"As a creative who is also a Black woman I’m reminded daily of the power in which both positive and negative images have and how important and necessary it is for us to see accurate portrayals of ourselves"
As a young girl I was always intrigued as to why my mother was so strict about letting my sister and I read certain magazines. The publications we read at the time ranged from music and lifestyle magazines such as Smash Hits, Just Seventeen and later on as my sister’s interest in fashion grew Vogue.
I never understood the lengths at which my mother’s efforts and disapproval would go until I went against her wishes and purchased a magazine that must have been on her hit list. I returned home to find her in the garden setting fire to a pile of my most treasured magazines. The charred faces of some of my favourite pop stars is a sight and smell I’ll not soon forget.
Although I think I tried to salvage what I could I never asked why she did it, and just assumed that although this was an insane thing to do that deep down she had a good reason (apart from perhaps wanting to use the ashes as compost for her garden).
I get it now. Her absence has meant that I’ve been forced to answer the questions about my identity that I realised I relied on her for. I walk into my local newsagent and petrol station glance over at the row of magazines, and 80% of the time I don’t see a single person that looks like me. Whilst I don’t really read those magazines anymore, it constantly makes me wonder how this makes those who are younger than me feel especially in an age the media’s focus on image is thrown in our faces. There are moments such as Vogue Italia’s ‘Black Issue’, which was widely applauded, and I loved but there’s a side of me that wonders if it was just a token gesture as the issue of race in the fashion industry is still very apparent.
Historically women and even more so Black women have been dictated for centuries about acceptable standards of beauty not just from mainstream sources but also from within our own communities which can be a hard pill to swallow. If we understand the effects of constantly seeing negative images and words about ourselves why is it that we seem to spend more time validating the comments of misguided rappers instead of using these moments to share positive images of ourselves?! In a sad way, perhaps there’s still a part of many of us that still feels hurt.
It’s a times like these that I champion the efforts of people and outlets such as Afro Noire magazine who are taking it upon themselves to portray accurate and diverse images of Black Women. There’s only so much blame you can put on the media, especially in the digital age where there are hundreds of free platforms for you to counteract the mainstream’s often skewed view.
In recent years the sharing of positive messages and images of Black women have increased due to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr giving people the chance to not only submit images of themselves and their inspiration but also for the work of artists who capture the image of black women, to have their work shared with a global audience.
As a creative who is also a Black woman I’m reminded daily of the power in which both positive and negative images have and how important and necessary it is for us to see accurate portrayals of ourselves.