By: Cheyenne Baltimore
Loving my skin didn’t just happen in a day, a week, a month or a year but it took a developing lifetime of self-love and identity of not just myself but my culture. I used to spend my time focused in the old mirror of my grandparent’s bathroom, scratching my skin as if it were some scab or excessively washing it with Luke warm water and foam soap like it was dirt.
Back then my self-confidence was slim to none and slim had just left town. My dark chocolate skin seemed like a sin compared to the other pale girls in my grade who would lay out on their lawns soaking the sun rays tanning to a golden crisp as the Californian sun would beat on the back of my neck. In the past, I would not deny that i love tan skin more than my black skin. My culture meant nothing to me just as my skin and I began the road of self-hate.
Simple minded comments my classmates would make to me that should have flown way past my head and nappy hair stayed and crept into my ears at night. “I don’t like black girls.” “Why are you so dark?” “Do you tan?” “Is that a weave?” Each word made me cringe and stand in front of the mirror a little longer, with a saddened look on my face because I didn’t know what to do.
My voice was meek when it came to answers. A simple “I don’t know”, would quietly creep itself past my lips in a small voice. I was stuck with this skin and no one liked it not even me. I used to stay up late at night, my head under the blankets and my body curled up, I would ask myself and to anyone who could hear “Why was I this way?” Why was I the only black girl in my 5th grade class?
At home I had a small collection of dark skinned Barbies that looked somewhat like me, I felt like this was all I had. I would comb and brush their hair till it would nap up like my hair. I’d admire their dark clear complexions without even noticing it. Representation is a small thing that can make a big impact.
I remember my brown eyes hidden behind my thick glasses watching the TV screen as Zendaya twirled and danced on the newest Disney channel show “Shake It Up”. Her dancing skills were not the only thing I noticed, but her skin tone, a perfect shade of brown just like mine.
As days went on and the show continued I began to notice other black females with large impacts, especially the one I had always looked up to and always wanted to be like ,Beyonce. Shaking and shimming on a stage with all eyes to see, her confidence level was bigger than I could ever imagine. Other black beautiful females made me see that my skin was no burden, but a blessing. A blessing I would later cherish wholeheartedly.
Dear black girl, if you have begun to love your skin already you are halfway there, but as for you other beautiful black women out there, today is the day to love your skin no matter the shade. Your skin was crafted from delicate hands and bronzed to the perfect color. The comments that are thrown at you will bounce off your gorgeous skin and you will find a way to turn into a positive.
You’ll find the ones that love your skin just as much as you. Some days it isn’t as easy as it looks. It can be especially hard with the lack of representation of black women in media today and even though I have a few low days I always have days where my melanin shines through hateful comments and my beautiful skin radiates like no other.
Thank you to all the influential black women who raised our voices to the public, to the black women who were unfazed by the demeaning comments thrown at us. Thank you to all the black women who made us strong our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters. I guess you could say it wasn’t just one day I decided to love my skin, but a collection of moments and memories bad and good that made me realize my skin was a precious gift. I hope the following weeks will be a period of beautiful transformation of self-love for you beautiful black girl.