It's an undeniably trying time to be black in America right now. There is simply no way to ease the shockwave of this truth. I have found myself working exceptionally hard trying to believe the #Blacklivesmatter hashtag that is plastered all around me in my social media life. I have suppressed the daily involuntary body cringes that follow statements that begin "I am not a racist, but..." or "They mean well... [but it wasn't like the murder of the black guy was premeditated or anything]..." I've noticed my self-esteem shrink ever so slowly while engaging with those who've found it necessary to argue that the movement should shift from #blacklivesmatter, to #alllivesmatter - effectively shutting minorities up...yet again.
Britt Bennet's piece in Jezebel encapsulated my thoughts well where she wrote about well intentioned White people who've taken an ally approach throughout this mudslide of black carnage, but who, are still missing the point.
Over the past two weeks, I have fluctuated between anger and grief. I feel surrounded by Black death. What a privilege, to concern yourself with seeming good while the rest of us want to seem worthy of life.
I recently stumbled upon Cipriana Quann's interview for the I Am What's Underneath campaign. This vulnerable campaign interviews folks unearthing not just what's physically underneath their fashion and style, but it simultaneously asks them to strip down emotionally, combining to create a reverent yet simple display of the power we already possess.
Cipriana's interview has is allowed me to look in the mirror and to leave behind the suppressed, yet ever present uncertainty of my skin tone, and instead to begin to fathom that black just might be beautiful, indeed.
Watch her full interview here:
While describing the traumatic childhood moments, Cipriana maintains a beautifully dignified, ambitious and proud stature. If only the intensity of her memories combined with her obvious physical beauty could serve as a blueprint for any humans struggling with self doubt.
Jillian Mercado has also taken part in this project. While Cipriana's message centers around the elevation of black women to places of health and positivity, Jillian speaks about how she confidently looks in the mirror and is wowed by her own beauty. Every day. Both having disabilities, and working within the field I am pummeled with the notion that being beautiful and having a visible disability are mutually exclusive. Not so.
"Wow! I'm so pretty today!"
The campaign does not focus specifically on race, but interviews a range of people, with large bodies, small bodies, androgynous bodies, pregnant bodies, post-cancerous bodies and more, working to challenge what it means to be beautiful. We are challenged through this project to no longer find our self-image in the products that television, magazines and corporation wants us to buy, but from within. One interviewee so beautifully claimed her own by saying
"My skin is what I like most about my body. You can't buy it at the store."