Take Up Your Pen

#dearblackgirl: I am writing to you because I love you.

March 15, 2016

We received many, many beautiful letters for our #dearblackgirl campaign from women across the world. One of our favorite letters is written by the amazingly talented poet, artist, and activist Staceyann Chin. We are very grateful for Staceyann for using her platform lift up and participate in our campaign.

 

Dear Little Black Girl.

I am writing to you because I love you.

I do not say these words lightly. I understand the responsibility one assumes when one says, I love you, to a little Black girl. That means I will spend my whole life trying to make the world we live in a better place for you to be. So yes, I love you. I was once a little black girl myself. I remember longing for someone to say I love you to me. And for a long time, no one did. So I say it now, just in case you don’t hear it enough, or at all, and because I am the mother of a little Black girl to whom I say I love you so many times a day she gets annoyed. I hope you are being told I love you so many times you get annoyed. And if you aren’t, I hope you will one day have that kind of love in your life. As my daughter often says, “It’s annoying, but it’s also cool.”

You probably already know that there are people in the world who would try to convince you that you are not amazing. Please ignore them. They will say other mean things to you and about you because they are afraid of the magic power you carry in your beautiful Black fist. They worry that you will open your hands and something so awesome will come out that they will have to take back all the lies they told about your being less that beautiful, or smart or capable of doing anything you can dream for yourself. Remember this power. Remember to open your fists sometimes.

I imagine you sometimes watch TV. And that you see all the Disney princesses with long, straight, blond hair or red hair—hair that just doesn’t look like yours. I imagine you see the handsome prince risking life and limb to save her. I imagine you wonder why the princess doesn’t look like you. Or why the one princess who kind of looked like you was a frog for most of the film. I imagine, like my daughter once asked me, you once asked your mother or another adult in your family when you could expect to get your “princess hair.” I want to encourage you to ask another question. I want to ask, when the helpless white princess with all that hair will stop waiting for that prince to come and save her. When will she see how amazing and capable and smart she is—when will she realize that she can break her own chains, climb out of her own towers, slay her own dragons and chart her own happily ever after, all on her own? Remember that beauty is subjective—that means one person will think you unattractive, while another will think you are the most beautiful girl in the world. Remember that their opinion does not make you any more or less of anything. The only constant is what you think of yourself. If you think of yourself as stunningly beautiful, you will always remain that way.

I bet you have dreams and aspirations about the life you will live when you are grown up. I bet you have all kinds of brilliant ideas about career and family and travel and love. I want you to keep a diary. Write down all your ideas, all your dreams, all your hopes about the future—even the ones you believe are impossible. Then read books about people who did things people said they couldn’t do. Make sure that some of them look like you. Make sure you include many of the Black women who were once little Black girls who people told they couldn’t do the things they were intending. Find pictures of these amazing people. Keep these pictures in places you will continue to bump into them. And every time you see a picture of Rosa Parks, or Serena Williams or Venus Williams or Toni Morrison, or Zora Neal Hurston, or Nanny of the Maroons, or Condoleeza Rice, or Shonda Rhimes or Kerry Washington, or Viola Davis, or Angela Davis, or June Jordan, or Michelle Obama or Winnie Mandela, or Melissa Harris Perry, or Grace Jones you will be reminded that surpassing people’s expectations is not just possible, but it is quite common.

I want to leave you with this last mandate. Laugh—as much as you can. It will be your salvation. Spend time doing things that tickle you. If you are lucky, laughter will come easy to you. If it doesn’t, practice the deliberate art of seeking joy. Surround yourself with people who find value in the warmth of laughter. Build it into your day. Insist that the spaces you spend your time cultivate laughter.

These are the things I wish for you; love, and the power to ignore those who cannot see your worth, eyes that will allow you to see your own brilliance, a plethora of dreams to drive your life’s purpose, and a mandate of laughter to sustain you your whole life long.

All My love,

Staceyann Chin

Post #22-StaceyannChinStaceyann Chin is a 42 year old Writer/Activist/Performance Artist. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and is from Montego Bay, Jamaica.

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