I’ve always been black. I’ve always known it, too. But I haven’t always known how being Black would make my day-to-day and lifelong experiences a lot harder.
I grew up on the Southside of Chicago. When I was younger, I didn’t fully understand why Chicago was so segregated and why I lived in one of the lesser-kept parts of the city. I didn’t know that most American cities weren’t as segregated as mine. I also didn’t understand how much of a luxury it was to live in a community full of people who were Black, like me. Though television shows and magazines were damaging media sources for me due to non-representation of girls of color, I could still walk outside of my home every day and not directly deal with non-black people treating me negatively because of my ethnicity. But that changed when I arrived at The Ohio State University.
During my first month at Ohio State, my White roommate made it very clear to me that she did not want to have a Black roommate. She threatened me online and I had to make a lot of angry phone calls to housing services for her to be removed; they initially would not adhere to my request for a removal. This situation distracted me from my studies and made me feel unsafe. I felt that being a Black person was a burden because I had to constantly defend my identity before I could even become adjusted to my new living space. I began to refocus after attending counseling sessions, but I have still dealt with micro-aggressions from white students and professors on campus since.
On the first day of classes last spring, a professor of mine told me that I should place an accent over one of the a’s in my name so people would know how to pronounce it. I spent weeks trying to gain the courage to speak with her about how offensive her statement was, but I wasn’t able to address the incident with her before she began to routinely play in my hair in class. This invasion of space made me increasingly uncomfortable. Like my old roommate, I also had to take necessary steps to report this professor. After seeing her later, she persistently demanded that I tell her why I had left class early (after the third time she played in my hair). I felt disrespected, as I was not given adequate time to find how I could respectfully speak with her about how she’d been treating me. I had also developed anxiety because of my experience with this professor.
These situations have made me examine how I’ve repeatedly had to explain my blackness to white people in environments where I am an ethnic minority. I’ve had to go through traumatic experiences in predominantly white environments before I had even gotten the chance to thrive in these new places.
After months of examining my own experiences, I’ve found strength in other Black women on my campus who have shared their stories with me and have encouraged me to share mine. Sharing my stories have been a healing process and I hope to create the “Embracing My Blackness” series to continue to let go of the hurt and alienation I feel when dealing with non-Black people who blatantly and unknowingly say and do things that are culturally insensitive, and outright disrespectful, to people in the African diaspora.
Sharing my stories have been a healing process and I hope to create the “Embracing My Blackness” series to continue to let go of the hurt and alienation I feel when dealing with non-Black people who blatantly and unknowingly say and do things that are culturally insensitive, and outright disrespectful, to people in the African diaspora.
In my life’s work I hope to create media outlets for girls of color so they see themselves represented in all ways. Black women deserve to see themselves as more than just “the one black girl” that fulfills quotas for advertisements and commercials in media. My project will allow me to begin a journey in finding the exact ways that I want to shine a light on black women and girls’ power in society through digital media and print. Just as I want this project to show my subjects the beauty and power within themselves, I also hope it assists in my internal growth, and inspires more women to search for and embrace the beauty within themselves. I’d like “Embracing my Blackness” to aid me in moving beyond a place of uncomfortability and hurt, and into a place of love and unconditional acceptance of every part of who I am.
I’d like “Embracing my Blackness” to aid me in moving beyond a place of uncomfortability and hurt, and into a place of love and unconditional acceptance of every part of who I am.
I’m nervous, yet very very excited about this journey and I hope you are too.