By Madalyn McKnight
You are black and ugly. Words I heard as a child growing up in the south from those who looked like me and those who wished they looked like me. Reflection during Women’s History Month means taking a look at my journey to womanhood and what has changed in the world.
My thick hair is now a crown. My glasses, now an accessory. My lips sought after from a tube in Sephora. And my hips, sculpted every day by medical professionals. My blackness is now popular, my features now celebrated. Build a time machine, go back about 15 years and tell my younger self that notion. Watch me show all my teeth in laughter.
Today, my only ugliness is a result of events happening in the world around me. Now, as a woman coming from a place of confidence and not boastfulness, I have learned that ugliness comes in many forms. My features are not one. My mama and Beyonce taught me.
No, but seriously…
I will admit that the emotion-packed spoken work of Beyonce’s film Lemonade prompted me to check out the work of Kenyan born UK poet Warsan Shire, and I found another type of ugliness the world has to offer. I purchased the book “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth” a few years ago and was greatly impacted by the small brown book with a short number of pages. Her words from the poem “Ugly” reminded me that we are beautiful and strong, even in the face of a world who views us as unattractive and takes all our resources and gifts. Although this poem is seemingly about the horrors of colonization and ignorance on immigration, her metaphors have double meaning about how the world depletes us as women and then call the shell of our being, ugly or undesirable. She ends the poem with the stanzas,
Your daughter’s face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camp behind each ear,
a body littered with ugly things
doesn’t she wear
the world well.
-Warsan Shire, “Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth”
You are not ugly. You are not what they say about you. Although my words may have no bearing, they will if you repeat them to yourself. To sum up this excerpt, the world may beat you up, but you are still beautiful and you are embracing your flaws effortlessly.
Wear the world better the world treats you. Negate that ugliness with forgiveness and peace. Not that you owe that to anyone, but because you owe it to yourself. In the words of TLC, make them feel unpretty. And let your light shine.
Madalyn McKnight is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC. A rare blackbird who has the range and a young black professional with impactful words! Follow her on Instagram and Facebook at @singsongblackbird and twitter @singsongblckbrd