Nelson Mandela used a quote from Maryanne Williamson in his 94 inaugural speech that is applicable to my experience in this great initiative:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others".
Wearing this beautiful scarf definitely challenged me. For starters, as so many women have said in their blogs, I had to step outside of the box with my outfit. Usually, my attire is designed for comfort, utility and intended to draw very little attention to my appearance. Within the two days of wearing rich, beautiful colors in an effort to accommodate this beautiful, attention-catching scarf, I realized a few things:
1. I look great in bright colors (contrary to the belief I grew up with, that dark-skinned women shouldn't wear bright colors because it draws too much attention to their dark skin, it brought about compliments from people that the fuscias and purples made my beautiful skin tone look rich and exotic and even more beautiful than it usually does)
2. Your appearance is the first impression people get when they begin their interaction with you. If you look like you lack confidence and personality it will definitely give them the expectation to have a positive convo with you
3. The colors you wear affect the mood you're in (I usually wear dark, dull colors and I usually am tired, bored and down at work)
4. Humility doesn't require you to be bland. You can totally be humble and be beautiful as long as you acknowledge that your beauty came from your Creator.
As I thought of what to write these past few days, I thought back to the conversation I had with the young lady who passed the scarf to me, Lauren Porter. While the two of us have seen each other in passing and at events of similar interest, we have never had a conversation. In our conversation, we went over the basics (major, plans for the future, etc), but the most noteworthy part of our conversation was the connection we made: women rights. We discussed the need for more comrodity between African American female students on campus and how attending a school where this group is so poorly represented, we can feel pressured to "blend in" and not stand out because it might make someone feel uncomfortable if we stand out. We concluded that the group she's starting, Women Wanting Change, will prayerfully be a catalyst of unity between the African American women and prayerfully the spread of pride and confidence within this group and other groups of women.
Lately, I've questioned my calling in life. As a new graduate student, it's natural to begin the search for a career and I've struggled to find something of interest, but lately I've been drawn to women empowerment, creating opportunities for education, and economic development in low income communities. My hesitancy to step up and stand out in my community is rooted in Williamson's quote, it's not a fear of inadequacy, but rather a fear of power that's beyond my control. As a Christian and ambassador of Christ, I hold the key to power beyond my comprehension. What God has put in me I cannot even understand and it has caused me to doubt if those I encounter will be receptive to what I have to say, what I want to do, and the changes/suggestions I want to introduce. Will they see my ambitions as ridiculous or brilliant? Will my love for the community and burning desire to create opportunities for empowerment be seen as internal beauty or external insanity? At the end of the day will I stand with a group of like minded individuals supporting the cause and conviction God's placed in my heart for my life, or will I stand alone fighting for a cause of others against the standards of society, structured guidelines of big name corporations, and the edgy, sketchy, critical group of people who feel the same way I feel, but don't want to challenge the majority by stepping outside of their role of being "seen and not heard"?
Often, I tell my Sunday School students to reflect on Matthew 5:14 when they go out into their communities and schools. The scripture, saying "ye are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden", reminds me, and prayerfully will remind you, that as long as we have God's light in us, we can't blend in. We will stand out and people will recognize the burning fire inside of us, the beauty within us, the joy we possess in times of trouble, and the peace we maintain even when we wear dark colors, pull our hair in a ponytail, buy clothes a size bigger, hide in our homes when we're invited to go places, sit in the pews of our churches instead of participating in ministry, or keep our opinions/suggestions to ourselves when asked how things could change for the better. I Peter 2:9 is my mission statement "for ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light".
This scarf, while it may seem meaningless to some, has challenged me to be bold, courageous, fierce and beautiful external and internally. There's no need to hide what you have, when you know what you have was given from the Lord Almighty for the uplifting of His people. Stand out, speak up, stick out, don't blend, don't sit quietly, get loud, get in people's faces and challenge the standards set by society to bring forth the voices of the overlooked, the devalued and those deemed unworthy. Until we have created an environment where all are seen as equally valuable contributors, we are putting the beautiful, glorious lights placed inside of us to waste.