Though the black community has coined affirmations like, “melanin poppin” and “your black is beautiful” to recognize and celebrate an array of skin tones, unfortunately, colorism—misguided opinions of whether lighter skin is more desirable than darker skin or vice versa—continues to be an issue that causes a great deal of pain. Local author Clarence Birdsong III dealt with his fair share of colorism when he was a young boy, and when his daughter came to him having felt the same effects at just seven years old, he channeled that to create a special book, “Chocolate Kisses,” for little girls of color everywhere.
“It was like deja vu when she told me that girls were making fun of her dark skin,” Birdsong said. “We now had similar stories, but unlike mine, I wasn’t going to let this be something that she’d carry with her. I wrote her a poem that repetitively stressed that HER black is beautiful and it doesn’t matter who loves you if YOU love you. We memorized it and recited it, and as we were doing so, I thought to myself, “my daughter isn’t the only one who needs to hear this.”
Chocolate Kisses is just one of books that Clarence has written that touch on common issues within the black community. His book “Black: A Love Story” touches on self-love on the adult level, and he’s currently working on two other books— one coming out in June and the other set to be released in January.
“Writing was my getaway, but I never viewed it as a real talent because it wasn’t considered one in my community,” Birdsong said. “When I was growing up unless you could run, jump, hoop, or perform, it wasn’t “talent.” Honestly, I would use my writing most as a way to woo and sway girls when I was young *chuckles*“
While Clarence never envisioned having a career in writing, life situations led him to lean into the creative outlet more.
“It wasn’t until I became homeless that started seeing my talent as a ‘gift.’ I was working in the heating and air business when I wound up injuring my back, and unfortunately, the bills don’t stop when you can’t get back to work. During those nights when I wasn’t able to sleep, I would just write. Someone eventually read my notes and told me that I was on to something.”
And onto something he was. Not only does he have two, almost four, published books underneath his belt, but he now thinks of himself as a writer and is excited to use his talents to benefit this city.
“I wrote her a poem that repetitively stressed that HER black is beautiful and it doesn’t matter who loves you if YOU love you. We memorized it and recited it, and as we were doing so, I thought to myself, “my daughter isn’t the only one who needs to hear this.”
“Someone asked me why I write,” Birdsong said. “Is it for money? Is it for fame or “clout?” No, it’s for the impact. I want to keep spreading this message of self love any way that I can. I was given this gift. It’s my responsibility to live it out.”
As he continues to use his creativity to tackle issues he sees in his community, Clarence believes that early intervention, while only half the battle, is an important key to shifting societal norms.
“Self love is the best love, but self hate starts early,” Clarence said. “The quicker we can reinforce being comfortable and confident in your own skin, whatever color it is, we create a new norm. A better one.”