Disclaimer: This does not mean that I have anything against any other race. This post is dedicated to the self-discovery of the love I have for simply being me, someone who happens to be a black American. If you don't want to read all about it, feel free to close your browser now.
As odd as it may sound, I haven't always been comfortable saying the words you see above. I love being black! As I stood on the dance floor during an event at the 2016 NABSE, conference, I looked around the room, and the 3 words that came my mind were simple. I love being black! I love everything that comes with my blackness, from my smooth caramel skin to my curly hair and natural mix of intelligence and sass. I thank God that when he molded me, he decided to carve me out of African descent. As a 35-year- old woman, I can stand tall and say I am proud of my heritage. I'm proud of my rich history. I'm proud of those who have come before me, paving the way for me and my children to be great. It truly amazes me when I look back over the rich heritage of African Americans in this country and the many things they endured to enable me to be who I am today.
Growing up, my parents did what all good parents do, they worked to ensure their three children had the best. My childhood experiences were filled with all things God, academics, family, and fun. Often times, though, I found myself surrounded by people who looked different from me. You know what every single person on Earth does when they walk in a room. Well, I know what I do. I scan the room to see if there are people who look like me. I think most people do the same thing. I can remember many times when I was "the only black kid" in classrooms, at parties, in academic competitions, or simply in the room. While I am thankful for my upbringing that surrounded me with all walks of life, I can't help but to remember these events as I reflect to write this post. I remember looking at my friends and thinking, "How does she get her hair like that", or "I look so different from them". I don't have any negative memories from being surrounded with friends from every color of the rainbow, many of whom are more like family now, but it was during this time that I began to feel as if it may not be okay to be different. I began to feel a little uncomfortable in my own skin. I would stand in the mirror and look at my nose, thinking about how big and wide it was in comparison to my friends. I would look at my hair and wonder why id didn't flow and bounce like the girls I spent time with in class. At dances, I was the girl that was asked to dance to get advice on how to get "the girl". Everyone always wanted to know, "How did you get your hair to do that. "Over time, I accepted the fact that I would be the ONLY person of color in some classes. I would be the ONLY person of color at certain social events, and I would be the ONLY person of color in many of my networks. While I knew I would always be the only one, I can't say that I ever felt comfortable with this. I can't say that it ever felt okay. Over a period of time, it just became my normal. When I signed up for academic competitions, I didn't expect to see people who looked like me. When I received honors and awards along with other students, I didn't expect to stand next to other brown skinned students. Again, I was never mistreated or made to feel abnormal, but this just never felt okay.
Fast forward many years, and I was given the opportunity to work in a school district that has one of the largest African American student populations in the state of Texas. As odd as it may sound, I was in total culture shock. Yes, I knew many people of color who were professional and educated. As first generation college students, my own parents served as perfect examples of this in our home. However, as an adult, I had never been surrounded by so many people who looked like me in a professional setting. The superintendent looked like me. The assistant superintendent looked like me, as did most of upper management and my campus principal. I was surrounded by professionals who looked just like me. For the first time, I felt as if I could exhale. I felt at home. It was such an amazing feeling.
As an educator, I take great pride in uplifting each and every single student, parent, and educator I am privileged to serve, regardless of their race, religion, lifestyle, or sexual orientation.....but that's not what I am reflecting on today. (Refer to the title of this blog!) I love being black! Oh, how I wish I knew this as a little girl. I wish I could go back in time to that little fourth grade girl taping down the sides of her nose in the bathroom trying to just see how she would look with European features. I would tell her she was beautiful. I would let her know the strength that came with her dark skin and curly hair. I would remind her of her rich path and the legacy of those who paved the way for her to enjoy the life she lived. I would give her a glimpse into her future, one surrounded with many who look like her and celebrate the same heritage.
I feel as if it is my duty, my job, my mission, to ensure each child I serve always has this feeling. The pure pride that comes from uplifting and serving those who look like you is pure joy. The feeling that comes from doing it alongside others who look like you is unexplainable. In an effort to uplift those around me, and help brown children love the skin they are in, would like to offer a bit of advice. While this post was written to celebrate my love for my heritage, I feel it is good practice for anyone making connections with their past.