Growing up, I was a beauty pageant brat. I knew I was beautiful because the judges and trophies I won told me I was. People are quick to judge and ask parents how they could put their child through the long days that come with participating in pageants, but I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I wanted to win. I needed to win. So, during my childhood I never questioned if my skin color was beautiful because I was constantly being validated and told that it was.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many young black girls today. Black girls are subjected to tough conditions in school. They’re suspended at a higher rate than white girls, their appearance is constantly criticized by their peers and teachers and they are not taken seriously, even though black women are the most educated group of people in the U.S.
When I got to college, a shift occurred. Suddenly, I didn’t feel smart enough, pretty enough or thin enough. I was constantly aware of how much space I was taking up. Eventually, I became so insecure and depressed that I didn’t want to leave my dorm room. I skipped classes, missed assignments and failed tests, which led to failed classes. I didn’t know it at the time, but I wasn’t alone in how I was feeling. Many black adolescents struggle to find their worth. As a result, their performance in school suffers.
When Lovely Hoffman saw this happening in her classroom at Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Boston, she knew she had to do something about it. Hoffman is a multi-talented artist and educator with a theatre background, she decided to reach young black girls in a way that was comforting and encouraging. She wrote and starred in My Black Is Beautiful, a music video that follows young black girls on a journey of self love and discovery.
My Black is Beautiful isn’t the first song Hoffman has written to address black people and the devaluing of black lives. In 2014, in the wake of the murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner by police, she wrote and produced Black Lives Matter, as a way to support the movement and express her own feelings in these instances of brutality.
Through a mantra of “creativity takes courage,” Hoffman strives to compose music that deals with the multitude of feelings humans experience, especially those who look like her. Her work is often a direct response to what she feels her people need most in times of injustice. Serving as a reminder that our lives matter, have value and that we are beautiful.
With so much talk about black girl magic it’s easy to dismiss claims that black women still feel inferior to their beige counterparts, but it’s ingrained in our culture. That’s why Beyonce put out some of her best work last year, and still lost album of the year to Adele at the Grammys (who also put out a great album, but c’mon). It’s also why the U.S. military just addressed natural hair in its grooming policy, decades after black women first brought up the concern.
With this type of mistreatment, it’s no wonder why we need programs like “Black Women Rock,” or why black women went crazy over the lyrics and visuals of Beyonce’s “Formation.” Black women aren’t supported, that’s why these things matter. We can’t get upset or loud without being called ghetto, we can’t simply work hard to earn good grades, or get a good job, we must have cheated, had help somehow. We are consistently gaslit and ignored, or left out of conversations completely.
Hoffman’s song reminds all of us that our skin color is not a problem that needs to be corrected with lightening creams; it’s not something that fits into the one of the three shades offered in the makeup aisle. Our hair is not something that needs to be tamed by a hot comb or covered by a wig. We don’t “speak well for a black girl,” and we’re not “cute for a black girl,” either.
She reminds us that we are strong, beautiful, smart women. She recognizes the difficulties black girls will face before they even enter adulthood. Her message of self love for black girls is not to be exclusive, but to negate the narrative that says black girls are inferior. She reminds us that all black women are beautiful. She does this, and we need to hear it. We deserve to hear it. Black girls, we are magic and we must never forget that.