Won’t you come and taste me?” Guest Author TS Rachel

I am a blackberry, sweet, succulent and delicious. It took some time, but I am now ripe for the picking. Savor my flavors and all their delicate nuances, that is if blackberries are you thing. Some prefer other flavors from nature’s bounty: raspberry, strawberry or even boysenberry, but many know the darker the berry, the sweeter the fruit.

Since I was a young child, I remember sitting around my mother and her sisters and close girlfriends listening to them discuss life and light commentary about serious subjects. As a child of the South, I was accustomed to hearing old sayings, colloquialisms that always seemed to fit the subject matter to a tee. One day, I was there when they were talking about the American standard of beauty and their take on it, when my aunt laughingly said, “Well you know what they say, ‘the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice’ “. Wow, how catchy and profound.

What is the origin of this phrase? Was it a metaphor about darker-skinned women or were they actually talking about blackberries versus raspberries? In keeping with Black History Month, let’s explore.

The Blacker the Berry: a Novel of Negro Life

is a novel by author Wallace Thurman. The novel tells the story of Emma Lou Morgan, a dark-skinned African-American woman, beginning in Boise, Idaho and ending in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. Throughout the novel, Emma Lou is discriminated against by lighter-skinned African Americans and she must come to terms with her skin color if she is ever to be satisfied with her life. This novel, published in 1929, is one of the earliest written using the phrase, but I am sure it is as old as time in the black community.

Discrimination is not just a problem between white and blacks, but actually amongst African Americans as well

Some of the world’s most beautiful women have been of darker complexion. The last 100 years have presented a slow awakening to that obvious beauty. Some of the first black icons of beauty have been Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, and Dihann  Carroll. What is obvious to some but not most is that they are all of lighter complexion. When Lena Horne first came to prominence there was no makeup for her and the great Hollywood makeup artist Max Factor created a shade of foundation based upon her complexion. He called it ‘Light Egyptian’. I guess it looked more exotic and appealed to a broader audience on store shelves.

Some of the darker skinned beauties that have come along in the last 30 years or so and have bucked the conventional standard of beauty have been the world’s first black supermodel Beverly Johnson, Grace Jones, Iman, Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek and Kerry Washington. ‘Light Egyptian’ is a few shades too light for me as it must have been for these women of deeper skin tone.

I am the blackberry; won’t you come and have a taste?

Written by Geisha Diaries Guest Author and Transsexual, TS Rachel