This will be the last session of CBG: The Afrikan Edition. It has been an incredible Black Herstory Month for me, doing these interviews and sharing them with you. My aim will always be to share the stories and experiences of Afrikan women. Various times, in a world that continues to miseducate us on our own herstories, we also get denied existence. A series like this is dedicated to young Afrikan women growing into themselves, who are invested in forming their own selves and opinions. It is to remind us all that there is no one single way of being an Afrikan woman and you have sisters all around the world loving, celebrating and creating space for you. Enjoy the last session with the phenomenal Vanessa Zuba Mutesi, a proud Munyarwandakazi and Umushambokazi – born in Uganda and bred in Rwanda.
Thank you for being my last guest for this series Vanessa. You are perfect to close it out. To you, what is being carefree?
Being carefree has never been a word that can be dictionary defined. To me, its an individual definition that grows on you within your journey of self-discovery. When I was younger, I perceived being Carefree by the amount of freedom you had- like those Disney movies where the girls dressed anyhow and went about freely. Little did I know, it was also and most importantly internal freedom. A freedom that came with being comfortable in your own skin, and being one with all the magic that you are. Being carefree is integral to any woman, but for the Black woman it is an embodiment of strength. As a Black woman there are so many stereotypes and preconceived notions on what makes us who we are, and if one chooses to feed into that it can be detrimental to their mental health. It is through finding our inner beauty and strength that we develop the whole essence of being carefree.
Amata: When you describe it like that, it makes so much more sense to celebrate Black women who are carefree because they are literally doing radical revolutionary work by simply existing and being themselves. This is our power as Black women.
So how do you practice being carefree on a daily?
Practicing being carefree has slowly become so simple. Simple things such as laughing more, dancing, and telling my story. I absolutely love when I encourage my sisters through my story, hence being the best way of practicing being carefree. If you know me, you know that my family is my everything, especially my momma. So loving them is also part of being carefree. In addition to that, I have a deep love for music, I believe it’s therapeutic.
Yes Mommas! Our mothers are our first lesson of strength I believe. How did you get to this place of being carefree?
During my time in primary, I experienced a lot of bullying. I was scrutinized about every little thing about my body. The years where I should have been fully carefree, I was captive of the words thrown at me. It got to a point where looking at myself in the mirror was as painful as someone slapping you across the face. The words people threw at me became an endless black tunnel that had no light at the end, and this never ending tunnel of darkness led to a slippery slope of questioning the reason I was alive. As I was headed in a downward spiral, a twinkle of light came to me. I remember my best friend telling me,”I see your struggle, and I know there’s fighter in you that’s gonna beat this.” This began my carefree journey. I started fighting the bullies with my motto of “kill them with kindness”, and overtime there was a shift in how I saw myself and how I silenced the haters. I believe that being carefree is finding the FIGHTER in you and being one with all the magic that you are. Recognizing that you are beautiful in all your flaws is being carefree.
It is always amazing how we always find our carefree selves in our younger selves. What would you tell the young you that went through all those struggles?
As cheesy as it may sound, I would tell younger me, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words people say can’t hurt me.” It seems so simple, but the words people said to and about me are the ones that were detrimental to the love I had for myself and my mental health. Looking back, had I found the fighter in me, I believe my narrative would be completely different.
You are a big advocate for body positivity. A topic of discussion that I believe is long over due and very much needed in our community. Tell us more about this and how you situate yourself as a carefree Black girl in it.
Body image is a topic that I have found is downplayed, and seen as such a minuscule issue. You find aunties throwing greetings such as, “what have you been eating?”, “you’ve become fat” or “you’re so skinny, do you eat?” These little comments are the comments that have become damaging to the mental health of so many young women, and created multitudes of insecurities. This goes hand in hand with how we take mental health issues such as depression so lightly or invalidating the experiences of folks, not realizing that some of the ways people head into these spirals, is through the comments made about how one looks. Just as I found my strength to be a fighter, I found understanding that there is ignorance around the whole body image topic, and particularly how integral it is to one’s character. This understanding allowed me to grasp the fact that, if someone has an issue with how I look deal with it! I work on me for me, and that’s the bottom line. Working on YOU FOR YOU, this is freedom!
Featured Video for today’s session: Oshun ft. Proda- Protect Your Self
And lastly, Happy Women’s Herstory Month