Kyrah Simon: Open Up

Kyrah is a New York Times Bestselling Author and self-described “proud big-mouth black woman.” Her story illustrates her struggle to embrace her identity and pursue self-love.

I identify as a proud big-mouth black woman. A strong statement, I know, but it is the only way I know to define the woman I have become. It took years for me to stop biting my tongue, holding back thoughts and opinions because I thought they were not worthy. It took years for me to stop fearing a silent room, smothered snickers, and mocking glances as my classmates responded to my dissenting opinion. Gradually, I became so tired of modifying myself, trying to make myself palatable and pleasing to another person. I learned that in order for me to grow as a human I need to say aloud what I thought. I learned to value my opinion of myself over anyone else’s.

I do not want you to think this road was easy. I want to start from the beginning. I am a first-generation American, raised by two Haitian immigrants. I have always attended primarily white institutions and had few if any people in my class that looked like me. As a child, I always wanted to feel normal, like I fit in with the other kids. I would compare the way my hair looked, my skin looked, even how my body looked in a means to convince myself I was just like everyone else. The reality of the situation is that I am unlike anyone else. This is not me trying to be quirky or unique, I am fully aware of my differences from the people I attend school with, and trust me I have been reminded more times than necessary.

It started in middle school. I would have friends huddle together and whisper jokes they knew would offend me out of earshot. I would try to listen in, trying not to let myself feel so different that I became the butt of a joke. In high school I was not so lucky to have people make sure I was out of earshot when they wanted to disrespect my race. Daily, I would hear racial slurs and have my race become the community punchbag for racist sentiments. I was done being fearful of being the sole dissenter, of biting my tongue so I did not upset my classmates. I was done monitoring my behavior so I would never be seen as the “ghetto black girl” and have them look down on me because I had fulfilled a stereotype. It was time that I opened my mouth and said how I felt. And it was freeing.

It bothers me that I spent so long quiet, observing the behavior of my classmates and choosing to be passive in my reality. Just know that when I opened my mouth it never closed. Having my own distinct voice and opinions uninfluenced by anyone else makes me feel powerful. Being the only person in a class willing to call out a person’s ignorance or acknowledge an issue meant to be left unspoken makes me feel powerful. Being a black woman with the courage to do all of this makes me feel even more powerful.

In the past year, I have truly found myself and evolved into the woman I want to be. Being brave enough to say how I feel, regardless of if others agree led me to tour the country advocating for gun safety last summer. I opened my mouth and spoke on panels in front of hundreds of people, on occasion thousands. I cannot pretend as if this opportunity was solely influenced by my voice and talent, but know that it was my voice and mind that carried me through such a trying time and allowed me to stay true to myself. I was barring my own influence by keeping my mouth shut, and I will never allow myself to do that again. Especially considering opening my mouth contributed to me becoming a New York Times Bestselling Author. Doors never seem to close when you are true to who you are.