I Shine, You Shine (Shine)

Sunday, 20 February 2011
As I've been on the road promoting my book, Powder Necklace, I've found myself repeating over and over again the inspiration behind the story. I share my spiel about how embarrassed I was as a young woman about my Ghanaian/African roots because 1)people used to call me stupid names like African bootie scratcher, and 2)all I saw on TV were negative images of starving children swollen from malnutrition, too weak to swat away the flies swirling around them.

I then go on to note all the other negatives associated with Africa: war, AIDS, poverty, corruption, etc. I end my spiel by explaining, I wrote the book -- about a London-born and raised girl who gets shipped to Ghana after her mom flips out when she catches her with a boy -- because I wanted to combat these dark stereotypes; show people that what the protagonist in my novel finds in Ghana is very different than what she imagined. In Ghana, people go to work, church, and school; drive cars; etc. Yes many people are struggling there, but unemployment, lack of access to adequate healthcare, lack of confidence in politicians, etc are issues people are struggling with in the Western World too.

As I've been giving my spiel and making my pitch, I've realized that I chose to imbibe that darkness. I had many positive images and reinforcements in my life too, yet, as Julia Roberts' character told Richard Gere's in Pretty Woman, "The bad stuff's easier to believe."

Around the same time the Ethiopian famine was in heavy rotation on the news, The Cosby Show was on the air using the middle-class Huxtable family to debunk myth after myth about black America one studio audience laugh track at a time. Even though I grew up hearing my parents fluently express themselves in five different languages, I dismissed their impressive multilingual skills because the languages Fante, Twi, Ga, and Ewe didn't seem as impressive to me as French, German, Spanish, and Italian. I know where I got that idea, but why did I so readily believe it?

I wish I'd had the courage and confidence to accept myself, rather than let others define me. But alas, I was a kid, and continue to be a human being that wants to be liked and respected. What I'm finding though is the most well-liked and respected people are the ones who choose not to believe the bad stuff. These people are so liked because they give the rest of us a glimpse of what's possible if we push past the names and lies, stop hiding who we are, and just be ourselves.

I came across this Marianne Williamson quote in an old issue of Teen Vogue (which I enjoy may more than adult Vogue) that really challenged me: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Let's commit to not believing the bad stuff anymore. Let's shine. K?


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