteem.

We deal with seeing images of non- women of color glamorized with lip injections and other body enhancements that we constantly get ridiculed for and think of the effect that this has had on the black women’s psyche over time. It is sending us a message that we are not good enough. I have battled with insecurities my whole life. Never feeling like I was pretty or that I would amount to much because that was the imagery I was exposed to and was never reassured otherwise. So I thought that was just the deck I was dealt and had to play with.

Then I learned about self-love, what it truly means to love yourself and I’m still learning but my point is that I learned how to become my own dealer and that was exactly what I needed to play the game my way! So if we can shuffle our cards us, we can turn cultural appropriation into power instead of shame. We can ignore the voices and images, in confidence, which tells us that we are less than what we know we are.

The fact that we have so much “juice” (a term of credibility & finesse) that others would want to try and duplicate, we should be flattered right? Wrong! In this instance, imitation is not a form of flattery, but it can be a reminder that there isn’t anything wrong with the way that we look but merely something the world doesn’t want to see in living color.

We are originals and THAT is our superpower. We can’t be carefree if we continue to view ourselves as second hand or copies but we most certainly can be carefree knowing that we are the innovators and not the duplicators (flips hair).

Sirens down the street, flashing lights outside your windows, a mother’s scream and news reports of the next black person’s name soon to be a hashtag at 11… stay tuned! When I started to care what was actually happening to my people, when the blinders came off and I was introduced to the injustices constantly plaguing us, it was gut wrenching and the blows just kept coming. Before, I was perfectly happy in my world of blissful disregard.

I had that, “Well it’s not affecting me or anyone I know” syndrome. But I didn’t realize then that my people are an extension of myself and we are all responsible for one another, that is how our ancestors survived as I’m sure we have also heard the expression, “It takes a village.” It was then that I realized that I wasn’t carrying a burden in my knowledge but a tool.

I was carrying a tool that could help me raise awareness, one that could amplify my voice and not have it remain silenced because I was not aware that I could use it nor afraid to! The overwhelming sadness that had enveloped my heart knowing society’s views on the black woman, as if they had us all figured out, was being drowned out by the fact that I, little ol’ me (or little ol’ you) I can do something about it no matter the scale. We all have an instrument in our voices and I think it’s high time we used them again, don’t you?

We all face challenges but black women have been facing the some challenges for centuries and we continue to flourish! So what will become of the “Carefree Black Girl” who is too worried to be carefree? She will be reminded by other carefree black girls who also manage the burdens of everyday life enhanced by being a black woman in this day and age, that her ancestry is royal in its origin. We will re-inspire and invoke the flames to rekindle!

You see, we are able to be carefree because we share an unspoken bond as black women. Without even having to speak to one another we can draw inspiration from another eclectic, artsy, melanin rich beauty. It is the energy that we exude that enables us. There will be no shortage of Carefree Black Girls on my watch! Every chance that I get I will see to remind us, “Excuse me beautiful black girl, I just wanted you to know that you are everything!”

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