Young, Black and Beautiful: Voices of the Northwest Black experience

For most Black women, seeing ourselves portrayed in the media is a painful experience.

Other people see these stereotypical depictions and set ridiculous expectations that every Black woman should be the same. I am here to tell them otherwise.

Through this photo series, I asked a group of young Black women to share their feelings about the way society tells us we should look, think and act, and how they’ve responded to those expectations in their own lives. I hope that young Black girls and women alike hear these voices and know that they are not alone.

Beauty comes in different forms, and we are all beautiful. We are beauty, we are strength, we are resilience.

HOLLY

Holly Okot-Okidi
24 years old ◊ Certified Nursing Assistant

How do you feel Black women are portrayed in the media and how do you deal with this portrayal?

“Having darker skin and being a female, you are put lower. You are seen as not as important, not as beautiful, not as smart. You have all these stigmas against you, all these stereotypes that people attach to you before they even know you. But I used this to push me forward and to create my own path because no one else can define whether I’m lesser than or greater than; we all should be equal.”

What advice would you give to the younger you in regards to Blackness and womanhood?

“Just remember that being a young black woman is something you should fully embrace, but to be empowered by anything that makes your heart beat, anything that you feel the world needs to know about. Because that is the truest form of self- love that you can give — following your heart.”

 

SAKARA

Sakara Tyson
17 years old ◊ Student

Has there ever been a time where you felt lesser than as a young Black woman?

“There was an instance where I was accused of stealing which made me feel lesser than because it was simply due to the color of my skin. We are living in a generation where skin color is still a problem, which has partly changed but a lot of it is still the same. It opens your eyes and lets you know that you can still fight and fight until there is no more soul in you to fight anymore.”

What advice would you give to the younger you in regards to Blackness and womanhood?

“All Black women go through a lot in this generation and have gone through a lot. It is really just being strong, knowing who you are and continuing to move forward in your life, that will help you stay balanced.”

 

REANAN

Reanan Obiya
18 years old ◊ Student

How do you feel Black women are portrayed in the media and how do you deal with this portrayal?

“For a long time, Black women have been portrayed in the media negatively. Usually as rowdy, or uneducated. They sometimes throw in a Black actress to claim “diversity”, and all that she would do is play a stereotypical character, among her “normal” friends. In a few shows I see black women portrayed in a better way, just living their lives and not falling into the stereotype.”

What does beauty mean to you?

“What may be seen as beautiful to one person may not be seen as the same to someone else. But just know that we are all beautiful. I would say to a younger me: be true to yourself. You do not have to follow someone else’s route just to be accepted. You are the way you are because it is the way God made you. You should be proud of it and not shame your identity.”

 

SHEWIT

Shewit Woldemichael
17 years old ◊ Student

How do you feel Black women are portrayed in the media and how do you deal with this portrayal?

“I feel as though Black women are portrayed in a stereotypical way. There have been occasions where someone said that I sound or act white, because I don’t fit into their stereotypical image of a Black woman. That is offensive because they’re setting a limitation for how far I can express myself. Regrettably, I usually brush the comment off and jump to another topic.”

What advice would you give to the younger you in regards to Blackness and womanhood?

“People will have expectations of you and they will say offensive things, either directly or passively but never let their opinion of how much you are worth dictate you as a person. A Black woman is as capable of becoming successful as the white man, if not better.”

 

 MARTHA

Martha Torujo
17 years old ◊ Student

What does beauty mean to you?

“Beauty is not only the physical side, but it is also your relationship with yourself and your relationships with other people. I think being surrounded by images of beauty and being told what beauty is, and realizing that these images of beauty look nothing like you, does make you feel a certain way about yourself.”

What advice would you give to the younger you in regards to Blackness and womanhood?

“If you surround yourself with images of beautiful Black women that look like yourself and images of people who are like you, you will feel a lot better about yourself. As a Black person, you cannot wait for somebody else or other groups of people to help make you feel better about yourself. You have to inspire it in other people and also inspire it in yourself.”

 

SESAIT

Sesait Tekle
19 years old ◊ Student and Assistant Manager

How do you feel Black women are portrayed in the media and how do you deal with this portrayal?

“Black women who are successful in the media today are always questioned on how they got to where they are. Whether they are a manager in a higher up company, or the CEO, or a news anchor, people always ask, ‘How did she get there? Is it because she’s Black? Where does she get her money?’ It is never, ‘Hey she worked hard and got the job.’ It is always, ‘What did she do to get the job?’

What advice would you give to the younger you in regards to Blackness and womanhood?

“If I could go back and tell the younger me, I would say don’t let anyone make you feel insecure nor define who you are. You are beautiful, regardless of your race, religion, and your culture. You are you and no one can take that from you. You must accept that, embellish it and not be fearful of what people may say.”

 

MIRIAM

Miriam Okot-Okidi
25 years old ◊ Clinic Staffing Coordinator

What does beauty mean to you?

“Just being yourself. No one can take that from you. I do not let being oppressed keep me down. You as yourself, you are the only one that can judge yourself and put yourself down. Have high self esteem and believe in yourself.”

What advice would you give to the younger you in regards to Blackness and womanhood?

“Never give up on your dreams, your goals, your passions, and your aspirations. No one is perfect; including yourself but you are the perfect imperfect you.”

 

FILSAN

Filsan Abdi
19 years old ◊ Student

Has there ever been a time where you felt lesser than as a young Black woman?

“Especially when I am in an environment where I am the minority, people treat me as though I am less than. They look at me like I am not important or my voice doesn’t matter. I do not think anyone should be looked at any differently based off of the color that they have been created with. The vibe and the stigma has always been in the air that you will never, ever be equal to the white man. I have always constantly, either directly or indirectly, been getting that in many negative ways.”

How do you feel Black women are portrayed in the media and how do you deal with this portrayal?

“Throughout history we see that Black women are so strong. They are much more than what the media portrays them as. They are beautiful, strong, confident women who have been through a lot. Nothing is easy, and the media can break them. Within their souls is a beautiful spirit that will forever lie with confidence, which will be upheld one day, and their rights will be given to them.”

 

DEEQA

Deeqa Mah
17 years old ◊ Student

Has there ever been a time where you felt lesser than as a young Black woman?

“Every single day I am judged by the color of my skin, it is crazy. People can’t even smile at me, no one trusts me. We actually have to have a day called “black out day” to exemplify the beauty of black women, which is pretty sad. People don’t see it everyday.”

What are your goals and aspirations for the future?

“I want to be a successful, young, black Somali woman. I hope to open up a maternity hospital named after my aunt who passed away during childbirth. I also want to help people who cannot afford medical care.”

 

AJAH

Ajah Piper
20 years old ◊ Student

How do you feel Black women are portrayed in the media and how do you deal with this portrayal?

“In the media, we do not have the best light on ourselves. We are seen as very demanding, loud and not very comfortable in our own skin as women. But I always see things like “Black Girls Rock” and think that there is hope for us. But definitely I do wish for a change in how we are portrayed in the media.”

What advice would you give to the younger you in regards to blackness and womanhood?

“I would steer clear of anything on TV or anything that you see in the media. You know, it is very likely to happen to most Black women as young girls, to struggle with their self esteem and finding who they are but my advice is that if you are going through that struggle, just never stop and keeping going. Never stop loving yourself, and always be confident in who you are. Once you reach that stage where you are fully going to take all of yourself for who you are and bring yourself to the world, there is nothing that can stop you.”

2 Comments

  1. Wonderful article. It is sad that such prejudices still exist in this day and age. This goes to show that not just a change in law, but also a change in mindsets, is required.

  2. Comment: what an article! I love it! The racial stereotype held again black women is still in existence. The implication is that such women vulnerable to it, uncertain that they could actually be themselves, believe in them and climb the ladder to the top most high, just like any other white woman does. Black is beautiful. I encourage every black woman to love their color and appreciate whatever they have for being black.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.