Love Potions for the Skin

Growing up, I always felt that I was “too black”. Among that I never used to feel beautiful, I felt unloved, unnecessary and worthless, just because I was black. I got teased a lot in primary school, it would happen quite often too. My skin color was the first thing someone would use to refer to me instead of my name and it was never in a positive way. I was either called “ugly black gal” during a confrontation or just naturally, or I’d have someone tell me I’m simply “too black”. This made me cry myself to sleep several times feeling unimportant in such an environment, at school. The other hurtful part was that it came from the same girls who would call me their friend, smile with me once I brought food to school or once they saw me with my parents.

All this eventually took a toll on me. I grew up not liking the act of taking pictures unless it was on my own, that way I could set the camera at the perfect angle to look pretty. I could scan my environment and get my own lighting. I could finally feel beautiful. I could love my skin for once.

However, as I grew up I realized that my whole past about being black negatively was stupid. I am beautiful, whether or not anyone else thinks so. It’s as if I just gained confidence overnight after doing some mirror talk routines. I slowly learned to love my distinct black features. My discolored, imperfect, yet beautiful skin. My nose, my naturally puckered lips and big forehead. To help myself, I used to take long stares into my mirror to realize how beautiful I was. To look in the mirror and simply smile. I gave myself pep talks, had empowering conversations with myself. I taught myself how to acknowledge and accept my flaws day by day. In the end, I grew into a girl who completely loves herself and appreciates every aspect of my being despite what the world has to say.

My advice to anyone feeling “too black” or ugly due to being black… is that you’re uniquely beautiful. Love your features, but most of all, love your skin. And yes, not all black girls have perfect even-toned skin as the ones on the internet do. It’s okay to have an uneven skin tone as a black person. You’re still beautiful.

~Nykefah Nairne


Class of 73

Education in the 70’s was said to be better than what we are experiencing now. At Ackee Tree  All Age where the play is set, we are exposed to the opposite. One in which those who are considered slow, underprivileged and black have no place in the school system.

Grade 6Z hosts a class of students who are considered to be in the ‘dunce’ stream. Since they are a group that is considered to be slow and incompetent. There is no hope of getting them to sit the Common Entrance. With the introduction of “Sir” as their guiding light who was caught up in his own vision of a better society in which better schooling comes from teaching those who are more privileged. It seemed as if there was no hope for the students at the end of the year.

The same can be said for their principal who believes that that his friendship exists with the lighter class,  who for some strange reason left him to deal with his own people as a principal. So brainwashed by the view of a whiter society being the better one, he segregates himself from the black monkeys who are not able to function in society as their blackness attracts the sun which burns their brains. His name “Drop Shorts” begs to question his morality as a Reverend and Principal in the education system.

From this group we see the potential that exits, and even though they may play a lot and their grammar, deposition and behaviour may not be the best displayed, they do have dreams of becoming successful based on the things they are passionate about. This becomes evident in the challenge against the 6A class. Their stupidity could be considered their confidence, as they were relentless in  trying to answer their questions the best way they could by using their experiences to get the “correct” answers. This speaks to their street smart and that intelligence is not limited to just academics but also to your experiences.   This is an example of the willingness of those who are considered less fortunate, though they may not have the education that society dictates you to have, they are able to fend for themselves in society. When they do have children and are able to give them something better, they fight for it. This is why Hurricane Hotty marched down to the school and used her charms to get her way with the principal for her daughter to get an opportunity to a better life.

That scene highlighted another issue that occurs in our society, where it’s who you know that allows for you to have a foot through the door. Who knew that Hurricane Hotty would be able to charm the principal and teacher to get her daughter a chance in life?

Fast forward to the future where they have their reunion and the students did get the opportunity to achieve their goals. Though it was no instantaneous, they got serious and motivated themselves towards a better life and not be a statistic of those who aren’t expected to amount to anything.

The message of the play teaches us that our current situation and people’s opinion of us is not what determines who we will be later on in life. Once we decide on what it is we want from this life and work towards it, who can stop us?



Stilling Standing

My first instance  in which I was discriminated against was when I wanted to go to college.  I was told that based on my background, which was a poor one that I was  not eligible for a Student Loan and I went there several times thinking that the next time their decision would change. The only thing my mother had as an asset was her cow. Coming from a poor background, that was the only thing she had.  She was told that it could not be used.

However there was a positive that came out of it and that was where I met a lady who was working at SLB at the time. She asked how many subjects I had, I told her 10. She asked for me to show them to her and I did and she took me to the Scotiabank and opened an account for me (don’t ask, I won’t tell you lol) and she aided me with everything  needed to start school. She gave me 40 thousand dollars which was half of my school fee; which was a start. Every month she asked that I send my grades to her so that she could track my progress, so that she could maintain the relationship of monetary funding to aid with my schooling.

Years later having that experience. I faced discrimination again when I was 24, and I went for an interview at National Recovery Service. I was teaching at the time and I wanted an extra job; a way of moving out of the teaching profession to go into something else. They had an opening for a Client Relations Officer and I went and I applied but I did not put my age on it.

When I went, I looked the part, sounded the part and then she asked me my age and I told her. She said no, she’s looking for someone who is in her 30s or 40s. She said I have all of the capabilities and what was required, I speak well and I have a track record of excellence but she said that my age was the reason why she could not hire me.

Can imagine how I felt after hearing this? Thinking about my attempts for a loan and finally getting it. Working to keep that money, getting a job and trying to better myself, but because of my age, I’m limited. It’s unfair when you are young and highly intelligent among your peers, yet when you get the chance to really test your capabilities, there are many factors limiting you. Sometimes you have to go down a level or even start from scratch to get somewhere. The beauty of it is when you are able to rise above your circumstances and excel in whatever it is you are doing.

I’m a fighter- I don’t stay down for too long. There is a God and he is my guide.


Camele Shields- Trainer at Hinduja Global Solutions

The Misidentification of Man

I was given the task of taking care of my younger brother, the house and my education at a young age. I was always a quiet child taking solace in my own time. This made me a significantly domestic young man. My first encounter of discrimination was when I was a child when my brother and I were younger. We were being introduced to my step father’s side of the family. My step father looked at my younger brother and said

“here is my son” and said to me “this is Troy (which is my nickname)”. My mother just stood there and accepted it, that I was just Troy… at that moment I felt that I was being misidentified.

Having saved my mom from suicide twice, had saved me from self sabotage making me altruistic. It was sort of a wake up call… With acts like that, it gave me the rite of passage as a youngster growing up. Staying up late, going out with friends-the works.

On the other hand, my orientation became the concern of many as I was not interested in a girlfriend did not want one. I was labelled as the girly nerd, because I was engrossed in books rather than manly things. Men are respected for having masculine abilities.  People did not see man, they saw a girly, quiet, too distant man in the form of a boy. Society had it switched.

In high school, I was able to set my mind to working  hard and making my family proud.  I am good at anything I put my mind to. In my school environment it was no different, teachers considered me to be narcissistic in first encounters and I had this sarcastic manner about it. I was not respected until they saw my grades.

Everyone in my family has some amount of disrespect for me because I’m different– I’m considered a disgrace. I’m too intelligent because I know stuff. I have to be gay.

Recently I took a taxi, I usually walk with a knife and whenever I’m entering taxis I take it out and have it close to my side, to avoid people saying that it’s sticking them. I was in the taxi, and there was a guy, who had on a really good pair of shoes that he wore well. I was staring at the shoes and felt him looking at me- I looked like a cruff then. I looked at him and followed his eyes, he saw my knife in my hand. Apparently I forgot to put it up. I asked “are you feeling threatened by me now?” He said “slightly, but hearing you speak. I know that you are not like the others”. Meanwhile, there was another guy who was at the front screwing the whole journey. Why? Because the guy with the shoes was gay. I was only judging based on his dapper shoes.

The scholarly definition of Respect is an epistemic virtue. Respect to the common man is relative and often times feelings are attached to what people see. I see Respect from the very root of the word. To look  at something clearly for what it is and not to attach your views or feelings to it. To see it clearly as it is in its own right and not in any predisposition.


***Name withheld to protect Identity

Assalaamu Alaykum

Bismillah (In the name of Allah)…

I was not born into a Muslim family; my family members are either Rasta or Christian minded. I am the only Muslim in my Family.

I remember in Sunday school being told stories and they just didn’t make sense to me. For example, when Cain killed Able and ran off to the land of Nad and found a wife.

“If a two man pickney alone and two a dem live, where him find wife? and the land of Nad mean wanderers so how that come een?”

“Stop question the ting, stop question God!!!”

A no him mi a ask a you.  A you a tell me suppn’ so u mus know the details.

From there I realized that we as a people tend to think on a straight line and once you take them off the line, you’re bad or you’re the devil. An’ me love ask questions and if you cyah ansa the questions then it means you’re only regurgitating what someone else told you- you’re not thinking for yourself.

So when I started doing my own research and found Islam, I was puzzled and wondered why America always painted a bad picture about Muslims. I went further into my research and realized that the things they said, were not true- that they were made up.

I remembered in the Bible it told us that Abraham ( Ibrahim as said in Arabic), had two sons and one was sent away into the desert. That’s where I thought Islam came from- the desert. So maybe that’s the son that started the religion. Then when I went to the mosque and they showed me the same thing and where they originated from. I realized that it is the same people like Christianity, it’s just that when it comes to Jesus and Mohammad it’s separate.

So when I started going to the mosque I asked if they believed in Jesus and they said:

“Yes, but he’s just not the son of God”

“OK, what do you basically believe?”

“We believe in one God, a messenger and angels”

“OK then, it’s similar to Christianity  where you have the Father, Son and Holy Ghost but you use different terms”

“We are waiting on Jesus to return”

  Muslim a wait pon Jesas to return??? Fus mi a hear dis!! Mi no tink a Mohammad(Assalaamu Alaykum (peace be upon youI have to say that after I say Mohammad) alone unno say???

 “Oh, basically a the same thing”.

Muslims show brotherly love and as much as people discriminate against them they still love each other. So the family bond that I never had with my family drew me to them. Once you’re a Muslim, colour does not exist; your race and socioeconomic status are of no importance the Muslim brothers and sisters. For example, if I want to go to Africa tomorrow I don’t have to worry, I just let them know at a mosque there that I am a Muslim and I am accepted. Thinking of the Christian religion where in some churches, you have to be  re-baptized to join the church. I looked around the mosque and saw how open it was; nothing like how Christian churches were set up. I was skeptical and said:

“How is this possible?”

“Everyone is a watchman for themselves, no one is better than another Muslim other than the good deeds that they have done”

This cyah real, anything without rules and regulations is bound to fail.

So the brotherly love and equality shown to everyone, even if you are not seen as a brother in your own family are some of the factors that encouraged me to be apart of the faith.

I’ve faced discrimination as a Muslim in more ways than one. Through my experiences  I’ve concluded that I prefer to be Respected than Loved. I remember at my workplace when people first heard that I was a Muslim, they treated me differently. I was told to clear my throat when walking into a room. Someone called me once, because they heard that I was a Muslim and asked if they should come to work the next day.   I remembered another instance where there was the bombing in France by a Muslim group and when I got to work, I was confronted about it saying what my brothers did was wrong. Because I am one of them immediately I was seen as the enemy.

Many persons show respect for people out of fear. That is the same for me; whenever they do something wrong they stop themselves  and say “see Muslim deh” – I’m not even called by my right name. This is considered a sign of Respect letting that “bad” person know that I’m in the room so they should behave themselves. I have to be reminding them that they are adults and free to do as they please, once it is not directed at me.

There are only few people that try to understand me; most persons claim to but in their actions I notice that they don’t mean it. For those who try to understand me, they try by learning about the religion and my lifestyle. I share books and they read and we discuss what was read, anything that they hear, they come me to and we talk about it.

“Never worry about when things slow down, only when it stops”.

That is a Japanese quote that I live by. My interpretation is as long as you’re making a headway just keep moving.

“You are not what people say about you but you are what you say about yourself”.

The most important things to me are my religion, praying, reading the Qur’an and observing the life and adjusting where necessary. Those are the things that motivate me- those are the things that I live by.


****Name withheld to protect Identity


That Nappy Hair

I was working out at the gym early one morning when I realized someone was at the door knocking. I turned and looked at the person and ignored them. I thought to myself, he wouldn’t need to knock if he had a gym pass. Someone else in the gym that morning thought differently, and let him in. It just happened that he had left his bag by the lockers and his keys were in it. I felt so ashamed. I tried thinking of all the reasons I had not offer any assistance.

Many excuses were found, but the truth is I was prejudiced: prejudiced to the fault of his appearance. No possible way could this nappy head man be a member of this gym.  I had adopted a behaviour I am a victim of.  Young black men with hair length beyond an inch or two are presumed to be nothing less than delinquents.

Growing up I hated going to the barbershop. It was an uncomfortable feeling having someone standing over me with tools that could inflict serious and lethal harm. So naturally when high school had come to an end, I quickly part ways with the barbershop.

I had landed a job at a very prominent commercial bank. During the interview process members of the interviewing team spared no chance to make a joke or comment about my “unkempt” hair. I believe had it not been for my impressive test scores that opportunity would have been lost. I went on to face some rather nasty ridicule from staff members who thought it was a disgrace to have my hair like it was working at the bank. Nevertheless I was extremely defiant and confident in the fact that my performance at the bank was beyond reproach. I recall the operations manager confessing to me that she had a completely different opinion of my character before I started talking. While I sympathize with her sentiments, I was not amused.

Opportunities are scarce and many young men are judged first by their appearance, consequently denying them the chance to demonstrate their abilities. Society still considers black boys and men hair to be “unkempt” if it is beyond a certain length and dear to liken us to “cruffs”. Young men are still being sent home from school to get a haircut before returning. Young men are being profiled by police authorities for this same issue. And while it is not the most pressing of discriminatory matters it contributes significantly to the marginalization of young black men.

I have completely bought into this European standard of professionalism as a young professional demanding respect in the corporate world not missing my fortnightly appointments at the barber. I say it should not be so.

“Who I am and what I can do is not what I look like”.

The songwriter India Arie wrote “I am not my hair, I am not my skin, and I am not your expectations no no… I am a soul that lives within.


***Name withheld to protect identity