I have the type of melanin that presses buttons. I have the type of melanin and facial structure that pushes people to ask unsettling questions, like: What are you?
Are you Black or are you African?
How are you a brown-skinned Muslim but you sound White?
One can imagine how hearing questions like these on a weekly basis for years can cause some cognitive dissonance. For years, I have dealt with the constant internal and external battle of not being the “right kind” of Black. Colorism is real. I essentially developed a complex about how I looked and associated this with my value as a person, which is demoralizing.
The truth is that I spent too much time subconsciously worrying about how to assimilate in order to gain the approval of people, who ultimately have no power over me.
This is why I am so grateful to be a part of the Calvin Klein #ConfidentInMyCalvins campaign. Representation amongst the masses is extremely important for the quality of life of all people, especially people who are consistently marginalized. Visually seeing yourself as a part of the larger whole, not just as a prop or faded in the back is empowering. I would have never dreamed of a brand making space for someone who looked like me.
The truth is that I spent too much time subconsciously worrying about how to assimilate in order to gain the approval of people, who ultimately have no power over me. So many years wasted as I read the latest magazines on how to be “beautiful” only to find out that my braids were trendy.
At this point in my life, I am tired. When a Black woman becomes tired, they mean it. I am tired of going back and forth about how others need me to show up in a world created by the most high with diversity in mind. My shape-shifting hair, brown complexion, slightly wide nose, thick hips, and lips are often imitated but could never be properly duplicated.
I am connected to a lineage of resilient ancestral prayers.
It is traumatizing to have ignorant rhetoric spewed at you because of how you look or where you are from. It is traumatizing to have your parents have the label of alien until they can become a citizen. It is traumatizing to have to constantly view images of people who do not look like you doing well, whilst your parents’ beautiful home land depicted as only a wasteland. This is why I choose to speak truth to trauma by way of song, and talk back to those who try to quiet my voice in public spaces about the beauty of African countries.
I am unapologetic about my Senegalese and Gambian roots because they are engraved with a substance that is sought after. I am connected to a lineage of resilient ancestral prayers. My people wore their Fulanni heritage proudly and I can not bring myself to dishonor them and their legacy by disassociating, by any means. Therefore, I embrace everything about my creative make-something-out-of-nothing mind because that is all I have to be connected to stories of my ancestors. I am living proof of the legacy running through my veins.
It is important for young Black boys and girls to see that their skin is nothing to be ashamed of and that their people’s story did not begin with slavery. This is why I am so grateful for the influx of creatives of color and brands providing true inclusivity in their marketing campaigns. If our young people continue to see this level of positive and intentional inclusion growing up, who knows who they could become.
This is a sponsored post.
Binta is a 1st generation Senegalese and Gambian singer-songwriter hailing from Chicago, IL. In addition to creating music, she is the Arts & Culture Manager for The Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). @bintasings | Instagram @_bintak | Twitter