By William Dekker via UN Online Volunteers
In a family of five siblings; two older and two younger, I emerge in between resembling no one - dark and black. This is my story:
In those childhood days, majority of us were naïve or rather too innocent to think of what set us apart. We mingled with little or no regard to colour, shape or size, not until maturity set in.
On my first Saturday in college, I auditioned for a play that was premiering a month from then. At the end of the day, seven contestants auditioning for the same role had been eliminated. Two of us were left in what seemed like a tie. We had gone through it up to late in the evening and the judges had to make a decision. In a very outrageous tone, one judge whispered; “since the play will be performed during the nights, we are better off with a lighter guy than the dark one”. Immediately the role was awarded to my competitor (who was way more light-skinned than I was).
That evening I returned to my hostel room, rejected and dejected. For the first time, my skin colour had worked against me. My complexion had denied me the chance to showcase my talent and whatever skills I got. The chance was taken away from me, not because I was incapable, but simply because I was darker than a fellow contestant. It haunted me for days and months.
At that very time, I had joined college to pursue a degree in Information Science. With Information Science, I would easily major on information studies and specialize on Media science so as to get to broadcast journalism (which was my passion and aspiration from long ago). The incident at the theatre audition played in the back my mind severally and haunted me for long. I imagined that the same would be the case when I get to the corporate realm. I imagined that I would be denied broadcast jobs just because I was too dark for the camera, maybe. It is at that point that I made one of my biggest decisions ever. I immediately quit the course and sought an admission into a different degree line; this time round IT.
But that was not the end of the pain. Through the four years in campus, I continued suffering in silence. I became overly cautious of my complexion. I turn out to be photophobic – as already I knew I wasn’t good for the camera. I resisted group photos like the plague. In case of unavoidable situations, I would stand behind people in a bid to shelve myself from visibility. Few friends invited me for photos too. While some would pretentiously ask me to join them, they would later delete the photos as “I always made them look bad.” Others would instead keep the photos and mock me whenever it gave them joy to do so. At some point, a colleague wrote a 450 word article to mock my dark complexion. But by then, I had slowly grown resilient.
As much as I had quit the Information Sciences course, I still remained a good communicator. I just changed the tact. I couldn’t be seen though. Instead I was heard and read. I broadcasted in the University radio while at the same time published articles in the campus student press. I rose to become the Chairperson of the press club. I engaged in other clubs and societies, majority of which I chaired, became the President or an executive committee member. Due to the consistent exhibition of diligence, I was later appointed into the student council and made in-charge of University communications on Student Affairs. It became one of my last responsibility before leaving campus.
Just before exiting campus, through a recommendation, I got the privilege to sit among the country’s great entrepreneurs, captains of the industry and corporate bigwigs as an honorable judge for the regional “Hult Prize Competition”. Hult Prize is a global student challenge, in which the winner takes home $1,000,000 for presenting the best business idea in line with the year’s theme. But you see at that time I was still black J
After the event, which I considered my greatest achievement then, I posted a photo of myself on Facebook with the event’s caption. The first comment to the Facebook photo post was meant to be an ironical mockery but instead, it has remained my biggest motivation to date: “YOU ARE DARK BUT YOUR FUTURE IS BRIGHT.”
Of course I was dark in the photo. And still I maybe dark today but my future is bright. Since then I have gained sufficient confidence. Today, my colour is my pride. I no longer scorn myself for the melanin I have. In my repertoires, my blackness will never stop me from achieving whatever in life that I desire. Neither will it prevent me from mingling.
And now, so you think you’re too dark to mingle? Who told you dark is the obnoxious? Why not the reverse? Remember Malcom X’s questions? “Who taught you to hate yourself? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the colour of your skin?”
Conventionally, it is of greater advantage to be contented with your appearance. The happier you are with yourself, the happier other people feel around you. This is my experience; when you learn to love and accept yourself, you’ll feel more peaceful, more confident and people will find it a pleasure to be around you. You become calmer because you feel more connected within. It even becomes easier to connect with others too. That is biggest secret to keep you attractive.
Today I have more friends who, at no point show any dissent for my complexion. In fact, it the question of colour doesn’t even ring on their minds.
You see, in the end neither dark nor light skinned is abnormal. In fact every complexion is normal. Every physical appearance is normal. There’s a wide range of normal and that is where you fall. That is where we all fall. You maybe dark, I maybe dark but guess what…the future is bright!!!