Before hashtags, there were power movements created by thought leaders who felt indifferent about certain stands, beliefs and practices. One of such is the famous Black is Beautiful movement which started in the 1960s by African Americans. It spread across the world beyond the USA and featured in the writings of Steve Biko in his Black Consciousness Movement.
Black is beautiful aimed to tell a different story for a black person. That their natural features were beautiful. A sight to behold even. Their tough, sometimes kinky hair was beautiful and their dark skin was as beautiful as black. For decades, blacks, especially the women all around the world were pressured into standards of beauty which entailed using heat to strain their hair, bleaching their skin into a lighter complexion. Michael Jackson is the ultimate symbol of pressure the black man had to undergo, to feel accepted, to be heard and to even feel beautiful.
While the black people in Europe, Asia and America were guised into believing they had to tone down their black, Africa during colonization underwent through the worst racial profiling. Africans were called ‘monkeys’. They were shamed for looking the way they did. They were subjected to a profile of mentors, role models and even beauty who were whites. The black child was treated to a one-sided story. The story of white. White the supreme culture, white the innovators, the creatives. There were only white dolls, with long sleek hair. And even after the colonialists left, colorism was born.
Africans and other black people who were of lighter complexion had it easier. They were given jobs easily than black people. They landed more commercials and media jobs than those of a darker complexion. Music videos featured models and vixens of lighter complexion. Success for the black man was painted as marrying a white woman.
International magazines like Vogue and brands like Maybelline have made strides in embracing the black culture. Social media has played a vital role and continues to tell a different story. Movements such as #BlackLivesMatter have impacted change in US and beyond. Moreso, the #pulluporshutup which was began by Sharon, founder of Uoma Beauty has pushed organizations, governments and individuals to demand better.
Today, we have Africans beautifully owning their black skin and wearing their natural hair. Natural hair is becoming popular. More and more black people are choosing to wear the hair without the heat and straightening. Today, black children all over the world are wearing their natural hair. Parents are teaching their children to wear curls and kinks. Fathers are joining into the movement in making their daughters’ hair.
Through different platforms, the narrative is quickly changing. People of darker complexion are regaining their position, as humans(which they are but were primarily thought as not). There are more models of darker complexion around the world more than any time. Beauty pageants are making steps towards the black revolution by crowing dark models. Miss World, one of the biggest beauty pageants has also improved in inclusion through crowning black models.
The profiling is not yet over. There are still so many black people who are seeking validation through skin bleaching. There are people, cultures and communities actively discriminating against black people, we cannot fail to recognize the far we have come. We cannot be so myopic to deny our heritage the chance, to tell a different story to our kids, that no matter how dark or light or chocolate or caramel you are beautiful just the way you are.
Beauty is skin deep. It goes beyond your skin, color of your eyes, the shape and size of your body. Beauty is your mind, heart and soul. And that whole other depth inside you. Wear your black skin with some coconut and shea butter!