Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! We feel uplifted and eager to remember who we are and what we fought for, to express our own identity and uniqueness to the world. What better way to start the New Year 2014 with some fantastic ideas for us African people around the world.
Allow me to start out with a personal story. At work I wear Business Casual style clothing. So dress shirt, slacks, and dress shoes. I like to experiment with different color dress shirts like pink, green, blue, purple, etc. I recall once I was boarding the plane wearing my pink dress shirt, and a white lady commented on how pretty my shirt color was. In fact, I’ve always got compliments on my shirt colors everywhere I went, mostly from white people. It never dawned on me until later that it wasn’t the shirt color necessarily they were commenting on, it was my skin color, which is black. I realized that consciously or subconsciously they really enjoyed the way my skin color popped through the colors that I wore. I never saw them give the same compliments to white people wearing the same color dress shirts. Here’s a picture I found on Bing image search to illustrate the point.
Black is actually the combination of all colors. When our physical eyes look at Black we are looking at all colors, and Black is the color reflected back in our eyes upon interpretation. White is the complete opposite, or absence of color. It makes sense then that African people as well as other non-white people (black, brown, red, yellow) would look more pleasing to the eye in a variety of colors than White people. This isn’t a racist statement, just an observation. Moreover, white people know this, but the problem is that us African people don’t know this, by in large. There are two main points I want you to understand in this blog post. First, us Africans need to embrace all colors and realize how beautiful we express colors with the full spectrum of skin colors we have. And second, we need to go to market for ourselves and begin setting up African stores which help us to embrace our colors–we’ve been mis-educated and need to reteach ourselves.
Many places in Europe are more familiar with the richness of Black and colors much more so than America even. This explains why you see a sharp rise and uptake of Black mannequins over white mannequins in clothes sellers–it simply looks better.
I was born and raised in America, and in the neighborhoods where I grew up, we hardly embraced colors at all. In fact, we mostly wore black and grey colors. We even preferred black shoes. That way, since we often couldn’t afford shoes, when they got dirty, you couldn’t really see the dirt on the shoe or clothes because the black color was hiding it. Beyond this, because we couldn’t afford many clothes, we were safe wearing black cause it matched with any of what little we had in the closet. These are the very same reasons that brought in the “fresh” movement as we called it. To wear all white was “fresh.” If you wore a clean, white-tee to school it showed that you weren’t afraid to reveal any dirt on your clothes, for if you hadn’t any dirt on your white-tee, you were called “fresh” by your classmates. Fresh, white air-force one shoes follow the same logic. But to just wear black, or just wear white is boring. In a society where Black men are being emasculated everyday, we didn’t want to give any excuse to anyone to call us black men “gay” so no wearing light-blue, pink, yellow, purple, etc. shirts.
This is not just an American thing. We need to be aware of our rich skin color on an international-level. Some countries get it better than others of course. But also, to demonstrate, whereas America has about 14%-20% of the population of African descent, Brazil in contrast has approximately 54% of the population of African descent–yes, that’s right. Argentina mostly has whites. The point is, Brazil has more color-rich people than Argentina. I’ve been to both countries, Brazil and Argentina, more than once. Let me tell you, Brazil is much more vibrant in colors in clothing than in Argentina. In Buenos Aires, for example, you mostly see people wear black and grey and have very pale, white skin. In Brazil, it’s the opposite.
We all know that in Africa, they wear some of the most vibrant colors of all. Even in Jamaica, men aren’t afraid to wear crystal blue or green pants. We think it looks funny, but as Africans, we should be complimenting the people in Africa for their knowledge and expertise in expressing rich colors with our rich skin.
So the next time you go shopping, play with some colors. First embrace your own skin color, and experiment and shine with the multitude of colors. And for the business-minded, help teach us Africans around the world how to express and love our own skin color through the richness we bring out in the full spectrum of colors. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of these photos showing the richness and dominant expression of color in Africans around the world.