Before and Afro: The Great Liberation

michelle joni before and afro

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I first heard this quote by Marianne Williamson, the great teacher of miracles, in yoga class. It was less than two weeks after my darling Before and Afro set the Internet ablaze, and it made me want to nuzzle my face in Marianne’s bosom and cry so hard that I’d laugh. I had a tremendous number of looming fears at that time, unlike ever before. Suddenly people publicly hated on me, took things out of context to make me sound like a racist asshole, and tried to kick me off the Internet. Others prayed for me. On top of it, I was on a guilt roller coaster over any pain I had caused.

Yet somehow, all this negativity was trumped by a deeper fear: The fear of being powerful beyond measure.

I became a magnet for truth and positivity. Old friends and colleagues came out of the woodwork to tell me they admired my bravery and how I’ve handled all the criticism. Strangers too: “I’m a black girl and glad you’re doing this…” Trice commented, “I heard you on NPR and it almost made me cry. You seem pretty cool, and I’m glad you think the fro is fabulous, it’s about time someone did.”

From my loyal reader Shannon, “You give me HOPE for the future of this country, of race relations, and beauty standards. Hope that in 25 years, when my baby is exactly my age, this will all be what you thought the fro wearing was in the beginning, no big deal.” Bloggers saw a glimmer of light. They wanted to get to know me. From @modernemeid on Twitter: “You could change the world with that attitude, Michelle!”

Amidst all the negativity was this very alien feeling of great power. Invigorating and promising, but completely unsettling.

Because the truth is, I could have started a revolution. I could have leveraged this sudden spotlight and reached out to reporters and supporters about social action in the name of love and equality, which are only possible to achieve through individual mind shifts. Structural racism has a long way to go before total eradication… it won’t happen in our lifetime, and probably not in our children’s either. We can’t afford to wait that long. The only way to get there is to BE there already.

Fear is what stopped me.

The fear of having so much agency on a politicalized and highly emotional issue took over. Who am I to be this polarizing? Who am I to want to change the status quo? Who am I to shine this bright?

As Marianne would tell me: “Actually, who are you not to be?”

I took a little stroll on Facebook just now. It’s more than a distraction – it’s a cherished place for me. Right at my fingertips are all the people I love and who love me. But even more significantly—so are my teachers. Not just improv teachers and old crazy high school teachers, but rather the many modern day teachers and contemporaries who have entered my life. People who have touched me in some way; who refract off my brain vividly and make me think differently. Whether they’re old friends going through their own personal journeys, or vibrant spirits unknowingly helping me on my own, they’re all right here. Hanging out with me on a tab in my Kate Spade-themed Google Chrome browser.

I went on specifically to sign Jess Grippo‘s wall that I loved her email signup process (she literally does a happy dance!), then had a sudden random desire to hop over to Nisha Moodley‘s page. Nisha posts a lot of thought-provoking updates and I love her energy. She’s a guiding force with her authenticity and emotional transparency that one must possess to be a truly good teacher of the spirit.

Her latest status pulled me in. It interlocked with so many of the thoughts I’ve been having over the past few months. I had to read it twice:

Nisha Moodley Status

Mastin Kipp, the healthiest daily addiction on the Internet, was the first commenter:

mastin kipp hater's gunna hat

Many chimed in, and then something deep within me took over. I typed:

michelle joni haters comment

Nobody’s message of love can reach everyone. That’s what makes your love unique. If it could touch everyone there would be only one explanation, and that would be that you are Oprah. Your love will shine upon the people it’s meant to ignite… and their hearts will be the exact ones that need it.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates us.”

And so, here I stand, present.

I liberate myself from the fear of haters. I accept them as a necessary part of who I am. Nobody is ever wrong in how they feel, so I invite them as teachers of their own breed.

I liberate myself from the fear of being too powerful. I will feel safe to let my light be felt through and through.

I librate myself from the strange, beautiful shackles of an afro-themed blog.

I liberate myself from the deeply loving, treasured, volatile relationship I’ve have with Before and Afro since its conception.

I liberate myself.

I liberate you. Shine bright, my dear friends.

May this little slice of Internet history be forever cherished.

The journey continues at; I hope you’ll join me. banner

15 thoughts on “Before and Afro: The Great Liberation

  1. I seriously LOVE you Michelle Joni! I was just mentioning to my partner Jhonathan what a FORCE you are! How inspiring your very being is to me. . . How one hour in your physical presence was enough to make me realize that you’re the real fucking deal. There’s no hiding your light because YOU ARE THE LIGHT! Can’t wait to shine right along with you because, it’s true, YOUR shining makes those of us that care to notice, be inspired to SHINE our brightest light! Thank you! Love you!

    • Seriously, dude, please seek out a therapist. You don’t need internet narcissists to validate your existence. You are force yourself. No need to look anywhere else.

  2. Shine on, girlfriend! This is so great. Thank you for the shout-out, the love, and for being you. The world needs more polarizing people so we can shake up, wake up, and stop sleepwalking with the herd. Thanks for being the beam of light that you are! xo

  3. I’m just so happy you did this. This blog will help teach thousands of children about privilege and systematic or internalized racism just by reading the comments alone. You have shown tremendous growth and I am so proud.

    • JJ, I just sent you a HUGE hug, did you feel it? I can’t thank you enough for this comment. I don’t expect to hear things like this, and you know what? I don’t need to. As long as what I’m doing is helping others learn about themselves in ways that could help them understand and change the world – I am thrilled. Much love to you, thank you for following along with me in my journey.

  4. I dont care how many self hating black people tell you this is ok. your a nasty racist and because of nasty racist pieces of trash like yourself I know white privilege is a hell of a drug and the amount of co signers and dick riders you have on this blog shows me that casual racism is alive and well. and people wonder why I dont have white friends.

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