“Brown skin girl, ya skin just like pearls, the best thing in all the world. I never trade you for anybody else…” Blue Ivy Carter
As I write from Nairobi, on yet another plane, this time headed home to Addis Abeba, I am reflecting and rejoicing on my mission across three continents and one island that began in late May. The mission was to launch I LOVE LOCKS children’s book, through readings, colloquia and book signings in order to encourage African children, parents, educators and other stakeholders alike to love their natural hair; putting an end to children, especially girls plagued with image issues due to archaic colonial tropes of beauty. Twelve cities, fifteen flights and three months later, I can say, though tired, well done to my entire team and supporters who helped with logistics, hosting, production, distribution, media and more.
I first introduced you all to I LOVE LOCKS a few months ago; a children’s book promoting culture, heritage and African pride, as expressed through natural hair; beautifully illustrated by Artist Prince Merid Tafesse, my husband and patient partner on the 90 day trod. I initially penned and self published the book almost ten years ago for my grandson Dahwit (now seventeen) who has beautiful dark brown skin and then wore locks. I wanted to ensure at least one book was written reflecting his image – for him, his teachers and classmates alike. Fast forward to 2018, Ms. Adwoa Kufuor, Regional Gender Advisor, UN Human Rights Office High Commission and Ms. Victoria Maloka, Acting Director for the African Union Commission’s Women and Gender Directorate, fell in love with the book and found it a fitting addition to the publications for the 70th Anniversary of Declaration of Human Rights and the 15th Anniversary of the Maputo Protocol, emphasizing the rights of African women. It is, by the way, the right of every human being to express their culture and heritage and natural hair, especially for women and youth of African descent, is no exception; yet many of us still face discrimination.
The arts to the rescue. Music, visual art and literature are important platforms for educating and reinforcing positive imagery hence my sharing of I LOVE LOCKS in tandem with my new found favorite song of summer 2019, Brown Skin Girl. As I was packing to leave for Addis Abeba from Atlanta, a historic black city and home to several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) including Morehouse, where my twin sons will graduate from next year, I heard the sweetest sound. My daughter and music teacher Ajahweh played the song saying, “Mom that is seven year old Blue Ivy Carter singing with Guyanes SAINt JHN.” The intro was as follows:
Brown skin girl, ya skin just like pearls, best thing in the world never trade you for anybody else…
As the song goes on Blue Ivy’s Mom reinforces the melodic message, celebrating African beauty with the following verse:
She need an Oscar for the pretty dark skin
Pretty like Lupita when the camera close in…
I think tonight she might braid her braids
Melanin too dark to throw her shade…
If ever you are in doubt remember what mama told me..
Oh, have you looked in the mirror lately? Wish you could trade eyes with me
There’s complexities in complexion. But your skin, it glow like diamonds.
Dig me like the earth, you be giving birth.
Took everything in life, baby, know your worth.
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.
Most things out of focus, view. But when you’re in the room they notice you.
Cause you’re beautiful… Your skin is not only dark, it shines and it tells your story.
I love it, love it, love it! For all the brown skin girls on the continent perming and bleaching in hopes of becoming beautiful, I hope this song can help you see your splendor. The on point lyrics of the song go perfectly with my mission of I LOVE LOCKS. All summer I was singing and dancing “happy to be nappy” for my now 13 grandbabies, especially Royal, Noah and Micah. As a mom raising dreadlocked children almost 40 years ago, Happy to Be Nappy by bell hooks, was one of the few books about black hair for children, a timeless gift from award winning journalist and Aunty, Vinette Pryce, and there were limited popular songs celebrating black beauty. I have a new tool in my kit, with Brown Skin Girl, to help ensure all brown girls love themselves thanks to 7 year old Blue Ivy and her mom who have boldly shared a well needed and refreshing song for our beautiful brown skin curly hair girls, in Africa and the Diaspora, grappling with their identity and culture. By the way Blue Ivy’s mom is Beyonce’, just in case you didn’t know. LOL.
Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.