Printed below is this year’s winning Senior Speech. Congratulations to Madison Jones ’19, and we thank her for agreeing to share your beautiful message in print.
Cocoa Butter, coconut oil, shea butter, almond oil, the list goes on. The list that governs 30 minutes of every 24-hour day. 30 minutes devoted to self-love and self-care, devoted to loving my skin. When I was a little girl, my mom taught me to take care of my skin. She taught me to spend at least 30 minutes a day washing, exfoliating, moisturizing, loving every square inch of the skin that covers my body. As a child, I thought nothing of it. It was simply a part of my daily routine, just another task that my mother requested of me. Little did I know, those 30 minutes would shape the way I viewed and valued myself and my people forever.
Some of you may be thinking that this is absurd. The fact that I spend 30 minutes every day caring for my skin is ridiculous and a waste of time, and at times, I felt the same way. There is no way that it is truly necessary for me to spend so much time taking care of my skin. “Skin was created to protect us. It was made to withstand the hardships of every day, so why would I spend so much time making sure that it was soft? Did that not defeat its greater purpose?” I thought. I was wrong. The time I spent loving my skin did not weaken it; it only embellished the superpower that was hidden within.
This past summer, as I was walking through a grocery store, I was confronted by a woman who had good intentions but who lacked the cultural intelligence to correctly articulate her feelings. The woman approached me, stroked my arm, and said, “Wow, you are so pretty for a dark girl.” As those words flew from her mouth, like arrows from a bow fully equipped to pierce my skin and leave a scar on my soul, an armor, accumulated from my skin care routine, protected me from her words. Those 30 minutes a day gave my skin the power to be tough enough not to allow her words to cut deep enough to leave a scar, and to be soft enough that I could fight her harsh words with kindness.
Countless encounters like this forced me to value, to cherish those 30 minutes until they became my favorite part of every day. After 18 years of performing this daily routine, I’ve finally come to the realization that my skin care goes deeper than the surface. Those 30 minutes taught me that my skin; my soft, coconut smelling, toasted-almond brown skin, matters. Those 30 minutes taught me that my skin is soft and gentle, yet tough and resilient. They taught me that woven into the threads of my skin are the whipping scars of my ancestors and the bruises from the daily blows of living a black life in a white world. Time and time again, this country and the society that governs it has told me that brown skin and the souls that inhabit it are worth nothing. That they are somehow innately less than based simply on the levels of melanin flowing between their cells. As society tries to brand my people with labels of worthlessness and scar us with hatred, our melanated skin stands strong and tender, equipt to win every battle.
Those 30 minutes of love taught me that despite what the world may think, my melanated skin is beautiful; my skin radiates strength and glows with elegance. No one, no matter how harsh their words may be or how deeply they cut, no one can ever take away what those 30 minutes gave me. Soft. Strong. Beautiful. Priceless. Brown. My skin matters… I matter. All skin, in every shade from stark white to jet black and everything in between. We matter.
Thank you for your words, Madison. We wish you every success beyond the Blair Bubble, and can’t wait to hear all about what you accomplish out there. Keep us updated!
(Copyright 2019 Madison Jones)