a Black girl.

 Growing up a Black girl meant I was born with more swag than you could ever imagine and I hate how “yal” made that word popular. It means that they are called Bantu knots and not “space buns.” It means that they are Timbs, and not “field boots” as seen on Gigi Hadid.

Before we collectively lost our length to Just For Me, growing up a Black girl meant making statements in the form of colorful beads and barrettes and making sure not to come home missing any. See also: begging for ponytails so I could show everybody how long my hair is getting.

Spending hot summer nights praying that the street lights would be considerate of how intense the double dutch tournament was getting and offer us just a teeny bit more time. Turning fire hydrants into sprinklers and hoping that nobody told because our mommas didn’t feel like taking us to the city pool. It included cousins who felt more like sisters because we didn’t even know what first and second cousins meant until some white people told us. Second what? No. We all family. You fight, I fight, or we gotta deal with trouble once we get back to the house.

Again, cooler than you.

Growing up a Black girl meant that I knew all the dances and if I couldn’t quite get the 8-count together (I never could), we had mandatory practice in someone’s bedroom before the next skating rink party. Loving Chris Brown until we grew up and realized he was problematic (once we learned the definition) and feeling guilty when you hear “Poppin” and want to say say say what yo name is. Cuz, yeah, It fits you girl.

It meant shawalawoop woop hey hey. And even though I was never the one with the big bootyyyy, I was “Rif” and yeah, that’s me. It meant wanting a family like the Huxtables before we found out the doc only prescribed quaaludes. Wanting to go to Hillman so you could find your Dwayne Wayne. It meant being hype when Proud Family dropped because we finally had someone who looked like us and also knew the importance of having Destiny’s Child on the track.

ICYMI – Still cooler than you.

Growing up a Black girl meant my skin color has an identity completely independent of my own, with my complexion to serve as many things. An act of protest. A catalyst of fear. The visualization of an eye roll when all I did was say “excuse me.” Getting called “Teresa” when I made a point to use “F as in Frank” whilst spelling my name to avoid any confusion.

It meant being asked “what are you mixed with” as if that is some confirmation of beauty. Growing up and understanding why your momma needed My Life to get through Saturday mornings. Using your groupchat as a safe space to vent about how your coworker is one small microaggression away from getting cussed out. Yes, I do like Migos and no their best song isn’t “Black Beatles”, Karen.

Growing up a Black girl meant membership to an elite group of superwomen. A bond. A sisterhood. It means creating art that other little Black girls can be proud of. It means sharing art so that other former Black girls can smile.

 Thank you, Toi.