Lovely Hoffman is a teacher at school. At the same time, she is an artist. She teaches kids at a Dorchester charter school.
“As an educator, my job is not only to make sure students master their academics but also to educate the whole child,” Hoffman said to the Boston Globe.
We meet with beauty standards every day. Too often, these standards look like skinny white women and have nothing in common with black women. Lovely Hoffman saw her female students being influenced by modern beauty standards, ruining their self-confidence.
When she was a girl, Hoffman also faced these struggles. She was in a singing group, “where I was the only dark girl in the group, and I was always made very aware that I was different.” She was told she didn’t have “the right look” to make it as an artist, she said. “And that stayed with me for a while,” she said. “Throughout high school and throughout college, always questioning whether or not I had the look to be an artist, to be a singer.”
So, when she came to the school as a teacher, she understood that she didn’t want her students to feel ugly and divided. She talked to her students, explaining the roots of the prejudice and stereotypes. She talked about identity, self-worth, and the vexing question of race that asks, ultimately, what it means to be a black woman in America. Part of that conversation included not just talking about discrimination against black people but also the vestiges of racism, such as colorism, that create divisions within the race. Historically, tensions have existed between blacks of lighter and darker complexions going back to slavery, when mixed-race slaves received preferential treatment from whites. This color caste system has permeated the African diaspora, with Western standards of beauty influencing cultures around the globe.
And then, she came up with a song.
“This song was on my heart for three years. I sat down at the piano and said, ‘This is what I have to write’.”
In her classroom, and the Dorchester charter school as a whole, conversations about race and culture are strategic and intentional. Instilling a sense of racial consciousness in all 216 students, 99 percent of whom are black and Latino, is part of the academy’s mission.
“Because what happens when you have someone who is really, really smart but has no sense of who they are or no confidence in themselves?” asked Hoffman, who funded the video. “You need to make sure children feel good about themselves, and feel confident about themselves.”
Insecurity fades when people embrace where they came from, the difference in their cultures and skin tones. We are all beautiful whatever we look like.
Just listen to this touching and inspiring song.