I came across this spoken word poem this past week and thought it would be the perfect way to end my colorism blogging journey. It was performed at the 18th Annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival last summer, and the transcript was posted at the end of last month on another blog site.
From being the brunt of childhood jokes to skin bleaching and being afraid of the sun to hashtag feuds between light skin and dark skin individuals, this poem profoundly highlights some of the same manifestations of colorism I have discussed in my blog this semester. And it also includes some topics I did not have time to discuss, such as police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the infamous Rachal Dolezal. It is powerful — take a second to watch.
The most poignant line for me was “Not recognizing your beauty was just me, trying to reject that same beauty in myself. I was told it was my responsibility to lighten the legacy.” This line has been my colorism journey, and I am so glad that I have had the opportunity this semester to face it, to challenge it, to continue to conquer it. While I was never directly told it was my responsibility to “lighten the legacy” from my family, I definitely felt that messaging from the media and society in general. But it is ridiculous and it needs to stop. The infighting needs to stop. The self-hatred needs to stop. Because if it continues, we cannot fight back against the system that seeks to keep us all down. But if communities of color and our allies join forces, I truly believe we can, as the poem states, do some real damage.
As I listened to the poem, I recalled a picture of my family that we took a few years ago at my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. This is my family on my mother’s side. Her parents are in the front. My mom is next to them on the left. Her older sister is the one in the front row on the right. Her younger brother and sister are right behind my grandparents. My dad is next to me in the second row and my aunt (married into the family) is across from him on the right. The younger looking people are me, my sister and all of our cousins. All of us, except for my uncle’s wife, identify as Black. Look at us. Look at all the shades. I repeat the poem. We are a celebration. We are beautiful. In these shades. In our shades.