A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

NAKED: Black Women Bare It All
By Lola Jackson

NAKED  edited by Ayana Byrd and Akiba Soloman
Foreword by Sonia Sanchez

"I am the X chromosome female sexy as hell, woman, big, small, round, flat, enticing as a matter of fact.  In a mans world, where women are an object of desire yeah I am on fire with bust of lust, legs of steel, its so real. But, don't touch or make a fuss. Why can't I just be me? NO rapid fire or disgust when I am not so pretty or my hair is kinky or bald, still I am all, woman, from the soil giving birth, all comes from me treat me kind or much more respect me my space no matter the shape, never rape  I give birth or I can be invisible I use my words to give life no matter my size, color, hair, I give life."

NAKED, the title of an eclectic work contributed by numerous Black women on the topics of skin, hair, body size, and perceptions of sexuality, speaks loudly to the experiences of Black women in their skin. Sonia Sanchez retells an experience of being well dressed with briefcase in hand walking down a college town street. A White man drove up yelling rude propositions at her.  As women the demeanor of being well dressed often gives confidence.  My grandmother always said, a man can be a bum in the street yet still feel he is good enough to yell catcalls at the most beautiful woman.

It seems experiences like this present a need for black women to express freedom in their sexuality since some much is repressed.

Bethan Hardison, fashion expert, is featured in NAKED and believes that style is what is most important; style comes from your soul.  We must sow the seeds of beauty in our communities and especially in our young children.  We must tell our young ladies they are beautiful. The fact remains beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Bethan shares of seeing times when beauty was inclusive of all during the sixties. The color divide of light vs. dark existed, yet the community embraced its Sistahs with phrases like "I am black and I am proud."

Kelis, a major celebrated international artist, and also featured in NAKED, says America is about what is appealing to the eyes "sex sells."   Beauty is a gift. She reports using her beauty to promote her music; this is second nature.  Our body is precious if women perceive it that way.  On the contrary, if women perceive their bodies as a curse than this to will come to pass.  Women must be comfortable in the skin their in.

"Beauty and sexuality go hand in hand.  I' m attracted to a woman who wears her sexuality on her sleeve.  One you can tell is kinda funny by the way she swaggers rather than walks and puts her breasts away because they don't define her" says, Laini Madhubuti, a decorated writer in her own right.  "I remind myself daily that labels say more about the assignee.  Folks need to find a box to put you in, and they need for you to stay there, safely within their realm of comprehension.  Now I don't stay."

And NAKED proudly reads on "I am woman; I give birth. I use my words to give life, no matter my size, color, or hair.  I give life... naked we bear our souls we give life..."

Beauty comes in many sizes and shapes.  La Nera, as she is so graciously called, means the black girl.  Hers was a journey of acceptance of self, as a thick legged, fat, Black girl.  The image of poor welfare woman does not represent me, she said.  These women, according to her, were fat like her.  She felt it would be better to be a thin White girl then her problems would be solved.  In her sexual encounters she hid under sheets, embarrassed about her large size. Black men helped her love herself.  Black men loved her full body; this helped La Nera find the beauty that is she.

"I'm not the promiscuous twit I'm often mistaken for; I'm a business woman who has used videos to launch a multimedia career" says Melyssa Ford, a dream to see, a fantasy for men.  She states, "my job is to sell fantasy and perfection, and perfection is not reality."  It is hard work.  "Every mens magazine wants the shot of the girl looking over her shoulder, with her ass right there on a platter."  I think it's too in your face, all sex and no sensuality." She is proud of her accomplishments so far, but decided that her career is still underway; therefore, her image becomes her reality. 

NAKED speaks loudly to the experiences of Black women in the skin their in, it is a great body of work to read!