This post is dedicated to my dear friend, Alicen, who shares her cultural enlightment learning experiences with me daily, and she gets it!  She understand that our liberation and empowerment as women of color are bound together. She understands that we are better off because we have learned more about who we are on deeper levels!

In order to live a fabulous and empowered life it is crucial that you not only love yourself but know yourself. Know where you come from, and how that contributes to your identity, society, and the quality of life you live. It is my belief that to be fully empowered you have to be conscious of your cultural heritage. Color meets confidence when it completely embraces the person they are: skin color, beauty, body shape, strengths, weaknesses, family, life experiences, etc. One of the best ways to learn more about yourself and your fellow man is to educate yourself. I believe the best way to do this is to read!

1. The Autobiography of Malcolm by Alex Haley

I read this as a freshman in college…all 400+ pages and this has to be the best book I’ve ever read! I have yet to meet someone who has read this book who disliked it or did not finish reading without raising their level of knowledge in regards to race in America and a new level of cultural consciousness about their identity. This book is a story of transformation, and about a boy growing into a man! It shows that education is the best way to liberation for any person.

2. For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange

Although most of today’s women know this as a Tyler Perry movie; it is well worth it to read the original choreopoems that tells the stories of nine African American women and how their lives intertwine through life experiences that change their perceptions of the world. It is a beautiful account of women coming together during tough times, and finding out where true regal realness really lies—inside of us.

3. Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins

If you really want to get some learning done…read Ms. Collins! She will take you through many different facets of black womanhood from motherhood, complicated black male-female relationships, to family structure, down to stereotypes of black women (jezebel, mammy, welfare queen, etc). This is a must have! The revised edition includes connections to similar stories to women of color from all backgrounds and also internationally.

4. The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison

This book brings up many ideals surrounding colorism which is an issue for all women of color including white women (ie. tanning/paleness), etc. Morrison tells the story of a young black girl name Pecola who feels she is inferior because she doesn’t have blue eyes or white skin.

5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

This classic is an autobiography of Angelou’s life, as well as the title of one of her famous poems. Angelou recounts her adolescence and young adult years and experiences. Her message reveals strength and resilience in the face of racism during her early life.

6. Why I Love Black Women by Michael Eric Dyson

I read this in high school, and will never forget it. Dyson shares his experiences with black women throughout his life. Every chapter he discusses someone new such as his elementary teacher who inspired him to do his best. This book seeks to shatter the negative stereotypes that black women are often subjected to.

These books don’t even scratch the surface of the many books or even films you could watch that would open your eyes to deepening your cultural conscious. I would also recommend the following: Souls of Black Folk by WEB Dubois, The Miseducation of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson, How It Feels to be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurtson, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up: 40 Days and 40 Nights Toward Spiritual Strength and Personal Growth by Iyanla Vanzant, RACE: The Power of an Illusion DVD set, and the list goes on.

Have you read these? Are there others you would suggest?