I like animals, Star Wars, quirky humor (not to be confused with vitreous humor), and any kind of creative media that deals with people finding love in an otherwise impossible time. I was born and raised in the USVI (St. Thomas); however, my family is from the island of Antigua.
I’ve never been ashamed of being black.
When my mother decided to relax my hair when I was 12, I bawled my eyes out because I didn’t want it straight. I didn’t want hair whose ends I couldn’t loop at the end of a braid. I didn’t want to look “mainstream,” I wanted to look like the girls from my favorite folktale stories. I wanted to look like me.
However, over time, I did become ashamed of the version of black I was—the one who’d been told I wasn’t “black enough” so much that, over the course of my life, I didn’t think I could ever claim it. The one who hadn’t seen all the cool movies, read the biographies, or watched the biopics. If I had an opinion about being black and female, I kept my mouth shut because what the hell did I know about either? Even before publishing my first book, I was afraid no one would want to read it because I have always been so different.
I would essentially troll my college roommate (who, to me, was the black I’d never be) and her friends because I didn’t want them anywhere near me. I didn’t want them to see how much unlike them I was. They would never accept me, and it was so important that they did, facilitating rejection was the preferable route. It was easier to isolate myself than be admitted into a group for whom my existence would be a constant source of disappointment.
I was also born and raised in the Caribbean, and being from that part of the Diaspora while living in the United States, I just knew I could never live up to the concept of African American. I was awkward and shy and didn’t fit in with people who looked like me, but I didn’t truly want to change who I was. After all, it was what I’d been getting therapy for, accepting my personality, my weight, myself. But none of those things were ever good enough to fit in, in my 19, 20, 21+ year old opinion.
I was fucking confused.
And so lonely.
I’d already been dealing with PTSD, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit issues, and RTS. At that point, I’d felt like my entire life was being wasted and that God should have given my soul to someone else.
Yet, there were moments: I would scoot closer when people were talking about Martin, Sister Sister, or Li’l Jon and the Eastside Boys. However, I’d scoot away or curate my music playlists so they’d never hear my soca, my zouk, my calypso and, even worse, my Elton John. I just knew I’d burn in coon hell if true black folk found out I listened to Elton John.
Then, I found Issa Rae and The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.
I matured and realized that even the people who I’d assumed had it all together, the ones whose judgment I’d taken as gospel, had still been figuring out the true tenets of black identity themselves. A guy who I thought was just the coolest and most “woke” brother alive made a Facebook post about Hall and Oates. Hall and freakin’ Oates! The only thing whiter than them was baby powder!
I started looking inward at the things I loved the most, one of which was consuming media that featured women who looked like me. One of my favorite books, of all time, as a child is called, “Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters” because not only were the black girls’ hair braided, they were princesses.
I found my voice and realized that it’s still relevant, even though it might sound a little different than others from time to time. I started sharing my interests and realized others had been curating their own playlists too! I cut my hair and started looking like myself again. I challenged what it means to be a “good girl” in society, which helped me accept that being a woman is nuanced and beautiful and will never be a solid line.
As was being black.
I was born black, and I identify as a black woman. I have conversations in safe spaces (and some not so safe) with people who want to be allies but don’t know where to start, and I don’t feel the impostor syndrome I experience in the things in which I generally feel more competent.
I am a Caribbean woman, and the only identity that was important was the one I’d held for myself.
This is what drove my decision to start looking for black voices in fiction that weren’t only slave narratives, often directed by nonblack folk to appease white guilt or clandestinely celebrate the depiction of the white saviour. I looked for black girl/woman space explorers, superheroes, scientists, etc. whose narrative didn’t revolve solely around how good they were at being minorities.
Kalexwrites and BGR were borne from that search, that reevaluation of the black narrative. It was borne in order to create a space where girls who look like me can see themselves in fiction that also emphasizes their intelligence, their academia, their wit, their compassion. Their ability to be tough and nurturing. Our ability to be universally loved instead of being told we’re ugly, we’re on the bottom rung of the social ladder, we’re masculine, or any version of “black girls can’t xyz.” No, you’re not pretty “for a dark-skinned girl.”
You’re simply beautiful.
That’s what we’re focusing on for now, but the future is bright.
Because just in this past decade in dealing with racial injustice, police brutality, the realization of the police state, the degradation of black bodies, the increase of archaic conservative views around reproductive rights, the ramifications of slavery and segregation, women’s rights, the use of the media to systematically desensitize individuals to the dehumanization of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, and so much more—deep breath—there’s plenty of room for stories about love in those who look a little different from me but have similar voices, similar stories, and a similar desire to be humanized and celebrated in romantic literature.