Conversations around colorism have a deep history within the Black community. For one Black woman professor living in Florida, following her research on the negative effects of this phenomenon, she decided to create a children’s book to help parents navigate those conversations with their young girls.
Dr. Rokeshia Reneé Ashley is the creator of the SunFlower Child, a book depicting the life of an inner-city Black girl that consists of positive affirmations about her skin tone. Ashley, who works as an assistant professor at Florida International University, was inspired to create the book after her dissertation research on the effects of skin whitening within the African diaspora and the root of the obsession with having lighter skin.
“In my research, I found that women who use skin whitening products hide from the sun to maintain their complexion or reduce the chances of having lasting health impacts from using the products,” Dr. Ashley said in an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE via email. “Black and brown girls are socialized to hide away from the sun to maintain or have a fairer complexion, rather than seeking out the sun as a nutrient.”
She went on to say that it was important for young girls to see positive representations of themselves and be nurtured based on her own experiences during her youth. “Now, I know the elder warnings were derived from their own social and racialized experiences—experiences I would inevitably come to learn of in my future. Unfortunately, their yearning to protect me from the ails of society by giving me caution was instead stripping a simple joy of childhood,” she adds.
Dr. Ashley says it is important for parents to also practice positive affirmations while children are young so they can grow up with healthy self-esteem, something she does with her child on a daily basis. “Every morning and night, my 3-year-old and I say, “I am melanin filled and my beauty shines from within!” she says. “A simple statement that’s loaded with power that she can remember and consistently speak into existence daily.”
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