Earlier this year, when I was going through the motions of being a natural hair vlogger without baby hair and silky tresses, trying to figure out why was I so frustrated with my YouTube channel, I decided to divert my content. I had spent the previous year and half investing in equipment to produce higher quality videos that showcased the beauty of Type 4 and/or 4C natural hair. But I wasn’t fulfilled. I wasn’t talking about the things that motivate me in my day to day. And while for many, hair care can be an all consuming or highly consuming thing, for me it’s never been that. I’m so laissez-faire about my hair that putting myself in a lane where it was the topic of every conversation left a big chunk of myself unfulfilled. So out of that frustration came my idea for the #SmartBrownGirl movement.
Take a look around and think about what women of color are often celebrated for? If you just preview YouTube channels, it seems that we either have to be a comedian (a dash of cooning would help as well), beauty guru or someone with a laid weave and slicked down baby hairs. If you look through social media, it’s small waists, cute outfits, daring haircuts, kumbaya nuts + berries happy all the time yogi, singer/actress or you’re friends with a celebrity. There’s a few outliers in the mix, but overall I found the lanes were my peers were celebrated to be very singular and two dimensional. And even when I started to show more of my own personality on my YouTube channel, the criticisms around my way of speech, mannerisms, mental health, amongst other things were aggressive and brute. As if being anything outside of a single box or two-three word descriptor was a fallacy only beknown to women of color.
Where my male and white women counterparts could revel in their ubiquity; being a psychiatrist who DJs or a engineer who’s passion for gardening is more than a serious hobby, while they spearhead to open a school in some rural land. I was often meet with crossed eyes and hushed whispers about doing too much, being all over the place or you know the deadliest of all sins – never being able to find a man who would want to marry me. And so while the concept for #SmartBrownGirls came out of a self-fulfilling place, I knew that I was not a lone in wanting to celebrate my right to just be without someone defining that for me.
On the topic of why Brown and not Smart Black Girl…which honestly I find to be such a petty and searching for nothing good question. But…I guess. Women of color all over the world are often put down and set down under the same universal tones. And as my world grows, as my preview is exposed to different ways of life, one never knows the possibilities for cross-cultural connections. Most importantly I did not want to get caught up in policing what is “Black.” Growing up I was never Black enough and I didn’t want to give any credence to that argument being made against any of my other #SmartBrownGirls. Whether they are of mixed ethnicity or coming into their own understanding of how they define being a woman of color, this was not to be an argument. I do identify as a Black woman and even amongst peers who look like me, that is a debated topic on how we should identify. African over being Black? black American, Black American, or African American? Igbo, Fulani, or Kikuyu? This is a discussion that can spin on for forever with no landing, so #SmartBrownGirl allows for you to make it what you want, even within how you racially and/or ethnically identify, while casting a net that can expand over time.
#SmartBrownGirls are removing the right for anyone to demote them. This is a celebration of the diversity of the women of color. The celebration of existing in the fullness of your ubiquity as a 360 individual, however you define. Allowing a space for openness, discussion and vulnerability without reproach. You can define for yourself what it means to be a #SmartBrownGirl.