597068Hi ladies. I usually try to keep this blog focused on professional development, but someone in my network, Empowered Black Women, posted a question in the forum. She asked what does it mean to be black and I had to respond from my gut. So here is my response. I hope we can start some dialog on this and hopefully a movement!

In a Corporate context I think this is a great discussion. You already know I’m of mixed parentage as well (for those who don’t know my Mom is Hispanic and my Dad was black).  For a long time I had trouble identifying with either race because of the unspoken “rules”. I wasn’t black enough to be black and I was too black to be Hispanic (I know weird right). But eventually I had to learn that I am who I am and I embraced both of my ethnicities. I am very proud of both of my heritages. I formed Empowered Black Women to both honor that side of me and to give sisters a chance to form bonds and enhance their careers as Black Women in the corporate world. There are groups, organizations, etc out there but nothing that ever lasts and the fact that Empower Me has been around 11 years is a testament. I formed the Empowered Latinas for the same exact reason. But I digress.

I’m going to be real here (and raw) so I apologize if offend anyone. A lot of girls I speak to, and even some in my own family feel ashamed to be black because of the negative images out on the internet and media. The Video Hoe image is the number one reason. The young ladies walking around with attitudes and ghettofied mentalities is the other. It hurts my heart when I do a Google search on black women the type of junk that comes up. There is hardly anything of a positive nature describing us. Even when I do an image search on Google or Yahoo or whatever, I am hard pressed to find any positive images. I have a cousin who is 25 and has her behind plastered all over Myspace. She grew up awkward and with braces and wasn’t cute by society’s standards. Today she is a beautiful young woman (with a 2 yr old child) and she has her self worth tied up in what complete strangers think of her almost naked pictures. Somewhere her mother failed.

I am so grateful to Dove & Proctor & Gamble for the My Black Is Beautiful campaign. From what I heard, it is an inspiring and uplifting program and is really taking off. But it’s not enough. We need to tell our daughters, cousins, granddaughters, nieces, friends how beautiful and unique they are…then make them see and feel it. As professionals we need to show them there is a pride and dignity that comes along with success….then be that example. We need to teach them that they are worthy and to never ever settle for less than the best. And finally we need to encourage them in their dreams and help them achieve if even through coaching them along. That is what it means, in my opinion, to be black.

We need to look at the Ursula Burns’, Michelle Obama’s and Anne Fudge’s of the world and realize we CAN do it. We need to let our girls and young women know that we CAN do it. And we can do it being proud of being Black Women. It’s time to take back our image of the Black Woman and redefine it to reflect the respect, dignity and success that comes along with it. We need to stop working against each other and start working with each other and dispel the myth that black women can’t get along or do anything for each other. We need to tell one another how beautiful we are. Stop letting our children (boys and girls) watch this nonsense on tv that degrades women and especially black women. BET, MTV, VH1 all of them need a message sent. I find things like Candy Girls, New York Gets a Job, Flavor of Love and all of those other nonsensical shows to be one of the culprits in why our girls have low images of themselves. THAT is ugly. And it makes me go on the defensive to prove that all of us are not “ugly” like that. They seem to find the girls with the most jacked up problems and exploit them on these shows. it shows them being ugly inside and out and further damages the Black Woman’s image.

I am proud of my heritage- both of them. I am a 40 year old, mother, wife, daughter, sister, cousin, friend, entrepreneur, author, recruiter…but most of all a BLACK WOMAN. I hope this answers your questions. I kind of got off on a tangent. LOL But I take this very serious.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham