Same Story Different Decade
Why I Wrote Victorianne Phoenix
She watched the DVD again and again each time with the same vigor and look of wonder until I had the songs stitched in my very own head. Mothers know this all too well when their precious little one enjoys something so much, and they look to you to perform the wondrous miracle with their newly found word – again in that tiny hopeful voice that melts your heart and prompts you to do it – yet again. Why shouldn’t I? After all it’s just a DVD, and although my daughter loved the main character and she looked different, I’ve done my best to surround her with a number of relatable visions of beauty (ie. while pregnant I lost my mind on EBAY and invested in some of the most rare and expensive collectible Black Barbie dolls to display in her room). They lived on her shelves ever since she was born. However, as soon as I heard her ask, “Mommy can you do my hair like this?” pointing to the DVD cover, my mind went blank.
Houston, we have a problem.
There was no particular hairstyle on the cover, that I could tell. The main character’s hair was simply out, flowing in the wind, and she wore a crown. Simple enough. I released my daughter’s hair from their braids, finger fluffed it, then squeezed her tiny diamond tiara onto her perfectly gorgeous head full of kinks and curls and held my breath. With anticipation, she ran to the mirror then stared blankly, the stare soon turned into a frown. “This isn’t it, it’s not the same. Can you do it like this?” she said, again pointing to the picture. At that moment, I knew what she was referring to and now it was my turn to say, AGAIN?! Instead it was a painful question instead of a request. The reason why I understood my little one is because when I was her age I felt the exact same way. Even though my parents gave me the gift of self-love and surrounded me with images and history of our beautiful race, it was not enough against the power of the media and its clear vision of beauty, grace and talent that seemed to be the opposite of me. Although it took several discussions, long talks and information sessions, it is a lesson that never ends. We live in a pretty diverse neighborhood with a wide range of culture and races from African American, Asian, Mexican, Polish, Middle Eastern, African and more. If you noticed I made a distinction between African and African American, that was intentional. As my daughter got older she became fascinated with the different cultures around her and she discovered the Africans in our community and she gravitated to them. She understood that African Americans have a home base too. A motherland with languages, customs and cultures of their own and it meant something. It meant a connection to something greater, it meant we had roots, and it was profound for her!
It was important to introduce and explore this eye-opening moment and include it in my storybook for other African American and children of African descent. However, as I marketed my book and visited schools, it became apparent that educators and students of other races found relevance in the humanity of the story. They understood what it meant to walk in the shoes of a little black girl and how life appeared through her eyes. My goodness a humanities curriculum brought into the elementary school classroom, and not through talking animals - go figure!
Today my daughter is a strong, proud African American preteen. She is dealing with so many other issues, the very last thing I want her to feel is unpretty. I continue to talk to her because the lessons cannot end here, and I contribute to those lessons with examples of how I carry myself. She’s never seen me with straight flowing hair because my hair is natural and although it’s beautiful, it is not straight. I work hard to show her hair styles and women in main stream media rocking looks with a natural hair texture similar to their own. This is how I know the influence of the media. This book is a powerful lesson in self-love for the early ages and it is one we all face no matter the race or culture. I am so proud every time a parent tells me what the book means to their little one, and I hope to continue the journey of self-love for the little ones through Victorianne’s eyes, in book number two!