Black History Month special: Raising proud black daughters

We are in a time where ‘acceptable norms’ that exclude diversity are being challenged. This is music to my ears because as a mother of two melanated girls, representation is everything! I teach my daughters that the world is their oyster and they can reach up as far as they wish to go. We are fortunate to be in different times; we have the ability to get our hands on pretty much anything at the click of a button. The girls love their black dolls and in the rest of this article, I’ll be sharing how else I promote and celebrate black culture in my home.

Books

My girls love us reading to them. Our book collection is so vast that we haven’t gotten through them all in over four years.

For us it was a no brainer that we were going to build up a library of books that featured characters that looked like us. I can’t explain the joy that comes over me when my daughter says to me “Mummy, that one’s me” whilst pointing to a beautiful brown girl on a page. When I was younger, I aspired to be characters that were the opposite of my reflection. I lacked the knowledge that little black girls could be princesses too, and Knights in shining armours could have a level two shape up!

It’s important for us to ensure that the girls are exposed to positive black male characters too.

Art

There is so much African art in my home, we’re obsessed. It’s more than just decoration for us, it holds true meaning. Being able to create an environment alike to our humble African origins brings us the warmest of feelings. The vibrancy of our African art almost creates a motion of interlocking colours that reflects our appreciation of our roots. For our girls to see this daily, makes a difference to what they deem ‘normal’.

Music

Afrobeats to the world! My hubby thinks he’s Usher so dancing is a daily occurrence in my house. We blast Afrobeats, littered with interspersed “Ayyyys” and “Eh Eh Eh” just like mum does.

Music is good for the soul, and for us African music nurtures our every being. Seeing each note having the same effect on the kids only encourages us saturate them deeper into our culture.

Shows

Sometimes I use the television as a babysitter. Yes I admit it. I’m a working mum, who tries to fit it all in and sometimes Mumma just needs some free childcare!

We’re so limited with the choices of diverse children’s shows on scheduled television. Other than Peppa Pig, Firemen Sam and Baby TV, I avoid most other shows as they reinforce society’s distorted standards. The girls aren’t given devices such as phones or tablets because before you know it, these new age kids will be signing up for mortgages.

Instead we utilise our smart TV and show them all the brilliant shows that have been produced featuring black casts; Esme & Roy is welcomed new addition. Our favourite shows are Ubongo Kids and Bino Fino. I adore that the characters speak with true, undiluted African accents. Being of African descent, this minor detail warms my soul and reminds me of home. I see this same emotion in my children, reaffirmed by their comment “they sound like grandma”! I mean how much cuter can you get?!

Films

I’ve got to admit, when I was younger, I use to love Disney movies. The thought of one day being a princess with long hair and being swept off my feet by a handsome Prince became a life goal. Oh how things have changed! It frustrates me that with the undisputed knowledge that children are highly impressionable, the media still continues to push these tired out-of-date narratives.

As with the TV shows, we limit what we let our girls watch. Frozen amongst other one-dimensional princess films are on the ban list. We were allayed when we discovered Will and Jada’s version of Annie on Netflix. Our eldest immediately connected with the character and gone were her pleas for Elsa and long blond hair; her Afro took centre stage and my heart melted.

Food

Being born in the UK didn’t impact my love for African food as it was part of our daily menu. I’ve followed in my parent’s footsteps and we eat African food at least twice a week. Jollof, gari, red stew, spinach and egusi, peanut butter soup, kenkey; the girls can’t get enough. I’m looking forward to teaching them how to cook these dishes to keep this legacy alive.

Hair

Every little black girl has to go through sitting for hours to get their fro plaited. For a child, two hours feels like two days. Trust me, the memories are tattooed in my brain! The Afro hair regime is tough and time consuming so I’ve tried to be make the process as enjoyable as possible for the girls.

My daughters are the sole decision makers on their hairstyles. We trawl the internet looking for cool styles and they become excited to sit and let me do their hair. I highly recommend this approach; not only does it become more enjoyable for all parties, but you end up exposing your children to pages and pages of beautiful black girls who they want to look like – a promise you can actually keep.

It’s important to expose our children to society’s diversity, but don’t overlook the power of representation and its ability to build your children’s confidence. Falling in love with the reflection in the mirror can positively manifest itself into the outcomes we desire for our lives. Never underestimate the little things and never be complacent about the big things you think your children will naturally pick up. As parents, let’s provide healthier foundations and watch our babies flourish in the ways that will help them to fulfill their dreams, aspirations and catapult their self-worth.

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