“Being a naturist, I chose to experience my nudity outdoors in natural environments and indoors within communities of diverse people in non sexual environments. For me, it’s a choice to openly and intimately experience myself in every season. I openly and intimately embrace all of the elements: air, fire, water, earth. And I commit to maintaining practices of self-love and self-acceptance through all the seasons of my life. I chose to have my first naturist experience during a time in my life when I was consciously seeking and exploring personal, spiritual and tangible liberation and freedom.” Jasmine Burems – Honey & Gold – The Goddess Lifestyle
So where do we stand? What is the current state of the relationship between African-Americans and the clothes free community? Is the clothes free community and the practice of clothes free living an inherently a white European practice? I wish I could say the state of the union was strong. However, despite the previously unknown to be rich historical connection between people of African descent and naturism/clothes free living, the best I can say from my research and experience is, it is tenuous but reclaimable.
Here are some sticky issues that must be addressed if the participation of black folks in the modern clothes free community is to increase. First, it is the opinion of this writer that all the limiting factors that existed in the past continue today. We need to acknowledge that. The perseverance of the sexualization of the body in western society and persistent stereotype of black people as sexual savages; the distinction between the pursuit of social nudity and nude recreation apart from naturist clothes free living; the lingering presence of racial prejudices; and deep-seated cultural values about nudity all impact the presence of African-Americans in the clothes free community today. Consider these images which continue to promote the great objectification of the African-American male as the ultimate sexual taboo. The comment on the image, taken from Instagram, shows how much the sexually objectified black body is a part of the social psyche.
Are we so victimized by objectification and sexualization that we have internalized this to be modest about our bodies even when we are in a relatively safe space away from that level of scrutiny? Spa nudity: Are we just that modest, ashamed of our body, or is it something else?
The European hyper-sexualization of the human body and the added characterization of the unclad black body as animalistic or barbaric is deeply embedded into the collective unconscious of our society. This shapes not only how European cultures view the black body, but how we of African decent see ourselves. All too often the unconscious messages we internalize is, our bodies are abnormal by European beauty standards, and is only meant to be uncovered to be gawked at or in sexual situations.
Based on my experiences, it seems that Caucasian women tend to be more comfortable with being naked while women of color, particularly African-American women, are not. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every Caucasian woman walks around as free as the day they were born or conversely every woman of color spends their spa time covered up like a complete shrewd. Spa nudity: Are we just that modest, ashamed of our body, or is it something else?
The disconnect between natural cultural native African nudity and clothes free or top free living and Western European sensibilities about the clothes free body continues to this day. The African body is constrained while sexualized western bodies are commercially promoted.
Mursi tribe, Lower Omo Valley, Ethiopia| Photo By joeyl photographer
I’m from a village where ‘freedom of exposure’ is respected, whether old or young. A culture where our skin is our Orijin Fashion, our Gucci, our PRADA, or whatever name brand that is out there. As a matter of fact, we are our own designer brands, and we wear ourselves with expensive handmade jewelries which we manufacture with our own sweat and blood–body arts and body ornaments, showing our confidence and pride for our skin and culture. MY AFRICAN CULTURE FACEBOOK TABOOS BUT KIM KADARSHIAN’S NUDITY OKAY Photographer Ken Herman
In spite of what some would think, I believe we have many issues to acknowledge and solutions to tackle before we can say:
In the end I think White nudists have done all they can to welcome and encourage the Black community with open arms into Nudism. It’s Black America that has the hang up about the naked body, and the fault of Black racism when it comes to joining the Nudist community. Blacks must set aside their fear, arrogance, and assumptive racism in order to become a part of the Nudist community. I hope this post clears up any preconceived notions about Blacks and Naturism.- Why do Blacks view Naturism as ‘so white’.
Before we can make a statement like that, I think there has to be an acknowledgement of the current realities of African-Americans in US society. On every level economically, emotionally, educationally, and physically “black folks are feeling vulnerable. Our bodies and our lives seem to not matter to many from the dominant European culture. So the added vulnerability of social nudity may be a significant hurdle to overcome. The Naked Black Justice campaign by photographer James C Lewis from Noire 3000 studios captures the sense of raw vulnerability in the images of written messages on the bodies of clothes free African-Americans.
This photography campaign was designed to bring attention to the issues of racism, prejudice and overall ignorance that has been impressed upon Black Americans. This is no longer just a statement…it has become a MOVEMENT to get others to understand that the world would be such a better place if we could just ERASE THE HATE!! Nudity was implemented to demonstrate the RAW REALITY of these issues…so if it causes you to become uncomfortable while viewing this…GOOD…maybe it will challenge you and others to take a stand against these injustices -James C Lewis Noire 3000
The current reality of African-Americans cannot be ignored in the effort to reach into that community to invite participation in clothes free living. Income inequality, wealth loss and high unemployment have a disproportionate impact on African Americans. The economics of the day make it more likely for African Americans to hang out clothes free at home or visit a clothing optional beach than a clothing optional resort. American nudism is built around the premise of paying for the ability to spend time being clothes free. Nudist resorts, nude cruises and naturist clubs all require a substantial financial outlay. If one is trying keep food on the table, a roof over your head and your kids and family alive and unincarcerated, spending money to be clothes free comes way down on the priority list. From a socio-economic standpoint this may well be a limiting factor for increasing African-American participation as only those African-American with means can regularly visit resorts or purchase club memberships and so on.
Some of these type of people also may rather be nude around their home and near home rather than participate in nude recreation. Some may also feel awkward going to a resort or campground being the only one from their ethnic race. “Why is nudism portrayed as being so white?” | The Naturist Page
Those are the current sticking points as I see it. The rest of my time will be spent exploring some possible paths forward.
If the naturist/clothes free community is to grow in its diversity with regards to African-Americans, it has to come to grips with the reality that, in the US at least, while “majority” population is decreasing, so called “minority” groups are increasing in number. The African-American or “black” population continues to increase despite conventional wisdom with the influx of people of African descent from around the world. Outreach to the African-American community needs to occur in ways new and different from those used to invite those from the current “majority.” The “We have always done it that way” attitude and approach won’t work. The historical experience of African-Americans has to be taken into account. The current realities of African-Americans as it relates income inequality and socio-economic decline must be honestly confronted, before it is said that every effort has been made. African-American people can be encouraged to reclaim a natural historical/ancestral connection to naturism and clothes free living. Just as organizations like British Naturism and the American Association for Nude Recreation have developed targeted campaigns to increase the number of women in their ranks so targeted campaign can be developed to reach out to African-Americans taking the distinctive so far the community into account. More could be done to express the spiritual and ancestral components of the naturist and clothes free life as it relates to people of African descent.
We should avoid the simplistic notion that saying naturists accept all kinds of people actually makes it so.
Furthermore, the clothes free community as a whole should acknowledge the continued presence of racism and racial bias in the nudist/naturist community as it is in the society at large. Admitting that there are people in the nudist/naturist community who in the past and most likely the present would rather not be around African-Americans will go a long way to having an honest conversation about engaging African-Americans in the practice and welcoming them in the community. Human nature suggests that when we are most vulnerable we prefer to be so around people most like us. Acknowledging that is important part of creating dialog. We should avoid the simplistic notion that saying naturists accept all kinds of people actually makes it so. Clubs, communities, groups and organizations that believe Black Lives Matter should say so in their marketing and promotion and let African-Americans know that the effort will be made to make them feel safe and welcome.
There is work for members of the African-American community as well. As other did before us we should play an an active part in creating our own destiny as members of the clothes free community. We should resist the fetishizing of our own bodies. The distinctive features of people of African descent, the size and shape of our lips and parts of our genitalia, our visible curves and nappy hair are our genetic heritage not fetish objects. I am not suggesting that black folks should be asexual or deny our sexual side. Rather I am saying we should not let our sexual expression or our bodies be defined by a distorted view of our bodies created, cultivated and maintained by colonialist European ideals. We should educate ourselves, become more conscious as some are wont to say, examine the roots of our struggle with social nudity and dedicate ourselves to discovering ways to reclaim our ancestral connection to the naturist/clothes free life. WE WERE NATURISTS FIRST!
African-Americans can also is seek out and support each other in and out of the clothes free community. Sponsor or host gatherings where other African-Americans can safely explore the clothes free life. If we see each other at resorts reach out, better yet African-Americans with experience in the clothes free community should invite others to join them at resorts and events. Last summer an African-American friend (who i invited to join me at a resort event) and I encountered an African-American couple while visiting a resort. I was intentional without being pushy to reach out connect and encourage them as they explored next steps into clothes free living for their family (including their children) .
Finally, A few years ago when I was exploring pondering my own place in the clothes free community I came across this post. Nudism: Black folks don’t do that, but I do… The author recounted her first experience with social nudism/naturism in a non sexual clothes free setting. She shares the transformation that arises from this experience and the adoption of the clothes free life.
As a woman who is an outspoken sex positive activist, this experience was appealing to me in many ways. First, it was non-sexual. When I’m nude in the company of other’s, my mind immediately goes to sex and having it repeatedly until we decide to put clothes on. This time it was different: my mind and spirit were in a space of needing to be supported and nurtured in a way that brought me closer to being more honest with myself and my body. When you’re naked, you have absolutely nothing to hide and neither do the people with whom you are nude in community. It’s an honest and safe community space and, for me, deeply spiritual…
I am now a proud bonafide nudist and plan to fully participate in the Naturist community. I have been transformed through this experience and will continue to learn and grow in this intimacy that I share with myself in the community of others who desire to grow and expand in this very short life that we all have. I am born again… –Nudism: Black folks don’t do that, but I do…
Reading this opened up a new perspective on nudism, naturism and clothes free living to me. It was a perspective that wasn’t purely European. I discovered I wasn’t the only one exploring this way of life. It validated my experience in a positive way and countered some of the negative encounters I had in the clothes free community. I began a journey that in some ways takes on a new focus with this series. I am reminded of two things. First, there is hope, African-American people are not a lost cause to clothes free life. Second, we need to be approached differently; there is more work to be done, but that work ought not look like previous efforts to reach new people and invite them to find the joy of clothes free living.
To be sure, not everyone shares my view on this subject and that is OK. I think we should have a vigorous conversation about this issue. I believe that if we do, others will discover, as I did, that there is a varied, complex and mainly untold connection between African-Americans and the clothes free community. If you are a person of African descent or African we would like to hear what you think about our take on the state of the connection between the African-American and clothes free communities.
What others are saying:
MY AFRICAN CULTURE FACEBOOK TABOOS BUT KIM KADARSHIAN’S NUDITY OKAY
“Why is nudism portrayed as being so white?” | The Naturist Page
Why do Blacks view Naturism as ‘so white’.
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Naked Black Justice Videos