Every morning and many evenings, my daughter and I read a story about a sweet and spunky little African American girl and her many-hued brown pals.
And when we get to the story’s refrain, I whip out a hand mirror, hold it to my daughter’s face, and together we shout:
“I’m a pretty little black girl.”
Our ritual is designed to help her radiate self esteem and confidence, for far too often negative images and messages dim pretty little black girls’ lights.
I’d like to think these daily sessions are helping my daughter develop a positive sense of self as she operates in an environment in which she is often the only little black girl.
The lessons are simplistic…for now.
But the concept of what it means to be “a pretty little black girl” becomes complicated later in life when what we see reflected in the mirror contradicts what is sometimes projected onto us.
Where we see spunk and spirit, sometimes others see boisterousness and the sass of someone who doesn’t know her place.
If we speak up, we are loud.
If we speak out, we are angry.
If we remain silent, we are sullen.
If we push back, we are aggressive.
If we step back, we aren’t team players.
If we advocate for ourselves, we are troublesome.
If we declare our right to be respected, we have attitude.
Successfully navigating such a thorny path takes skill, perseverance, and not a small degree of luck.
Sometimes we lose a bit of our shine along the way.
When this has happened to me, I pause and regroup. I seek solace from mothers and sistahs–both biological and those whose bonds were forged through friendship.
They know the core of me and hold a mirror to my face to remind me of who and whose I am.
Then I can once again stride with confidence and declare “I am a beautiful black woman.”
And I am loved.