Updated: Feb 13
Beloved, we're starting out Black History month.
Okay, I could go down the rabbithole of:
why it's only 1 month when we did so much to build America
why it's the shortest month of the year
or even the irony of the way my ancestors were so deeply hated - as though they descended upon this country when in fact they were forced here - yet this same month focuses on syrupy sweet love
But I'm going to just concentrate on this particular month being a month where the whole world is politically incorrect if it doesn't stop for a moment and just acknowledge how fierce me and my people are, how much we contributed and still contribute this country and our world, and how innovative we are in every facet of our being so much so that everybody wants to incorporate a piece of who we are into who they are.
Our art. My GOD, our art.
We are incredible the way we set the stage and still keep doing so.
I'm approaching this month the way I am this entire movement - addressing the things we as Black women need through first realizing my own needs as a Black woman.
I started this blog with those 2 photos by Kevin A. Williams, because I remember how empowered I felt when I first picked up my poster of this painting of the woman at Lowery's on the East side of Des Moines, Iowa. I remembered feeling like I was valued, elevated, set apart, powerful yet still beautiful. I had longer locs at this point, so I remember taking my bedsheet and wrapping it similarly while posing as she did.
An unexpected and strange feeling came over me when I assumed the same pose. I expected to feel empowered but didn't. Firstly, I realized there was no way to clearly see myself in this awesome ppose because putting my head down didn't allow me to see myself. Secondly, I realized as soon as I looked down I didn't feel empowered at all; I felt less, smaller, unnoticeable.
I don't know if Lowery's got the other poster of the Black man above, but somehow I saw it or heard that the "rest" of the picture was that the Black man was holding the world in place so she could stand there. I suddenly felt a rush of adrenaline. It was exciting to imagine that there could be so much symmetry between a Black man and woman to inspire these depictions of them.
I've moved several times since then and lost track of this gorgeous inspiration until searching for art of a Black woman that would speak to my thoughts. As an older Black woman contemplating them again, I realized how disappointed I am at the difference between this depiction and my own journey. I have started the ascent of the world believing a Black man would catch me, and he hasn't. Two husbands haven't; a father hasn't.
"That's okay," you think to yourself. "That's okay he didn't catch you. Your community won't let you fall." Then they tell you you're strong enough to handle your own situations (strong Black woman, backbone of the family, etc.) and that you don't need them. They don't catch you.
"I didn't expect that," you think to youself. "But I'm a woman and society has compassion on us; someone will help me." (Black women aren't true victims, Black women are aggressive, angry, but not vulnerable, etc.) But then you realize that only white women's tears have power in our society. They don't catch you.
If you're a Black woman and have had that experience and you're anything like me, after some bitter tears you get up again and start your ascent of the world all over again - ALONE - with a new resolve not to be vulnerable and never appear vulnerable in public. You put your "strong" mask on and try not to ever let it slip.
That nagging question still remains, though. Was I meant to be the Queen supported by a Black man at my side holding everything in place? Was I meant to continue in the supporting role of a servant to a Black man? Are either of these correct, or is there something more balanced between the two ideologies?
I submit to you that as a Black woman I face quite an identity crisis that leaves me off-balance in this world until I solve it. I submit to you that if you are a Black woman, so do you. What can we do about that?
I suggest that the answer may lie within the history of the Black woman before America, Queen. Study, Sister. Study who we were before we were redefined by a socially unjust and racially inequitable system. Study your history and be encouraged by who we were truly meant to be.
We are valuable, indeed invaluable. Who I am as Black woman is a one-of-a-kind beauty, exquisitely lovely in my uniqueness. At this point in my life, meant not to have a Black man hold up the world so I may stand, but rather meant to learn how it feels to stand secure in the strength of my purpose in the world I occupy. Beautiful, yes. Head down, no. Head up so I can keep my eyes on my purpose and its path.
Blessed and Beautiful Black History Month, Beautifuls.