All Articles Tagged "Medgar Evers"
As a child, I grasped on to the strengthened calf of my mother, to gain her attention, and pushed one of my storybooks into her hands. “Mommy, where am I in the book? Why am I not on the book?” My mother looked down at me confused, trying to understand what I meant. She glanced at the little white girls and boys parading through the pages. Still nothing. It wasn’t until looking through a bookstore and stumbling upon a book of children’s poems by Nikki Giovanni that she completely understood. On its cover a small chestnut boy accompanied evidence of her little girl, a grinning little brown female with pigtails and a fragmented smile. She brought the book home and handed it to me before bed. I was all beams and hope, “Mommy, I’m in the book! Look it’s me!”
I was three then. Of course, I didn’t understand the brevity of my plea. However, my mother was in awe. She became enthralled in portraying our culture’s prevalence on anything I played with after that. The dolls she purchased were always heavy beige or smooth caramel, the pale Santa ornaments that adorned our Christmas tree were painted brown, and the paintings that laced our walls boasted proud African-American faces. My favorite book became a compilation of poetry with a wide spectrum of verse. My parents and I flipped through pages of everything from Robert Frost to Gwendolyn Brooks.
Our shelves were adorned in us. The smell of their collegiate days sifted through the dust of texts waiting to be read. My knowledge of Medgar, Malcolm and Martin wasn’t minimized to a few paragraphs in my grade school textbooks. I was able to hear the cracking of spines and witness the brown of pages as I broke open their histories, pulled from the bookcases of my family.
I grew into my skin. Proud.
I never had the phase of trying to eradicate my blackness: A cousin who tried to bleach her chocolate skin bereft of the honey complexion her brother’s wore. Friends who giggled and laughed at the Kente cloths and cowry shells of our newly transplanted African classmates. The immature clucks and clicks of a faux language, typical of movies that mimicked the beautiful diaspora’s urbanity, ignorantly dismissing that their primary language was English.
My mother delved further than most parents were willing to. She didn’t just purchase things with white features painted a dull Crayola russet. She taught me broad lips, big bones, Aida, Langston, Alvin Ailey, curves, Zulu, Harlem, blues, Chicago and so much more. While my classmates were trying to mold themselves into a vision of what society said was beauty, I was trying to accentuate my blackness.
I devoured minority authors in my waking hours, spit poetry about our significance, and attended an HBCU. Many argued that the heavy immersion would leave me bereft of well-roundedness. They were wrong. I memorized Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, downloaded Maroon 5, Limp Bizkit and eventually grew into the idea of sporting a ton of American Eagle and Abercrombie. I was as well-rounded as they came.
It’s our responsibility to build our child’s self-esteem through cultural reflection and understanding. By encouraging their faces on things they’ll confront every day, we show them that we exist. Because of my mother’s persistence, I walk and breathe with pride. I have embraced my culture in ways that brown children, all over, will never get the chance to. Our next generation isn’t lost for we hold the key to their most pivotal characteristic: understanding.
Imagine, my mother bought me a series of books written by women with my skin and today I’m on the journey to becoming one of those distinguished ladies. Destiny.
“RivaFlowz” is a teacher and professional writer living in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter: @rivaflowz.
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