Every Tuesday we #PasstheMic to those with enriching perspectives to share their views and goals. Today, Evelyn Ofosu - our designer, shares her lived experiences and learnings with us.
I'm taking back control
I’m a 26-year-old proud black woman, born and raised in London. My parents are originally from Ghana and I love my Ghanaian heritage – the music, dances, food, clothing and people define who I am.
However, I’ve not always felt like this, it built over time.
As I’ve been reflecting on my journey so far, it took me back to where it really started for me as a 7-year-old in a North London mixed primary school.
At this young age, I recall the feeling that black wasn’t seen as ‘cool’ or ‘beautiful’ or ‘aspirational’. When you’re a kid you don’t question where these thoughts and opinions come from or what you can do about them. But I now know there are so many factors all around us that inadvertently impact these feelings.
Luckily, at home, my mum would always ingrain our culture in us as we grew up. She gave me and my sister African hairstyles not commonly seen at the time and the constant questions, laughter and comments about my hair made me feel different and ugly.
Sadly these scars created at such a young age stuck with me for many years. The feeling of being different combined with the negative labels associated with the colour of my skin was unbearable. I started to believe that being who I truly am and embracing where I’m from wasn’t okay. I dehumanised myself which left me desperate to just ‘fit in’. I disregarded my skin and everything that came with it, not celebrating my heritage and not being my true self.
Looking for inspiration
Moving forward a few years, I find myself in a different setting with the same familiar feelings I had back at school - the feeling of being the odd one out.
My experiences in workplaces sometimes felt uncomfortable as the ‘the only black woman’ in the team or business. I wondered why there were no black leaders in my environment and I longed for someone who could relate to my experiences. Someone I could turn to and aspire to be.
For a long time, black people have been grouped in varying collectives which are usually skewed negatively against the black community. This has blurred the fact we’re all individuals with our own unique experiences.
One time, our family came home from my aunty’s to find someone had broken into our home. We called the police who found a footprint on our front door. They went into my brother’s room and picked up one of his trainers and came up with a theory that he’d broken into our own home because “we’d locked ourselves out”.
The case was left unresolved and that’s when I knew equality was a problem in every aspect of our lives: school, work, family.
Being black is not my only challenge, but being a black woman on top of that creates a new set of circumstances I need to face. It can be overwhelming but I’m happy with my mindset today. I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who have helped me find myself and my voice but it’s been a rollercoaster journey I’m still working on.
The Black Lives Matter movement has woken up a feeling that I’ve suppressed, an uncomfortable truth we all need to face. We all need to educate ourselves on the subject. This no longer needs to be the ‘elephant in the room’
If you’re my colleague, a non-black friend, a leader of a business, a teacher, or see yourself as someone who can make even the smallest difference, educate yourself and open your eyes to what’s happening around you.
We all have our own stories and experiences. No-one should be defined or discriminated against because of their skin. We can’t afford to stop the fight for equality, and we should tackle this with true compassion and understanding.
Enough is enough. I’m taking back control of my own narrative, life and identity.