When I was little, I used to love watching shows like Punky Brewster, Clarissa Explains It All, and The Secret World of Alex Mack. The protagonists were funky yet cool, unique, and independent. Punky Brewster showed me that I could wear colorful, mismatched clothes. Clarissa talked to her viewers in each episode, and her male best friend would unexpectedly climb into her room from a ladder. And Miss Alex Mack could transform from a teenage girl into a puddle of water.
I was a quiet and imaginative little girl who fell into the worlds of these protagonists. Each of them had their “geeky” interests, but they also told it like it is. They were not trying to conform to the expectations of others. Each of them was a quirky woman, but none of them were Black.
As I grew older, I found out that there was a quirky young actress named Zooey Deschanel. She wore bangs and vintage inspired dresses with flats. She did not only act in movies such as Elf and 500 Days of Summer, but she sang in a duo called She & Him. When I watched Zooey Deschanel in her films, I begun to realize that I was quirky too. I was excited to know that I had my own style and that I could not be put in a box. But I was Black.
Could I be both Black and quirky?
Even though, my parents gave me books about Black historical figures and talked to me about what racism looked like, I still had this image of what Black really was. And even though, I had performed bold poetry in Black History shows in high school, I still struggled with how Black I really was. It was a strange struggle, because I had this passion for Black culture and history, but I had moments where the media or another person questioned my Blackness.
In the media, Blackness = you’re bad; you’re ugly; you’re ghetto.
And even from some Black folks, I had this feeling that I did not measure up, because I did not have enough “street” in me. Now, I know that such thoughts are a product of internalized racism. The media constantly loves to tell Black folks who they really are, and these perceptions are unconsciously breathed in. Then, we learn to look at ourselves and each other in harmful ways.
I have realized that Blackness has variations. Each Black person lives and expresses his or her Blackness in a different way. I am Black and quirky, and it’s OK!
I am OK with being the Black woman who wears polka dots and bright colors. The Black woman who is somewhat clumsy and thinks for a while before she speaks.
And I am OK with being the Black woman who listens to Sam Cooke, Coldplay, Hillsong United, and Tye Tribbett, because music sounds too good to stick with one genre.
And I am even OK with being the Black woman with the big afro and boho headwrap who holds a cup of Starbucks iced coffee in her hand. Some call it hipster, but I call it quirky.
Fortunately, I have a lot of quirky Black role models. I have a crew of quirky Black female friends who sing, write, and love to encourage others. I can talk to these women about my faith in God and my Black identity. I can have my “geek” moments where I ramble about the Civil Rights Movement, and they actually listen. Well, maybe.. they listen. 🙂 I can also explain my thoughts about the current treatment of Black folks today.
Along with my crew of Black female friends, I also admire several Black celebrities who embrace their individuality: Solange, Janelle Monae, Cree Summer, Tracee Ellis Ross, Zoe Kravitz, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, India Arie, Nicole C. Mullen, Teyonah Parris, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Viola Davis. No, I don’t know these beautiful women personally, but I feel that they are all Black and quirky. Their moments in television or music have demonstrated to me that it is OK to be Black and quirky.
Previously, I have told you about the two Black girls that I have in my Sunday School class. One of the girls is my cousin, and she is a quirky one too. She has this silly sense of humor, likes superhero movies, reads books, and plays the piano. One day, I went out with her and her mom, and I asked her mom, “How did G get to be so quirky?” Her mom smiled, and I think she said that she didn’t know how.
When I think about G’s quirkiness, I think about myself. For a long time, I was afraid to be quirky, because I wanted to be “Black” enough. Whatever being “Black” enough was, I was aspiring to be it. It was almost like I had an imaginary scale in my head and when I reached a certain number, I was truly “Black.” I’m much wiser, and I know that my Blackness is enough.
But I want G, my other Sunday School student, JS, and other Black girls to know that they do not have to pretend to be a version of themselves. I realize that the reality is that G, J, and other Black girls will grow up with the dilemma to be who they really are or to be something false. But my hope is when they face this dilemma that they choose to be who they really are.
Little drummer girl
Shenanigans in Target