A friend tagged me today in a Facebook post about The Beautiful Project, a North Carolina-based organization confronting the negative portrayals of black girls and women in the media and in their communities. They were inviting black women over 18 years old to write a #DearBlackGirl letter to uplift and encourage our future black women. Here is my letter:
Dear Black Girl,
I really wish someone wrote this letter to me when I was younger.
I grew up with a mother who told me I’d grow up to be nothing but a whore, while others thought she was the Mother of the Year. I had a father who was emotionally unavailable and it was a bother to talk to me. By social standards, I was “lucky” to have both my parents under the same roof in a middle class family. So why did I always feel so unlucky?
The thing was, I was kind of an awesome kid (yeah I’m owning it, lol). The idea of letting my race, gender or age hold me back was just stupid. I felt free to express my creativity without restrictions. I also knew the Bill of Rights by first grade, so I knew I was within my legal rights to speak my truth. That was until it was beat out of me physically and emotionally.
I fought daily against the campaign to break my spirit and then one day, not sure when, I gave in. I accepted that as a future black woman, my best asset was my body. I accepted that that spark of greatness was a figment of my imagination. I had finally accepted that I needed to learn to be ordinary. I was now destined to blend in.
Lord knows, I really tried to blend in and be ordinary. Yet, anyone who knew me as a little girl or teenager knew I rebelled against it even when I didn’t realize it. Why, because I never was meant to be ordinary even when I wasn’t able to see it.
I didn’t know I was allowed to be extraordinary. The thought of potentially being the First Lady of The United States of America was ludicrous (and not the rapper). I didn’t know I could be a media mogul and shape the world like Oprah. And seriously, to think a female athlete like Serena Williams could surpass the fame and greatness of many male athletes, was a joke.
I was so broken that I wanted to give up on life, but some how I found the splint to fix my broken spirit. I discovered women like Ella Baker, Madame CJ Walker and even black men like Gordon Parks who pushed past what society said they were capable of accomplishing. I rediscovered my spark and told the world “screw you, I’m going to soar and I am going to be great!” It may only be in a small arena, but I’m going to be who I was meant to be unapologetically.
So tonight I write this letter to the future Michelle Obamas, Oprahs, Beyonces or Serena Williams’, to say don’t let anyone tell you that you were meant to be ordinary. It’s a lie! It’s a bold face lie made by people who are afraid to shine. So do you, and be great at any age. Speak your mind. Be creative and know there are people like me who are ready to cheer you on as you soar into greatness.
Your future self, Danielle D. Washington