Black is beautiful /ˈblak iz ˈbyü-ti-fəl/ phrase. – Black people are beautiful. See also. Black people, the 1960s Black is Beautiful movement
So I was born in Wiesbaden in Germany and I’m a military brat, so moved from Germany to the States a couple of times. My family finally settled in Kansas when I was 13, so I’ve been in Kansas and Missouri ever since then — traveling from Leavenworth to Lawrence then KCK and now in Kansas City, Missouri. So being here in the United States was definitely a culture shock for me, coming from Germany. One, coming from military bases where there was so much diversity and then two, even in Germany the dynamics of race are different. And so in Germany I was, I wasn’t Black. Um, I was German-American or American-German. And I felt like that didn’t deny my Blackness at all, so I felt that I felt more accepted and more supported in being who I was when I was in Germany…which is weird because people attribute Germany to not be used and all of that, but in my experience it was nothing like that. And when I moved here, that was the first time that I’ve experienced any type of racism. So from being called racist names, to having to endure hate speech, even in school, from teachers and peers alike.
I went to a high school that was predominantly white and so I never felt accepted, never felt like I fit in, outside of my small circle of friends who were also predominantly Black folks. So that’s when I started digging deep into my Blackness. Like, figuring out what that meant here in America, what that looked like here in America, what that meant for me. My mother, who is German, actually was the one who taught me more about race and about being Black and about being a Black woman or a Black girl. So, I’m really appreciative of her for the way she navigated having multiracial children, having Black children, in America.
In general, now, I define beauty as Blackness, as being true to yourself. Of course, historically, you know, we’re taught that being Black is not beautiful. So definitely, I’ve learned over the years to me like the most beautiful woman is a Black woman. The most beautiful being is a Black person, period. And so beauty to me is just being authentic in yourself, just being whoever you are, just being able to express yourself authentically, internally and externally. I guess that is what beauty is to me, as a short answer.
I feel like for me defining beauty as Black women is Black women in their authentic state. So ‘fros, dreads, like however their hair is…Being able to express ourselves however we want to express ourselves without having the boxes that we’re put into. I feel like a lot of times, even as Black women, and as being beautiful, there’s these boxes. Like, in order to be a beautiful Black woman, you have to behave a certain way, you have to wear a certain thing, and you have to speak a certain way. And to me, Black beauty, is someone in their authentic state — being who they are, being confident in who they are, all of that.
Oh honey, we are lit. We are lit. Just everything about us is beautiful. I feel like historically everything about us has been beautiful, which is why we face so much oppression. Because folks know, like, we are it, we are lit, we are gods and goddesses. I think Black folks are everything — from the music to the food. Like, even the food. Like, when we talk Black food in America…we took what we had and made meals, and we fed families, and we fed generations out of that. I think that is the beauty of Black folks survival. The fact that we’re still here, after we endured so much trauma. The fact that we’re still here and, and stronger than ever, our culture is very prominent. Which is why white folks, white supremacy continues to try to oppress us.
I mean, even when we had Black Wall Street, you know if there’s anything Black, they try to take from us unless they want to use it. Of course, they’re gonna use whatever we have to their advantage. So when we talk about Black music… we see there are little white kids, second graders…I saw a picture not too long ago with, like, three little white boys taking a picture with Megan Thee Stallion. That’s how powerful our music is. That’s how powerful we are. So I believe that our culture is a culture that we had to create because our original culture was taken from us, and the fact that we could still create a culture, a prominent culture, here in America just proves again who we are.
Whew. Um, there’s so many. Like, even being in high school and being told that I wasn’t good enough — even though I was on the honor roll and varsity teams and honors choir…and all of these things — and still being told I’m not good enough. I’m still kind of working through that within myself, because that’s a lot of internalized response to oppression. And so I feel like still today, as a grown woman, I have to be 10 times better than any white person that that comes along because, there’s stigma about the Black community and Black women… Black women are the pillars of the Black community. Black women have held and led so many movements. We have held so much trauma and pain. And the fact that we still keep going is everything. So, I feel like waking up Black, and for myself personally waking up Black and queer, every day, is just something that is revolutionary. And unless you are Black, you don’t understand that.
One of the stories that comes to mind is that I was friends with a white girl in school and we were in choir class and we were joking around… I was in honors choir, so I’m like, Okay, I can, like, joke around for once I have been so poised my entire time… And so we were joking around and my friend got forwarded to the principal’s office and she was told not to hang out with the Black kids because they are bringing her down. Mind you, again, I was on honor roll, on varsity teams, debate, track, basketball…name it, I was a part of that…And she was one who often skipped school and things like that. So the fact that the principal told her that hanging around the Black kids brought her down was very disheartening.
I also remember being called coffee colored girl or colored girl at school. I remember someone spray painting n****r on somebody’s locker. And so there have been so many times that I’ve experienced racism as an adolescent, and even as an adult. Again, like I said, in my position at work, still, I have to try 10 times harder to prove myself.
So, coming out was rough. Coming out was very rough for me, because when I came out, I was also a mother. And so it was really tough to navigate coming out and then coming out within a Black family. There’s so much healing that needs to be done within the Black community and there’s so much culture, oppressive culture, that is upheld by the Black communities — specifically Black churches — that makes it very difficult for folks who are navigating their gender identity or their sexual orientation to be able to be themselves. And it’s really tough to be a queer Black woman because sometimes it feels like I have to choose and I will never choose between being Black and being queer. I’m both of those things. So I will embrace both of those things.
I feel like the Black community holds a lot of trauma. It’s a response to all of the things that we have to endure, the chronic adversities that we have to endure. So things like racism and poverty and mass incarceration and criminalization and all of that… The community as a whole may not be ready to address the fact that there are different identities within our community that should be supported and uplifted and affirmed. So I feel that battle constantly. It’s been really rough trying to navigate that. And what I try to do is educate my community, the Black community, and let them know that, Hey, there are Black queer folks. There are Black trans folks and we should be held and loved and supported just as anyone else.
And so, yeah, it’s been really tough to navigate that. Especially recently, when more queer and trans folks are coming out andmore support from the Black community of queer and trans folks is happening. Like, the movement is happening. But then on the other side, you have the folks who are kind of rejecting that. And I understand where they are coming from… Like, we fought so long to get the rights that we have and I get it. I understand. But at the same time, I wish that the Black community would embrace all of us, all of it, all of who we are.
So, I personally do not attribute race to gender identity or sexual orientation. I don’t attribute the struggles of being Black to the struggle of being Latina or the struggles of anything else, because they’re not the same. While we all might face some type of adversity, I’m not attributing anything to anything… So, it’s not the same thing. So people who are Black don’t necessarily face the same adversities as people who are non-Black and queer. And that’s why you can’t attribute race to sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s just something that you can’t separate. And I feel like that’s what people need to learn. Like, I can’t separate my Blackness from my queerness. There’s no separation. It is who I am.
And I feel like that’s what the problem is — that folks aren’t able to see past whatever internalized response to oppression that they have…or internalized homophobia, or transphobia, or anything else that they have… They can’t see past that the fact that I can be Black and queer and that’s my identity. There’s no taking it back. I cannot separate them. Yes, I face different adversities being Black and queer. However, I can’t separate my identity at all.
I guess my short answer to that would be that if we’re going to fight oppression, if we’re going to overcome systemic issues — which is racism and homophobia, et cetera, et cetera — we have to fight for the person who is most impacted by those systems. And so that incorporates the intersectionality. Like, I cannot fight for the rights of Black folks without fighting for the rights of queer Black folks, without fighting for the rights of trans Black folks, specifically trans Black women. And so that’s where that piece comes in — you have to fight for the person who is most impacted by systemic oppression.
Oh, I’m most proud of my children because they are Black and beautiful and they embrace their Blackness and they are unapologetic in their Blackness. And they are activists and they wake up every day fighting against systems of oppression. And so I’m most grateful and I say, I did that shit, because that is my legacy. That is, to me, how we sustain change… that they are a generation that comes after us, we’re instilling them with the tools and the skillsets and the education, that they need to pave the way for the generation after them. And you know, one day we will be free and able to be our beautiful Black selves without having to experience any of this. So I will say that I did that shit on that.
I think, from my spiritual side, I feel like my dreams would be that we could all be free to be ourselves. That we could be embraced and loved and supported and affirmed. And I think my biggest dream is that we could all heal and we could all love. Other than that, in my physical dreams, I just want to be in a space that celebrates Blackness. I recently went to Belize and I stayed in Belize City and everyone was Black. And it was beautiful to see that. It was beautiful to be a part of the community where everybody was Black and/or Brown. And of course, I’m a tourist so I have a biased opinion, probably, but there was no separation of anything. Everything just flowed and everything was easy going and, you know, it was just beautiful to be around my people in that way.
Oh, just one? So, I’m an activist and an advocate…so I dedicate my life to the problems that we face as Black folks, as Brown folks, as queer folks, and so I feel like there’s not just one… Oppression. Oppression would be the problem. And trying to navigate systems of oppression, trying to fight systems of oppression, disassemble systems of oppression, dismantle systems of oppression — that’s what I wake up everyday doing. Because of my identities, I am Black and I am queer, and I’m Brown too. I feel like there’s not just one issue that we can necessarily tackle, but I do feel like education is something that I could definitely offer to folks who may not be aware or may not understand the dynamics of oppression — how they play out and how they affect us as Black and Brown folks.
My dreams for society, again, is that we could all live freely and love freely and just be ourselves without fear. We can be authentically ourselves without being afraid to do so. I feel like right now, there’s so much going on within society, there’s so many systems of oppression that are against us, as Black and Brown folks. I feel like my dreams would be that those systems are dismantled and we also have a system in place that supports us as Black and Brown folks — that supports our healing, supports our success, supports our livelihood, supports our happiness.
I would just say hold space for each other. Maybe hold space for each other to understand each other, to uplift each other, and to love each other.
I would say like, be yourself, love yourself. You are beautiful. Just the way you are. Your hair is beautiful. Your skin is beautiful. You are everything. And again, you are it. Black folks, you are lit, we are lit.
Educate yourself. Educate yourself on the trauma that we’ve had to endure. Educate yourself on our culture, respect our culture. Put some respect on our culture. Please, do not appropriate our culture. Educate yourself against this systemic oppression and the chronic adversities that we face every day, waking up Black. And do something, do something about it. Create change. Pave the way. Like, you folks who are white, specifically, you have to be the front lines. Y’all hold the power, regardless of whether you want to acknowledge it or not, the way that the systems are built you inherently hold the power. And, in order to be an ally, you have to do something. Period.
Um, so for LGBTQ individuals in general: You are loved, you are supported, your identity is affirmed.
And then for LGBTQ who fall within the intersection of being Black and being LGBT: There are people out here that are actively working and fighting systems so that you can be your authentic self. And, again, you are loved. You are supported. You are affirmed in your identity. And just keep being your beautiful Black queer self.
Interview Date: February 24, 2020
Story posted on July 3, 2020