HP Bagpipe

HP Bagpipe

HP Bagpipe

Reader Submission: A Letter To My Melanated Queens

Sophomore pens letter of encouragement to younger peers in community
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
After transferring to the district in fifth grade, sophomore Maddie Watkins realized she was having a hard time fitting in as a Black student in the district. However, five years later, she has found her place and wants to let other girls in her position know they can do the same.

Hey! My name is Madison, or, as I’m more commonly known, Maddie. I moved to Highland Park from Desoto, Texas in fifth grade.

I remember my very first day here. Looking around the classroom, I never felt like I stood out so much. I came from a predominantly Black school. In most of my classes, I was the only Black person there. Do you know how awkward it is to be in a social studies class, and we are talking about slavery, and the whole entire class stares at you? You don’t really know how to react. You just want to crumble up in a ball and be invisible.

Year-after-year of experiences like that leaves you questioning your self esteem and wondering where you belong. And because Highland Park schools are predominantly white, it feels like you are alone in going through these things.

But I am here to tell you, you are not alone, and it doesn’t have to be this way. 

There are many things that I wish I knew before I moved to “ The Bubble.” I think the first thing I wish I knew would be that, no matter what, I am beautiful, and so are you.

Moving here, I quickly realized there seemed to be a different definition of beauty for the girls here. At the time, I thought I’d only be pretty if I had straight hair and if I wore what everyone else wore. I got teased for wearing jeans, which now seems so stupid, but because I just wanted to be accepted, it hurt me.

The teacher, Ms. Bearden, really helped me start to love who I was. 

So, everyday, I woke up early to straighten my hair – without proper heat protection – and I cried until my parents went and bought me the Lululemons everyone else had. Although I did everything to try to look the part, I still felt like my peers looked at me as “that one black girl.” I’m sure some of you might be able to relate to the hurt I felt when I say this made me feel like I wasn’t being seen as a person.

It wasn’t just about looking the part either. I felt pressure to act a certain way too. Coming into the district as a new person, it seemed like there was this stereotype of HP girls. It’s not even that the stereotype was a bad image of the girls. It’s just that I felt I didn’t seem to fit. I felt like I started having to dull aspects of my culture. I would be loud and use certain slang words that were totally normal back in Desoto, but here, I just felt like it made me stand out even more. I started shedding those elements of me to try to fit into this new place. I did not want to be labeled as “loud” or “ghetto.” 

But one day I was walking down the halls of MIS, and I saw a Black teacher. I’m the type of the person who will go up and talk to anybody, so I did, and over time, we were able to build a strong relationship.

The world only gets one of you. If you’re not you, then who are you? 

The teacher, Ms. Bearden, really helped me start to love who I was.  Whenever I would see her, she would always say how much she “loved my curls” and how beautiful I was both inside and out. This made me feel more confident and accepted. I began to feel more comfortable wearing my natural hair or “my curls” and began to truly appreciate them, as well as who I am. Although it took me a while to get back to who I truly was, it was crucial that I got through this because now I love myself. I no longer have that stress of trying to hide who I truly was from my friends.

Sophomore Maddie Watkins poses for a picture. When she first moved to the district, she felt pressured to straightened her hair, but over time, she learned the importance of embracing her true self. She spent the night before the picture transforming her hair into passion twists. She often practiced new hairstyles because she wants to be a hairstylist one day. (Photo courtesy of Maddie Watkins)

Because of Ms. Bearden, I learned it is really important to embrace your image and who you are regardless of what anyone says. You absolutely do not have to conform to anyone’s beauty standards. You’re not just “pretty for a black girl.” You are truly beautiful just the way you are. So, embrace who you are instead of who other people want you to be.

And, as far as personality, it is important for everyone to be their own person because it makes you you, and it adds diversity to the school, friendships and the world.  The world only gets one of you. If you’re not you, then who are you? 

By making the choice not to be myself, it took away from my individuality as a person. Not knowing who you are can make the challenges that come with moving to a new school even harder. After I realized I was no longer the Madison I was before, I knew I had to get back to her, and I am proud to say I did.

While I know everyone has different struggles and experiences, I also know friends of mine, like so many other Black girls here, have had similar struggles.  So, I write this letter hoping that you now know that you aren’t alone, and it is ok to be different. You can find your way here if you are not scared to embrace your true self. My  hope is that even in the hard moments of transitioning, and trying to find your way, you’re reminded that you’re valuable, you matter and you belong. 

Hugs and kisses,

Maddie Watkins