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Making Me Proud of the Skin I’m In

My Black History Month story

Aaliyah Joseph | 3/9/2016, 10:26 a.m.
To be black is to be powerful
Aaliyah Joseph

To be black is to be powerful. To be a black woman means to be strong. To be black and a woman means I am resilient. To be black is to be me; black is who I am.

When I was young, I challenged a fear of my skin color. As I got older, I began working through my challenges and began to see who I was and how strong I truly am.

My misunderstanding to all things race-related started when I was young and innocent. I grew up in north Portland, lived on Mississippi Street, and was surrounded by people who looked like me, spoke like me, acted like me, and were young and innocent like me. I had no clue that because of what color I am, that my mother, father, brothers, and ancestors had suffered some of the same challenges. My biggest fear once I got into the seventh grade was the color of my skin, a deep and dark chocolate sunkissed. A different shade of brown, yet similar to the browns around me.

I asked myself: What makes me different? Why do I look at myself differently when I am around the people who too look like me? Has it always been this way?

My friends and family surrounding me were telling me “Aaliyah you are and always will be loved. You are a part of us and will always be a part of us.”

My family and friends showed me their love by helping me up whenever I fell down. I slowly began to love myself and understand that I am someone with feelings, aspirations, and desires like everyone else. I began saving me from myself and making me proud of the skin I’m in.

Now three years later I am in the 10th grade and a sophomore at De La Salle North Catholic High School. Still I am surrounded by people who look like me. People that are browns, chocolates, and caramels. People that talk and help one another up. People who act, knowing that we are all one group one community, trying to make it together in a hard world.

I have overcome my fear of my darker skin. Learning that regardless of what I look like I will have people who love me for me. Yet every so often I am reflective on what it is like growing up as a young black woman in Portland, Oregon.

Having new friends, and loving what and who I am have helped me succeed and overcome my fears. Even though, every once in awhile, I will have my doubts that I too am beautiful, I still learned that no matter how far I seem to slip, my friends and family are there and pick me up.

Aaliyah Joseph is a sophomore student at De La Salle North Catholic High School.