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.
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:
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
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!
2205 Mount Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301