Brown Skin Girl
The first time I heard 'Brown Skin Girl' by Beyonce, and I heard Blue Ivy sing the intro with such pride and confidence, laced with little hints of nerves in her tone, I remembering thinking '18 years too late'. Unrepairable damage had already been done. I had already spent my whole life suppressing the part of me Mrs. Carter was now encouraging me to celebrate. I already didn't know who I was or what I wanted to be. No matter how hard I tried, and it was a lot, I couldn't seem to give myself the validation or acceptance I so wanted to grant myself. So I tried to get it from other people. I can't pinpoint the exact moment in time I decided that suppressing my African roots would be the best way to fit in, but I do know that the consequences of this subconscious action were kind of, really devastating. The first time I heard 'Brown Skin Girl' by Beyonce, I thought '18 years too late'. The second time I heard 'Brown Skin Girl', I thought 'hmmmm. Maybe it's time I start celebrating myself like that'.
Down to some basics real quick. My name is Tyra. I am the big old age of 19. Now this next part, and I can't stress this enough, is of extreme importance. I am mixed race. My Dad is from sunny Scotland and my Mum is from the beautiful and breathtaking South Africa. From questions ranging from "no but like where are you REALLY from?" to "can I touch your hair?" to "you must be loving this heat, right?", annoyingly ringing in my ears again and again and a million more times after that, I was constantly reminded that this tiny little detail regarding my race was a massive contributing factor in how people would perceive me. it kind of felt like being mixed race seeped into every aspect of my life. Except my internal racially diverse roots were never the issue for most. The truth in the matter is that it's never our bloodlines that matter to people. It's the melanin that's produced from said bloodline that apparently seems to baffle some people. Like sis, you good?
The problem with trying to suppress your African heritage in a town in the North-East of Scotland where the population is 99% white, is that, not only are you still going to be one of the only kids of colour in your school, but you are now going to be one of the only kids of colour with more identity issues than times Trisha Paytas has been cancelled. Like really, I have to ask what the point was Miss Girl? If I could turn the clocks back and visit that little girl asking herself again and again, "why can't I have straight hair like my friends?" or "why can't my skin be a little lighter like everyone else's?" or ultimately, "why can't I just look more normal?", I'd tell her that she is so so wrong in her view of herself and the world she is going to grow up in. I'd tell her everything she need to hear to make her feel some sort of self-worthiness, so we could avoid the disheartening thoughts that would go through our head for the next decade. Growing up the way I did, around my Dad's family, my nearest Black relative besides my Mum living a thousand miles away, in a place where you're more likely to walk down the street and get shat on by a seagull than you are to bump into someone who looks like you, a sense of belonging kind of becomes like Boris Johnson's common sense. Simply not there. It's like you're at a constant battle with these two versions of yourself that exist within you. The version of you so desperate to identify with the white part of you has to accept, okay yeah, you are Black and white but you'll always be too Black for the white people, whilst the part of you that wants to indulge in your Black heritage doesn't really know how to. And then you start to feel out of place in every setting, wondering what it is that's wrong with you. From that not belonging, a devastating sense of self-loathing develops. All of a sudden, nothing you do is ever going to be good enough, and so you start setting the bar lower for yourself. You create fictional versions of yourself that you think people might like and find more interesting. You feel ugly and misshapen. See, I won't lie, I got a pretty thicc ass that I got from my Momma, and so I would do things like skip lunch and drink ungodly amounts of green tea in an attempt to deflate the situation. Like, literally deflate her. I only ever wore my hair tied back in a ponytail, in attempt to tame my afro, and would shoot the idea of braids dead whenever my Mum brought it to me. I was so fixated on getting a nose job because I felt mine was too big for my face. It got the point I wanted to be anyone except myself.
My Mum was a 20-year-old Black woman living in Cape Town on the 11th of February 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Until that point, she had been living under an Apartheid Regime, locking her and every other Black person in South Africa, in ancient patterns of discrimination and racism. The day Mandela was released from prison, was the day my Mum put a definition to the term 'Black Power'. In the face of adversity, she never saw her Black brothers and sisters give up on their fight. When the people of her village watched through windows and locked garden gates as white police tried beating the spirit out of their neighbours, Black South Africans didn't surrender. This only fuelled the fire in the pit of their stomachs. When my Grandmother had to hide the white children in her house, her own had been playing out on the streets with, they weren't disheartened. Instead, their hearts filled with so much sadness that it drove them to shout "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH".
For many Black people of the land, Mandela was the deliverance of freedom from the shackles of the Apartheid government. My Mum says that for Mandela, his Black people were the deliverance of the beginning of his journey to freedom. The real heroes of the story were the Black people who saw their beauty and potential and weren't going to let anyone take it away from them. The people who refused to be silent when faced with injustice. The people who were driven by the desire for a better future for the generations that would come after them. The people who even whilst experiencing oppression in the worst possible way were not afraid to shout "This is our land.This is Africa". The resilient and the restless and powerful and strong and passionate people I get to say I come from. It took my Mum years before she shared with me the true depths of our country's history and its battle with racism, but once she did, I knew being African meant being unafraid to embrace who you really are and so that's what I slowly began to do. I didn't get to this headspace without the support and encouragement of my nearest and dearest. This first post is dedicated to them. The real main characters.
Of course, there's the parents, the myths and the legends. Considering the type of world my Mum was brought up in, my parents love has always seemed so special to me. Without really having to use any words at all, the said "fuck the system" and "love is everything". I can't even begin to express what their togetherness means to me. Our whole lives, they've shown my sister and I what real love looks like, and encouraged us to settle for nothing less. Their supply of understanding and empathy is unlimited. They've built us up so we can meet everything we're meant to be, and I'll probably forever be in their debt because of it. At times, being so heavily involved in this Black Lives Matter movement has made me a real angry and unpleasant person to be around because of the wave of frustration and sadness that crashes into my heart. But they're always there reminding me that I am so much more than my emotions. They're two of my biggest supporters in life. Standing by me and trusting in every decision, and so if either of them pick up a bad vibe. Then I'm sorry sir, but I simply gotta pass on you.
So I guess it's a real good job they love these four DORKS I know.
Ailsa, Cara, Emily and Rhea. THE skinny legends. Some friends really do just be on that family level. I sometimes swear that if it wasn't for them, and us being able to openly discuss the things that no body else wants to talk about without our views clashing, the reemergence of BLM would've drove me insane by now. Sometimes, even now I think, am I really strong enough for this? Let me just tell y'all real quick about how they're the people that I love and why I'll rep them till I fully die. I have never met more accepting, kind-hearted, loving, incredible and funny human beings in my life. Even now that we're spread out across the country, and months can go by without us seeing each other, the love always stays right there. They don't look onto me as their black friend who they have to validate their wokeness because they know that they have to educate themselves, use their platforms for the greater good and consistently meed the criteria that's going to result in change. Like me, they don't believe in a world where everyone is not equal and that's why they're coming wherever I'm going. The energy I receive from them remains unmatched. I hope they're always happy because they deserve it more than anyone. I hope we stay a team for life. Y'all are people I can trust to continue with this fight one day if I'm not around. Every day I actively try and be more like each of you. I searched so long for the safe space that they are. I never really anticipated that a girl who continuously falls into bushes and runs into glass doors, and another who goes tumbling down the monumental hill in our small town, and another who makes a habit of getting kicked out of the club (lol she ain't even get in, y'all thought) and another who goes by the name Mrs. Fred Weasley, could take me so far in terms of self-growth. It's a whole ass bond y'all.
This is dedicated to the Black protesters, leaders, activists, families, brothers and sisters who BY ANY MEANS WILL FIGHT for human rights. They are who taught me to embrace the rich and diverse culture I come from. They taught me Black means beauty. Black means community. Black means family. They told me to throw my fist up in the air and show Black love. They showed me what we can overcome when we band together and perceive. They encouraged me to stand by them in this revolution. They told me you can't stay silent. Thing about the people and things you love. I take pride in everything that they've done. This is their story, we're all just a part of it.
I spent years in my own head trying to figure out where I stand in this movement. Today, I am so so proud of my Black heritage and I will never dilute that pride ever again. I wanted to create a space where I can share my opinions and views and promote Black Power and Excellence. I want to address issues such as racism, colourism, racism, feminism, homophobia etc, because I have remained silent for the last time. Dr King famously said "if a man has not discovered something he would die for, he's not fit enough to live". When I see the name of somebody's friend or brother or son to a heartbroken Mum, I think to myself how aren't people seeing the evil in this? How many more have to be murdered in cold blood before we can all agree that we're equal as people? What can I do as an individual to make a difference in this same old draining, defeating script? I know my family's history. I know how they struggled for civil rights. I know that it could be my uncle or cousin next. So unlike many, I will never become desensitised to the pulling of a triggering on an innocent Black life. My personal struggle doesn't even touch upon what some people go through every day. I'm not here to take away from Black struggle or even pretend to get it. All I want to do is help by drawing attention to the issues that no body wants to talk about. That very thought is what made this fight the something I would die for.
The 10 millionth time I listened to 'Brown Skin Girl' by Beyonce, I thought "let's make a blog. Who knows? Maybe it'll change someone's mind about themselves and their strength and their inner beauty in the same way Bey changed mine". Let's make this the start of something beautiful.