Tag Archives: women of color

Anklet Weekend

I had my ears pierced when I was a baby so I don’t remember the pain if there was any. In traditional Caribbean fashion I was sent gold earrings and a gold bracelet from a beloved Aunt of my mother’s. In my baby pictures I can see them in my ears and on my wrist but they are no longer in my possession. During my adolescence, demonstrating classic early signs of DIY craftiness, I pierced my own ears a second time for a second pair of earholes, which I can still feel on my lobes but have not used in many years.

I remember that at Bard College, as an icebreaker with my new and slightly stiff roommate, I held out my hands to her one morning before heading out to class and asked, “What do you think? Do I look too much like Mr. T?” I wore way more rings in those days, at least two to three on each finger.

In addition to earrings, I also have an eclectic collection of necklaces that I love as well. I shop on etsy, H&M, Forever 21, street vendors and museum gift shops which are literally like an amusement park for me.

All of this to say, I wear and have worn as much jewelry as the next woman or man for that matter. But I’ve never done anklets. Oh there was one triple stranded anklet my godmother made for me when I was a girl. She made me jewelry all the time that I adored. That anklet wasn’t one of them. It’s not that it wasn’t nice. I just didn’t get it. My high school BF, Vanessa used to wear these cute silver toe rings. I could never pull that off either. I loved them on her though as I love anklets on other women. I find small adornments like that to be very special and specific. It is an adornment beyond the traditional Western adornment. You have to pay attention to see it and when you look you see more than just the jewelry; you see the body part. Ohhh it’s so feminine.

Well Khalilah is very feminine and she has been after me for some time now to make an anklet for her using some beads she purchased at Beads of Paradise which were originally purchased for me to make her waist beads. I spent a little time in the bead shops downtown on 6th Ave this weekend looking for accent beads, rings, clasps, crimp beads and crimp bead covers to create Khalilah’s anklet. I love bead stores. I got very curious and learned new things about finishing off beaded projects that I didn’t know before. Eternal gratitude to YouTube. LOL!

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Oshun Anklet for Khalilah

This past Sunday I made an anklet bracelet for each of us. Khalilah’s anklet has these beautiful copperish base beads with a translucent pink color you can see when you hold it up to the light, orange accent beads, and these beautiful shimmery gold colored bells that sound delightful when they ring. These colors are inspired by the Goddess Oshun.

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I made mine with a tinier bright yellow base bead because I am just plain shy about wearing an anklet. The yellow is bright but the strand is thin and modest because I am a walking contradiction. LOL! I used green and orange accent beads because they are two of my favorite colors. When I put it on I feel so freaking damsel like. I mean it’s beyond feminine. It’s such a delicate and sweet thing to wear jewelry on your ankles and feet.

I haven’t made anything by hand in a while though and this was a very interesting project. I feel like my sense of color combination and placement is becoming more refined than it used to be. It always feels good to complete a hands on project like this and for me one inspiration invariably leads to others. It’s one of the many things I love about color, creation and making things with my hands, especially in the Summer.

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What place freedom?

What kind of world do I want my unborn daughter to grow up in? It’s a question I’m asking myself more and often lately. And it kind of scares me.

How do young Black girls come to love themselves if they ever do? I know way more about how they come to hate themselves and each other. Though I have never hated my skin color, I myself struggle all the time with the crippling tendency to identify my value with how I look each day, my weight, hair, make-up, clothes. It’s an ongoing process. In my searching and my studying about the power of the human heart and mind, I understand that these things are only transient, fleeting symbols in our lives. But when I’m in the thick of these illusions on a daily basis it’s a real challenge to remember that these images are not who I am at the core. It’s even harder not to always be angry, disappointed, cynical and even a little apathetic to the oppressive nature of racism and the ways in which it subtly and systematically pumps out the message that people who look like me are not as important, valuable, lovely, integral and human as those who identify as white.

And let me be clear. I don’t hate white people. Just by default of the nature of the way I was raised, (home schooled and vegan) I often have a lot more in common with some white people than most blacks until I don’t. But I’m still uncomfortably aware of the way racism and white privilege work to stereotype, demonize, dehumanize and destroy the character of people of color in ways that have not changed since slavery. I am a woman of color and as such I fall into a category which is largely stereotyped, marginalized, brutalized and undervalued to the end goal of mental, emotional economical and political obliteration. It is the evolution of slavery.

This weekend I was hanging out with six lovely ladies at the house of my good friend and academic mentor. We were eating this great chili that her daughter made and chatting about topics like the inhumanity of incarceration and the experiences of mixed race children and how they make their way in the world. Some time later in the evening I started talking about being a home schooled vegan who graduated from a charter high school. Incidentally her daughter also brought up her experience at something called the Afrika School. I asked her what that was and what emerged was this realization the both of us were raised by women who took us to institutions to educate us about African heritage outside of the system of Westernized indoctrination and education which leaves out completely the stories of African Culture pre Slavery time. We were both enrolled in African Dance, Art and drumming classes as well as holistic and alternative practices like meditation, chanting, smudging, vegetarianism, veganism, cleansing, crystal healing, altars prayer and a respect for feminine energy.

But we never talked to our peers about these experiences. And though we never put them down we also never shared them, revered them or boasted about them. That’s another thing we had in common. I think we both agreed that while we didn’t regret it, we also didn’t know how to fit what we had learned from these experiences into the world we existed in where the majority of young black women and men did not receive his kind of tutelage. And when you already feel strange, or odd, or different from people as a young person for whatever reasons, it’s rare that you make the decision to be your “self” not knowing who that is yet or to share stories which would potentially alienate you even further. In High School, fitting in is about being like everybody else. College is about “reinventing” yourself. It’s all a fucking marketing tool.

In any case we exchanged some of the hijinks of these experiences and had a few awkward laughs over them but agreed we were better off having had them rather than not at all and I told her that I would be interested in interviewing her about our shared experiences at some point. I think it’s important to have a space of comfort and pride with which young black women take part in self affirming practices. I feel bad that  as a young person I was not more out of the closet about my time at the Shrine of P’Tah learning about Imhotep, the pyramid architect or at the Fanny Lou Hamer institute learning more about Black Educators with a small group of young people whose parents had the same ideas my mom had. I might tell myself I wasn’t embarrassed about these experiences but if I wasn’t why would I choose to keep it to myself?

Two reasons.

1. Popular culture aka white identified systems of oppression,  never brought it up and young people respond to popular culture even if they live under a rock.

2. I was embarrassed to share things that were not discussed in popular culture.

I do hope that by the time my children get here, this is no longer the case. But in the meantime I have to do what I can to make up for all that I kept to myself by staying connected to those with like-minded ideals for the promotion of spiritual and historical education of young Black hearts and minds. And while I do that I have to confront and dismantle any residual shame or embarrassment that still exists in me over the possibility of not being accepted by popular culture or any majority.