As soon as I turned 11, I remember having to mature so quickly.
I also remember having to understand that the world around me was no playground, because people were being shot down.
Back then, black girls only had the option of trying to fit in certain boxes. For instance, they could be the teenage mother, the setup chick, the black bitch for the drug lord, the Jezebel, the maid, the slave, or the hoe with daddy issues. Or alternatively, black girls had sex with any man that showed them the slightest bit of attention, so that they felt loved by a man.
I remember seeing girls getting pregnant at such a young age, which forced them to drop out of school. The sad thing was seeing the guys walk away freely, leaving girls that looked just like me to be single mothers.
I remember quickly developing an understanding that being a Black British girl came with a number of stereotypes, because as soon as people saw me they were quick to judge me based on the colour of my skin, quick to think that like those before me I may just sink.
I remember being told by teachers when I was 12 that I have an intimidating personality, that when I smiled I made them feel uneasy, and that when I wasn’t smiling I seemed angry. So I remember avoiding eye contact with people as I clearly thought there must have been something wrong with my ability to communicate my feelings, as each expression I made was interpreted negatively.
I did not let myself be broken by these experiences. Instead, what I did was grow thick skin, to ensure that I was more, gave more, said more and became more.
I’m more than the stereotype that labels me a teenage mother, a child with daddy issues, a whore, a sket, a setup chick, a gang member.
I’m more than the child of a slave, a single mother, a what-less father, a savage.
I’m MORE, because my mother taught me that I could be anything, if I put my mind to it. And I’ve grown up believing one thing, ‘courage is an inner resolution to move forward despite all obstacles.’
So I may have seen my first lifeless body at the age of 11, and I may have witnessed much more drop after that, but my mind grew fat with resilience, the ability to bounce back from anything and I’ve done just that.
I celebrate the fact that I grew up around South-East London, where many fell into the trap of living by the sword and dying by just that, but I made it out, a Southwark youth counsellor, student ambassador, a poet and now an aspiring university graduate.
I plan to further celebrate by giving back to my community, allowing those younger than me to see that there’s so much more that they can be, more to life than what they may have seen.
I’m a strong believer that we need to celebrate the achievements of our Black British girls, who from a young age have been brainwashed into believing that they must sell themselves short, wear tight clothes to gain attention from men, wear makeup to be beautiful, contour their face and wear weave to look like white girls. Black girls are also put down if they’re too light or if they’re too dark, like the shade of their skin changes the fact that they are simply beautiful girls.
So I congratulate the black girl who is a single mum, for she struggles to provide for her child.
I congratulate the black girl who overcame her daddy issues and learnt that she is worth more.
I congratulate the girl who likes getting her weave laid and knows that even without it, she is beautiful in all her natural glory.
I congratulate the black girl who found love in art, poetry, music and dance despite being told ]that she should be a doctor or lawyer.
I congratulate the black girl who broke free from the shackles of a drug lord. And to the black girl still trying to break free so she can dance, I just want to praise you.
I congratulate the black women and their children who, despite facing domestic violence, learnt that they can fight back.
I just congratulate my black girls because the additive approach put forward by Yuval Davis, holds that black women suffer 3 types of oppression, in being black, a woman and working class, but we persevere.
So I congratulate my black girls because you are more, give more, feel more and can always be more.
I toast to my Black British girls, because we are Queens.