I am an avid reader of magazines and I must admit a bit of a pack rat when it comes to saving and collecting magazines. What is always amazing to me is that I can pick up an old issue of a magazine and always find something new and relevant. Well, on that note I picked up last summer's issue of Oprah at Home and there was a fabulous article on the last page. It was entitled "My Girl" and it is an article about one of my favorite journalists; Gwen Ifill and a picture her brother Oliver had painted for her. It is beautiful vibrant picture of a young black girl on a bright red canvas. Here is what Gwen said about the picture:
"I call her colored girl. I love black girls. I think that we have such promise. And I think that we must have a certain type of uplift in our spirits because there are so many things out there waiting to beat us down. Every time I look at her, I see something else that is beautiful.
"She has a series of keys around her neck, with one latch key in her hand, showing that she knows she has responsibilities. The keys suggest self-sufficiency, the ability to control your destiny, and the ability to unlock any door and walk through it. I love that she is gazing up and not down. She looks like she is in complete control of whatever she's about to do next. I love that her hair does not fit into her little ponytail holders because it reminds me of what so many of us little black girls have gone through, wearing our hair exactly that way. If her hair were perfect then something would be wrong with the picture". Gwen comments on the fact that the painting brings a sense of cohesiveness to her entire home, a rootedness. She says "It is perfectly in tune with the sense of spirit, welcome, and refuge that I want in my house. The painting is a remainder of the blessings that God brings to our lives everyday."
I immediately related to Gwen Ifill, the art work and most importantly, that young black girl so full of the promise that lies within all of us. I think of myself when I was a young girl; even then I knew I was called to do something, something that involved a tremendous amount of responsibility. I felt so connected because I think of the many times that I have felt beat down,I think of so many of my black sisters who have been beat down, abused, sold on the slave box, forced out of airline seats, beaten, disempowered, betrayed, oppressed, abandoned, denied our sweat equity, lied to and taken advantage of.
Our hair, although beautiful, is in many instances a source of pain, frustration and low self esteem. So often we have to literally "relax it", hot comb it, process, weave it and flat iron it into submission our the current definition of beautiful. We struggle to make it fit and from early stages it never quite fits into those hair barettes and ponytail holders that were not designed for us in the first place.
I know that little girl and she is alive and well inside my head, inside my heart and inside my soul. She is eager to be responsible and holds the keys and responsibility of her mother, her aunts and her sister friends in her hands.
Let's celebrate these young girls, let's talk to them, let's give them a voice that they are so often denied. Let's talk.
Much love to you,