Every time I see Shani Crowe I want to fight her. And, it’s not because she’s some stuck up diva, or because her freckles are perfectly positioned on her face, to look like some bomb ass melanin constellation on her cheekbones; it’s way pettier than that. I want to fight Shani because she is a goddess and she knows it. I mean what other title is the girl going to add to her resume: artist, photographer, activist, model, fashionista, down-ass chick, nail-slayer, plait aficionado, mild- sauce connoisseur. Shall I go on?
I mean aside from the fact that she single-handedly is the reason why we couldn’t let go of the lame who took us to Homecoming in 2005 because she had their braids looking too damn fresh…Shani loves her Blackness and she wants everyone to love it as well. Freely. Unabashedly. And, without pause for public opinion.
Although I’ve known Shani for years, it wasn’t until I attended her private shoot for her photo exhibition for Lizzo (my other girl crush) for the “Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in Chicago Festival”, that she earned yet another moniker: healer. As I quietly sat amongst so many beautiful black women in all their luscious nakedness, I knew I was in a sacred space. I was sharing with these women in their most private moments when one’s clothes are shed and there is nothing left to hide. As everyone prepared for their camera time, I listened, smiled and observed, as these women, some clothed, some not- sat confidently under the halos of their crowns. It was an amazing feeling to partake in what the world doesn’t give Black Women the opportunity to be, which is free.
It’s bad enough that as women, in general, we’re only looked upon as wither “whores or mothers” with no space in between, but when you add the invisible baggage that Black Women aren’t worthy of being loved, or aren’t as beautiful as the societal norm, the damage that results is a culture of women shrinking against their glory because they don’t even realize they have it. It was a realization that took even me aback and I consider myself the love child of James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston.
The concept was true to the aesthetic that Shani has become known for, the delicate balance of weaving fashion, art, and activism. This time she went a step further by intertwining the vulnerability of her subjects into her work. Every roll, every stretch mark, and every hue was cause for celebration because they were as personalized as the women who wore them.
“When did we learn to be ashamed of our bodies?” I wondered. Because on that night I saw no one who was worrying whether or not their social media would be assaulted with body shaming comments. Rather, I saw imperfect women, who decided to come together and give a middle finger that beauty and self-worth is a “one size fits all” concept. And, at the center I saw a woman who is as humble as she is brilliant, serving as the nucleus for it all.
I walked away from the experience with an exhalation I didn’t even realize I’d been holding in, the reminder of: I-am-beautiful, even in the moments I was too scared to see it. We all are. No, we may not have 7% body fat, and at the end of the day the only micro vs macro conversation I want to have is whether or not I’m going to get a single or double Whopper meal. We have hidden behind our power for too long and it is time to celebrate it… ALL-OF-IT! So as her latest collection circulates and goes viral, as we all know it will, let it be on our lips and in our hearts to bask in our flaws and not shrink against them, for we are indeed worthy of them to be seen.
-Joi’ Has Questions