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I am a black woman

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

These past few weeks have been trying for the black community all over the world. I have been debating and contemplating whether to write this post because I could not find a way to conceptualise the turmoil inside. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has triggered traumas to came flooding back as if I’d lived through it yesterday. While I am angry and tired that racism and social injustice is still a topic we are discussing today, I have to accept that change doesn’t come over night. It has taken years to get to this point and it may very well take more years to undo it. What I can change though, is my outlook.

Anyways, I wanted to share with you a personal story.

I came in this country when I was 11 years old from Africa, with nappy hair, a funny accent and well, I was black. I used to get picked on during school because of all these factors. While some found popularity because they were black, it wasn’t the same experience for me. I lived in a predominately white populated community – I could count all the black people at my school on one hand. I remember all the boys used to call me 'Ruth Dhiwajawaja' a funny name because they couldn’t pronounce my last name and so always referred to me by that nick name for a good 4 years. That amongst a whole host of things that I had to endure throughout high school. unfortunatel,this is the reality for a lot of young black people

From a young age, I learnt that life was going to be tough because of the colour of my skin. Not that I had any choice in the matter – I was born with it. That's the worst part because I cannot change it. I never truly understood what racism was when I was young. We are brought up and taught that we are all equal but in reality, that isn’t the case. I found myself having to change a lot of who I am so that I could feel like I fit in. So, in a nutshell high school was trying. While my high school experience then was crap, it definitely helped me build a thick skin. These are still some of the challenges that young black people face stil

After high school, I went on to do my A-Levels at a college that was very culturally diverse. Here, I met fellow Zimbabweans who were just like me and just like that I started only associating myself with black everything. Black parties, black friends all the way through university. I think I only had one friend who didn’t come from a minority community. And so, when I got into the world of work it was a cultural shock again – it was like high school all over again but obviously in a different context. I felt small, out of place, alone because no one looked like me.

And because I had spent the last 5 years of my life feeling comfortable and surrounding myself with people that look like me, I didn’t really understand my fellow colleagues. I guess what I’m trying to say is that while we are quick to point the racism finger to the white community, we as the black community have a thing or two to learn and we should do better too. The same better we are striving for from our white counterparts.

At the start of my career, I had to quickly learn about self-love. To completely love myself in all my glory and to be comfortable in my own skin. I have been in the railway industry for almost 7 years, it’s no secret it is a very male dominated industry – white middle-aged males. I have found myself in rooms where I have been the only female but on top of that a black female and so I’m having to overcome a double threat. Even when I worked abroad, I was still the only black woman. At first, I used to be intimidated but now I delight in being different.

I am big on "Be what you cannot see" and it is for this reason that I started a social enterprise with my co-founder Tadiwa Karumazondo, because it is lack of representation that deprives opportunities for underrepresented communities. We want to widen access for these communities and help them advance their success – both professionally and personally.

In addition, it was the same fuel that lead me to starting my blog – Ruth Kudzai. I wanted to create a community for black women (and men alike) where I draw on my experiences of being a black woman in the corporate world, providing tips that have helped me climb the ladder. I saw a lack of black female workwear bloggers. There wasn’t much information on the internet about how black women should dress and what I mean by this is for example, when you type professional hairstyles for women the results always favour one community than the other and so I wanted to fill that gap.

I wanted to write this post to let you wonderful black men and women know that your skin will forever be a part of who you are. Don’t get me wrong racism, social injustice is weaved into our very society and it may take years to untangle all of that. I wanted to offer some advice that when it comes to your career, make sure that you work hard, you back yourself, you speak up when things are not right, you do not settle for less than you deserve and never give anyone a reason to overlook your abilities because of the colour of your skin.

Understanding your abilities and who you are is something that will surely get you on your way. It is our insecurities that inhibit our success and we ought to start delighting in our indifference.

The big question I want to leave you and that you should be asking yourself - seeing that there is something wrong that needs changing (be it in your workplace, in our communities, in the way we do things) - what are you doing about it?

I hope you are encouraged by this post.

Love and light.

R x


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