Newness. Creativity. Color. A Guest Post by Melanie Johnson

I belong to a local Facebook group called Buy Nothing. It’s a fun way to give things away that you don’t want any more or ask for things that you need. I met Melanie Johnson through this group. She did a gratitude post and modeled some looks she had put together with items that she had received from people in the group. I was impressed with her sense of style, her beautiful smile, and just the of joy that radiated from her. I knew she would be the perfect Kiskadee model and guest post writer. I’m glad she said yes!


 

 

Dear reader of this message,

How are you? I hope you are well, as I know myself and some of your neighbors may not be as well as you think. My heart is saddened that notes and letters and articles like this have to be continually written however, I do believe the quote that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Racism and social injustice are things which must be faced. You cannot look away as if it is a “not our problem“ issue. I dare say if you know a person of color, whether man, woman or child, whether you’ve ever or never lived in a community where there were black and other people of color residing there, or whether you’ve traced your lineage back or not, this is our issue.

You and I live in the United States of America yet we’re divided. We’re all supposed to be a part of this concept called the human race, but some are treated as less than. Black people and other People of color (I’m proud that my skin reflects this) are human. I would go a step farther, because I’m not ashamed to say, since I’ve been baptized into Jesus Christ, I’m not only a human being, I’m a spiritual being living in a majestic, physical, flesh-the-color-of-sun-kissing-honey black skin called African-American!

When Celeste originally reached out to me from the Buy Nothing group, I hesitated. I immediately, thought my black skin was being used to target other black citizens to bring black dollars into a white establishment. But then I told myself, she only found me because I was unashamed of showing the beauty of my blackness creatively and perhaps that’s what she was looking for.

 

Newness. Creativity. Color.

I recently told Celeste that I’ve walked down Mount Vernon Avenue many times for leisure or exercise yet would have never stepped foot in her boutique because it didn’t attract me as being a hip, urban space that I would shop in. The store was cute on the outside, but it didn’t feel welcoming until she came out of the store and approached me via the medium of Facebook.

I would hope more businesses would notice this. Some people of color will always feel unwelcome because the owners don’t/won’t show themselves as friendly, open, or welcoming to people who don’t look like them. Let alone allow them to try on the clothes in their boutiques.

I didn’t grow up fearful of white people. Actually, when I was a little girl in Jackson, Tennessee, we used to live across the street from my elementary school. One day my mama saw a young white girl and I holding hands and playing on the playground during recess. She admired that picturesque display of love and acceptance and wrote an article about it for our newspaper, which they published. It was one of the kindest stories of young people not saying that they don’t see color, but that each girl saw each other’s differences but that didn’t matter; they could live, play, hold hands, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company without fear of prejudice or racism. Can we do that today? Would you grab my hand and walk with me, talk with me, laugh with me, cry with me, pray with me?

If anyone from Buy Nothing knows me, you know that if I’m ever “randomly “selected to receive a gift from a neighbor I always take a picture of me grabbing the gift from the bin to give proof that I picked it up. What you may not know is that I walk away pretending I’m on the phone, saying I picked up the gift that was left for me, so that some neighbor who doesn’t know of our interchange, wouldn’t call the police because a suspicious black girl was digging in a neighbor’s bin.

That’s a fear I have because of the color of my skin. When I run down Mount Vernon Ave., I have the biggest smile on my face to appear friendly so that other runners and neighbors don’t see me as a scary, angry black woman. But my kindness, bright smile, or calm demeanor doesn’t keep some of the neighbors from giving me the once over as they enjoy their lattes standing in the middle of the sidewalks I’m running on (so I don’t have to jump out into the street). It doesn’t stop some of them from following me around their stores, which in turn makes me feel as though I should buy something instead of walking out of the establishment empty-handed. Sadly, in some communities people of color aren’t afforded the luxury to window shop or “just browse” as it appears we’re up to something.

Then Celeste asked me to model this second time (we’ve tried to connect many times but my work schedule wouldn’t allow); I kind of expected her to ask me about the recent murder of George Floyd as it was fresh on the country’s mind. Unfortunately, many of my Black friends and family are having to be “the champions” of our race to educate Caucasian and other non-black people on “what they can do“ to support us. We were just grieving the death of Ahmaud Arbery a young Black male who was running in his community and gunned down by two white men and Breonna Taylor who was gunned down in the middle of the night in her own home by police.

So when she asked me this, I was already beyond tired of explaining what white people and in her case, what white businesses can do to support the black community. I have so many thoughts…this is not an exhaustive list:

  1. Stop asking us what to do and begin to speak up against injustice like you would if it was any other person of any other race on this earth.
  2. Support Black businesses, activities, and events in your community.
  3. Vote for people of color who care about the marginalized in your community.
  4. Don’t just LIKE “our“ posts on social media which say we are tired, sad, and frustrated about the hundreds of years of racism, police brutality, lynchings, shootings, and oppression; actually write and share your own posts about why racism needs to stop so that your sphere of influence can see, read, and change. We want to know where you stand. We sometimes get tired of having to re-explain every time another black person is killed, why black people shouldn’t be killed like they are.
  5. If you are a person of faith, trust God, and pray. If you believe in the power of prayer then why not pray to God to change the hearts of those who are committing heinous crimes against people of color? Some of us want the changes to happen in the blink of an eye, however unless we start at the beginning and start transforming the hearts of people from evil to good, we will not see the changes that we are praying for. I serve a God who can change the hearts of men and I will trust that more than anything I’ve experienced or seen in this world. Amen?!
  6. Don’t assume all Black people are less fortunate, or are looking for a handout, or are lazy. We are entrepreneurs, homemakers, we own multi-million dollar businesses, we own properties, we are educators, therapists, the faithful, we’re bridge-builders, thinkers, community leaders, we raise families, we are yogis and scientists, we are the musicians you listen to for comfort and affirmation, we are change agents, we serve without complaint in jobs you think are beneath you, we are creators of the joy in life through laughter, vulnerability, authenticity, verse, art, and fashion, etc. We are different, not better; we are important, not less than. We are deserving of respect.
  7. Please don’t just think that if you have one or two black friends or that if you adopt a brown child, that it makes you a friend to the cause. You may want to consider peacefully protesting and standing alongside your brothers and sisters of a different race; know when and how to have the hard conversations; if you have adopted a brown child, but won’t speak to me in the street has your heart truly been changed?
  8. Supporting black and people of color is not trending. It is not a “popular” thing to do or be into. We live in these bodies everyday and it’s our reality. We are re-traumatized daily. How many Caucasian people do you see being gunned down advertised on the daily/nightly news? This is why we are fearful of our sons, daughters, husbands, and friends to walk out the door…we wonder if they will make it home, ALIVE. So don’t judge us if we’re angry. The scriptures even say we have a right…(Ephesians 4:26). If we’re angry let us be that but know that we are also grieving and sometimes anger is the only way grief feels safe enough to express itself.
  9. Donate to fund organizations that help families and communities who’ve lost loved ones unlawfully; and who help support black and brown people to get into politics, so that they can help change laws which deny rights to women, men, and children with brown skin.
  10. Don’t be afraid to have a conversation. Open the door that has been closed for centuries. Open your heart so people see that there is really more to you than a “Black Lives Matter“ sign in your front yard. We appreciate it, but what does it mean to you?

I am grateful. I’m grateful for the Del Ray community I’ve called home for the past three years. I’m grateful for the state of Virginia that I’ve lived in for five years. I’m grateful for the Buy Nothing group, which led me to Celeste and to this online community. I’m grateful for those who love me, and also grateful for those who don’t, for that is the secret sauce in my testimony. I’m grateful for my experiences of being denied, ignored, stereotyped, rejected, and abused because of my skin color; because those things and the grace of God have made me who I am today!

And who I am is a beautiful young girl from the cotton fields and hoods of Tennessee, who found herself pursuing Psychology at a predominately white Christian university who had a history of not accepting Black students; who then received her Masters in Psychology and Counseling from an HBCU in North Carolina. I am the Founder of a Women’s organization geared towards empowering women, educating churches, and exposing Domestic Violence in Christian homes and relationships. I am the host of a Meditation Podcast. I am an author. I am a Clinician working towards licensure. I am a sister, daughter, friend, cousin, and an auntie. I am a strong, educated, sensitive, Christian, poet, writer, worshipper, and woman who happens to also be Black.

I see you all every day.

I hope that one day you will not only see these photos, but will truly see me too.

Go with Grace,

Melanie Joyce Johnson

 

 

 

 

  • The latest from Celeste

Looking for a killer cocktail number for the latest party? Shoes for running around town? Eye-catching separates for lunch at Cheesetique? Kiskadee has you covered. A favorite destination in the heart of Del Ray, shopping this boutique is akin to browsing your friend's lust-worthy closet. Kiskadee is fun, flirty and full of original designers,a ll presented to you with a focus on personal service. You will always be welcomed by a friendly face, eager to assist!

www.kiskadeeshop.com

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Alexandria, VA 22301

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10 Comments

  1. Avatar Twig Murray says:

    Well put! Thank you.

  2. Avatar Ann Ludwig says:

    Thank you, Celeste and Melanie. I am taking Melanie’s words to heart. They are humbling. I am sharing them with everyone I can think of. Mainly, I am studying them over and over again to light my way in speaking and and acting for justice.

    • Ann, what a breath of fresh air you are. May those in your sphere of influence be encouraged and your hearts rekindled with love and peace.

      • Avatar Ann Ludwig says:

        Thank you Melanie. I checked out your Podcast and am totally drawn in. It’s a beautiful work of art. I gave the 5 star review below. I hope others will check it out.
        “I met Melanie Johnson through a letter she wrote for the Alexandria Stylebook – and was so impressed that I checked out her podcast.
        These are “small bite” meditations perfect for our too-fast lives and she teaches us as we go. Each meditation is complete on its own and I have found them to be a perfect lead in to my own daily meditation practice. Her voice and the quiet beauty of each production will draw you in. While grounded in biblical references and belief in God that does not fully match my own spiritual practice, I find the mediations have universal value. Highly recommend“

        • Avatar MELANIE JOYCE JOHNSON says:

          Ann! Thank you for supporting Soul Peaceful Meditation Podcast…this comment made my day. May you be continually refreshed, inspired, and SOul Peaceful! ***Blessings***

  3. Avatar Becky Sullivan says:

    Very helpful to read this. Thank you for writing it and I will follow your words.

    • Avatar MELANIE JOYCE JOHNSON says:

      Thank you, Becky! Let’s all stay focused on the goal of unity. I appreciate you 🙂

  4. Avatar Gayle Fish says:

    Beautiful.

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