What does your melanin mean to you?
It’s my connection to my ancestors, the people who share my blood. I draw my strength from them.
It means beauty and creativity and power. When I think of my melanin, I think of how I can show up in the world and how I can force visibility, because there is such a lack.
It means a connection to magic and a connection to the earth; a connection to ways of knowing that are devalued and overlooked in our society.
My melanin means my cultural identity—I am Samoan-American; I am a Pacific Islander. My melanin is thinking of my culture—how I was raised, where I grew up—and identifying with other folks here in Portland that have developed a culture around their melanin.
It depends on the context. When I grew up overseas on Guam, as someone who is biracial but was always around people of color, I didn’t think about it until we would visit my mother’s family who hadn’t seen me in a while, and they wouldn’t recognize me as family. They were usually like, who’s this white girl? But here in the States, looking at me, most people would never say that. I feel like here in America, I’m always treated as a not-white person.
To me, it means being sort of the underdog, and feeling a heightened sense of community and unity in that experience.
It means a lot to me; it’s who I am as a person. It gives me a lot of character. I love my color; it’s very vibrant but dark—I get really dark during the summertime, which I love. I just love my color.
I’m proud of who I am, and as an African-American woman, as a lesbian, as a wife, it’s like: we’re here, we’re in this world—you need to be over it! Enjoy the benefit of what my community brings to the world.
It’s my history. My melanin represents my ancestors, my family and my lineage.
It’s a mark—it can be a mark of inclusion or a mark of exclusion depending on the space. My family are all from Mexico, but on my mom’s side they’re really light-skinned, so I’ve always been the darkest one on that side. They call me prieta, which is meant as an affectionate term, but it’s still a mark.
It means connection to my past—to my family, my ancestors, those who paved the way. It’s my pride. It’s what makes me David; it’s what makes me strong and resilient.
I never thought about my melanin until I moved to Portland, because I grew up in a super diverse city. It’s a part of myself that I never actually looked at, because it’s always just been…normal. And now here it feels like it’s not, and I feel out of place. It’s interesting to be over thirty and just now realizing that I am a person of color, and trying to figure out how that fits into my life at this stage.
My melanin means my heritage. I am first generation; my parents were born in Mexico City, and my grandparents were born in Oaxaca, so naturally our people are very dark. I am super super happy and comfortable in my skin because I feel like it carries that ancestry in me; it makes me feel powerful and strong.
It’s a reminder of my roots; the cultural and ethnic backgrounds that make up me and my family. It reminds me of who I am.
It’s a constant struggle. It’s frustrating to deal with white people all the time, so it’s learning patience; it’s resistance and resilience.
To me, it means power and it means pain. It makes me feel unique and strong, but at the same time it reminds me of obstacles and challenges; the conflict comes in trying to make those things exist at the same time, in trying to exist as somebody who is powerful and in pain. It’s hard, but beautiful.
Also Pictured: Zakai
My melanin, to me, is husked coconut baking under the sun. It means resilience. It means family; connection. And delicious chocolate.beautiful.
Also Pictured: Olga
I think it’s complicated, especially for a Mestiza. I never felt like I had a positive relationship with my melanin, but the more I learn about racial identity, the less I feel bothered about any of that, aside from being sensitive to the fact that I carry some extra privilege because I am light. Because being racialized, you don’t do it—other people do it to you.