My blackness is beautiful

Published 9:40 pm Thursday, June 30, 2016

By Kenya Smith

An article, “(Not) Black Like Me,” published in the May 2015 issue of Essence Magazine, discussed the topic of blackness.

The writer, Danielle Henderson, talked about how she struggled with what it means to be an African-American. She discussed how she was obsessed with Led Zeppelin and the hippie culture when she was growing up.

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Because of Henderson’s interests, many girls who shared her skin color accused her of acting white. As a result, she felt left out during her high school years, thinking there was only one way to be black, and she did not fit the mold.

One day, she was introduced to Afropunk, and the image of the carefree black woman. Henderson described the carefree black woman as one who defines herself by focusing on her own interests, instead of others’ definition of blackness.

I saved that article, because I could relate to the things that she wrote.

When I was little, I loved learning about different cultures, and I still do to this day. In my pre-teen and teenage years, I was also obsessed with the hippie culture (not the drugs and free love part of it). Even though I listened to hip-hop, R&B, and rap music, I was also a huge Beatles fan and still am to this day.

I was in a store one time, and I saw a Beatles T-shirt that I wanted to wear back to school, hoping someone might say, “Hey, you love the Beatles? Cool, I do too.” But I didn’t get the shirt due to someone’s fear that people in my school would accuse me of being ashamed of my blackness.

Today, as I look back at that moment, I ask myself whether we are going backward when it comes to race relations in America. We integrated schools and other public places, but I cannot wear a shirt that has four talented Englishmen on it in public, because I might be accused of acting white.

When I was growing up, people like Danielle Henderson were a rare thing to find, and I felt lonely and worried, because I wanted to be accepted and to share my interests and dreams to people with no shame.

Now that I am older, I realize that blackness has nothing to do with the music you listen to, the type of food you eat, the clothes you wear or how you wear your hair. Blackness means that I am a human being with wants, needs, emotions and a soul.

Blackness means that I am aware of the history and the contributions that my people have made. Blackness means that I know that I am one of a kind and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Blackness means that I am humble enough to love people and to learn from others who may be different from me.

That being said, my blackness is beautiful, and yours is too.

Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native and a recent graduate from Regent University. Email her at