black girls.

those loud black girls
those loud
black
girls.
aggressive, confrontational
loud, black girls.
depicted by
white-washed
sensationalized narratives
that project anger
onto those loud
black girls
who, we’re told,
need to be tamed.

a perceived threat
even when
our mouths
are closed
and our hands
are at ease.
no neck rolling,
no lips moving and
we’re still those loud
threatening
confrontational, black girls.
so no one flinches,
when we’re assaulted.
not a blink of an eye.
masculine bodies stand
gazing in silence
“brotha, help me.”
but no hands are outstretched.
and we are to believe
those loud
black girls
must have done something.
to deserve
to be snatched
and handled
oppressively.
because those loud
black girls
must be taught
to respect
authority
when it’s
white and male
and uniformed
and suited
and tied
by identical skin
“brotha, help me.”

and no one cares for
those loud
black girls
but
those loud black girls.

“are you okay, sis?”

for
we are not
those loud black girls.
we are daughters
and sisters.
we are
human.

For Bobbi Kristina…

On Saturday, January 31, 2015, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 21-year-old daughter of Bobby Brown and the late Whitney Houston, was found unresponsive, facedown in her bathtub. As Bobbi Kristina was being rushed to the hospital, professional and social media and the blogs were reporting her detriment. The eerily similar way in which her mother was found in February of 2012 was used to forecast a bleak ending for Bobbi Kristina. Reports from allegedly anonymous individuals close to family suggested she was in a medically induced coma and had very little brain activity.

Reading that Bobbi Kristina was rushed to the hospital bothered my spirit and reading some of the comments about her and her family and the reports that were so quick to plan her final arrangements angered me. The vulturistic nature of the media and the dismissive and downright cruel statements made by people on social media fueled my nonstop prayers for Bobbi Kristina’s full recovery.

Initially, I struggled to understand why I was so impacted by Bobbi Kristina’s illness – a young woman I do not know personally. I thought about her like I would a blood relative. While we are not related, but Bobbi Kristina is family. She’s black/brown girl/woman family. She is family that’s connected to so many other black/brown girls/women through the experience of trying to BE  in a world where our being is critiqued, challenged and stifled. Too often, black/brown girl/woman being is characterized as a traumatically painful experience, and we are told in so many ways that our trauma and pain are deserved. Our trauma and pain are not received with compassion and understanding that are experienced by other girls and women. If we give way to the hurt, we are not resilient. If we let depression take hold of our psyches and bodies, we are not strong. If we soothe our pain with sex, drugs, or alcohol, we are fulfilling the expectations. We are to be forever constrained by the metaphysical dilemma of being us. Black/brown girls/women are not supposed to win. I fucking want us to win! The selfish part of me wants to see Bobbi Kristina win – for all of us. Win.

However, as I read updates on her status suggesting that her family members are saying their goodbyes, I am reminded of the prayers that I have asked God and the Universe to grant for Bobbi Kristina. My prayers focused on healing energy, lifted spirits, sincerity, energy, and love. I prayed that she be well and find peace. Be well. Be at peace. Just BE… And then it occurred to me that being well and being at peace are not connected to physical presence. Being well and at peace are spiritually conceptualized, and I sincerely believe that her spirit is well and at peace. So whether Bobbi Kristina continues to be physically present on earth or transitions to be cradled by her mother, as long as she is at peace, she wins. She wins for her.

Bobbi Kristina, fight for you, be well for you, be at peace for you, win…for you.

 

 

I am not my(full potential)self when I am afraid…

As 2015 approached, I silently contemplated all the things I wanted to accomplish. I kept thinking: I’m going to write more. I’m going to lose a little weight and get fit. I’m going to connect with family and friends more. I’m going to read more. I’m going to put myself out there. But that’s just it. I kept thinking it. I didn’t want to say it, and I definitely didn’t want to write it down on paper. If I said it to someone, that someone could hold me accountable: Qiana, remember you said…??? If I wrote it down, I would have to hold myself accountable. Urgh. Damn accountability. Why is it such a struggle to be accountable…to me? Okay, moment of honesty: I am afraid. I am terribly afraid of failure, attention, expectations, etc. Whew, I said it. But this fear has to go. It’s keeping me from being my(full potential)self.

Carolyn Gregoire listed six ways to address fear in her 2013 blog The Science of Conquering Your Fears — And Living a More Courageous Life. Those ways include: Be vulnerable. Acknowledge your fears. Expose yourself to what you fear. Think positive. Manage stress. Practice courageous acts. The list seems simple enough to follow and implement, but I was stumped with the first: Be vulnerable. Dictionary.com provides the following definition of vulnerable:

vulnerable – [vuhl-ner-uh-buh l] /ˈvʌl nər ə bəl/ adjective

1. capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon.
2. open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.

Being vulnerable means being open to hurt, attack, and criticism. Who wants to do that? Who wants purposely to be open to hurt, attack and criticism? I don’t know how to be vulnerable. I never learned how to be vulnerable (if that’s a thing that one has to learn). I only know strength. I was taught (albeit subliminally) how to be strong. I get it from my Mama. I get it from the elder women I grew up knowing to be the pillars of the community. They were loving. They were disciplined. They were, at times, stoic. They were strong. They were not vulnerable. If they were, I didn’t see or don’t remember their vulnerability.

At some point in my life, I concluded that vulnerability is the Black woman’s kryptonite. If I am vulnerable, I am weak. Therefore, vulnerability and weakness became synonymic aspects of self that combatted my strength in every way possible. They were on a mission to break me, and I refused to be broken.

But I am broken…

If I am (allegedly) too strong to embrace vulnerability, I am broken.

If I diminish the power of growth that comes from vulnerability, I am broken.

If I let my fear of vulnerability stifle my(full potential)self, I am broken.

In 2015, I will be vulnerable, publicly vulnerable (via this blog). That’s my only resolution, goal, etc. I will be vulnerable and hope that my vulnerability will lead me to conquering fear and living a more courageous life.

I’m ready to be my(full potential) self.

 

Futuristic Black Love – on 3000

Futuristic Black love
on 3000

Because 2,999 won’t do
You, me and Badu
Space traveling through galaxies
Building our families
Resisting normative boundaries
of social expectations
Highest love levitating
and creating
Bodies and ciphers and
Intergalactic escapes to lands
That celebrate

Futuristic Black love
on 3000

We’re on that new shyt
Black love on 3000
That some folks can’t
Get wit
We don’t live in boxes
Fluid, undefinable identifies
and I’m checking pansexual
Because our passion connects
To the intellectual
While our love births those

SpottieOttieDopaliscious

Aliens from Atlanta, Dallas and West Blocton
We three – a true southern concoction

of Futuristic Black love
on 3000

Find us in our spaceship
No rear view mirrors
Ain’t looking back while
We dip
Into the exosphere
So damn high, elevated
Clouds are miniscule beneath
Our feet
Our next lifetime is now
Breaking atmospheric beats
Loving, living, creating

Exactly

How

We

Pleeeeaaaaase.

No need for a player’s anthem
Ain’t nobody choosin
With these three bodies
Ain’t nobody losin
Because it’s love, love…

We’re just on that

Furturistic Black love
on 3000

He – She – and I
Capismini, Capismini.

Notes on Father’s (and Mother’s) Day…

I must admit, I always have to check the calendar to know when Father’s Day is approaching. It’s one of those holidays that I never spent much time celebrating. As a child, I looked forward to Mother’s Day. In school, we’d always create some artsy, awkward gift for our mothers. And Ma would smile like we’d given her the best gifts ever. I don’t remember what we did for Father’s Day. And I’m sure that my teachers organized some type of Father’s Day arts and crafts lesson, but it’s likely that I shied away from participation. As I’ve grown older, I approach Father’s Day with uncertain trepidation. Some years, I celebrated by purchasing a gift for my mother. Other times I’ve thought about sending my father a card but could never justify doing so. This year, I did neither. No gift for my mother; no thoughts of cards for my father. Ironically, I dreamt of him the night before Father’s Day and figured that was the Universe’s way of saying that he still resides in my emotional blind spot. I’m okay with that.

It’s not that I never knew great fathers. I had a god-father. I had uncles. I had a father-figure in my sister’s father. I knew fathers in the church. I have friends who are fathers. I had a husband who is now a great father to our son and my step-son. But I didn’t have my father, not with any consistency. He was there sometimes. I recall an instance when he came to a basketball game with me. I recall him taking me to eat once. I recall him taking my sister and me to play once. There might be other subdued memories, but the immediate recollections are minimal. So many of the lessons that stereotypically gendered notions of fatherhood would have us believe are taught to children by a male were actually taught to me by a female – my mother. My mother was the one who attempted to scare away the boys and tell me what they really wanted. My mother was the one who taught me the proper questions to ask when taking my car to be serviced. My mother was the one who taught me how to do yard work. And had I gotten married in a traditional ceremony, it would have been my mother to walk me down the aisle. So in my eyes, she deserved those gifts on Father’s Day – and any other day.

Purchasing a gift for my mother on Father’s Day or celebrating her on that day had very little to do with my father’s absence and more to do with her presence. Yet, social media would have us believe that celebrating mothers on Father’s Day – or doing the opposite when applicable – is in some way about discrediting good fathers. Unfortunately, that’s what happens when social media intersects with commercialism and the hurt in emotional blind spots. Celebrating mothers is in no way a denouncement of fathers; similarly, celebrating fathers is in no way a reflection on mothers. Parenting is not a competition and should not be viewed dichotomously.

My initial plan was to avoid my Facebook feed on Father’s Day, but I gave in to the curiosity and scanned my friends’ pages. I was glad to see that there were just as many positive posts about fathers as there were about mothers on Mother’s Day. I smiled at each of the pictures of my friends with their fathers, particularly my female friends with their fathers. (This reminded me that I don’t have any pictures of my father and me when I was a child and only two pictures during adulthood.) I saw very few, if any, “father-bashing” posts. I did, however, see posts reminding women that we could never be fathers because we aren’t men. I saw posts stating that many single-mothers were bitter about the fathers of their children because the relationships ended. I even saw posts stating that the mothers shouldn’t complain about the fathers’ absences because the mothers should have chosen better men to father their children. I saw posts suggesting that the mothers likely were the reasons some fathers are not in the child’s or children’s lives. And most of these posts were by women and liked by women.

Based on individual reality, there could some truth to those posts. However, there’s a lot that could be unpacked within each of those statements. Fatherhood as a gendered concept, the reality of unresolved hurt, and the implication that making choices and maintaining a father’s presence is solely the responsibility of the mother are but a few troubling assumptions that require a more in-depth discussion than could be teased out in a blog. But the understanding of individual realities seemed to be missing from many of the posts. Some women may find the angst of Father’s Day difficult to understand – women who are married/partnered and whose husbands/partners father their children; women who were parented by fathers; women who are no longer married/partnered but whose ex-husbands/partners father their children. While I make no assumption here that all women that fall into these categories are unable to understand the difficulty of Father’s Day for some women who cannot identify with either of the categories, I argue that the individual experience is such that none of us can be the omnipotent social media therapist and jolt women into our version of reality. None of us can force a parent (as in mother or father) or child to forgive. None of us can heal the hurt by subliminally chastising folks in a social media post. None of us can do that. This blog won’t do that.

I have been a mother who was single; yet, I felt that I belonged to a parenting community. I was raised by a community of mostly women, but always respected and understood the need for fathers. I, too, have explored my own unresolved emotions and did the work to get to a point of peaceful indifference (And even the word ‘indifference’ suggests that there is more work to be done.). I don’t resent my father. I don’t resent his absence. I reconciled that I must have been in his parenting blind spot for his own reasons. That is not within my control. However, what is in my control is continuing to do the work to nurture wholeness for myself. I hope that we, as a parenting community will continue to do the same. Let’s resist the urge to keep a parenting tally. Let’s resist the urge to throw mothers and fathers (and all those who exist in the margins of those categories) into the ring to face-off, sparring for points. When we do that, the winner can be contested but the loser is easily identified. Children lose when we concern ourselves with capitalism’s hold on celebrating those who have loved us. Children lose when we fail to do the emotional work. Children lose when we fail to co-parent. Children lose when we isolate mothers and fathers into Westernized sociological norms, when our ancestry of parenting is centered on love and holistic realization of self for the child. Children lose when we become so engulfed in our own stuff that we forget about the children.

I’m always one for bucking tradition. So next year maybe I’ll ignite a celebration for Parents Day or Love Day. Because really…children need parents and love – and neither of those is bound by stereotypes, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, etc.

Karlesha Thurman’s Breastfeeding Is Natural and Normal. Our Reactions Are Not.

I became pregnant with my now 16-year-old son during the summer of 1997. I completed the requirements for my undergraduate degree in English in November of that same year. My son was born in March 5, 1998, and I participated in commencement ceremonies in May 1998. And I was a breastfeeding mother. Prior to the ceremony, I pumped but the longer that I sat in the University of West Alabama’s Tiger Stadium listening to speech after speech, the more uncomfortable I became. Nature had plans all its own. Regardless of the pumping that had taken place prior to the ceremony, my breasts filled with milk and I had no recourse other than to sit there and wait. As soon as the ceremony was over, I quickly grabbed my son to relieve my breasts of the milky tension. I unzipped my gown, pulled the shoulder strap from my dress, threw a blanket over his head and fed him. And I did this all while I smiled with my friends and family. This was not the first or last time that I had to rush to relieve my breasts from the stinging discomfort that results when the milk is ready to nourish a hungry baby. I recall that once I sped home from work hoping my son’s godmother hadn’t fed him because I was seriously in pain. Of course, she had fed him and I had to squeeze my breasts and release the milk into the bathroom sink for some relief.

What I learned from being a young, breastfeeding mother was that no matter how much planning you think you’ve done, the milk and your baby will alter those plans without notice. So yes, I totally understand why Long Beach State University GRADUATE Karlesha Thurman fed her baby at her commencement ceremony. And no, I don’t see thing wrong with it. According to an ABC News blog, Thurman felt the picture was a thoughtful display of mothering [And I agree.] and posted it to the Facebook group Black Women do Breastfeed. The picture quickly went viral. Since then, there has been much written, Tweeted, Facebook’d, and Instagram’d about Thurman’s intentions when the picture was taken and posted. Some claim that she did it for attention, and others suggest she was only doing what mothers do. I contend the latter is more accurate. However, even if she did make a purposeful attempt to feed her baby at the ceremony, breastfeeding a baby is a natural occurrence that we need to stop stigmatizing. Not only was she able to provide food for her baby, but she also helped to get the #NormalizeBreastfeeding message across through her photo.

Breastfeeding

A mother breastfeeding her baby at a commencement ceremony, in the mall, at her home, in the post office is completely normal. Our reactions are not natural and contribute to further alienating mothers who want to breastfeed their children. Thurman noted that when she became pregnant, she thought about leaving school temporarily or permanently. However, she decided to stay in school with hopes of securing a better future for her and her daughter. That’s what her picture represents. Thurman stands in her cap and gown, breastfeeding her daughter with an infectious smile on her face. She accomplished what many of us who’ve juggled motherhood, education, employment – life – have accomplished. Undoubtedly, she knows the anxiety of wondering whether she could do it all. The picture is proof that she did. Her joy and success illuminate from the picture, but the public is only worried about the appropriateness of a breast being visible in public. We’re worried about a breast being used to feed a baby and foster a bond between the mother and daughter. If the appropriateness of the timing of feeding a baby is our most significant concern when we view Thurman’s photo, we don’t have shit else to do with our lives. Let’s stop worrying about this young mother doing what she’s supposed to do for her daughter – be a mother. Period.

What would should do is educate ourselves on the disparities and benefits related to breastfeeding. A report by the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) indicated that the percentage of Black women that breastfed their children increased from 47% to 60% from 2000 to 2008. However, “Black infants consistently had the lowest rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration across all study years” (CDC, 2013). We should also be concerned with how breastfeeding benefits infants and mothers. For example, the CDC (2009) noted that breastfeeding lowers an infant’s risk for respiratory and ear infections, Type 2 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. Benefits for mothers include lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Mothers also benefit from a tightened uterus, diminished post-birth bleeding, and suppressed ovulation. We also should celebrate the fact that Thurman is a young mother who’s breastfeeding her daughter as the rates of mothers under the age of 30 that breastfeed their children are significantly low.

Motherhood can be a challenging, daunting, isolating, rewarding, satisfying, loving experience. Continuing to shame mothers for their breastfeeding choices is a practice that we must discontinue. Karlesha Thurman breastfeeding her daughter was natural and normal. It’s our reactions that are not.

#NormalizeBreastfeeding

 

Dissertation Archives – Vignette 3: Hair Story

No matter how else you dress or decorate yourself, you cannot escape the true meaning of dreads. As beautiful as locks may be, they still stand for something: ethnic pride. When you carry dreads you demand a second look. People are intrigued, they wonder, “What’s behind all that hair.” I’m happy to be nappy

~Adrian “Summit” Delaney

 

I fell in love with locks when I saw Whoopi Goldberg’s hair. I had seen African women on television, but never had I seen one with locks until Whoopi was cast as the main character in the movie Sister Act (1991). I had seen The Color Purple (1985), but her hair and her role in Sister Act appealed to me more because of the strength and confidence of the character. I wanted that strength; I wanted that hair. Unfortunately, my mother was not having any of that. “You don’t want your hair like that,” she said. But I did. I really did. Nevertheless, that was one battle I was not willing to wage because I knew that I would not win. So I let go of the dream of locking my hair until the summer of 2002. I had cut my hair from a shoulder length style to a short brush cut in March of 2002, and in late May my stylist started my locks. At the time I was a teacher, so the summer seemed like a good time to lock my hair since I had read that the hair goes through many transformations during those initial stages.

About a week before school started in the fall, I went to my classroom to begin getting it organized. I was there only a short while before my principal called me to the front office. He started the conversation by asking about my summer, but it was not long before he maneuvered his way to his real interests. He asked, “So why are you doing me like this?” Confused, I asked what he meant; and he proceeded to tell me that my hair was not what he expected. He considered it unacceptable. Why was I locking my hair? Noticing the sour look on my face, he tried to appease my by saying that the girls at the school looked up to me and he just wanted to make sure that I was communicating the right message. “I hope I’m communicating that you don’t have to have a certain type of hair – that you don’t have to have weave all down your back – to be beautiful,” I snapped. At that point, most people might have left the idea alone, but he continued with one final insult. “I mean, if you need some money to get your hair done, I’ll pay for it.” I was floored by his suggestion that I was only locking my hair because I could not afford to go to the salon. Further, I was more insulted because the principal was Black as were 97% of my students. So I thought that I was sending the right message: Black hair is beautiful hair – whether locked, natural, or relaxed; short or long. I was sincerely disappointed at his lack of acceptance of my hair and left his office more focused than ever to let my locks be one of my defining African characteristics[1].

I locked my hair in order to identify with my African culture. I’ve had my locks for almost five years. I discovered that you don’t have to have straight hair to be beautiful. Locks are about a deeper love, a self-respect.

~Cheryl Browne

While I considered my locks to be one of my defining African characteristics, I was forced to evaluate why I felt that having natural hair was so African. For most of my elementary school years, my hair was styled with a hot comb or straightening comb. I hated those days. It was always a battle between my mother and me as I sat in a chair in the kitchen watching that comb get hot over the open flame from the gas stove. I would watch my mother remove the comb and blow it as smoke filled the room. Eyes closed, the comb was brought closer to my hair; I squinted tighter as I felt the heat from the comb. My mother was usually very careful, but there were the occasional burns. The “kitchen” and around the ears were the worst. This process continued until I was in seventh grade and I started to do my own hair, to “perm” my hair with a chemical relaxer. Once every six weeks, I stood in the bathroom in front of the mirror to go through the process of straightening my hair with chemicals. Somewhere during the next 10 or so years, I started to equate that straightening process with confirmation that I too had succumbed to the perceptions of beauty ascribed by mainstream Americans. I am not sure what triggered this response. Maybe it was the hair conflict between the “wannabes” and the “jigaboos” in Spike Lee’s (1988) School Daze; or maybe it was Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Malcolm X (1992) when he shoved his head in the toilet to stop the relaxer from burning his scalp. For some reason, I thought that,

The notion that straightening one’s hair is a mark of aspiring towards whiteness and that we should thus abandon all straightening along with any other form of work on black hair denies the complexity of cultural practice. (Erasmus, 1997, pp. 14-15)

I believed locking my hair contested the notion that I identified with the “wannabes” – light skin, long, straight hair, striving to achieve the Eurocentric notion of beauty. For me, locks were my resistance. That day in my principal’s office, my baby locks were my political and cultural statement. I thought that my natural hair made more of a statement than my relaxed or straightened hair. According to Erasmus (1997), Mercer (1987) “challenges the idea that Afros and dreadlocks are ‘natural’” (p. 15). Instead, these styles are created in the same spaces as styles that many would suggest are non-Afrocentric. For example, it is often the expectation of people that wear natural hairstyles consider themselves African-centered. However, for some, their natural styles do not reflect their commitment to the African family. One of my friends, for instance, had dreadlocks and will state honestly that the only reason she locked her hair was because it was so course. Now, she wears a natural afro and does so simply because it is convenient and manageable. I still believe that my locks are a political and cultural statement; however, I now have arrived at a level of African identity where I understand that my former belief that any Black person that straightened his or her hair is trying to achieve some sort of whiteness identity aligns with essentialist notions of Blackness. I had to eliminate my essentialist view of being African where a hair style was a signifier of African identity (Erasmus, 1997).

[1] After my hair had grown out some, the principal did apologize for his initial reaction and told me that he liked the new look.


An excerpt from my dissertation: To be African or Not to Be: An Autoethnographic Content Analysis of the Works of Dr. Asa Grant Hilliard, III (Nana Baffour Amankwatia II), 2009, Georgia State University.

Messages from the Universe: Be Open, Raw, Authentic – Write.Me.Free

Writing is like breathing is like loving is like mothering is like exhaling is like speaking (out) is like dancing is like exploring is like living. It’s like freedom. That I must have. ‪#‎WriteMeFree

The Universe moves in such mysteriously correct ways. Over the past few weeks, She has sent me several messages that require that I listen.

I received the first message during a vacation to the Dominican Republic. My partner and I rented a condo at the beautiful Alsol Resort in Punta Cana. We spent time relaxing by the pool, partying with the local citizens at Carnaval, and attempting to navigate the country with our limited Spanish. Because much of Punta Cana caters to tourists, many of the restaurants lacked the authentic food that we craved. So we rented a car and drove to Santo Domingo where we enjoyed asopao de camarones, arroz con pollo, mofongo, and asopao de pollo. We also spent time on the beautiful beaches of Punta Cana, and it was during the trip to Juanillo Beach that I felt renewed. I am not a swimmer – partially because I nearly drowned as a teen when a cousin tried to teach me to swim at a family reunion (in 10 feet of water) and partially because salt water, chlorine water, etc. burns my contacts when I have tried to swim – but after relaxing for a while with my face to the sun, I ventured into the water. With splashes of miniature waves hitting my breasts, an energy consumed me that I can only describe as the feeling I had when I was first dipped in a baptismal pool as a teenager. I started to cry and speak – reciting random poetry, narrating lines to the beginning of the book I’ve been writing in my head for quite some time. There was a spirit of newness surrounding me.

My eyes were watching God...

My eyes were watching God…

The second message came as I was researching information on substance abuse, and the phrase ‘self-silencing’ caught my attention. Self-silencing is a term used to describe people who suppress their feelings, thoughts, and needs…especially when doing so is an effort to protect others. For example, Flett, Besser, Hewitt, and Davis (2007) contended:

People high in self-silencing are self-sacrificing individuals who keep their distress to themselves in an attempt to maintain or improve interpersonal relationships. Their distress often takes the form of unexpressed anger (see Jack, 1999b, 2001). People high in self-silencing conceal their true feelings out of desires to maintain relationships and obtain the approval of significant others. (p. 1212)

Anger is not an emotion I experience often, but occasionally self-silencing leaves me disconnected and emotionally flat. Anger gives way to numbing indifference.

The third message came through Facebook. Scrolling through my timeline, I was stopped by a reposted blog on For Harriet’s page by Zakiya Brown. In the blog, Dancing to My Own Drum: How Embracing My Authentic Self Set Me Free, Brown wrote that the deaths of her mother and grandmother along with a move to a new state encouraged her desire to let her soul dance to music she selected. I identified with this post in so many ways. Although I have not encountered the losses that Brown has, I know the implications of faking good and dancing to music that doesn’t move my spirit.

For Black women, the intersection of self-silencing, self-sacrificing, and inauthentic living is a place of exhaustion where we become more susceptible to mental health issues. Yet, we view our strength as our defining characteristic, our badge of honor that masks any perceived weaknesses. We are Superwomen. This rationalization of the silent, sacrificial Superwoman makes being strong synonymous with quietly coping with hurdles that challenges our physical, emotional, and mental well-beings. [We are forever jumping hurdles.] Then as much as our resilience is our savior, it can also be our batterer. Finding the space to be resilient and vocal and authentic without being wholly sacrificial of ourselves can be a challenge. Lifelong internalization of using quiet strength while we mask our hurt takes great energy and support to unearth. But we have to engage in the process…

Bag lady you goin’ hurt your back/Draggin’ all ’em bags like that/I guess nobody ever told you/All you must hold on to/Is you, is you, is you… Each day has to be a process of putting down our bags and holding on to ourselves.

It is not that Black women have not been and are not strong; it is simply that this is only a part of our story, a dimension, just as the suffering is another dimension— one that has been most unnoticed and unattended to.   —bell hooks, Talking Back

We must talk back, write back. So I receive the messages that the Universe sent me and will address them the only way that I know how – to write. For too long, I’ve been a writer…that doesn’t write. I narrate the stories in my head but refrain from putting them on paper, on screen because that makes them real. That makes me visible. And to borrow Brown’s contention, I would be Open. Raw. Authentic. And that’s a scary feeling. I always have been an introvert, satisfied fading into the background. But like I was told during a conversation on tenure and the academy, “You have to put yourself out there. Your name should come up in these conversations.” That, too, is a scary feeling. Yet, no matter how frightening being open, raw, and authentic can be, the only other option is to remain in this space of numbing indifference. To remain in this space where I literally canNOT breathe, move, grow. A place where I canNOT live or be free. I must Write.Me.Free.