In my last ‘Black Is My Colour’ post, I spoke about my journey up until university and my personal struggles with my ‘blackness’. In this post we’ll talk a bit about how all of this changed.
While I was at university I really started to become more interested in black history. I knew a litte but it doesn’t get taught as part of the comprehensive curriculum in the UK so mostly I had to teach myself. I started reading deeply into the history of our brother El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz , Malcolm X as he is more commonly known and the civilisations that existed prior to what we know now as ancient Egypt. I started reading books about ancient Kemet, Sudan, the rich cultures of Ghana, Nigeria, the Congo and the likes.
The people in the pictures, they looked like me. They had kinky curly hair like mine and it was fabulous. I went on to read about Angela Davies and the Black Panther Movement. I researched the history of black hair and why relaxers are so heinously bad for you. I watched Chris Rock’s Good Hair and vowed to never relax my hair again (although I did later slip up before going back to being natural).
It opened my mind to the possibility that black was indeed beautiful, I was beautiful and there were other people out there that felt exactly the same way about their ‘blackness’. By learning about who I was, where I came from and why it was so important to love myself in a society that constantly changed what perfection was (albeit, black is yet to be seen as perfection) I found the starting point of a new me.
You may be asking, “but you said your mom was naturally beautiful, why did it take you so long to realise this?” But that was just it, she was my mom. She is a classic black beauty in that sense and I never thought I’d ever reach that. By looking for ‘perfection’ in this day and age, I skipped over the one woman I should have been trying to emulate in her style and grace.
The more I learnt about black culture the more I wanted to have that sense of self not just in my own skin but in my beliefs. I read into how Christianity was spread by the sword and people were ripped away from their cultural identity, their families and their homes. I started to question my belief in what Christianity taught and how it had affected black people for centuries. The story of Ham was the thing that broke me. Christian missionaries had used the story of Ham to justify slavery and the condemnation of black skin subhanAllah.
It was then, while I was on this violatile journey, that I met the man who was to become my husband. We met while I was still ‘Christian’ and growing out my hair, trying to assert myself as a dominant black woman. He introduced me to so many new things (that bit hasn’t changed) and he was probably the first person to ever make me consider becoming a Muslim. I’d never really met or seen black Muslims before this point with the same history as me (Black British/ Caribbean) and I was fascinated.
When I met him it was just before Ramadhan 2010, and it was my first experience of seeing someone fast. It seems insane to us both now that a Muslim and a Christian met before Ramadhan and dated subhanAllah, may Allah swt forgive us both. He was the man that truly helped me learn to love myself as a black woman, to look in the mirror and feel happy with what I saw. He was the first man to tell me that I was beautiful and I believed him wholeheartedly. Allah swt brought him into my life in the most unconventional fashion subhanAllah and I thank him for it every day. It was clear that by learning to love myself, I was now able to love someone else.
About a year after we started dating I became Muslim alhamdulillah (my conversion had nothing to do with him but I will discuss it in a later post inshaAllah) and again everything changed. I was now Black AND Muslim, a totally different playing field. New obstacles, new challenges and a new perspective on life.
Black Is My Colour will conclude with Part 4, my journey so far through Islam being a Black Muslimah and what my hopes for the future are inshaAllah.
Wasalaam – Peace Be With You