I first became aware of Beyonce’s song from scrolling through the Gram late 2019…months after it was released. I like Beyonce, but I wouldn’t say I’m a part of the “Bey-Hive”, so I tend to catch on pretty late. It made it to number 1 on the Billboard Charts in August 2019, just over a week after it was released and still, I didn’t pay attention to it until months later.
I played it as background music while I did a bit of tidying around the house, casually moving to its inescapable African rhythm and trying to sing along to all the lyrics that I didn’t yet know (I laugh as I remember this moment and I’m sure you can recall yourself trying to sing to songs that you didn’t know the lyrics to – go ahead and L.O.L.).
After singing aloud… “brown skin girl, ya skin just like pearls”, I told myself I need to play this song for Layla (my then 4-year-old daughter) but life happened and I didn’t actually play it for her that day. My urge for her to listen to it was fueled each time I heard it, but it was important for me to be present with her to sing along when I played it for the first time. At the time, I wasn’t sure why I was making it into such a big deal, but I later discovered the root cause of that desire.
It wasn’t until one morning in the car on the drive to school that I remembered to play it for her and so I did. A captivated opportunity, I primed her with my simple plea for her to listen to this song. She responded with a request to hear Moana’s, How Far I’ll Go instead (imagine the cloud of disappointment hovering over me at that moment). Ignoring her request, I pressed play on my phone and we both started moving to the sounds of Saint Jhn’s catchy rap intro.
Layla was loving the song as it continued. I chime in with Bey and tell her, “ya skin just like pearls, best thing inna di world, I’ll never trade you for anybody else”! We rock in our seats together to what I have commissioned as our new mother-daughter anthem and then it happens. As Beyonce’s melodic and soulful voice crescendos to culminate this verse, she harmonizes, “if ever you are in doubt, remember what mama told you.” It was in that moment I knew I was unable to fight back the tears as they streamed down my face. But why?? Why tears during a fun-loving moment?
As I gathered myself in the car, hoping that my daughter couldn’t see the tears, I acted as if it never happened and happily told my Layla to have a great day as she exited the car.
It wasn’t until later that day that I realized why I was crying and it had nothing to do with Beyonce. It had everything to do with the fact that I have no memories of my mother’s comforting words. No source of inspiration to draw on in times of self-doubt related to my abilities, beauty or uniqueness. No, “My mama always told me to (fill in the blank)”. Yet, there I was…singing to my own daughter to “remember what mama told you”. And that’s it! That’s the level of awareness that cuts so deep and compels you to be the mother that you never had!
Since that very moment, I have smothered my daughter with affirmation statements, pouring into her soul every chance I get. Brown Skin Girl is a feel-good song that every woman and girl should listen to. But beyond the music and lyrics, it should serve as a reminder for mothers everywhere to consciously and consistently affirm their daughters.
I tell my daughter “you were born to do great things in this world; it’s ok to be scared when you’re trying something new, just begin with a try; you are kind, loving and compassionate; mistakes are part of learning; you are a child of God”. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
I want my 30-plus-year-old Layla to look back and say, “My Mama was always there for me. She made me believe that I could overcome anything and be anyone I wanted to be. She gave me wings so that I can soar.”
How are you affirming your daughter? What do you want her to remember the most?