Meaningful Living in the Hashtag Age

When Michelle Britto, a black writer from New York, went online to search for examples of a brown-skinned model to show the tone and texture of African American skin complexions to her children’s book illustrator, she discovered something that caught her attention.

Just as she struck the Google image search icon, a skin color index with illustrations of varying skin tones appeared on her computer screen. It did not take long for Britto to realize that the easily found Google image was more than a chance discovery; it was the encouragement she needed to address the negative stereotypes and systemic colorism that has hindered women of color for centuries.

The skin color index, which showed one image of a woman in six different skin tones ranging from light (or Caucasian) to dark (or African/black), described the lighter skin tone as “normal.”

This presumption is not uncommon to black women who have existed in a society that subliminally implies that a woman’s beauty and desirability is based on the color of her skin, the hue of her eyes and the length and texture of her hair. Societal norms are filled with images of white women as examples of true beauty and black women, particularly those with darker skin, are seen as exemplars of the aesthetically unattractive.

Historically, black women were represented as maids or ‘mammies’ — black maid-servants — during slavery who looked and acted in ways to satisfy their male-masters while deemphasizing their beauty to appease white female slave masters and make them feel beautiful in their presence. Even as more women of color emerge as dominant figures in business, movies, music, and sports, there remains an unconscionable belief that women of color are less appealing in comparison to women with lighter skin.

Britto, with a new-found urgency to correct the unfair and stereotypical skin color index and redefine what “normal” means, decided to enlist a few of her writing colleagues to help demystify the beauty all women of color embody. They call their work, The Skin I’m In: A black women writer’s protest to the negative images of dark skin and the cultural upliftment of all women of color. This work is a living document to be continued by women writers with strong voices and an unwavering belief that skin is beautiful no matter the color, tone, or texture.

The Skin I’m In by Women Writers of Color

Almond Toasted by Michelle R. Britto

Almond toasted brown is my skin tone by birth.

When I look in the mirror there is nothing that makes me irk.

In the summer is when my DNA is put through an undeniable test.

It’s when my skin is at its absolute best.

It turns copper once the sun sets in.

The skin I’m in reminds me that my Afro-Caribbean is not just a part of my past, but a part of my now.

The sun treasures my skin.

It’s so “NORMAL” the way it colors in.

No sunscreen of 101.

My skin embraces the light because we are one.

Shea butter nourishes my skin,

And I can feel a glow from within.

My skin is EVERYTHING to me.

It tells the story of plantations and cotton fields.

My light brown skin was considered a plus,

In a house full of sin my ancestors could not fuss.

Had I’d been there; I’d say leave me to the corn rows and cotton fields.

So much pride, no longer in those years.

Melanin is beauty, yet it’s what many fears.

Thomas Jefferson had his share of my skin tones.

The number of his kin is still unknown.

To call my skin not “NORMAL” is the biggest mockery of all.

Today I celebrate my skin as the diaspora of a history that doesn’t break me.

Imagine Google in 2020 trying to berate me.

The day I googled skin tones and a white image appeared, it was called “NORMAL,” I see no “NORMAL” here.

Caramel Brown by Michelle D. Jackson

My complexion is not what the world would call “NORMAL.” Normal is too safe for the life I was made for. It is a blank canvas with no brilliancy or light; it is a monochrome palette, with no creativity or imagination. Normal is a predictable stream of consciousness that lacks thrill and luster. No! I am not NORMAL — God did not make me that way. Instead, He broke the mold when He birthed me in the swell of an Alabama sun. Blessed me in the belly of a light skin queen and in the loins of a russet-skinned king, both only a few generations removed from the cotton fields.

God crafted a beauty only majesties could comprehend. He spared no grace, mercy, miracles, or mystery when he buried my warring soul in copper-tone mink and covered my body in buttery sweet caramel brown skin. I do not care to be “normal” or to fulfill an earthly man’s desire. My skin is a reminder of the strength that flows in my bloodline. It screams to the world what my brave ancestors whispered daily to the wind — I am something wonderful. I am something real. I am something desired. My power lies in the beautiful brown skin I’m in.

Espresso Almond Butter by Jacquelyn Randle

Complex yet beautiful none the less. A shade that changes throughout the seasons glowing whenever the sun hits it. An illuminating radiance, reminiscent of a mother’s pregnancy glow. A shade often overlooked in the debate of dark skin versus light skin in my youth; outside confusion saying, “you’re so bright” while others saying the classic “you’re getting dark.” Stuck in the middle of the color spectrum. Memories of being young and arguing that “I’M BROWN, NOT BLACK,” not realizing BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL NO MATTER THE SHADE. Stuck in the middle admiring the blue-black shades fresh from The Motherland or the rare red hair and freckles the lighter end sometimes gained from their DNA. Espresso almond butter is me. My children offshoots of its variance, soaking in the knowledge that our skin is not only unique but the curls on our heads that shrink then extend down pass our backs. Picking up the quick wit to answer “melanin,” when asked what are we mixed with or the knowledge to know that Crayola has yet to perfect our shade of Espresso Almond Butter but we can mix up a few and get it just right.

Espresso Brown Skin by Tam Yvonne

Silky smooth, so creamy, a shiny skin tone that overflows with warmth and luminosity effortlessly… dark in color, chocolate like a Hershey bar, who be that woman? That woman be ME! But, “ME” is not considered “NORMAL” in a world that tells you light is beautiful and publicly demonize anything dark in color. Even in my black community we have been brain washed, courtesy of the Willie Lynch Letter 1712, where this British slave owner taught his methods to other slave owners on how to control your black slaves. Several methods were shared, but the one that has always stood out in my mind, ever since I read that letter in my pre-teen years was the way he suggested using dark skin slaves vs. light skin slaves, and the light skin slaves vs. the dark skin slaves; and this method was evident back in 1712 with the dark slaves in the fields; and the light slaves in the house pampering babies and being play mates to the masters kids. Fast forward 2020; and I am still hearing from people in my own race, “you are beautiful for a dark skin woman.” Wow!! This is 2020, right? Why can’t I just be a beautiful woman? It still saddens me at times to see my own race of people; and the world in which we live not consider dark girls and dark women beautiful, dark skin has never been and still is not considered good enough. But, I am here to tell you, I have ALWAYS been PROUD and always will be of my skin complexion and how beautiful we are as a people in our various shades of brown that comes with a diverse and radiant nature that glows and is often times highly sought after from those with less melanin in their skin. GOD did a good thing when HE put me in the skin, I am in.

Dark Chocolate by Tendai Magidi

Fearfully and wonderfully made.

Unworthy of unprovoked attacks.

I hold an unquestioned right to be recognized as a respectable individual.

This black skin I`m in,

A distinguishing feature that facilitates my identification.

A part of me that never fades with age.

Resembles the uniqueness of my racial origins.

In this dark skin I am,

Which I wear proud and unshaken by racist taunts,

I bear a striking resemblance of true beauty.

In a storm of protest, I don’t wish to scramble for superiority but,

I raise a voice against the wrong and unfair resent of my black skin,

To solemnly express my concern for racial equality,

Tolerance and for all races to build unity

And maintain racial relations.

Colour difference does not make us different species.

Let not our difference in colour turn rejection into a norm.

Because of my black skin,

Turn me not into a victim of racial discrimination,

Shunned by society.

I`m not an epitome of misfortune.

My skin does not make me hideous.

Rather my black skin is my pride,

The reflection of my beauty.

I reflect no regrets of the colour I wear,

My black skin, My pride.

To connect with the writers, join the Black Writers Workspace Facebook Page

I am protected.

I am protected.

Secured.

Armored.

Guarded.

God does not leave me alone or lonely.

God does not leave me unequipped or ill-prepared.

God protects me because I am His most precious possession.

The enemy must defeat Him FIRST before he can touch me.

I am protected.

Secured.

Armored.

Guarded.

I AM GOD’S CHILD.

By Michelle D. Jackson

God promised us many things.

A life of glory and merciful meaning.

Purpose, love, and righteousness.

Peace, grace, and selflessness.

He granted us abundance that far reached what we could embody. He blessed us with the power to rise above sickness, hurt, and melancholy.

He gave us his most precious thing, His love transcended in an earthly being.

He loved us so much He left to the world a priceless deed, the life of his son, His only seed.

And now, in the wake of what we can not control, God performs the most sacred role.

He does just what He said He would, He renews, restores, and protects the poor, humbled, and spiritually good.

Through the uncertainty of a sickness we struggle to cure, God resets the world, creating a new, blessed universe, holy and pure.

Our sinking earth ravaged by ego and greed, now has a fighting chance to succeed.

Starting with what He loves most, God fights to unify the family with His heavenly host.

Then seeking to end what is destroying our earth, He uses a virus to remind us of our godly worth.

Replenishing the sanctity of things we can not comprehend, God empowers our fears to bring us back to where He intend.

He reduces pollution while we debate climate change, using His strength to break us out of illogical mental chains.

Seeing to the elderly, who created the path for which we follow, God promotes them to a heavenly home, while our pride fall to an earthly bravado.

Those who die, die strong with fearless faith, as a reminder to the living that death brings God’s ultimate grace.

He has put in motion, The Reset.

A time of prayer, redemption, confession, and reflection.

A time to reconnect, reassess, and redress.

A time to rekindle, remember, and reminisce.

A time to learn to love again with complete fearlessness. A love that doesn’t require touch or feel or tenderness.

But one that consumes the heart and reverberates from six-feet apart.

What may appear final, is far from the end. Only God controls how this world will ascend.

No sickness, no greed, no leader-less land, will destroy what is safely secured in God’s hand.

So stay-in, stay strong, believe what God says is real, but never give up on His power to heal.

Embrace The Reset. You know in your heart it’s time to start again. To put what is important first and make God’s love and kindness transcend.

By Michelle D. Jackson

We are excited to add another poem by writer Cambrin Daniel to our Poetry Showcase.

We are looking for original poetry by new poets and spoken word artists who are passionate, thought provoking and honest. To showcase your work and register to win cash to help launch your writing career, send your poetry or spoken word video to events@prsolutionsllc.org.

Well Done

A Message from an Overachiever with a Restless Heart for God

So often my friends and colleagues ask me, “Do you sleep?” This question is understandable because I can sometimes appear to be constantly working on a new project instead of enjoying my life. Therefore, I always pause before answering because I don’t know if the person is applauding my effort to accomplish my goals, questioning my ability to find peace and contentment in this life or if I look tired and weary from my work. Either way, the question ultimately leads me to think about Christ and his time on earth.

In only 33 years, Christ healed the sick and fed the poor. He counseled people in need and taught those who sought knowledge and understanding. He worked miracles that changed lives and fought for what was right. He loved people who didn’t love him back and he sacrificed his life for our sins. In 33 years on earth, Christ accomplished more than I or anyone could ever accomplish.

So, do I sleep? Yes. Comfortably. Because the things God has asked me to do with my time on earth is worth the sacrifice. It’s worth the long days writing, running my business and nonprofit, and taking care of my family. It’s worth the hard times when I’m unsure of myself but refusing to quit. Don’t misunderstand my work ethic or the work ethic of people in your life like me. I have an amazing life that I want to live like Christ. I’m just focused on one thing, and one thing only – hearing God say to me, “Well Done!” Then I will rest with him in peace for eternity.

Michelle Jackson is an entrepreneur and nonprofit leader and author of fictional novels The Heart of a Man and From Darkness to Night. To learn more about her work, visit http://www.authormichelledjackson.com.

NOW

We are excited to announce the launch of 1stmorningthoughts.com Poetry Showcase. Designed to highlight the work of indie writers who are inspiring the world around them, the showcase will periodically post work that speaks to the heart, mind and soul of poetry enthusiasts. Our first poem is called NOW by writer Cambrin Daniel from Birmingham, AL.

To submit your work, email events@prsolutionsllc.org.

1st Morning Thoughts

To say I waited patiently to see Hamilton The Musical is an understatement. From the moment I realized it was the story of the American Revolution set to rap, I was sold. Despite the fact I couldn’t make my way to New York to see it on Broadway, and I wasn’t sure who the heck Alexander Hamilton was, I desperately wanted to see it the very second it hit the stage.

Fast forward a few years and the play is on tour and headed to New Orleans where I live. My husband surprised me with two tickets for Christmas and boy, was I excited.

An hour into the play and I realized how much Hamilton’s life was like my own. I too am in search of greatness or at least real goodness. I’m looking for ways to make a difference and leave a legacy. And most importantly, I’m trying…

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To say I waited patiently to see Hamilton The Musical is an understatement. From the moment I realized it was the story of the American Revolution set to rap, I was sold. Despite the fact I couldn’t make my way to New York to see it on Broadway, and I wasn’t sure who the heck Alexander Hamilton was, I desperately wanted to see it the very second it hit the stage.

Fast forward a few years and the play is on tour and headed to New Orleans where I live. My husband surprised me with two tickets for Christmas and boy, was I excited.

An hour into the play and I realized how much Hamilton’s life was like my own. I too am in search of greatness or at least real goodness. I’m looking for ways to make a difference and leave a legacy. And most importantly, I’m trying hard to never miss an opportunity to change the world for the better.

Everything about the play was right, including the cast, music, and message. Meaningful and heartfelt, I left the theater with a new understanding of who Hamilton was and why he’s important to our history. But I also learned a few other things:

1. In life you must take your shots. There’s a new song I heard called ‘Shot Clock’ that’s growing in popularity on the R&B/Hip-Hop scene. It reminds us that just as in the sport of basketball, you only have a definitive amount of time to take a shot and make the goal. Life is no different. Hamilton took advantage of the opportunities he was offered. Despite being the son of an adulterer and orphaned at a young age, he grew into a strong and determined leader who played a major role in the Revolutionary War, the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of our federal treasury system. He made mistakes – he shot a few airballs – but in the end he didn’t let his past, his fears, or his failures stop him from making the BIG moves.

2. Know who will tell your story and care about what story they will tell. Hamilton lived an amazing life despite his arrogant and womanizing ways. When he died, he left behind a legacy that wouldn’t have been properly told without the love of his wife, Eliza, who overlooked his flaws to support him before and after his death. His story is so fractured yet beautiful that it resonates with people who thrive to live honest, authentic lives. Eliza, like many of us, was left with the responsibility of passing along his legacy to the world. She knew his real story and understood the importance of sharing it. A life poorly lived doesn’t leave a great story to tell; nor, is it an inspiration to the people we leave behind. It is a badge of honor to live a good life and to inspire people you love to do the same.

3. Jealousy is the enemy of success. Although Hamilton wasn’t always kind to his political rival, Aaron Burr; Burr was portrayed as an accomplished man consumed with envy and jealousy. He was always one step behind Hamilton, but he could never catch up. Burr waited for the opportunity to eclipse Hamilton’s success without realizing that standing in another man’s shoes doesn’t make you The Man. I will not debate who was right or wrong (or dispute the accuracy of the play), but Hamilton’s success often appeared to be at Burr’s expense. Because of this, Burr killed him in a duel. Leaving a legacy for himself of a man who failed to stand on his own because of his devious desire to bask in the sunlight of someone else’s achievements.

4. Seeing the world through a prism of light is growth-in-action. When racial issues are at the forefront, we often find ourselves searching for the politically correct way to characterize our differences. But when we stop talking and start using our creativity to show, and not tell, how beautiful our multi-cultural world is, we can turn the page on racial disparities and change how we connect and honor each other. Hamilton uses a diverse cast to tell the story of the American Revolution. Hamilton and George Washington’s characters are played by actors of Asian-descent, and Thomas Jefferson is played by an African-American. This is a wonderful example of how adding color and flavor to the story creates a memorable piece of art.

As you can tell, I loved the play. The rapping was on-point. The story was compelling, and Hamilton and his wife were great examples of what we can accomplish when we accept that our lives are not our own. I believe that our lives are gifts from God and He wants us to build a world we all can live and thrive in.

Congrats to the cast on a wonderful show!

1st Morning Thoughts

I saton the edge of my seatduringthelastchurch service oftheyearstaringat theoversized crossabove thebaptismpool. Painstakingly at peace,I’dturned off the hundreds of undone tasks that ranthrough my mindbefore entering the sanctuaryandhitpauseon the demands the world had thrown at my feet.I was present and without distractions. Surrounded by myloving husband and twelve-year-old son,I was readyto be engulfed in the word of Godandunusually giddybecauseno matterthe difficult times thatcame my wayduring the past year,the cross– the very one Christ carried formy salvationthrough the streets ofJerusalemhad beenmyrefuge,and I was thankful.


As thepackedchoir bellowed the second verse ofthe song…

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I sat on the edge of my seat during the last church service of the year staring at the oversized cross above the baptism pool. Painstakingly at peace, I’d turned off the hundreds of undone tasks that ran through my mind before entering the sanctuary and hit pause on the demands the world had thrown at my feet. I was present and without distractions. Surrounded by my loving husband and twelve-year-old son, I was ready to be engulfed in the word of God and unusually giddy because no matter the difficult times that came my way during the past year, the cross – the very one Christ carried for my salvation through the streets of Jerusalem  had been my refuge, and I was thankful.

As the packed choir bellowed the second verse of the song, ‘I Got A Testimony’, my son tugged at my blouse sleeve. He asked, “Momma, what is a testimony?” A bit caught off-guard, I sat with his words for a moment before being reminded of all the wonderful things – including my son – God had given me. See, it wasn’t what he asked that made me reminisce; it was what he called me. He called me “Momma,” a title I’d prayed many days to hear, and looking into his beautiful face; I knew it was time to share with the world how God had transformed our lives.

My testimony started when the first of seven doctors told me that I would never give birth to a child; the countless nights I cried when I thought of all the bedtime stories, pillow fights, and Christmas mornings I would never share with my own son or daughter, and when I was forced to accept that I may have to give up on my desire to have a family. I felt rejected, excluded, and pushed aside. Despite my desires and prayers, God had other plans for me, and it wasn’t motherhood.

For a while, this reality severed my faith. I was different and not because I wanted to be, but because God believed I had the strength, patience, and fearlessness to overcome the challenges of infertility. However, I didn’t agree at first. I wasn’t fearless or strong; I was hurt and confused.

Being a mother was important. My mother was wonderful, but God took her too soon, and I was surrounded by caring women who were blessed to raise a generation of children. I wanted to be like them and to experience motherhood. I wanted to give back to this world and I thought becoming a mother was the best way to do it. But when infertility struck, my husband and I had to re-think how we would create our family. And in our darkest moment, someone special in our lives reminded us that it is not the blood that builds a family, it’s the love. 

What I learned during this challenging period was the importance of trusting God and not leaning on my own desires. I also learned that God gives us what we need and creating a family through biological means isn’t the only way to do it. 

God has each of us on a path  the destination is the cross, and the journey to get there is as unique as a fingerprint. Throughout our lives, we often find ourselves at a fork in the road that forces us to decide whether to walk with Christ and let him lead us in the right direction or turn away and go down an opposing path.

For years, I thought I was making all the right moves. I got married to a wonderful man and had a great career. My health was good, and my spiritual walk seemed solid. The next step was to have a child. That was the path the world wanted me to be on, but God had other plans. God selected my family to be an example to other families struggling with infertility, and to remind the world that each of our journeys are stepping stones towards his greater mission to save mankind. His plan for how we created a family was never only about me or my husband. Infertility wasn’t a burden we were cursed to live with nor was childlessness; instead, it was our journey to find and help a beautiful little boy who needed a home. A little boy like thousands of children around the country who are looking for parents to love and care for them. Our son was brought into our lives to give us the meaningful purpose that God wanted us to have.

FINDING PEACE IN THE WAITING ROOM

For eleven years I waited for God to show up in my situation unknowing that he had been there from the start. When I look back, I realize that for eleven years I’d paced the floor of the hospital waiting room anticipating good news from the doctor. While I was waiting for man to give me a positive report, God had already given me the victory. Although I wore down the sole of countless shoes and troubled myself with fear and anxiety over my infertility, it wasn’t until I stopped worrying and started trusting God that things changed.

When I stopped wanting what other people had and started asking God to give me what he desired for my life my journey took a positive turn. I walked out of the waiting room, fell to my knees, and opened my heart to Christ. And what did he do? He delivered, restored and healed.

I didn’t get the time back that I lost. I didn’t give birth to a child. I didn’t get all the answers I wanted but what I got was a son. He calls me “momma” and he loves me, although I didn’t birth him, or rock him to sleep when he was a toddler. I never saw his first steps or heard his first words. Nevertheless, I’ve now had years to hug, hold and love him. We’ve shared a million good times and expressed our happiness for finding and creating a beautiful family.

So, when he asked, “Momma, what is a testimony?” I hugged him tightly then explained that a testimony was our proof of God’s presence in our life; proof of his unwavering love and sacrifice. It’s our story of victory – we have a story of victory.

Michelle D. Jackson is the author of the inspirational novel, The Heart of a Man. Follow her on Facebook @AuthorMichelleDJackson.

My husband and I would like to thank the Three Rivers Adoption Council for helping us experience parenthood and giving us a beautiful testimony.

To download the Winter 2019 issue of The Mount Magazine, go to https://mt-ararat.org/buy-the-mount..

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