I grew up in a part of Africa where the cocks crowed in beautiful harmony alerting all to the dawn of a new day. Watching the sun rise above the coconut trees and set below the waters was something we all did, sometimes unconsciously. During the day the branches of the trees swayed gently dancing to the tune of the afternoon breeze. It was during this time when the sun wasn’t hot, while our parents were bent over their plants in the fields that we started playing under the watchful eyes of an older child. I had two friends Adaeze and Saronia. We’d meet in the late mornings and play till late in the evenings. On days when the boys joined us we would act dramas, I loved acting as mother and Adaeze would be my little Princess since her size wouldn’t afford her another position. Most of the days we played alone imitating the way our mothers cooked, sewed dresses and made our hair. Saronia would always find a way to mimic her mother’s shrill cry when her food got burnt. There was another girl in the neighborhood who hardly came out to join in our play. She was as white as the chalk my teacher used in school. My father said she is half caste. When I asked what that meant he said her father is an African and her mother is an American that is why she is white. Rumor had it that her father divorced his Americana wife and brought the child – Jasmine hidden in a basket of flowers back to Africa. Jasmine was treated like an egg that is about to hatch. No one went too close to her and she couldn’t make friends because her father forbade her from going out of the house. She always watched us play from the window of her house.
Dancing under the rain became our play culture during the raining season. We’d play in the mud and then let the rain wash the dirt away. Once Jasmine’s father caught her putting her hand in the rain and slapped her, her cheek where his hand landed became pink something we’ve never seen before. I told my parents about this incident and Mom said that the reason why Jasmine’s cheek turned pink was because of her skin color, she also said that Jasmine’s skin is softer than our own skin that’s why she always wears a hat or uses an umbrella so she doesn’t get burnt.
“I don’t want that kind of skin”, I told my Mom. She said, ” Obong-awan you’re beautiful with your black skin. Your skin glows.” I didn’t know what “glows” meant but I loved how it sounded when I said it so when Adaeze started saying she wants to be like Jasmine with a skin of a Fairy Princess I told her what Mother told me, “Adaeze, you’re beautiful with your black skin. Your skin glows”.
My little daughter looks up at me and asks, “Mummy does my skin glow?”.
“Yes baby”, I reply, “if you pour water on your skin those droplets look like little pearls and diamonds. Do not change your skin color at anytime. Your skin color tells your story, your history is boldly written on your skin color. Do not trade it for anything else.”
I know she doesn’t yet understand what I just said but I hope she remembers these words for the rest of her life.
© Jude Alexander