In my next Shine Theory column I spoke with Kendra Eno, the showcase manager for Afro Caribbean Society. We spoke about what it means for her to be a black woman growing up in the #blackgirlmagic and natural hair cera, and the role of the Afro Caribbean Society in projecting a sense of community onto the greater St Andrews community with Ubuntu – their showcase this semester.
The theme for the showcase is UBUNTU, meaning “I am because we are.” Tell me a bit about what that means.
I was trying to come up with something that speaks empowerment for the black community because god knows we need it. Especially in St Andrews, where there’s a lack of us, togetherness. I feel like the ACS society has a great community but in a wider sense, I don’t think we’re projecting it. We have it for ourselves but we’re not showing it to others.
Tell me about your role in Ubuntu?
I knew if we were going to do something this big, which was my own idea, I’d need someone to bounce ideas off of. Alice and I recruited a team at the start of the semester. The showcase is dance, acting, singing and modelling, connected through one narrative. Modelling is particularly important to showcase culture, and designers from other places, I actually knew no African or Caribbean designers until we put on this event.
Would you consider yourself as someone with split heritage?
Yeah it’s definitely split. I feel more Barbadian than Nigerian but I’ve got to know more of my Nigerian side through uni, and I think that the showcase is probably going to emphasise the Nigerian side, because the theme for it is Southern African. The story we’re telling is Nigerian – the story of how earth is created.
Something that often trends on twitter/ Facebook is “Black Girl Magic.” What do you think is the impact of this?
It is so nice to have a movement that portrays us as also beautiful. The media is very good at portraying one standard of beauty. Even white women say that standard of beauty is unreachable, but at least they can relate to it. But us black women; we’re not even considered. ‘Black Girl Magic’ speaks volumes, that we can finally love our chocolate skin and our beautiful hair. It’s really impacting the black community; people who are bringing up their young girls to love their hair. I hated my hair when I was younger. I felt it was rough and knotty; I had no idea how to take care of it. The natural hair movement is slowly helping us to reclaim ourselves, and not to answer to anyone else or rely on the media to validate it.
How has your mother influenced how you perceive yourself as a woman and your role in society?
As I was growing up it was a very big thing for me. My mum would catch me, catching my reflection on the way to school. And I remember one day I said, ‘at least I’m pretty’, and she said ‘Kendra, one day someone could throw acid in your face and what would you have then? Education first, beauty comes after.’ I learnt so much of myself through her. Especially with dance, even though she would say now some of the moves I’m doing she didn’t teach me…! As I got older she instilled in me the fact that I was black, but when I was young, she didn’t. I was a woman first. She said she didn’t realise she was black until she came to the UK, because everyone looked the same back home. So now, as a black British woman, I would say I’m black before I’m a woman.
Recently there have been a lot of allegations of sexual assault or harassment in the news. What do you think we can do as a society to lessen this epidemic?
I think the #metoo was great, it showed how widespread it was. Reading all these articles about it made me realise how much blame we put on women. Something I read recently is that in reports on assault cases, it is always “a woman has been assaulted” not that “a man did it”, it’s very passive. As women we’re all united, but men haven’t banded together, a lot of them just blame. We need to remove the blame, talk to our fathers and young boys, even relatives. Also, talking to women who have been influenced by gender roles, like my elderly aunts, who have quite out-dated views. ‘You’re not sitting like a lady…pull your dress down’, I was told that so many times growing up. Those kinds of views cannot be allowed to continue.
This year Rihanna released a line of makeup for all skin tones. What did that mean for you?
You know, it meant that my bank account is quite empty…! I bought three match stick highlighters, treat yo self. (laughing) She’s won awards for it. It was innovative, but why did it take so long? Companies have the money to develop products as much as they want, but they can’t create more shades of foundation to be put in Boots,….?!! Please. Beauty standards are dictated by whoever has the power in the industry. I can’t say the industry is racist, but in a way I can. There’s only one reason they only catered to one section of the demographic.
It’s the same as ‘Nude’ like skin colour tights.
Yes! It always means white. I used to draw myself as white, so when I was a kid and I used ‘skin colour’, it was always white, that’s what people were in my head. Skin colour tights, I still can’t get them unless I go to Calzedonia, which is so expensive. It’s changing; we’re experiencing a turning point.
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Probably to continue to get my hair relaxed. It’s so damaging, but black hairdressers need to get onboard too. These aren’t our beauty standards we’re conforming to, they’re the European ones. It’s part of the journey for loving yourself as a black woman. There’s so much self-hate in the community. We need to take back what’s ours, and stop apologising for what we are. I wore an afro in St Andrews, and got stared at by locals, but that’s black girl magic for you!
Name a woman who you admire, that is in the spotlight?
I discovered Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in my second year, through my friend who is Nigerian. I realised I didn’t know any black authors, and then I was recommended her books by a friend. I read ‘Americanah’, and saw her Ted Talks on ‘Why We should all be Feminists’, and ‘The danger of the Single Story’. She made a funny comparison, someone had read her book The Colour Yellow and came up to her and said, “It’s such a shame that all Nigerian men are domestic abusers”. She’d just finished reading American Psycho, and said in response “It’s such a shame that all white American men are serial killers”, which shows the danger of generalizing, and the single narrative!
Name a woman you admire who isn’t in the spotlight and, tell us why you think she should be.
As I already spoke about my mum, I will talk about my friend Oyinkan. She is so great, and came back from a year abroad and did so well academically! She’s so modest, demure, kind and funny. She has really good taste in friends, not including me! And is just a great person to be around.
- Quick fire questions:
- Starbucks or Taste – Taste
- Book or kindle –…. Book! That was hard.
- Go to songs for getting pumped up? Africa by Arenye (on my Choreo playlist) of course.