Girls like us by rachel lloyd

This book was moving, heartbreaking, empowering, enraging, truthful…a great book. The narration of how young girls are exploited at a young age and the harsh treatment received by society brought to light an undeniable truth. The realities that these real young girls are forced to live through showed me a cruel side of this world.

Reading this book, I also became aware of my own implicit bias about sexually exploited and domestically abused girls and women. I have been an advocate against gender-based violence since a young age reading accounts of real women in books such as “Burned Alive” (by Souad), learning more about the topic by being on the Commission on the Status of Women in Model UN and classes taken in undergrad. Nonetheless, even educated people can carry implicit bias and this book served to challenge me to bring forth and dismantle some subconscious bias.

Reading this book reignited my commitment to pursue advocating for women safety and rights. I am still not sure how that is going to happen but I do have a desire to include in my career the pursuit of providing safety and health to marginalized girls in my neighborhood and around the world.

The accounts in this book (and other stories) of how people, the justice system, cops can be so cruel and disregarding to victims is something that we ought to change. It is imperative that we work to not persecute but to protect all victims, especially women, especially women of color.

If you would like to learn more about the author’s story and donate to help her organization Girls Educational & Mentoring Services (GEMS) more information can be found at

Homage To The Women

I recently just watched Beyonce’s Homecoming documentary, (I know I’m late) and during it had a flashbulb memory of the first time I ever saw Beyonce (on tv, I wish in person!). I couldn’t have been older than 12, and I was at a family friends house and “single ladies” came on and I was like wow! I practiced that dance so many times alone, she was so fierce to me. So damn fine! Beyonce was the first person to make me think “yes I’m a diva”. Throughout the years she made me realize it was okay to be confident…to be a feminist…and, she introduced me to another great black woman, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

As an aspiring writer (yes, I am officially sharing this dream of mine) and avid reader being introduced to a world of black female authors made me feel visible. In fact, reading novels written by black women with black characters made me understand that people of color do exist in spaces of literature.Reading novels by women of color, from Mindy Khaling to Lesley Lokko made me understand that no matter what kind, non-fictional or fictional, we exist, we can create, we can share our experiences and people out there can relate to them. 

It is okay for us women, especially black women, to take up space, going beyond what society tries to limit us to, it’s okay to be more. (Even though I’m still waiting for that album), Rihanna’s journey to becoming a “fashion and makeup and much more” business woman that she is now is so important. I was never into makeup growing up, like I literally couldn’t care less about it and it was because I never felt like it was for me. I didn’t like any brands and to be completely honest I always felt like they weren’t for me, for people like me.

I got a Mac foundation gift once and gave it away to another person because I just felt that my beauty was being altered rather than enhanced…but when Fenty came out and I found something that matched my complexion! Let’s just say I’m not opposed to binge watching makeup videos on YouTube. (Thank you to numerous black women YouTubers who taught me how to do my own natural hair and makeup).

Seeing women with different body shapes included in Rihanna’s lingerie line made me feel more comfortable and confident about my body. Representation really matters. 

A black woman like Riri take up space is so important. They are boldly branching out, following their passions and goals, while encouraging the next generations to do the same. Women in my life have continuously showed me exactly that. 

The first teacher to make me feel welcomed in an environment where I was the only one that looked like me as a kid was a woman, the first teacher to make me see that I’m smart was a woman, to make see that I can do anything I put my mind to was a woman, the first person to teach me resilience, strength, the importance of putting yourself first was a woman, the first to make me see to make see that no matter what the situation is I can turn into a success was a woman, to make me fall in love with science and medicine were women. Women continuously have been teaching me how to be a boss, how to manage, to inspire, to be inspired, to be strong, to make things work, to be successful, to live life to the fullest. 

To my fellow women, on this international women’s day and any other day keep being bold, confident and strong, you never know who you are motivating, giving confidence to, or showing them that they matter. 

Book of the month: “Still Me” by Jojo Moyes 

Song to listen: “I am woman” by Helen Reddy 

P.S. I do not own any copyright to the images included. Happy International Women’s day

50 Shades of Black

Moving to the states, exposed me to a different beauty of blackness. By that I mean, I was introduced to a different type of black people: the Black American. Before I moved here, I thought all black people were African, which in itself it’s not a wrong statement. We all are one. However, what I came to learn here, in the States, were the cultural differences between the two. I observed that my Black American friends were different from my African friends. I also found that some of my African friends, who were born here, shared some of same characteristics, behaviors more similar to the Black American than I (born in Africa, “straight from the boat”) understood or related to. It was eye opening.

But sometimes, especially during high school being surrounded by Black Americans and “African-Americans” (and I use that term as in 1st generation americans with african parents) sometimes I felt kind of left out. And not because I felt excluded by others (one thing I’m always grateful for is how welcoming people in my HS class were because I definitely thought I was gonna spend my first lunch in the bathroom like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls); but because I did not get the references they made from their culture.

From the food, the music, tv shows, sometimes I had no idea what was being spoken about. Til this day, sometimes I still don’t get some references because I did not grow up here, I’ve never watched an episode of Martin or any Madea movie, when people say “they’re invited to the cookout”, I did not grow up with that barbecue outside experience, I never ate soul food (which I had to google what it meant, the first time I heard it). I have been told I don’t sound right saying some slang, mostly because of the accent, but also because sometimes I would not use it in the right context.

Nonetheless, throughout the years, I’ve come to understand more about the Black American experience, from learning about historical systematic oppression against Black Americans by this country, to the pride of the Divine 9 (fraternities & sororities), to the cha cha slide, the pop culture created by Black entertainers/influencers and the lit energy I find when I’m surrounded by Black Americans (or black people in general). It’s certainly different from experiences I share with people from other cultures.

All to say, I’m glad to be living among and learning about Black Americans. Black Americans and Africans surely have our differences (which I think are equally important to be aware of) but I think that just adds to beauty and complexity of blackness. Also, I made the commitment a couple of months ago to start watching shows that are considered substantial to the Black american experience. I completed this “survey” of black movies a person has watched and among more than 20 movies, I had only watched 2 so… I need to be cultured. I used to watch “My Wife and Kids” in Italy, and I loved seeing a black family on tv (the only one at that time, in addition to “That’s so Raven”, that was shown on Italian television actually); I just finished Living Single and I loved it. Let me know if there’s anything else I should watch (or read)!

Book of the month: Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd

Article to read: “Slavery and the Holocaust: How Americans and Germans Cope With Past Evils” by Deborah E. Lipstadt (The New York Times)

The “Anger” of the Black Woman Comes From Her Strength

I can never know what it is like to be a white woman, (because I’m not one) but I can say I can relate to majority of their experiences. However I don’t think white women can relate to the experiences of black women.

They can’t relate to the fact that in addition to seeing whether I’m the only woman in a room, I first and foremost check if I’m the only black person in the room.

They can’t relate to the fact in addition to worrying about whether my opinion as a woman would be taken in consideration in the room, I worry about being perceived as angry for expressing it. It pains me but this is a very too real experience that happens way too often. It pains me that when another white strong woman voices her opinion, it’s seen as “yea you go Kate” but when a black woman does it, it’s “oh what’s wrong now, what is there to complain about now”. 1. A lot. 2.This continuously happens (I have even observed it happen with other minorities as well) that when voicing for change it is perceived as anger. Our opinions are encouraged, but are silenced because of the false perception of anger by others.

They can’t relate to the fact that when in power, in addition to our position being questioned as women, people question whether we are deserving (or undeserving) because of our skin color.

They can’t relate because in addition to tackling the stereotype of women being emotional, we are not allowed to be anything else but strong. “Because black women are strong, Adjoa, we have to be, if we are weak for one second, that is all they will see”. We are expected to do better, be the better person, because they expect us to do the contrary, they expect us to fail, and we cannot give them that satisfaction, we have to show them that we are worthy.

They can’t relate because in addition to hash tagging #metoo, we are screaming #handsupdontshoot. We fight for our black brothers. I’ve seen various accounts of black women protesting, urging to stop the killings of innocent black men, protecting black men. Same with the #metoo movement (or feminism), we lend our support (as we should as women) to a movement that mostly, however, translates into benefits for white cis-women and fails to include us. For example, the history of feminism is a prime example of how black women supported a movement that was supposed to uplift all women but that largely failed to include their needs until recently (third wave feminism- and such is even arguable).

It is unbelievably toxic that society carries such opinions and behaviors against black women. We are expected to be strong, voices for justice and equality. But yet we are never uplifted, protected or cherished. Even so we are and continue to be a graceful, strong-willed, unwavering force of nature. And that’s on that.

Book of the month: still reading Les Miserables; so Book Recommendation: “Small Great Things” by Jodi Piccoult

Article to read: “Every 3 hours a woman is murdered in South Africa” by Ashraf Hendricks Al Jazeera  #AmINext 

Discovering My Roots

I remember when I first moved to Italy as a young girl and it dawned on me that I was black. It dawned on me that my home country from the rich continent of Africa was seen as a hopeless land filled with nothing but poverty. I was hurt and ashamed. My ignorant self desired to not be from there. I attached to Italy as my home. Which it did become, but I shouldn’t have negated my homeland. As I grew up I began to understand how wrong people’s perceptions of Africa were. I began to appreciate my parents for never letting me forget my native tongue, (Twi), I began to love my non-English name, I began to take pride in my people, found no feeling than that of being surrounded by fellow Africans and dancing to our music, no better satisfaction than eating jollof rice or yams with nktombre stew.

I always bother my parents with questions of where they’re from, what tribe do we belong to, the traditions, meanings of different cloths and why we wear them. I’ve always been an avid reader but in Italy they didn’t print (or maybe I couldn’t find) books with black or African authors. When I was 16 and discovered authors like Lesley Lokko and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche who opened the door for me to African literature and authors that have led me discover more about the history of Africa (I always don’t understand why this and history of other “developing countries” are not taught in schools like I’m tired of hearing about French Revolution for the 10th time as a senior in college-but that’s another story) and myself as an African woman.

I’ve been reading this book “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi (I recommend you all to read) that explores the lineage of two half sisters (one who remained in Ghana while the other captured as a slave to America). The description of the different tribes and the importance the characters place on their background challenged me to find more about myself. *checkout my tribe lineage below*

As I move away on my own, away from my first direct contact with my homeland, my parents, I really fear to loose my connection and touch with my African culture. I can’t read twi, only speak it. There aren’t many shows in that language or i can’t just go to any store and buy shitor or the ingredients to make it. The things that connect me to my homeland are harder to come by.

But I’ve made a vow to never loose touch with that, because as I grow up I’ve come to realize how important my culture is to me and how much it affects who am I.

*Note spellings of locations interpreted to the best of my abilities*

The White Victim.

Please note: this post is reflective of mine and the experiences of other people of color in our current environment. Not meant to generalize everyone but it’s a very real issue that we are faced with constantly.

I had to learn to advocate for myself from a young age. It’s due to my circumstances growing up and learning that I didn’t have allies everywhere I went. That as a young black woman, I would be put into situations where I would have to be brave and vocal, otherwise I would not be listened to or respected.

I have come to understand that not everyone has been raised like that or understands why black women take actions for ourselves, rather than wait around to be rescued. Because even when we need someone by our side, that is not granted to us, at least not in the same way it is granted to our white companions.

I realized to the extent of how white privilege is real and can affect my reputation even with people that I have known for a while. In the face of issues, we are never given the benefit of the doubt. We are in the wrong because we responded, but the person is never wrong for initiating the situation.

In the face of disagreements, which are natural to occur between people, when a black person stands up for themselves and is vocal, they are seen as threatening, no matter what. We are expected to listen and abide, but never respond because our voices are too loud and too intimidating. We are expected to listen and abide but never have an opinion of our own because it’s just not true, our feelings cannot be the truth because the other person feels differently and theirs is valid. We are expected to listen and abide, but never show any emotion because we are supposed to know it’s going to be seen as nothing but anger, and you don’t want to be the angry black girl.

But damn I am angry. I’m angry that in every situation where we get provoked, challenged by a white person and decide to voice our opinion it’s seen as threatening, “too much” and we are the ones who are, at the end in a way be, reprimanded. We are the ones who have to be removed, who have to take the first step to fix the situation, we are the ones asked to apologize. I’m angry that I see multiple people of color around me going through the same thing. I’m angry this is the kind of thing I will have to deal with my whole life. I’m angry that white people are quick to call the police or what can be seen as a higher figure when things don’t go their away and they presume our rights and freedom as an attack to their space.

I’m not saying that we are always right, that’s not the case. However, I do want to encourage white counterparts, in the face of disagreements and complaints, to listen and value the other party in the same way as they do for white people; and that before moving forward to deeply consider if you are fair in your solution so that the other doesn’t find themselves being the only one making amends. I would also say that before going ahead and involving other people (or calling the cops and becoming “Permit Patty” kind of person) to think if you have tried talking to other people, and whether the actions of the other person are truly a threat to your space.  The question of whether your “fear or discomfort” is based on your bias.

Girls Like Me

Girls like me grow up not seeing girls like them in lead roles in tv

Girls like me grow up thinking their skin color isn’t beautiful because society falsely tells them so

Girls like me are told that straight hair is beautiful and professional not their curly, nappy hair

Girls like me constantly get their passion misconstrued as anger

Girls like me have to work twice as hard to prove that they are worth what other girls are given for free

Girls like me have to constantly prove that they belong somewhere because others think they are there to make the “diversity mark”

Girls like me are always photographed during school events because they show diversity

Girls like me are most times the “only ones like look them” in a room

Girls like me are told they are too intimidating for boys

Girls like me are told if they are too strong or ambitious they will never find a man

Girls like me are taught to be independent

Girls like me have to translate the language for their parents

Girls like me are first generations whose dreams don’t just belong to them

Girls like me have parents who have sacrificed too much for them to think that giving up is ever an option

Girls like me fear the current political climate because of their undocumented family members

Girls like me… You’re not alone…you’re strong and beautiful enough

China Travel Blog: The Black Traveler

During my lifetime (so far and I pray in the future) I have been blessed with the opportunities to travel to different cities and countries. My parents say I have a itch and can’t stay in one place. They’re right. Nonetheless in all the places I traveled I never thought about traveling as a person of color until my recent trip to China. All the previous places I’ve traveled to, have been exposed to and have people with a dark skin tone like myself within their communities. However in China, I realized that not every community has had interactions with black people before, if ever. Many times, I was stopped by people to take pictures with them, pointed at, stared at, touched (sometimes without permission), sometimes even followed. Some interactions were pleasant, others not so much. My other white companions did not receive the same treatment, not at the obsessive level I and other black visitors experienced. It made me realize that my black skin signifies something around the world. I may not have realized it before but there will be places where I travel to where my presence will generate a reaction. I will never be just another tourist visiting a place. My presence will be questioned, will marvel people, will turn some off, will be noticed… I can’t be invisible. In China when incidents like this would happen, I didn’t know what to make of them (I did get upset when one woman grabbed me without my permission and kept following me) but I was not annoyed by the incidents. I was mostly concerned about the ignorance and lack of exposure to black representation, knowledge, or people. I didn’t blame the individuals, I didn’t know who was at fault but it made me realized that there’s a different kind of wonder, or maybe prejudice surrounding my blackness. I mean black skin is beautiful, full of melanin and brightness I would want to (at a respectable distance) admire it too…

Regardless it does make me wonder what other places will I travel to that have never been exposed to black people? Will this ignorance/lack of knowledge lead to discriminatory actions? Unfortunately it wouldn’t surprise me if the answer is yes.

Reproductive Justice for All

I haven’t had health insurance for over two years now, however living in a first world country I am aware that worse come for worse I can find the adequate resources to address my reproductive health. That is not possible for many women around the globe. In many developing countries there is a severe lack of resources dedicated to health care, particularly reproductive health. Twenty years ago my mother gave birth to me on blanket on a floor in one of the most stable hospitals in our homeland Ghana. Twenty years later there is still an enormous lack of resources in developing countries and the situation is not improving for women around the globe. Policies imposed by the United States has impact on the lives of thousands of marginalized communities worldwide.

The Trump Administration has extended the Global GAG Rule (AKA Mexico City Policy) towards all global health. This policy prohibits all institutions abroad receiving US funds from mentioning, discussing, referring to abortions in any means, otherwise they will lose their funding. Due to this unethical principle many health organizations, such as Family Health Options in Kenya, are losing funding used not only to address family planning and reproductive health but also to support other health services (child nutrition, vaccinations, educational health programs, and others).

For clarification the US has never funded abortions anywhere, therefore the Global GAG rule actually hurts healthcare services and women’s access to health in many various ways that make one understand that this is more an attack to eradicate women’s empowerment and rights. As  one of the attendees at the Population Connection Action Fund conference stated, the United States is a global forefront for freedom of speech and by imposing this rule it limits freedom of speech in health facilities and impedes doctors from informing and giving patients the best options (whether including abortion or not) available to them.

The Trump Administration has made it its’ personal goal to eradicate the development of reproductive health and rights globally. Domestically these bullshit policies would not be supported, therefore the administration is attacking women’s health in developing countries by cutting funding from programs supporting family planning services.

Using ridiculous reasoning, and absolutely fake news, the US has withdrawn funding from the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) which is an organization that works in Member States of the UN to provide health services to sustain women’s health care. UNFPA does not administer abortions, and mainly aims to provide resources and services to ensure that “every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV/AIDs, and every girl and woman is treated equally.” The mission of UNFPA and that of many family planning organizations is to promote reproductive health and rights for all,  which is a basic human right that all individuals have. The US defunding such programs is not only promoting unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortions as well as STDs but is also in violation of basic human rights.

I urge you all to please stand with me, stand with Population Connection Action Fund, UNFPA, other health organizations and women across the globe to fight for human & reproductive health rights, fight for health empowerment and rights, to fight for HER.

Spread this message through your social media, and educate yourself on reproductive freedom and rights, and contact your representatives to support the Global HER Act (bill proposed opposing the Global GAG Rule). Text FIGHT to 52886 to learn more.

“Is That Your Real Hair?”

The other day my friend and I were standing in Walmart, talking, waiting for our uber to arrive and a caucasian lady walked up to her touched her braids and asked her whether that was her real hair. During the conversation, she continued to pet her hair, then complimented it and walked away.

I asked my friend: could you imagine walking up to a white girl, petting her hair and asking whether her hair was real? At that point we just looked at each other and laughed. Because no, we could never imagine doing that, but these incidents occur regularly in our lives.


Well there’s uneducated ignorance where others do not know much about black culture due to various reasons that are both within and outside their control. First stereotypes play a huge role in these instances. “All black girls wear weave.” Correction: everyone regardless of background wears weave, as we can see with our lovely Kardashian family. And here’s a secret: extensions are a just a fancier term for weave.

People choose to believe these stereotypes and proceed to making assumptions which leads to accidents where instead of one just complimenting the hair, proceed to ask whether the hair is real or not.

It is understandable that there is a difficulty in knowing because Hair is a big part of black culture and there are different hairstyles that have a very deep cultural significance and are part of the identity as a black girl. Culture is not the only factor that goes into wearing braids, cornrows, twists etc.., it is affected also by weather, habits, and the way our hair is naturally built.

Whether the hair is real or not, hair is part of how we express ourself, our emotions, our feelings. Personally I have the habit of changing my hair frequently because the way I wear my hair is affected by the way I’m feeling. There are periods when I’m feeling my afro and I rock that, days where I feel like having long lucious bouncy hair so I rock my weave, and I do get moods where I really want to wear braids so I do. The way we choose to wear our hair is affected by culture, habits, seasons, and how significant they are to us.

The way we wear our hair also aims to defy social norms, where people in general view black hair as non professional, not beautiful, and  exotic but not right. Day by day black women have been conquering those negative social views surrounding black hair, especially with the intention of inspiring younger generations to believe that their hair is beautiful too! I can see that with my younger sister, where while my experience as young black girl was to shy away from my hair and my braids, through my learning, appreciation and pride in black hair and culture, she has this immense confidence and love for her hair, natural or not.

Our hair is beautiful, it is a part of our culture, our identity. It is a great thing that other cultures can love and learn about too. But it is important to understand that there is a right way to show appreciation and to ask questions when it comes to learning about black or any other culture. Making assumptions, stereotypes, and appropriating our culture are not the right ways. And most importantly, do not touch our hair.