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Dear Private School Black Girl

Dear Private School Black Girl,

How are you doing? Have you made any friends? Are you participating in class? Can you be you when you walk through the halls?

I've been where you are right now. My private school experience wasn't all bad, but what I realize now is that I went through some things that no one should. In 6th and 7th grade I was the only Black girl in my class. I got so excited when the Black boys from the local public school came on campus. I thought, finally, people who will get me. But they too didn't get me. They rejected me over and over again, preferring my white classmates over the girl who looked like their own mother. My self-esteem was shot. I constantly questioned my looks. Am I too skinny? Are my boobs too small? Should I wear make-up?

In 8th grade I was told for the umpteenth time that I "talk white" so I suppressed my voice because I did not want to be judged. In ninth grade I sat with the other kids of color at the lunch table because, well, that's what we do. However, even then I did not feel completely comfortable in my own skin. The years of holding it all in resulted in my authentic voice being put on mute. I did not want any more attention on me than there already was. I wasn't too loud. I did not talk too much. I did not create any wrinkle in the fabric that was private school. I just was. The world missed out on all that I had to offer because I allowed the world to dictate what I

offered. It took me years to find my voice. It took me well into my adulthood to recognize how amazing I am.

Are you experiencing what I did? Are you afraid of being too colorful? If you are, please stop. Stop being afraid. I know it's hard, but you need you. The real you. Not the prescribed version of yourself, but the you that makes you proud. The you that you look in the mirror and smile at because she is dope as hell. I know you are not reflected in your peers or the teaching staff. I know what message that sends. But you are there. And you have to do what it takes, not to be accepted, but to be authentic. My authenticity began to break free once I stopped depending on other people's acceptance of me to determine how I felt about myself. The manufactured world that exists within your school is not going to change overnight. Honestly, it may not ever change. So it is up to you to feed your soul. What are you going to do differently to help you be you even when the space is not for you?