Oakland, CA — When I was 10 years old, I spent the weekend at a sleepover with my two cousins. Both were around my age. All the other girls were a few years older than we were. Despite that, I felt comfortable because at least we were all black. The day went well. I had found a way to not make myself too noticeable to the teen girls by staying quiet and with my cousins.
Then my cousins fell asleep. And the tormenting started.
They spent that entire night making fun of my skin. They said I was ugly, comparing me to a burnt cookie. They said they were glad they weren’t as dark as I am. It didn't matter that we were all black. I tried to go to sleep as a way to escape but couldn't. They threatened to pour bleach on me if I fell asleep.
But for some reason, I didn't feel threatened. I felt like the threat. I felt like I had harassed them just by being dark. At 10, I thought that maybe for the rest of my life I would cause people to feel threatened because I was dark skinned. I tried staying out of the sun. I used photo filters to make myself look lighter in pictures.
At a certain point I realized, my actual skin color wasn't something I could change. Plus, the photo filters looked ridiculous. So I quit using them and started tagging my photos #sunkissed instead.
Today, I look at my skin as if it's a gold medal—something no one can take away from me or make me regret.