Loving Your Reflection

Loving the Relection in the Mirror is Not a Mirage

Dear Friends,

MwatiAfricanWoman2-MwatiMwilaHappy New Year!!! Welcome to the New Year that God has blessed us with! I hope you are ready to tackle 2019!!! I AM!!! I promise to love more and not judge myself or others so harshly this year.

This seasonal bloom is full of love with Valentine’s Day, black reflection with Black History Month and my birthday on March 3rd . I Love this time of the year, I get to reflect on many things about myself. I look at myself in the mirror and see a black woman, an African woman with African roots that continues to evolve with the celebration of my thirty-fourth birthday.

Black History Month

This Black History month is a time for me to reflect on who I am and my African roots. I have not always appreciated who I am…It took me a while to come to terms with accepting myself.

I remember at twelve years old I was this girl with dark skin, crooked teeth and braids. I had just come from Australia, and had a heavy Aussie accent. As soon as we came to Seattle, Washington in 1997, I wanted to be like most “African Americans” I saw on TV. I wanted to be “African American.” It wasn’t that I was ashamed to be “African,” it was because I moved from Zambia when I was six years old and being away for so long it didn’t seem like home. When I visited Zambia in 2006, I still couldn’t feel a connection. My mother has tried to keep our traditions alive at home by speaking my native tongue and cooking Zambian food. I still didn’t feel as proud as I should have. I emulated Michael and Janet Jackson and wanted to sing like Mary J. Blige. I wanted the long hair, I wanted to be light skin, and everything I saw in the music videos. I wasn’t quite denouncing my own roots just wanted to add another one.

It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, when I changed how I looked at myself. It took me about twenty years to be comfortable with the skin I was in – not just looking in the mirror hoping to see a mirage.

Just being African…

In my Anthropology class, I had to do an Ethnography project, which is the study of other people/cultures. So I decided to dig deeper into my African roots. My sister and I had a friend from Gambia in West Africa, and I interviewed her to study her culture, similarities and differences between hers and my culture in Zambia. Also how they settled here in the Seattle area and the diaspora of their culture here in America. I enjoyed the project and I even attended a traditional wedding to observe and document my findings. I received 100% on the paper and loved the experience; it was the first time I had been to an African party on my own. I had the time of my life. Just indulging in the culture; the dances, the music, the food the different shades of black, it was beautiful.

MwatiImage-MwatiMwilaI fell in love with being just “African” and there was nothing wrong with adopting the “African American” culture as long as I knew where I was from, and it was ok to choose just black or other on the census forms.

I was watching CNN with Don Lemon the other day and he had a debate with a CNN reporter on Senator Kamala Harris’ background. She is of Jamaican and Indian background but was born here in the US. Mr. Lemon stated that to be African American means you not only have to be born here, which I wasn’t, but  you also have to have roots to slavery and have roots stemming from the Jim Crow era. (The Jim Crow laws stem from a time in history where black people were separated, mistreated and marginalized by white people, from 1876 until the Civil Rights Movement in 1965.)

According to Mr. Lemon’s description, I don’t qualify as an African American, but I am indeed black and that doesn’t mean I can’t share my culture with African American culture and vice versa. You’re probably thinking I should be proud of my African roots. I AM now!!!

Loving my African heritage…

Not only after that experience which opened my eyes to my African heritage, but also when I lived in Atlanta, I got huge rude awakening…Now in Atlanta there is a huge diaspora from lots of African/Caribbean countries. I went to every Zambian Kitchen Party (Zambian bridal shower) in Atlanta. In my culture, the bridal shower, is just like another wedding it’s a celebratory event for the bride to be, and the women in her life who have helped shape her into the woman she is. From that point on I loved being Zambian, I found the love in myself, the missing love piece in my life, and showed off my melanin dark skin with pride.

MwatiSunglasses-MwatiMwilaNow, every Black History Month I celebrate my black history, my African roots and my assimilation into the African American culture. I talk about this in my book Strengthening Your Identity While the Shadow is in Front of You. I also celebrate my self-love and look back on the discrimination my family and I received living in Australia. Every Valentine’s day I celebrate me and all I have been through with bipolar. I celebrate the tough times in the past in solitude, with my self-reflection on all that I had endured with my illness and shadow that blinded the light from shining on my deep rich dark skin.

As I turn thirty-four, I am proud of who I am and I hope you get to indulge in yourself every time you look in the mirror. Don’t be distracted by the images on TV of a fake reflection that brings a mirage in front of you. Those fake portrayals that are visible in the media and in the world. My hope, especially for the youth, is that you not read so much into what you see and hear in the media, but believe in the identity that reflects back at you when you look in the mirror. Believe in that young woman or man who has so many levels and elements for achieving something great.

With abundant love,
Mwati

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