Joha Mubayiwa has less than 100 Instagram posts, but she’s already gained over 20,000 followers — for one beautiful reason.
Joha lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband Simba and their infant son Elijah. She recently began posting pictures of her family doing everyday things like giving Elijah a bath, eating a meal, or taking a walk, but one particular post seemed to strike a chord, and the followers just started pouring in.
“My dear son, I pray that you always find your skin beautiful even when you are surrounded by those who tell you otherwise,” Joha wrote. “I pray you never have to surround yourself with people who demean and laugh at your beauty, this world is not as welcoming to everybody and sometimes your happiness gets stripped away without notice, but I promise to always be that flutter of happiness in your life.”
The loving message soon started gaining hundreds — then thousands — of likes, along with heartfelt comments from Instagram users who found themselves touched by her message.
Speaking with Babble, Joha opened up about what inspired the post:
“I had just finished giving my son Elijah a bath before he went to bed, and as I was standing there applying moisturizer to his skin, I had a flashback to when I was younger with the same beautiful dark skin … the only difference being that at the time, I was already conditioned to dislike everything about myself, from my skin, my hair, my lips, my nose, and all other God-given features that a lot of people around me sought to change about themselves.”
That’s when Joha had an epiphany.
“I looked at my son and thought to myself, I don’t want him to grow up the way I did,” she says. “I want him to love every inch of his body and his whole being. I want him to enjoy this life that he has been given. ”
Joha says she “kill to have a do-over” herself, or hop back in time to give her younger self a big ‘ole hug — and a serious pep talk.
“I’d love my childhood self tremendously and I’d tell myself that it was okay and that I was gonna end up just fine,” she says. “I don’t want [my son] to ever wish that he could go back and love himself a little more.”
You don’t have to spend more than a few minutes scrolling through the recent news headlines to see that racial prejudice is still alive and well in America. And as most parents know, the media can be a powerful teacher, shaping the way our children see the world for better or worse.
“All these young boys ever see on television is a black man in the movies being portrayed as a rapist, a gang member, a thief, or a business man who’s only story of getting to where he is in life is through selling drugs,” Joha tells Babble. “It doesn’t send a good message to these young black boys.”
Just like all mothers, Joha wants the very best for her child; which is why she’s using social media to spread her message.
“I just post myself and my family, and I think people like seeing my son smile,” she shares. “I feel very humbled for the large following … [and] that people would follow to see our family, indulge themselves in our blessings and celebrate our son along with us.”
As a mom of four children of color, Joha’s words resonated with me deeply. Over the years, we’ve had numerous encounters with racism in our community — like the time my 2-year-old son was called a “cute little thug” and the day my daughters, who were 4 and 6 at the time, were called the N-word by a stranger driving by our house.
There are the times we go to the store and don’t see a single doll or action figure that look anything like my children — no dark brown skin, no curly black hair, no brown eyes.
There’s the “skin-toned” bandages and dance tights that do not come close to matching my children’s skin; the adults who struggle to pronounce my daughter’s name (because apparently it’s too “ethnic”); and the strangers who reach out to touch my girls’ intricate cornrows.
Some of these incidents are blatant racism, while others are micro-aggressions. But either way, these things send devastating messages to children who look like mine — children who look like Elijah.
In small, but powerful ways, they are being made to feel “less than” because of the curl in their hair and the melanin in their skin.
And it’s heartbreaking.
Joha has hope that things can be different for her son, and her message on social media seeks to show all of us that her child is just that: a child.
A child worthy of love, of opportunity, and of joy.
“I hope that he grows to love and respect everybody around him, including himself,” Joha shared with Babble. “I hope that he is kind and nurturing human being, and I pray that he grows up knowing that he is strong, powerful, and can achieve anything he puts his mind to.”
With a mama like Joha, I have no doubt he will.