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  • Writer's pictureShana Gelisa (


Let’s get straight to it.

If you would’ve sat me down 15 years ago and told me I’d grow up to love every bit of my blackness, I would’ve called you a lie. Like most kids that age, I was young and dumb. I could discuss more than a few of my questionable decisions with you all, but right now I want to share my struggle with accepting who I was.

Back then I attended a predominantly white high school and found myself on the outside of every social circle. I managed to make one friend but between living in different neighborhoods and having different beliefs, it wasn’t enough for me to want to stand in who I was and be proud.

The struggle with self-identification continued as I tried to balance fitting in at school then coming home to a neighborhood where I felt the need to prove myself. And although we were always told to be grateful for the education, I couldn't help but resent my mom for putting me through that living hell.

Oftentimes we as adults downplay the impact of our childhoods and how they help shape the person we become (right, wrong, or indifferent). I know for sure that my mom did everything she could as a single mother and made sure my sisters and I wanted for nothing. That being said, I think she missed the mark on teaching the important life lessons every little black girl should know.

In an effort to protect my mother’s parenting, I always tip toe around the idea that my childhood could have been the root of some of my “stuff”. I can’t help but think if things would have been different if my mother spoke life into me at a young age.

Fast forward to being kicked out of private school I was now attending my local public school and struggling to fit in with my own people. I went from being one of the only black girls around to being labeled as too good for those who looked like me. How could I be so disconnected? My mother is a black woman from Brooklyn and my father is a black man from Mobile Alabama. What else did I need to understand that I was black?!

At this time I was the version of myself that I once considered an embarrassment. This person would say things like " That's why I'm not black" or " I don't watch BET (Black Embarrassment Television), all while making a conscious effort to distance myself from the very people who looked just like me. Imagine that.

I call it ignorance.

My therapist calls it a defense mechanism.

By now I am sure I'm not your favorite person, but it gets deeper.....

When I had my son, I would tell my then boyfriend and now husband that I did not want him to be perceived as black. I would dress him a certain way not knowing I was limiting him to what I considered “right”

So what changed?

The death of George Floyd. Not the deaths of the hundreds of other black men and women before but George Floyd's death specifically sparked the need for self-reflection. At the wake of the story I remember thinking this could have been my husband or even my son. I also remember thinking if I don't have these conversations to educate my children on their blackness I will be setting them up to doubt and be ashamed of themselves as I once was. I wasn't equipped for those character-building moments that were connected to what I looked like, how I dressed and wore my hair.

For the first time ever, I shared my struggles with my friends expecting judgment and stares and honestly, I deserved it. Instead I was met with love and acceptance.

Everyday since I've been learning to love every bit of my melanin. Having three girls that look up to me I owe it to them. I make it a point to pour into my children so they understand the power of the color of their skin and have an abundance of love for themselves.

As I continue to unpack the layers and forgive myself of my past behaviors, I find joy knowing that if it wasn’t for my struggle I wouldn’t have realized the importance and the magic of being a black girl.

I challenge you whether you are a person of color or not to pour into your children positive words of affirmation. The greatest love of all is love of oneself and it starts at home.




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