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Historically, Black women have continuously been ridiculed and objectified for the natural state of their bodies, from head to toe.

Upon the release of the new live-action version of Disney’s The Lion King, Beyoncé blessed the world with an accompanying album. The Lion King: The Gift beautifully combines R&B, hip-hop, and Afrobeats, and includes one song in particular titled “Brown Skin Girl” — which opens with sweet-voiced Blue Ivy Carter singing the hook and is a celebration of dark-skinned women.

Let me say that again… dark-skinned women. (Because, yes, colorism exists in the African-American community).

The song sparked such a grand response for its empowering lyrics that it birthed its own hashtag #BrownSkinGirlChallenge. For many, the song was a no-brainer, direct message to a specific type of woman, with darker, deeper brown skin. For others, who joined the challenge by posting their photos, it seems they skipped over the specific cues in the lyrics and only listened to the hook to celebrate themselves.

Beyoncé is deliberate in her intention by mentioning beautiful brown beauties Lupita Nyong’o, Naomi Campbell, and Kelly Rowland in the lyrics of the song.

She added to her specific pigment description by saying “melanin too dark to throw her shade.” For those of us with basic knowledge of the parts of speech, we know that the word “too” is an adverb that emphasizes the adjective “dark” to create a stronger sense of the darkness being referred to.

To break it down: Mathematically, that “too” would more than likely be represented as a power symbol on top of a number to show that the number is to be multiplied to equal something of greater value. Extra. More. Additional. This degree of melanin is specifically devoted to women who are often berated for their Blackness, women who represent African ancestry and heritage and are mocked for it.

This song is for those Black women. That doesn’t mean that other Brown-skinned ladies can’t get down… it just means the song isn’t about them. After-all, this is The Lion King. This is Africa.

“I love everything about you/ from your nappy curls to every single curve/ your body natural./ Same skin that was broken be the same skin takin' over,” Beyoncé sings.

Historically, Black women have continuously been ridiculed and objectified for the natural state of their bodies, from head to toe. Nappy was used as a derogatory word to describe the texture of Black hair that is naturally coarse, tightly coiled/curled, and considered unkempt; it was used to show inferiority and a symbol of ugliness.

Nowadays, Black people who choose to wear their hair naturally are often subject to being kicked out of school or fired from their place of employment. In April 2018, Black news anchor, Brittany Noble-Jones, was fired from her job as a Mississippi news anchor because she refused to straighten her hair after she was told that it was “unprofessional.” This year, New York City and California passed laws against natural hair discrimination.

One of the final reminders of who this song pays homage is the lyric, “Your skin is not only dark, it shines, and it tells a story.” The evidence is clear that this song is representative of the systemic existence of color privilege. This topic, that has been thoughtfully tackled by Black-millennial roundtable show The Grapevine TV, is an ongoing conversation that requires fewer people inserting themselves and more people willing to listen and understand the impact of color privilege's brutality.

Beyoncé, a fair-skinned Black woman, made a song that puts her in the background and centers dark-skinned women in the foreground. It is a celebratory ode to the kind of Blackness that is often dismissed, disrespected, and ridiculed. It is not specific to every hue, but for the Black women whose skin is full of melinated magic and hasn’t been given the floor or stage of acceptance. Maybe we should all accept the song as it is and who it was made for.

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The "Go Back"
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Way before that tweet last Sunday, I had been planning to “go back” to the place from which I came.  As a matter of fact, that’s what they’ve been teaching all of us at my high school here in South Central Los Angeles:  “If and when you make it, you have a responsibility to ‘go back’ and help out the community.”

But what if I’m already here?  Shouldn’t I be able to “help fix the totally broken and crime infested” neighborhood I wake up in, go to school in, and am trying to get up out of only to “go back” to once I get my college degree?   

Either way, I’m writing this to let everyone know that no matter who says it, or tweets it, or believes it, or doesn’t…  the “go back” is what people of color do. And regardless of its racist origins or intent, the true essence of “going back” is uniquely American.  You see, without the opportunity (even if it’s sometimes just being lucky) that this country affords, kids like me wouldn’t even consider the possibility of a “go back” as a part of my life.  Instead, I imagine we’d all feel stuck — kinda’ like those people from those sh*thole countries, I guess.

But because I love America, and I believe in its infinity, my dream is to be like Robert SmithGo back, and give back.  Now I’m not sure if my family is eight generations deep from slavery like his is, but I’m positive that when someone is willing to “put a little fuel in your bus,” a lot more of America becomes possible.

So, I’m making Sunday’s tweets my fuel.  And my bus, like Kamala’s, is taking me from here to a neighborhood near you sometime soon.  

When I get there, I’m asking that we do it a little differently than how it was done before.  Because, I listen to those Malcolm Gladwell podcasts, and I’ve seen that Lester Maddox interview with Dick Cavett, and I know that on the road to becoming an American like Mr. Smith, I’m bound to have a few Jim-Brown-Moments along the way.

But weeks like this one are preparing me for my metamorphosis.  I watch CNN and Fox News shout at each other about the same biggots Governor Maddox and Cavett threw down about, and I can’t help but feel like Jim Brown in the middle of two warring White Folk — small and overlooked, yet situated precisely in the chasm being debated and distorted.

The irony, of course, is that where I live, in the space between, we don’t even have cable television, let alone watch it.  Our news comes from Black Twitter, and voices like Charles Blow, Jemele Hill, and those shining light on what W.E.B. Du Bois was writing about in THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK back when Robert Smith’s family was a mere four generations deep in the American experiment:

One ever feels his twoness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

No wonder Jim Brown is so outwardly calm, then.  There’s a war going on inside of him. A war that defines his Blackness as it does my patriotism.

So, as America keeps having this “Go Back” Moment, I’m gassing up my bus for the ride ahead.  I’m headed to the North, and the South, the Mid-West, and the East Coast. But, ultimately, my plan is to end up right back here in South Central Los Angeles. 

Because the “go back” is what people of color do…  Regardless of who tweets what.

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I’m not sure if you guys get it.

I’ve spent, literally, all day watching and reading about all things Coco Gauff, and most of what you Twitter and Media folks are writing about is kinda’ missing the point as far as I and my Instagram feed are concerned.

You think Coco is an inspiration for girls like me because she’s young, and Black, and potentially the second-coming of Serena.  (Which is all true.) But then you mistakenly go on to talk about her talent, and her parents’ support of her dream by way of moving their family from Georgia to Florida, and by then I’m lost.

That’s not why I care about Coco.  That’s not why I went to the library this weekend and printed the pic below from Google Images to paste on my wall at home:

Coco is a role model to me and my friends not just because she looks like us, but because she IS us.  She’s a Black Girl (capital B, capital G). She knows, more than most of y’all tweeting about her tennis prowess, that the only way to refer to Beyoncé’s mom is as “The Miss Tina.”  She also knows that while many in the media are talking about her being the youngest to reach the Round Of 16 at Wimbledon since Jennifer Capriati, Coco is leaving the U.K. after today’s loss to Simona Halep with $233,500 in prize money.  (Shout out to Newsweek for sourcing the kind of info lots of us Black Girls care about: https://www.newsweek.com/coco-gauff-wimbledon-how-much-earn-ranking-1448076)

Look, I’m not going to grow up to be Coco Gauff.  Aside from being raised in South Central Los Angeles and not having the resources Coco has already had access to over her brief 15 years, I’m just a foster kid doing the best I can to string together some family structure with the cards I’ve been dealt in my life. There’s no dad like Corey Gauff in my life.  And there probably never will be.


But that’s okay… because what inspires me about the Coco Gauff phenomenon is not that I can be like her, but that she is already in so many ways just like me.  A Black Girl who flips out when Jaden Smith @’s her on Twitter.  A girl of color who knows that comments like “Bro I wanna play like you” on your Instagram story are the highest form of social media praise possible.

Coco Gauff is an inspiration because she’s showing the world the same thing I would show if everyone suddenly cared about how good me and my friends are at braiding hair.  That we’re Black. And we’re real. And given the same opportunity and resources, we can do absolutely anything.

That’s why on this day when the fuzzy ball Coco hits happened not to go over the net as many times as she hoped for, I’m calling on all Black, Brown, and students of color across the United States to make college access their own personal tennis ball… and to do everything they can in school to train for a Bachelor’s Degree.  

From getting good grades, to taking rigorous AP and Honors classes, to studying for the ACT and SAT, the more we can be like Coco and get up out the hood where others can see us, the more we can inspire youth in our communities of origin to do the same.  

It is for that reason that Coco is a phenomenon.  Because you see her as we do. As a Black Girl.


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