We Too Are Beautiful

When I got to work Wednesday, I did what I normally do – got breakfast, checked my work emailed, moaned and groaned, then checked facebook. And that’s when I saw it. I was shocked, I was caught up in a ball of supernaturalrealness (not a word, but I’m just saying), and I was amazed. It happened. It really happened.

Princess Lupita, as I like to call her, was named People’s most beautiful person on Earth. And she deserves this title honey! But what’s bigger than that is a woman with chocolate skin like mines, like my daughters, like so many other brown babies out there, is being called THE MOST BEAUTIFUL on the cover of a magazine that’s not targeted to a Black audience. Like, out of all her peers, she was chosen. Her.

Now, my intention is never to make this a race centered blog, but it is a blog about being Johanna’s mama, and that means tackling many issues including the issue of our brown skin. This is rare. How many times have you seen a dark skinned Black woman be called the most beautiful in THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD, outloud, front and center, on a magazine? This doesn’t happen to or for us. I know that a lot of people take it for granted, seeing someone that looks like them validated in the media. Having their beauty affirmed, letting them know that they are gorgeous. This is not something that happens for us brown girls. It’s part of the reason that organizations like Black Girls Rock! exist. Not to say that Latinos, Whites, Asians, etc. don’t rock, because they do. However, African American beauty, especially of the darker variety, is rarely celebrated in this country.

I immediately shared the photo I saw, proudly posting it on my fb wall and declaring that I am going to print it off and frame it in my daughters room. And I will. I have the image saved on my computer and I am going to get that baby laminated and hang it high. It’s nice when you hear your parents say that you are beautiful, but that’s what they are supposed to say. A lot of times kids turn to the media for that validation. I want to show my daughter that yes, even the media says you’re beautiful too. It bothers me that me telling her how beautiful she is may not be enough, so I’m arming myself with as much evidence of her beauty as possible.

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Guest Post by Shereka Dunston: We’re Failing Our Youth

This is a guest post by Shereka Dunston. Shereka is currently a Stress Management Coach and an advocate for Sexual Assault Survivors. She is an author, blogger, mother and wife.
She has a book that you can buy at lulu.com and you can follow her on facebook here.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and according to rainn.org, someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes in the United States. Our children are at the greatest risk of being victimized. One in three girls and one in seven boys will survive sexual violence before the age of 18, and adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 are 3.5 times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault than the general population.

I was a 16-year-old virgin the first time I was raped. I was on a school field trip when my best friend told our classmate that I would sleep with him. I tried my best to convince my classmate that I didn’t want to have sex, but he thought I was lying. On February 28, 2003, my best friend left our hotel room door unlocked so that my classmate could slip in while I was asleep to assault me.

My life changed that day: I withdrew from my friends and the activities I was once enjoyed, I stopped eating, I slept more, I became angry and bitter, and I decided that I would mistreat people before they’d have a chance to mistreat me. I became the mean girl, and I played that role until my junior year of college.

Then a few weeks before my 20th birthday I was introduced to my second rapist. He was friends with my closest male friends, charismatic, and funny. He was also a thug. He was not my type, but he convinced me to give him a chance as my boyfriend. As soon as our friends weren’t around he told me that I was his female and it was my job to please him. My new boyfriend raped me repeatedly over the course of 48 hours.

Once again my life changed. Instead of being bitter and angry, I was scared of the world. I was afraid to leave my apartment, I stopped going to class, I quit my on-campus job, and I was frequently absent from my off-campus job. Thankfully, many people noticed the change in my behavior and I disclosed to them. A good friend told me about counseling services for victims of sexual assault on our campus and this time around I decided to seek help.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in counseling. Over the years I’ve gone to individual and group therapy, self-medicated with alcohol, endured daily panic attacks, and suffered in silence. My aunt’s murder at the hands of her boyfriend on March 14, 2012, prompted me to stop living in shame and to start living on purpose. I started by rededicating my life to Christ and living His will for my life.

I am now certified life coach, a certified stress management coach, a teen mentor, a self-published author, and an advocate for sexual violence and domestic violence victims at the Durham Crisis Response Center. My responsibilities as a volunteer include sharing my story, training new volunteers on self-care techniques, and facilitating community education and prevention workshops for teens.

I’ve heard all sorts of things from adolescents who think they’re grown, but have no idea how to handle adult situations. The phrases I hear most often are: “No doesn’t always mean no,” “Girls aren’t supposed to seem easy, so they have to say ‘no’ first,” “You can tell by a person’s body language if they really want to do it,” “You don’t have to ask to touch or kiss someone that you’re dating,” and “If I ask someone to the prom they automatically know we’re having sex afterward.”

These children have no idea what consent is, and they believe that certain behaviors are expected in dating relationships, whether they or their partners are willing participants or not. I see so much of myself and my abusers in the children I encounter while volunteering, which causes my heart to ache.

Many of us adults are failing our youth because we don’t feel comfortable talking about sexual violence. When we fail to educate our young people, we set them up to become victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. It’s time for us to step out of our comfort zones to teach the next generation about healthy friendships and relationships because if we don’t teach them what’s right, they’ll learn what’s wrong from experience.

It’s Actually Happening…

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Remember back in February when I wrote that entry about the show I auditioned for and was blessed enough to be chosen for? Well, it’s happening. It’s really happening! I’m so excited and nervous! It’s less than a month away. This is amazing! In anticipation of the show cast spotlights are done on the LTYM website and I am the final spotlight! Please take a moment to check it out here and support the show in your town (they’re all happening on different dates). The DC area show is May 4, 2014 at 2pm, Synetic Theatre in Crystal City, VA. You can get tickets here. I hope to see you there!

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Raising a Dark Girl – Revisited

I have had wonderful discussions on here, twitter, and my personal facebook account that spawned from my blog post on introducing your children to the word “race” and all that it means. What I found was that many were unaware of what colorism is. I found this wonderful definition of it on about.com:

Definition: Colorism is a practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. In the African-American community, this traditionally played out via the paper bag test. Those lighter than the standard paper lunch bag were allowed entry into fraternities, sororities and other realms of black upper class life, while dark-skinned blacks were excluded. The Spike Lee film “School Daze” is an exploration of colorism.

In June of 2013 I wrote a post about raising a dark skinned child and colorism based off of the documentary Dark Girls. I am reposting it here and if you have any comments I would love to keep the conversation going. It may not effect you directly, but it may affect how you treat others.

Holy and Chic Mama

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Sunday night I sat up until 1am full of emotion, mostly sad. Other words I could use are disgusted, appalled, angry, hurt, and confused. Like many other Black women in America, I watched the documentary by Bill Duke, Dark Girls, on OWN. This documentary expatiated on the prejudice that apparently many dark-skinned women face in the African American community. Actually, it also discussed how women from various nationalities face this very same prejudice amongst their own.

At the end of the documentary a lot of people on “Black twitter” simply shrugged and yawned saying “Well, that was nothing new. I lived that. I needed something more, something deeper”. I thought it was a great first step, opening the door for even more dialogue on the topic of colorism. Also, for this dark girl, it was something new. I knew colorism existed. The extreme to which it existed I did not…

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