Culture  A Self-Care Guide for Melanated Bodies


A black woman’s body is the only kind of body that holds memories in the pigments of her
melanin
Holds onto mama’s pain, grandmama’s pain, great-grandmama’s pain
Because she wants to be able to say that she’s got family treasures too
Unknowingly, we carry the pain around wherever we go
We season our food with it and feed it to our children
It seeps into our breast milk
Intoxicating generations
Highly-melanated bodies register every aggression

Every black baby slips into life already soaked in oppression
The deathly pain that bathed them in the depths of mama dearest
It’s a pain that was gifted to us
A gift that comes with every black body but great- grandmama lost the receipt
This isn’t the kind of gift you can return to the store.
It’s a pain that comes with migrating to a country that destroyed yours, in the first place, and
then hearing the door slam in your face as they tell you to go back to where you came from.
But weren’t they the ones who told you that you were a colony of this nation?
Weren’t they the ones who told you that you were a part of this nation so, technically, if I’m not
mistaken, aren’t you already home? Isn’t this where you come from?
Your homeland be a jewel in the king’s crown so isn’t this your kingdom too?
When black women go through immigration, as the guardians of their culture, they must
navigate the reconciliation of the culture of the white man versus the culture of her home
land.

Tellin’ her kids things like “baby be proud and black but walk on the white path,”
Baby hold on to our cultural alliance but study the white man’s science
Don’t you know you can only be a doctor, lawyer or engineer? Where you think you goin’?
I gave you life, now you be owin’ me my happiness back
Cuz they stole it from me when they coloured me black
Coloured me immigrant
Coloured me uneducated
Coloured me survival salary
Coloured me to the bottom of the food chain
So, baby please, I beg you, be ice-cold smooth sophistication
Soft cashmere silky
Angelic sweet milky bright light right
Baby be white.
As white as possible so that I can stop havin’ to slave for the white man’s system. So that I can
be free
Physically and mentally.
Women of colour who immigrate are traumatized.
Don’t believe me? Look into their eyes. They’re decorated with crows feet at the edges.
So, as a fellow creature of the night, even the crow thought she should close her eyes to spare
herself from the hardships in store
Wrinkles and folds of her body hiding signs of neglect because she doesn’t even consider herself
important anymore
Too busy dealing with reality.
She refuses to acknowledge the fear, anxiety, and insecurity buried deep beneath the hustle
mentality.
Oh, she won’t let you see it at first, but it’s there. She’s become an expert at camouflaging her
emotions behind expressions of stone, an ice-cold tone and a smile made of recycled suffering
flesh and bone.
An expert at sacrificing her own health for that of her children, but she doesn’t realize that
her suffering bleeds into them through an invisible umbilical cord that connects them through
life, through mind, through body.
Like mother, like daughter. Hurt mother hurts daughter. Hurt daughter hurts daughter and
the cycle continues.
The trauma is passed down like family heirlooms.
The mental health of women of colour is an invisible ball and chain that desperately needs
breaking.
The strength for breaking it lies in healing their minds of microaggressive trauma
Healing their bodies from harmful reflections of who the world thinks they’re supposed to be.
Bodies of beauty made to believe they are beastly
Don’t believe me?
Women bleaching their skin in Ghana every day. You tellin me that’s not trauma?
Little ebony princesses fearing the sun won’t even go out and play. You tellin me that’s not
trauma?
When in reality, we be the only humans whose skin rules sun and moon at the same goddamn
time.
Meanwhile, daughters of third world warrior beauties deal with their family treasures by protesting
the system.
Meanwhile, when the moon rises to take over the skies they can’t seem to close their eyes.
Meanwhile, beneath the social justice activist façade their bodies are praying to God that she
slow the fuck down and take care of herself.
That she take the time and call it anxiety if it’s anxiety
Call it depression if it’s depression
Call it anorexia if it’s anorexia
Call it whatever you will, love, but don’t call it nonexistent
This shit is real. This shit is persistent.
Call it whatever you will, love, but don’t follow in your mother’s footsteps.
Don’t call it a white people thing. Health is not a white people thing.

So, take a good look in the mirror,
Don’t you see how they’ve etched a prophecy in our scars?
Don’t you see how the greatest revolution isn’t in the protests we organize to survive, but in
the acts of self-care we take to thrive.
Listen to your body. The vessel that carries your soul. She speaks to you.
With every ache. With every moan. With every cracked and broken bone.
With every drop of blood and act of self-care you postpone
With every chain, with every strain, with every trauma you retain
With every tear, with every fear, with every whisper that you hear.
With every feeling you ignore, although you feel it in your core.
With every shiver, every burst, desire or unquenched thirst.
Your body tells you…fuck reality, fuck the hustle mentality.
Throw away your superwoman cloak, it didn’t get mama very far, and it sure as hell won’t fly
you to the stars.

You already have wings.

But they be such vulnerable fleshy things, made of paper thin skin and breakable bone.
Your body be a strong yet delicate throne.
So take your seat … and take over the world with the way you take care of yourself.