Author: Toya R. Smith

Black Like Lauryn: How I Went from Baltimore Beauty to Diaspora Darling

My last year in college, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was everywhere. All we listened to, all we sang. The strains of it wafted on the wind across campus. As a Black girl from the hoods of Baltimore, I played Miseducation as much as anyone else. So much, that now, more than 20 years later, I can still sing/rap every note, every word. Lauryn’s epic 1998 LP was groundbreaking, but the woman herself wasn’t new to me. I’d watched her on As the World Turns and in Sister Act II. I’d head-nodded along with her flow when she was a member of the Fugees. But there was something about Lauryn singing and being on her own that spoke to my young heart. Slender, dark, loc’d, full-lipped, rocking her Northern accent and what felt to me like matching aggression. Something about her beautiful Blackness that looked nothing like mine.  College is the time when kids go away just Black and come home BLACK. Before college, my concept of Blackness was home. West Baltimore. Relaxed hair teased …