For years, social media has allowed marginalized communities to present themselves in ways the mainstream media often ignores. That's been especially true for black communities, who reflect their own truths — whether it's the deadly reality of police violence or the pervasive racist stereotypes that assault black people — to the masses.
#MelaninMonday started earlier this year as one black artist's attempt to inspire others to showcase their beauty.
That artist is Milandou Badila, a 27-year-old musician who was raised in New York City by Conglonese parents. Badila, who performs under the name Young Paris, started #MelaninMonday on Instagram and Tumblr to highlight beautiful images of often dark-skinned black people. He described the project to Mic as "the aesthetic of what I represent on a few different levels."
Badila came up with the idea for the series after his clothing line, "Melanin," sparked interest among his followers. Now, the images he curates through #MelaninMonday are meant to do the same. "The strongest ideal with the imagery chosen is to connect the African diaspora through our beauty throughout the world so we showcase the traditional and contemporary including the beauty of all generations and cultures," he said.
The series features original and crowdsourced images of black people in various poses with the word "Melanin" written across them in turquoise script. Badila said he gets the images from a well-curated list of Tumblr blogs as well as viewer submissions. It's a simple gesture Badila uses to show that melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, eyes and hair (which black people usually have more than whites) isn't just scientific. It celebrates the very thing that gives black people their color.
"The idea more or less is to encourage people of color to showcase their beauty," Badila said. That idea has gone from a hashtag to a full-fledged brand on his part, with a goal to show viewers that "you're beautiful in your skin."