You’re eight years old, and today is the first day at your new school. With a bright, third-grade future and a killer first-day-of-school outfit, you walk in the building with your head held high, your fancy new lunchbox in the firm grip of your left hand, and your mom’s and dad’s last words to you before dropping you off—“Just be yourself!”—still ringing in your ear. And, as you approach the last door of the hallway to your right—instructions you received from that morning’s janitor—you take your final last breaths and walk in ready to meet your new classmates with confidence, until after taking a quick scan of everyone in the class, you realize—
You’re the only Black student in the room.
Perhaps even a little unsettling.
And, as an eight-year-old, you might not be jumping-off-the-walls excited that you immediately feel like the odd one out before the day could even get started.
But, alright. There is where I’ll insert my story here.
This little scenario I had you picture?
If you haven’t guessed, that eight-year-old student is me.
And, if you’re looking for an update on her, let’s just say that certainly was not the last time she’s been in that situation. There’s been plenty more moments during the thirteen years that followed where she’d walk into a room, look around, and—yep!—only Black person there.
Don’t worry. This isn’t me being insecure about my skin color.
It’s Black History Month, after all! Today’s post will be a moment of celebration, if anything!
But, before I start throwing the confetti, I don’t think it’d be wise to move forward without giving you some of the details I faced during that third-grade year, without giving you an opportunity to walk a mile in my size-four shoes. After all, that was one of the first times I’ve walked into a room realizing just how brown I was once sandwiched in between so many other students who were White. (Now, granted, there were other Black students in my grade at this new school, and I remember breathing out a huge sigh of relief when I saw one of those students eventually walk into the classroom after me on that first day. But, the White to Black student ratio was excruciatingly far from equal, and I wasn’t quite sure how I should adjust.) In other words, the school I had attended prior to third grade was predominantly Black. Meaning, my friends were Black. Our families were Black. Our churches were Black. Our entertainment was Black. Our lingo was Black. And, most important of all, our hair was Black—Black, as in, greased, braided, beaded up, and twisted with barrettes. Not blonde, straightened, and flowing a river down our backs, which is what I saw on the first day of third grade. And, when one girl tried to untie the barrette I had hanging from one of my twists at recess, I was shocked that I had to explain to her that that was a non-negotiable, “No!” My friends back at my old school understood that our mothers put blood, sweat, and tears into combing out our kinky hair and putting it into a style every day before school, and we were not to let anyone touch it, including ourselves. But, the girls at this school just…put their hair up, took it down, and did whatever they wanted with it without needing what I would need just to get my hair into a low bun: two brushes, a wide-tooth comb and another one with a rattail to split the part, Olive Oil, edge control, several hair-ties, and barrettes.
On top of that, I come to find out at this new school, they didn’t listen to the kind of music I listened to with my other friends. They were singing along to Taylor Swift, but I got down to Destiny’s Child!
The girls at this new school had a crush on Jesse McCartney, but I had a little crush on Soulja Boy!
“You don’t know who Elvis Presley is?” one girl asked me in our music class, mouth agape. Girl, no! My dad blasted Stevie Wonder and James Brown in our house. Who is Elvis?!
Everything about me and the White students in my classroom was different.
We went home to different neighborhoods, were raised in different households. Our backgrounds were different. None of our interests were the same.
(One thing all Black and White students alike agreed on, though?
High School Musical.
But, that’s beside the point…)
It was a complete ‘Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz’ experience—still the same girl I was back at my old school, but certainly not in Kansas anymore, I’ll tell you that much!
And, because everything was so unfamiliar, because everything was so foreign, there were a couple of lies that I let seep into my mind undetected that began to take root before I knew to expose them.
Here was the truth:
My skin was darker.
My background was different.
I was not familiar with being one out of two Black students in a classroom.
That was true.
My skin was ugly.
I didn’t belong.
And, something was horribly wrong with me.
And, it didn’t take long before the enemy took initiative and had those lies locked into my eight-year-old mind. Because this is exactly what he does, exactly what he wants for you and me both:
To hate the person God made us to be.
The enemy wants us to hate our skin color, our gender, our stories, and even our God-given personalities. Whatever he has to do to get us to hate God’s creation, even if that creation is ourselves, he’ll do it.
And, that’s what he did to me.
I was eight years old then, but all of the lies he planted began to spring up when I turned twelve years old, where I found myself praying—literally praying—that God would make me into a White girl.‘Cause if I was White, I could fit in. If I was White, I’d be beautiful. If I looked like a majority of my classroom, I might just find a really great group of friends.
Do you see how this has the enemy written all over it? That he would persuade such a young girl to hate herself in such a way that she would ask God to change her? And, don’t you see how he’s still doing this to our generation today? Making us hate our God-given selves—our bodies, personalities, characters, temperaments, and identities?
It’s devastating. It’s wicked.
And, too many of us believe him.
And, that is exactly why it is my honor to tell you what my eight-year-old self needed to hear on that first day of third grade. It is a privilege to fill you in on the truth that has been healing me from these childhood wounds.
You ready to receive this?
Here it goes:
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way God made you.
Just in case you are unsure about what the word ‘nothing’ means, I’ll tell it to you plain.
Yes! You read it right:
Not a thing.
Not one mole is out of place.
No complexion too light or dark.
That birthmark is not a defect.
Your nose is not a dimension too big or too small.
There is NOTHING wrong with the way God made you. In fact, according to Song of Songs 4:7, there is no flaw in you. And, in case you haven’t read how King David beautifully wrote it in Psalms 139:14, God fearfully and wonderfully made you.
You may not need to be reminded of this today, but maybe your kid-self does. Maybe you’re someone who is still believing a lie from your childhood that if you just learn to be someone you’re not, in a body that’s not yours, with a pigmentation you weren’t born with, you would be worthy of some sort of affection.
Can I tell you something, friend?
That’s nonsense. Straight nonsense from the pit of hell.
Are you understanding me?!
Those kinds of lies come from a professional liar—a liar who whispered the same kind of nonsense in Eve’s ear too. But, even more important than that, the liar you’ve been letting give you advice is actually a loser—a big one. I’m talking, the biggest L in the history of L’s, okay? This enemy has been defeated by the blood of Jesus Christ. And, no one in their right mind would take advice from a lying, defeated loser.
Am I right about it?
You don’t have to entertain that voice any longer.
So, rest assured. Whoever God made you to be is just right for the kind of mission He’s given you—
—which leads me to my next point, something else you oughta hear:
You’re exactly the kind of person He wants to use to make history.
You see—to me, Black History Month is more than a twenty-eight-day-long celebration. It is a reminder that God uses brown bodies like mine to bring about His kingdom on earth. The same brown bodies that have a history of gory persecutions, gut-wrenching pain brought about by slavery, unjust killings, unfair oppression, racism so evil it’ll make your stomach turn are the same brown bodies God wants to fill His treasure with so that His eternal kingdom is advanced in the midst of the world’s darkness. And, that is what I celebrate when I think about the ancestors who have gone before me—Black people who dared to take a stand, to say yes, to say no, to sacrifice, to change the narrative, to make history.
If God used Black bodies like mine in the past, He can use Black bodies like mine in the present.
This is what I like to throw in the enemy’s face. After I let him bully me for years, convincing me that my Black wasn’t beautiful, this is the kind of truth I like to remind him about.
And, you know what, my friend? You should know that you’ve got a reason to stomp on the enemy’s head, too.
What that reason is, you may be asking?
God wants to use you to make history, too.
Anyone with a heart that says:“Here I am, Lord! Send me.”
God wants to use us to make history.
And, Paul describes us as fragile clay jars in 2 Corinthians 4:7. In other words, human vessels that God can use to carry His treasure.
The light of His Presence:
Jesus Christ—the One who conquered death and changed history for us all.
No matter what you look like, no matter what color your vessel is painted, anyone can receive this treasure. As long as the vessel is available, He’ll use it.
And, He wants to! You’re exactly the kind of person He wants to use to make history. You don’t have to look like me, and I don’t have to look like you.
For what we’re individually called to do, the vessel He gave us is just right.
Let me say it again:There is nothing wrong with the way God made us!
If my vessel was supposed to be painted white to do my assignment, He would’ve made me white.
If my vessel was supposed to be six-foot tall, He would’ve taken my four-foot-eleven self and made me taller!
If my vessel was supposed to be blue-eyed, He would’ve given me blue eyes.
But, He didn’t!
You know what He made instead?
And, you know something else?
He made you…YOU.
He made you unique. He made you purposeful.
He made you original.
We were never made to look like each other. We were made to look like Him.
And, through your vessel—your unique, original, beautiful vessel—your Creator wants to place the universe’s greatest treasure inside of you—Himself. Your vessel and His treasure make a good team—the kind of team that makes history.
And, you know what?
There are still books that need to be written, movies that need to be directed, songs that need to be recorded, a gospel that needs to be preached, history that still needs to be made!
And, I don’t know about you, but this brown-skinned vessel is available. With His treasure in my heart, my heart in His hands, I’m ready to make some kingdom-building, life-changing, ever-lasting history. And, I believe the eyes of the Lord are searching the whole earth, looking to see if there are other vessels who want to make some history with me.
At twenty-one years old, Ayana is an author, a blogger, and the host of “To Be Heard” Podcast—available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. In 2018, she self-published her first novel, titled, How I Fell in Love with Myself, and is currently working on her second. She is a former English & Journalism major, currently taking online writing classes from a school based in New York. As she continues to pursue a career in writing, she aims to bring relevant messages of faith, redemption, hope & self esteem to you & others around the world.