“Welcome, how may I help you today?”
I work in retail where I have grown accustomed to taking the orders of every person who walks through the door. It's 9 A.M. and I am prepared to juggle all of the masks today's customers request. Will I need my "sistah" mask for the customer who looks like me? Probably, but I gotta make sure that goes off as soon as Jane Doe comes in—you see, she is from the land of milk and honey. Her perfectly manicured hands grace through the strands of each perfectly placed hair while she waits for the girl whose worth is determined by the amount of land her white grandparents own. Wait! "Sistah" is ready to purchase and is not thrilled with how "white washed" I am, so I strike up a conversation about growing up in Granny's house in Rubidoux to make myself seem black enough for her liking. Once the end of my shift arrives, I always wonder why I'm so tired. Who knew what a sport juggling could be?
Now that I have down time, my social life is calling. Do I need to be sassy for them today? I use that mask as a guard when questions like, “why and how is your hair different?” arise. Maybe I should keep the mask I used for Jane Doe earlier, because I don't want to be targeted as the "token" caramel coated beauty of our group.
I'm trying to be present and engage with these people I love so dearly, but I can't help but get distracted when I look around and realize how different I am.
Then I question if I'm wearing the right mask. No matter what mask I put on, it won't change what they actually see.
Maybe I don't need a mask at all.
I'm finally home, the only place that I am completely authentic. Here I don't need to bring up the fact that I am “mixed” to be loved. Here I don't have to put on the sass to be black enough. Here my hair can be crazy curly or silky straight; it can just be. I can just be.
I grew up in a home that embraced my differences, and parents that taught me to love. I wonder when I allowed myself to acquire masks to hide what I truly am. My mom reminded me of times I would cry in my childhood because I wanted hair like my white grandma and to be accepted by my black one. She went on to remind me of the truth she told me then, "you are fearfully and wonderfully made."
Sometimes I have crazy curly hair; sometimes I have silky straight hair. I have moments where my sass queen comes out, but most of the time I am goofy and soft spoken. I speak with eloquence because that is how my WHOLE family raised me. I love country music, and I am a part of the Rythemless Nation. My body is built strong, just like my beautiful mother and her sisters. Most importantly I have a heart that sees the gold in people,this heart that beats for earth to be as it is in heaven. I am not called to live under a mask, but to let who I am shine light into the lives I encounter. God gave me this story to share and use to love people differently. I get caught up thinking that I have to mask myself, and do, in order to be accepted. The reality is, I am accepted by the King and he says I am royalty! How?
Because I am a human Being, not a human DOing.
I'm loved and accepted by just as I am. Every day that I choose this truth, I am living in my identity and that is when I get to share the same truth with the world.
Leilani Jo is a singer/ songwriter from sunny Southern California. She is a proud member of up and coming female duo Stained Glass. When off stage, you can find her pursuing the movement #DIBS (Diversity Is Beautiful Sucka) through modeling and blogging. Writing stories of her view through multi-cultural lenses, this dreamer hopes to connect generations and open eyes to the ongoing struggle of racism. In addition to advocating for diversity, Leilani Jo’s passion for people sustains her big dream of opening a transitional living community. Pursuing a degree in Psychology and Human Development is her first step towards a lifelong dream.
“We have the opportunity to drive out darkness and generate light. It's time to start seeing the promises of God happen by putting our gifts to work” –Leilani Jo.
To stay up to date with her adventures, follow Leilani Jo at www.belovedream.com or on Instagram @leilani_jo!