It’s easy to think that hearing these words is a common trend which has gained even more traction over the last 18+ months, but I am sure you will agree with me that this it is not a trend nor something that is said to challenge others. Representation has always mattered, it truly means what it says on the tin.
Let me break it down for you, the dictionary defines representation as “the act of presenting somebody/something in a particular way; something that shows or describes something” and the word matters is defined as to “be important or significant” putting these words together has a very strong connotation that we cannot take for granted nor can we forget the role each and every one of us plays in the presentation of something important or significant.
Each step we take, each decision we make has a ripple effect and it is important that we stop, pause, and reflect when making decisions, when we choose how we wish to present ourselves and most importantly when putting ourselves out there. I know what you are thinking, it is a lot of pressure! It is, and I absolutely agree but remember that heavy is the head that wears the crown.
As a black woman in law, putting my best foot forward and making sure that I show up to ensure those coming behind me, who look like me, also know and have the courage to pursue their dreams of joining the legal profession is very important to me. Yes, I do get tired, yes it can all be too overwhelming to be present and show up when called each and every time but for me, Black History Month is not just in October but all year round. Therefore, representation means that I have to continue to show that we are here, we are thriving and deserve a seat at a table in all spaces that we find ourselves in. It is only by being seen that others will continue to believe that there is room for them and their dreams remains valid.
When I am standing before students talking about my career and seeing the awakening in their eyes to the reality that can be theirs also or when I am approached in my DMs by young women and men telling me how what I said or just showing up meant so much to them. This is when representation really brings home to me its true meaning.
This is the same way my children feel about seeing artists, authors, dancers, lawyers, doctors, fashion designers, architects, that look like them. It is about creating hope and belief. They say you cannot be what you cannot see and although you can be whatever it is you want to be through hard work and determination, seeing others that look like you doing that which you desire for yourself, paving the way, gives you that added encouragement and motivation that you need and most importantly hope that you should persevere no matter what.
The same goes for other things such as clothing and accessories. To be specific by way of example plasters! Seeing plasters in the supermarket that can be used for different shades of our black/brown skin created a feeling I can never forget especially when my son said out loud how happy he was to see plasters that matches his and his sister’s skin tones. That moment caused me to reflect deeply, clearly my son has thought about the generic colour of plasters and perhaps he has wondered each time we used one for him why it did not match his skin colour but never voiced this out.
It is a task for all of us and we must all make a conscious effort to continue to support and encourage movements that call for our society to be representative of everyone so that we can stop asking questions about whether we belong or whether we will fit in. We must be the change we want to see so we must keep flying the flag of hope, of possibility and to be the ones that sends the ladder back down when we have reached the top.