In Praise of Darker Hues


Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong’o

I’m very glad that Lupita Nyong’o was voted World’s Most Beautiful Woman! So proud to see a Dark Skinned Sister Honored in this Fashion.

I read her Oscar Acceptance speech reprinted in Essence Magazine. It certainly resonated with me. Even though I’m 25 years older than her and was raised in New York City I can still hear the taunts of “Tar Baby”, monkey, Black African (Black was not Beautiful in the 1960s) from my school-mates on the playground. Watu Wasuri Use Afro Sheen came much later in late 1970s. Still light skin was in. There was a saying I heard many times growing up, “If you’re light, you’re alright. If you’re brown still around. If you’re black get back.” From straightening combs to weaves the Self-hatred becomes internalized.

Weaves looking like Davy Crockett hats perched atop uneasy heads marching LocKstep with conformity. Multi-hued raccoons skipping across Jungle Fever Brows missing nesting material in which to snuggle Eurocentric brainwashing.

Even when I went into the U.S. Army my always thick, kinky and Knappy was called a Brillo pad. I was always made to feel so ugly usually by my own Black people. I expected whites to call me the “N” Word after all this was the 1960s and my parents who knew Jim Crow by heart prepared me for rejection as a Black girl in a white dominated society. In a way I was very surprised to hear that in a Black dominated/ruled society/country such as Kenya young Lupita experienced similar taunts, jibes and insults.

Many times I would come home from school crying. I hated my skin color and my hair texture. My father tried to soothe my broken spirit and build my self confidence by telling me, “The Blacker the Berry the sweeter the juice. If the berry’s too light it has no use.” I did feel better for a while but it was not until I was well past age 40 that I began to really appreciate being dark-skinned with coarse thick hair. For one thing now that I’m well past 50 all this wonderful melanin truly means, “Black Don’t Crack”. As for my hair menopause has removed the thick & coarse texture but I’m proud to wear my hair natural since age 36.  Over the years there were times when I battled a Eurocentric mindset but as I journey through middle-age and beyond I embrace and am one with my African heritage.

Yes Ladies, “Say it Loud! I’m Black and I’m Proud!”

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