The Quiet Afro: breaking the stereotype of changemakers
People gave me dirty looks, others said I was beautiful, some questioned whether I would shake the ship because I’m obviously pro black; this was simply the beliefs that followed me rocking an afro. I’ve never protested, I believe in human rights but then I quit working in community services. I jumped off the train of helping others through institutions to help myself and in the middle of working on me. I discovered the keys to set us all free. It’s not the government where change happens it’s within me. So after 5 months of depression, undoing belief systems that had me feeling powerless, I discovered I have what I need to support others and I created a space online and in my home for people to be at home and be themselves.
This was the synopsis of my story that allowed me to be a part of the Human Library Project.
I can’t be humble as I say I really took part in some amazing events over the last week. I was a part of the Human Library project at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus and I got to speak at a Women’s Empowerment Event only the second time I’ve spoken in public and the first time to an audience I didn’t know. I realized a lot had changed within me by simply going through each experience, which has lead me to focus on sharing how powerful and important it is for us to vocalize our stories and share them with others.
I’ve always heard that we need someone to look up to, a role model of any kind that can show us that anything is possible and that we can move beyond our circumstances to become something great. But never had I thought to see myself as my own role model. I spoke with five people at the Human Library, each person so different from the one before and as I spoke very candidly about my life and the experience of transitioning to having my natural hair, which happens to be the colour red at this point in order to explain the meaning behind my book title, The Quiet Afro. Some of the questions that came up in the early part of our conversations were:
“You’re a beautiful girl, so why did you receive dirty looks?”
“I love your hair, what do you mean people thought you’d shake the ship”
“ What is it that you do now to help others?”
“I don’t know where to start.
By the end of most of my conversations people had statements of intention that they were going to go forward with, while others remembered that they have a story to share and they too are strong. Within speaking about myself people were able to see themselves in me. When I spoke about the choices I made to empower myself by deciding I’m going to dear to wear my natural hair, my counterpart would then dear to wear a clothing item of their choice that they would shy away from because of their upbringing. When I spoke about deciding to leave a situation that didn’t feel right, my counterpart would reflect on their decision and understand that it is okay to leave social work and its within their right to do whats best for themselves. When I spoke about my need to share my experience of depression and changing my life, my counterpart spoke about being strong enough to get through a life full of abuse and her longing to write a story about her life.
Individually we always feel that we’re in this alone and so we have to find the strength to make a change alone. But as we make spaces to share our stories, we are showing the world that we’re actually all in this together, trying to figure out how we can make our lives better. So guess what?! When you think you need to find all the energy in the world to overcome a challenge, you don’t have to because the energy to overcome is all around us. We just have to ask or take from it. People are truly the most amazing support system when we realize how much we share in common, collectively we have so much power to overcome but individually we may not for different reasons. The Human Library Project, and projects alike create a platform to bring together the energy of strength and bravery so that we know exactly where we can find support to get through the trivial parts of our life.
For me and those who share their story, it helps me to hear how much I had overcome. I made space for me to see myself in a different light than I had before, I finally got to see how temporary most of the obstacles were and that I literally could overcome ANYTHING! Interesting enough this is also the end of Easter and for those who know about the resurrection of Jesus, then this realization is also divinely aligned with knowing that when you access God (whichever higher power you believe in) or when you access people (God is in all of us) we can all rise again.
Thank you so much to the human library and to Female Boss, the Women Empowerment event for showing me how I could help empower someone else to overcome. I encourage everyone to please continue to share your story, but don’t stop their reflect too on how much you overcame because that in itself is a miracle.