by: Joy A E Etukudo

There will come days that people may look at your hair, your face, your skin
and call you ugly
They will stare, with smiles on their faces and call out in voices full of snickers what animals they think you most closely resemble,
they will call you black as if it is an insult
Do not let this get to you
you are beautiful beyond measure
So you tell them, that the color black absorbs light
and that you are so dark because the sun is in love with you,
so brown because the earth wishes it could live in your bones,
tell them that your hair is a crown
big and wide enough to reach up to Heaven
Tell them that your face alone is proof that God exist
You are queen, goddess, baby, black girl Jesus
Your melanin is holy
and you will be crucified for this



There may come days, where men will pry you open, place their sins inside of you, lock you up like a cage and leave you in the dark to rust
They will silence you, calling you things like worthless and undesirable
They will take the word beautiful away from you and turn it into a trigger
Do not let this kill you


Instead, turn their sins into light and use it to find your way out of their darkness
And while you are on your way, use that light to guide the word beautiful back to you
tell it to come home because words like beautiful and strong and magical have always belonged to you.
Do not let anybody tell you any different



Remember that you are much more than the things people will try to make you become
That you are more than the scars that these people will leave behind
but you are not above them. Remember your scars
and use them at the times when you feel most injured
at the times when your bones turn to dust and you forget if goodness ever really existed
days where people call you worthless and you believe them
days when the curves of your own body seem like nothing but lies to you and you begin to question your own existence, your own light, your own greatness
Trust me, days like this will come
So keep your scars, do not cover them up, do not hide them from shame
Instead, uses them as a reminder that you were able to get through anything



There will be days when people will look at you with frowns on their faces and turned up noses
they will judge you
They will ask you why you talk so loud, laugh so loud, why you’re so angry
But you laugh, you cry, you scream, as loud as you want to and tell them that you are singing the songs of your ancestors
Tell them that your laughter carries the weight of over 1000 years of oppression, depression, and injustice
Let your voice roar from your lungs, tears flow from your eyes, black girl
You, be angry
You be happy,
You be tired,
You be proud of the roots that line your spine,
You be proud of your melanin.


Joy, who also goes by the name Arit Emmanuela, is a Nigerian American writer, photographer, editor, and director. She received her BA in Cinematic Arts and Creative writing from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
She bases all of her work on ideas of identity and individuality and uses her work as a platform that focuses on the parts of stories that are not often told. When she is not writing or directing she works as a freelance photographer. She has been in multiple exhibitions including the Baltimore RAW Artists Showcase and Art All Night DC. She has also dabbled in performance including The Vagina Monologues and an untitled performance art piece.

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Image credits:
Photography: Wonuola Lawal
Art Direction: Adeola Naomi Aderemi
Model: Stephanie V. Otiono
Hairstylist: Favour J
Makeup: Joan V. Otiono