I wear it joyfully. I wear it big. I wear it womanly. And I wear it Black. Black. Black. As night, deep and soft and endless with no moon. Just black and perfect splendour in life and in being a woman in this world.
—from “Mirrors” by Maxine Tynes
I was in Grade 3 when I first realized I didn’t look like the other kids in my class. A young boy used a word to describe my skin colour and in that moment I felt so small. I felt ugly. I felt different. All I wanted to do was run home, stay in my room, and never go back to school again. Up until that point I knew I didn’t necessarily look like my friends. Sure, my hair had far more volume than most, and I had hit a serious growth spurt that made me taller than most of the other kids at school. But for me, the differences stopped there. I hadn’t realized that other children might view my skin colour as a negative. It never occurred to me that my complexion would be something they could mock and point out as a fault. To my recollection, that was my first experience with racism, but it certainly wasn’t my last. When something happens over and over again, one can become numb to the action. It’s so common that it no longer has the same effect as it once did. But no matter how many times I was called a name or made to feel less than, it never hurt any less. If anything, it hurt more.
What we are seeing right now around the world are people who are saying in one voice that they will no longer let this be the norm. They will no longer accept the title of second-class citizen and, this time, they will ensure their voices are heard. People are starting to make a concerted effort to listen, to learn, and to try to grasp just how deep systemic racism has been rooted into every facet of life.
We’ve also seen a great many people looking to celebrate the beauty of being Black. And that is exactly what this issue of Understorey Magazine has set out to do. When the issue was first released in 2017, I was honoured to act as its guest editor. And once the call went out, I was blown away by the number of submissions we received from the African Nova Scotian community. This province is bursting with incredibly talented and proud Black women who are using their craft to celebrate the beauty of their race, their culture, and their ancestral roots.
Within these pages you will find works of poetry, essay, painting, sculpture, and beautiful quilts. I am grateful to Editor-in-Chief Katherine Barrett for giving these women the space and the platform to highlight their work. I’m also thankful to the Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute who funded this issue in 2017 and is now providing the re-print to mark the extraordinary changes happening in our world in 2020.
I wish I had such a publication to show that Grade 3 little girl who was made to feel ashamed of who she was and what she looked like. I wish I could tell her that Black is beautiful and that, one day, in the midst of a civil rights movement, she’ll be telling her own daughter to be proud of who she is, to love herself fully, and to not be colour blind, but to be colour conscious.
Let’s celebrate our differences. Let’s lift each other up. Let’s make sure this is a movement, and not just a moment. Black women matter. Black artists matter. Black futures matter. Black dreams matter. Black lives matter.
Print Edition, 2020
The Delmore “Buddy” Daye Learning Institute has generously funded a second printing of Understorey Magazine Issue 12 with our new editorial. If you are interested in receiving a copy, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Our Cover
Our cover for Issue 12 features work by Nova Scotia artist Shreba Quach.
Shreba says, “I have been an artist all my life but only in the last five years have I called myself one. Creativity has been a tool for healing and recovery from a traumatic past.”
The full painting from which our cover was created is shown here.