Marchig into Blackness: A Must Read by all Melanin Kissed Women
Hi, I’m Gina…
It’s funny that when I utter those words, there is so much more behind it, than just merely an introduction. You see, for many years, I had no real indication of exactly who I was. It took me to go down several wrong paths, a plethora of errors and heartbreaking disappointments to truly decipher who I am. So as often as I can, I reintroduce myself with a more clear grasp on the reality of who I am and am becoming.
My life seemed to have been a revolving door, repeating circumstances that appeared even foolish to me, but I couldn’t seem to break the vicious cycle that had been perpetuated throughout the generations of women in my family. During these times, I was whom and what my environment dictated, not having a realistic means to an end.
My biggest issue is, and what I also believe most melanin kissed women in America suffer through is: appearance and acceptance. We not only battle with being accepted in and by society, but our biggest feat is accepting ourselves and each other.
“I…along with many others, if not all ‘Black women in a America have continually battled with an identity crisis. Although not often identified as such, we repeatedly struggle with who we are, who we are suppose to be, how we are to behave, and what pretty looks like.”
-Confessions of a Black Hebrew Girl by Gina Genelle
In order to fix a problem, the method of resolve has to be tested and approved. Not knowing that I was in crisis, I subconsciously began the process of self acceptance. This, by far was the most challenging journey that I’ve ever had to travail. I was forced to mortify my thoughts daily. Try unlearning everything you’ve learned, with no instructor.
I remember waking up one Saturday morning, about 16 years ago, with a strong beckoning to cut my hair. I had always been embarrassed to wear a weave, but would tie an entire track around the bun, that I neatly and securely positioned to accommodate the 10 inches that I had purchased in a #4., but this day, I felt restricted. My hair seemed to be a burden, in addition to the stretch pants that I wore under my jeans to offer an appearance of thickness, as opposed to the skinny that I had been ridiculed for my whole life. I was tired of keeping up this charade. I felt like I was in bondage, enslaved by the wanting to be what others needed me to be to avoid criticism. For whatever reason, it dawned on me that I was unhappy and the more I did in an attempt to be accepted and liked, the more miserable I was. How can I make anyone else happy if I cannot even please myself? During these years, Mary J. Blige was a necessity.
“How can I love somebody else, if I can’t love myself enough to know, when it’s time, time to let go oh oh oh, oh, oh oh ooooh ooo oh?” -Mary J. Blige
Believe me, that song has brought me through more trials and tribulations than a fire baptism and enthusiastic sermon, from an apostolic preacher on an Easter Sunday, during a sunrise service, sitting next to Sis. Lucy as she is shouting her wig off.
So let me get back on track. Once my hair was cut, I felt a sense of freedom, unlike any other feeling I have felt before. I had gained an insurmountable amount of self-confidence. I felt empowered and all insecurities seemed to have subsided. This was the first step in finding my true identity. I had been formally introduced to Gina.
I am a photographer, and had been challenged greatly by an assignment that required me to take photographs of myself. Wow…I never imagined that this would be so difficult. For the first time in years, I was afraid to face myself. Although my hair was short and I gave an appearance of being confident as well as aesthetically pleasing for some to look at, I had never been challenged to decide how to photograph myself. How did I actually view me? What would I want to convey in the images? I eventually decided that I would only photograph things that were apart of me and leave my face out of it. The submission of my assignment was success, but the residue of thought lingered. This is what leads me to The Self Project. I am in the process of writing my 3rd book, titled Confessions of a Black Hebrew Girl, and of course, research is necessary to provide support for my personal ideology and theories. I began to slowly recognize the trend of black women embracing their natural selves, reminiscent of a process I had experienced many moons ago.
After attending a #BlackActressPanel, sponsored by Russell Simmons (Mogul), hosted by Andrea Lewis (Degrassi) photographing and hearing statements made by Keesha Sharp (Girlfriends), Reagan Gomez (The Cleveland Show), Quinta B (BuzzFeed), Yara Shahidi (Blackish), I was overwhelmingly compelled to look around the room at all the women of color and more importantly, the woman who had gone natural, abandoning the need for weave. After the symposium, I began to network. I started to give my card to the natural women, not to be discriminatory, but I needed to know their stories.
I not only wanted to hear their stories, but I wanted to share and compare journeys. I needed to know that I was not alone. I was so amazed at the responses and realized that my Self Project had just given birth to something greater that I could have imagined. I swapped information with Actress, KJ Smith, who understood my vision and has a story similar to mine. As much as I wanted to get her in my studio, something was missing. It seemed as if my vision was incomplete.
No more than five days after, I encountered the beautiful Ms. Nyoka Lamar, Fashion Model. Upon having an hour or so of conversation, I was ready for the beginning of my project.
Following are photographs that should speak on the power and energy of women of color, who have and are going through the transition of finding The Self. I hustled to get the two of them together in one shoot. I envisioned having them stare at each other face to face, and embrace each other as if they were embracing themselves. This was uncomfortable at first. I had them to converse on a personal level and watched as the two began to literally fall into sync with one another.
I pray that these images provide an understanding of how powerful we are as black women and the energy that we create when we are in direct support of each other. That night, the energy was bouncing off the walls. KJ had to continually write down some of the advisement that was being passed down, as she offered her advice. My neighbor, whom I have never held a conversation with, came out to watch the photo shoot and left feeling empowered. I forced her to sit in my chair and allow me to capture her essence. Magic happened!
This is truly the birth of The Self Project by Gina Genelle. Can’t wait to see how far it takes me…us!