Craving The Black Girl Space

I’m going into my 36th year of this Black Girl/Black Woman space and life, and I could not BE more thrilled. I appreciate everything that I am, will become and learning to love the woman I am becoming. The woman that my mother saw that I would be when I was running amok between 14-22.  With that, I have thought of my childhood, and things that made it special. In those recent moments of reflection, I find one theme apparent–black women made space.

From getting my hair washed for the first time in my grandmother’s kitchen sink, to my my aunt teaching me how to do it myself, to my first time getting my hair pressed, even my first library card facilitated by my mother, black women made space for me. They made space, sometimes at the risk of their own peace and bodies, for me. The memories of teaching me to jump rope, how to cook, even how to shop, flood my mind as I begin the legacy of space-making for my own daughters.  The space-making that tells them over and over again, “you matter” and “you matter to me.”

I value that space. I create such space in the midst of abject and object daily crazy. I FaceTime my best friends, I cackle loudly with the black girls at work, and go out of my way to make sure these same women are okay. I become space. I miss that space when I don’t have access to it–I rage against the tiredness that would tell me that I don’t need it, that the diversity of friends I have is sufficient. My heart knows that it isn’t, won’t ever be, true.

Of course it is fabulous to have friends of mine that are along the social spectrum:  different nationalities, religions, jobs or even economic backgrounds. I enjoy that I am invited into their spaces, their lives and even into the lives of their children–a psuedo aunt  in some cases. I could not be more thrilled. I welcome the wise to teach,  just Jill Scott says;  I don’t shy away from new experiences, thoughts or teachings–no matter the teacher. I teach my children the same thing. However, as I age, as I go through this life, I am excited about the black women that I know, that I love to know more about and the space we create:   the access we as black girls, ultimately black women, we grant and make for  one another.

I love the slang we use, the laughter that kicks up, and the colloquialisms we use:  from hot combs, to edge control, to the black girl dance we do to get into the jeans we love, and how when we were little we were told not to “sweat our hair out.” The laughs that are released are healing , they are affirming, they let me know that I am not alone.

In the black girl space I am pretty, I am known, I am lovely and oh-so smart. I am a survivor, I am a warrior and a secret sister-keeper. I get to see our corporate mortal-goddess nature splayed and bandaged. I get to be a part of the social ancestry that I saw in my grandmother’s kitchen while she picked greens, my mother’s living room when her sisters visited or did road trips and on back porches that grown folk put those same nosy girls on to talk open or participate in ‘grown folk conversations.’ I am now an access point, a healing vessel and a beginning of the keeper the these traditions of not just occupying space but showing my daughters how necessary that it is.  I get to show them how necessary the building up of the women that look like you is. I get to show them the support of the women that look like you is indeed invaluable. I get to show them how you can make family and have it mean more than blood kin or how it can replace it.  I get to show them how to own all that makes them black and woman and how wondrous that is.

In these spaces, created because of necessity, duty and in out right spite of the world around us, we get to be US. We get to be free.  We get to take off the armor for a moment, and breath deep. We get to pour out the day or absorb it. Nappy edges, ashy knees, and heads wrapped up, we get to be free. I love that. I get to show them that making space in this world is indeed an anchor and they are not above needing that reassurance from women who walk a similar path. That space hewn for them, made for us, shown to them, allows them to remember how valuable they are. From that valuing, they can know they can become anything, conquer anything.

 

I look forward to those times where I can breathe and be. I look forward to the coffee talks, the late dinners, and the impromptu laugh fest at best friends houses. I look forward to time where I can add my love, my light and my strength to the roux that makes this space exceptional. Every woman needs the space where she can be both girl and Wonder Woman. We are no exception.

#BlackWomaning

There seems to be a thread in my family regarding service and caretaking. My grandmother wanted to be a nurse, but spent her working career as a nurses’ aide. Sprinklings of cousins are nurses. My godmother is. My mother, whom is one of the strongest women I know, was a nurse for forty years. I, myself, have chosen that path of service in the form of nursing and social work. In the almost year I have worked at a local hospital, I have encountered prejudices, sorrow, faith and the elemental need for the appreciation of the human condition. This week, I saw evidence of something else:  resilience.

This week, there is a older woman on my floor 2 years younger than my grandmother would be if she were living. I have watched her fight to survive for the last 2-3 days. From moving to breathing to medicine. Tonight, while she was breathing heavy, labored and restless, I helped her to the bathroom. After that, I helped her back in bed, bore her up as she stood to clean her up. As I helped her back in bed, she sat on the side of it–winded. When she let me help her into bed again, oxygen in her nose, heart leads on her chest, and fluids running, she as able to lie down. As she looked to get comfortable, and finally was, I almost wept and hugged her.

Why?

Here’s why.

This nation, in all its sovereignty,   has never allowed us the luxury of black women to rest. Demure is not the nature of soldiers in times of battle. We have never have the luxury to not have  and develop the stamina to survive, fight and be resourceful. Our peace is because of war:  the world outside, inner turmoil, protection and girding of family. There’s a reason why there is this toughness to black women, this inner-tapped strength. We were hewn from rock so our anchors hold. We are shown to hone and use every slight, every broken place and piece for our good, and betterment. We have used these slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and  used, armed, weaponized them to turn what was meant to kill into salvation. We know what it’s like to not have and need and make up as you go along. It is the fire that made us, because it dared consume us.

These invisible lessons gleaned and seen teach us that life is not fair but if you fight, there is justice. And in order for there to be justice, there must be one willing to see it and fight for it. If not for them, but those that will come after. The path must be laid for them, through their own pressing it is made straight. Beaten and worn because they were shown where to go, and how to get there by one wise enough, strong enough to endure…when it would be easier to give up.

Fortune, indeed, favors the brave.

Black women, too, are brave.

The New Slut Shaming

Primogenature-

noun. 1. the state or fact of being the firstborn of children of the same parents. 2. Law. the system of inheritance or succession by the firstborn, specifically the eldest son.

One of my favorite Shakespearean plays is Hamlet. I enjoy the imagery, the drama, and the conflict he has. I always have. As I pushed towards the meat of my English major and its culmination of the degree, I was graced to have University of Missouri-St. Louis Professor Kurt Schreyer  in a ENG 4670 class-Shakespeare:  Tragedies and Comedies. Incredible class, and revelation in that class, I loved it. He started it full speed with Othello, and we eased into Hamlet.
And to that…I learned the dirty secrets of Shakespeare’s prophetic nature.
The premise of the story is this:
Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark whose father is murdered by his brother after a fight with a foreign King. His brother married, usurped his throne, wealth and kingdom–and his wife. The Prince of Denmark, in the pursuit of revenge hoisted onto him by his father, plays ‘mad’ in order to pursue the inevitable murder of his Uncle, Step-Father, and King.
However, there is another element to this:  Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude.
Now, understand, Shakespeare wrote this in Elizabethan time and language. Elizabeth I ruled the English Kingdom, with no King. But despite that, this play is relevant for this purpose:  she married a man, after having a child, determined to live her life in the face of other people. Hamlet told her not to have another child with Claudius–because that child would then move in front of him in the line of succession to the throne of Denmark.
What am I saying?
Whenever women decide to move on with their lives in the face of the thoughts and actions of others, there will be and are those that will be arrows towards your past-especially if it involves children and a man. There will be those (most recently in the case of Ciara and Russell Wilson) that will say her moving on with another man is “wrong” and “what about her son with Future?” and my favorite:   “She shouldn’t have no other man around her son!” The identity of mother is not the encompassing title and responsibility of woman. In short order:  That’s just one component of whom we are as people, especially women.
Because a woman moves on with her life, after a bad relationship, failed marriage, or even widowhood, does not mean her desire for companionship, love or even sex diminishes. She should not be treated as less than because she has desired something greater for her life–namely more from it.
I get so tired of people whom have allowed themselves to die in the area of sex and relationships to dictate what other people should do in theirs. Immediately, even in my own life after my divorce, there were women in my life that told me that I should be single until my children were grown, so they could be protected from any molesters or other nefarious childhood craziness. They told me that to deny myself was the only way to truly be engaged with them, and that denial of self would be the best thing for them.
Now, I agree that there is a definite wisdom to what was told to me and other women in similar situations. However, life isn’t so clean that way. Sometimes, the soul mates comes in a football jersey, on a mail truck, or even at the aisle of a grocery store. My chance to be in love again, treated well, shouldn’t be discounted  because ‘people gon have somethin to say.’ Of course, you should be mindful of whom your children are around, and be knowledgeable of their needs, fears and wants. Neither should you make habit to allowing your children to think it’s okay to jump from relationship to relationship with people because you don’t want your own company. Your children shouldn’t think that its normal to have people walk away from them because things are hard. They are owed stability and the normalcy of that stability.
And so are the women that invite men into their hearts. We are owed the chance to start over, to heal, to remember what it was like to be special and cared for. Just because you’re dating and have children does not mean you are only seeking escapades and rendezvous to make up for lost time. And even if a woman or mother decides to do that, the onus of that decision falls on her–and it would behoove her to be selective in whom she allows herself to be in sexual contact with, because she is worthy of respect.
Shame me if because I had a baby.
Shame me because I had a baby by a man I wasn’t married to.
Shame me because I had the nerve to take my body back and be with someone else.
Shame me because…now I’m  happy.
The wonderful thing is, there is no room in the space for your happiness for other folk to have weight and stake in it. They’ll call you all matter of sluts anyway, because there is no pleasing people, and you will never find your peace in the hands of other people. Live your life, regardless of who is watching.  Plus, if they watch, give them something to see. I guarantee they’ll be looking.

In The Beginning

“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning…”  -Book Of Proverbs

It is always ugly to start something. It is uncomfortable and dirty and complicated. It’s hard to begin something that only you and see or understand. It’s hard to be ‘the one to go first.’ It is the fear of the start that hinders us. The fear that we won’t be able indeed complete what we want to, what we have set out to do. 

The beginning is supposed to be rough and rough looking. New things, world changing things, often take on the wobbly nature of learning to ride a bike:  eager, off-balance, mistake laden. However, it requires one thing–mentoring. Having some one to show you how to ride these ebbing and flowing waves of the commencement of something new is monumental. Being able to share fears and triumphs with one that has been to a similar summit, or near it, allows the journey onwards and towards what is set before you less scary. It makes the journey less leery and the one on that road less skiddish.

Mentors are invaluable in the launching into the new things and for deepening waters. As they wipe tears, dust off knees, they compel us to listen, despite then pain and pushing of discomfort. They implore us to remember the path, what is at stake, and to keep going. In the pursuit of the making the beginning a reality in the end, we must not lose heart. Mentorship in it’s power equips you to go forward, it’s your rocket fuel to scale mountains of doubt or to burrow under walls of fear that have been erected to push you away from what you have determined you want.

Never lose your ability to dream, or be afraid to call off your bike. If you do, I promise you will find someone, or someone will find you, to help you up again. Brilliance can only go as far as help and opportunity will take it.

Of In Love

Love is risk. You have to invest wisely and have tenacity enough that if it goes left, it’s not irrepairable.

Love is a curious weapon as well as it can kill in it’s absence, its presence heals. It shouldn’t be played with, mocked bc if it’s power. With that power, fueled by the people that hold it for each other, we decide to invest that vulnerable self in someone else—in turn gives that vulnerable self to us.

That it remain an instrument of healing, asylum and joy. The thing we fear most is that investment with no return or surplus.  Again, it is, indeed better to hold it for him, them or she, that is chosen that to pour all that is quiet yet alive in you, a portion of the divine, than form someone to misuse it.

For to regain that portion of you that is able to perform such romantic heroism takes time to repair after such a blow…in order to search and do it again for one worthy.

Revolutionary Is Self-Care

“Women are powerful and dangerous.”  -Audre Lourde

The most crucial thing I have been able to notice and admit, is my own mortality and need for self. The need to do things that make–no demand–my soul to stretch. Even the bravest warriors sleep and smile.

In the age of everything instant, I have learned to make myself priority, and my voice strength and not an echo. But in order to do that, I have to acknowledge my mortality and my need for rest. I acknowledge my need for light, compassion and companionship. I acknowledge my need of…me.

I realize that I can’t give anything to anyone if I am depleted (not just empty)! I have determined that acknowledging my mortality keeps me in touch with my humanity. 

I do things that make my soul smile, things that make me think, things and people that pour back into me. I have made me a resource, a priority and a love.

In the circles I travel, I am and have become a bastion, an anchor and a help to others–often at the cost of self. Too often at the cost of time:  the most irrecoupable thing I have. 

In redeeming time, I learn to breathe. I learn I can’t always fight. I can’t always be on red alert. There cannot be, will not be time to slay every dragon if only because I am but one person.

In this realization, in this self honoring truth, I tell myself this:

The light you fight for everyone else to see, you must, too, look up to see it. You are entitled to its warmth and heat and healing. Breathe, and look up.

And so should you.

No Permission Asked…

Beyonce Giselle Knowles Carter is having her twins with her husband. She is the happily married wife and mother of three children. Ciara Wilson is having her baby with her husband, whom has taken on the responsibility of helping her to raise the son she had from a previous relationship. Let me explain why this bothers people.

Mary J. Bilge said in an interview before the 2007 Grammys, that there was, or there where too many people ‘selling pain’, and that people don’t sell joy at all or at the same rate. At this time, I was married to my first husband and pregnant with my first child. I was happily married. I had some intense romantic relationships, but I had not been so tethered to a past relationship or the canard that can come with it…until I got divorced.

It is most trite to hear people say “no one goes into any relationship, planning it to fail.” This adage is not just the beaten dead mule, it is the graveyard full of dead mules whom have been beaten, shot at, thrown from roofs and planes and hit by cars. They are exhausted…and exhausting. To this I offer only one retort:  “I did as best as I could, until I had to do better.” There is no mule required. No mule available.

I left my husband because the situation demanded that I had to. There was no other recourse, because I had other people to consider…another life to consider. There is the dirty work of these types of breakups. People prop up, profit and press for, and pay for the pain you suffer. That abomination of sorrow and voyeurism:  people want to see how you are to see how you are. They buy the magazines, the music and the stories to see how you are to see how you are. In that, you indeed see whom is more like you and in favor of the joy that is due you.

Beyonce is an successful, driven beautiful undeniably black woman. The world automatically thinks she is not due the happiness she found in the life that she made. Especially, to be black and ‘do that.’  It is easier, more tangible and palpable, for the world to see, and continue to define black women as these stoic, unpolished, bearers of pain, and heartsickness. 

To see a happy black woman is an offense to the packaging spirit of whiteness, ‘polite society’ and the affront to the demand for complete personhood of black women aside from exotic fantasy and dark sexuality. She is owed happiness because she has demanded it, crafted it, and has made room for it–and asked no one for it. She never needed to.

Ciara is a woman whom I have been, and whom I have known. She has been a friend, co-worker, and my own reflection. I have been with a man that had no idea how to value me, love me, or speak to what divine I had no idea I housed or he could see. I have been with a man that told me he hated that I did anything that I was going to college, that my ‘education made me better’ than him. I have been the one that tried to fight for a situation that did not value me, add to me, and was an anchor to my heart. I have been the one to try and cover up, salvage…and lie.  I have been her.

  I have been disrespected, lied on and been told I was whore by the man whom helped me make the child he swore he loved. When I heard the gossip that rang like broken glass that ‘she had the baby to make Future mad’, I couldn’t laugh loud enough or roll my eyes hard enough. The missing component to this chaos is this:  the sentient nature of love and the personhood of black women.

Ciara was disrespected, hurt and placed in the gutter with a man that wanted to see her continue to wilt and never fly.  I cannot speak to the type of man he is as I do not know him (personally) but I have met and dated his representatives and clones. These type of people (not just men) fear being out of control or being left out. They love to acquire but have no idea how to maintain. They gather chaos, but embrace nothing of you. You find yourself contorting into a person unrecognizable for the sake or peace and sustaining of a relationship you are lost in. In that process of recovery, reconciling of removing yourself from all that was weighted toxic–you are found wholly beautiful again by someone that can see the divine you house. 

I can only imagine the wrestling Ciara went through as to whether or not to accept the advances of another man–to allow another person into her world with the potential of devastating it. She had so decide if he was or would be worth the chatter she would hear when her name came up in public conversation or in private cursing with her ex. The world is not accustom to the power or grace and poise held by black women–when, sometimes, that is all we have.

Ciara had to decide to believe Russell…and there is where the story is retold.

She had to unlearn Future and all he meant to her.

She had to destroy the taped history he left in her head. She had to be bold enough to embrace Russell and what he promised her than hide behind what Future would never deliver and make Russell pay for it. 

The world is enthralled with the strength of black women:  our wit, our stares, even the steel we place in our backs. What is foreign is when we become more thunder than lightning. When that heat is melded and we are refined and redefined by what was mean to kill us. She chose to believe Russell and chose to be happy because as a woman whom had been hurt, she, too, deserved to be happy…no matter what people thought.

There will always be those whom determine the worth of women by their pain, their suffering and how silent they scream. What is not celebrated, is how they are forged to become better without apology. We whom survive and endure owe the world nothing but the benefit of knowing the storm did not drown, neither did its waters overtake. We survive because dying is meant to do only once–not at the behest of those whom never wanted you to live in the first place.

 

 

 

 

Ain’t I A Woman?

The most confusing thing about being a woman in this world is constantly having to fight for what you need. Not even want, but what you need. It’s constantly having to negotiate the space between loud and soft, while being unable to see where your feet land as you’re going. It is so odd to be told to speak only to have your voice snatched from the very place it is supposed to be housed.

In this age of myriad or inter sectional feminism, we have the privilege to look at what the strata of women outside of our experiences, outside of our presentation and outside of our comfort. We see how we are able how, just how, we present our own privilege, and oppress and ignore others. In the going and exploration of life, we have to have the social imagination to stretch the simple truths we have or should have made about humanity, found in the first two lines of my favorite book, THE GREAT GATSBY:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
     “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

It is not my job as a woman, to hinder another woman, whom has walked a different or more treacherous road to become a woman, and oppress her because I don’t think she is the right type of woman.

 

 

 

It Was Never About Bathrooms

“It was never about bathrooms, just like it was never about water fountains.”

-George Takei

 I am astounded by the cruelty of the human condition. I am amazed how apatheic and evil we can be towards other human beings. From slavery, to internment of Japanese-Americans, and the expatriation of those of Chicano/Latinx ancestry, and now the policing of crotches…CROTCHES.

Since the introduction of this nos infamous bathroom bill in North Carolina, I have not seen before or since ignorance ramp up with superhuman boldness. Nevermind the fact the bill is steeped in stupidity and hate, and really impossible to police, it goes to the point LGBTQIA activist and actress Laverne Cox mentioned on Late Night with Stephen Colbert earlier this month:  it’s about existing. EXISTING. To deny the most basic of human function is to eliminate and erase the deemed undesirable from your comfortable spaces. The root for that sort of elimination is fear and profit. Those of this human condition seem to thrive on the fear of what we don’t understand. What we don’t understand we seek to subdue, control or eradicate–even if it’s people.

I recognize my privilege as a cis-gendered woman. I have never been in a position where I had to adjust myself to conform to a self that is or was alien to what my mind new to be true. I cannot imagine what is or must be like to know what you are, and a reflection not agree or project that. I cannot imagine what it is like to have to lie to those closest to you about what you believe you are. I cannot imagine what it is like to be told by people that love you that you indeed or an error, a sin, a freak or a mistake. I have never encountered such fervor in objection to my right to exist. I have never, nor will I ever be affected by these silly bills that tell those of trans-experience in order to be accepted you have to follow this law–when there is not enough stringent legislation that protects women (PERIOD!) from predatory attacks. The most recent in my mind is the case of an adult man that was in a Target bathroom and tried to attack a child that was using the bathroom with her mother present. That mother beat him to protect her daughter, and he has been arrested and imprisoned.

The hate that I have seen from some communities of faith has shocked me to a level of rage I had not seen before. I saw memes depicting crass jokes, and sentencing damnation. I have never been in a state of discontent strong enough to deny my faith, however, I have been in emotional places where I believed the better thing to do was, indeed, model what Christ would do. Where we find Christ in scripture is out among people, listening and helping and offering truth in love. HE gave room for disagreement (arguing with scribes and Pharisees), discussion (the woman at the well in Samaria), and even dismissal of His wisdom (in case of the rich young ruler). He gave the RIGHT to exist…as should we.

I joked that when I got to the bathroom that I am there to pee and leave. Most people are. If you present as female, use the ascribing bathroom. If you present as male, use the ascribing bathroom. Why is that difficult? What I see is the major difficulty for those that imbibe and spew this level of hatred and avarice is the lack of grace. You don’t have to always agree with something when you don’t believe in it–however, you must have enough forethought to think it may benefit someone else. Like the passing of the 19th Amendment. Like the Emancipation Proclamation. Even the Declaration of Independence and the ratifying of the US Constitution. This life we live, we do live in parallel realms:  individually (my life) and corporately (the lives of other people). This nation has not grasped that yet.

We love to inflict rather than invite. We desire dominance and shun understanding. We would rather rule and subvert rather than  govern. In order to do the latter of what I have mentioned, you must allow space for the benefits of others, realizing that those rights DON’T supplant your own.

So no, this isn’t about ‘protecting children’, or ‘protecting women’–there are cis-gendered men that are free or have served little to no jail time because they have chose to violate a woman whom all she did was exist, or tell him no, trying to maintain protection of her own personhood. Spare me the confusion that these people invite Jesus into. I understand that we are to make no provision for the flesh, but we are supposed to apply and give grace–no matter the person. The final authority being God, this same God that loved all of us, HIS CHILDREN.

How about we allow God to be God, because we aren’t…and we can all pee in peace.

Music

Notes. Chords. Sharps. Timbre. Crescendos. There is indeed nothing like music. Nothing that so captures memories like notes, song and the right voice. Indeed, there is nothing like music.

There is something to be said for its power in the life of those whom listen. These tracts that play over and over in your heart and head…long after the person is gone. Long after memories fade…then what of the music?

I’m old enough to remember radio dedications on my local station (MAJIC 108!) and one segment called THE QUIET STORM. For that hour, there would be people that would call in to talk about their relationship woes, the highs of those relationships, and the longing of those that could not be close or ever would be again. I would listen and think and wonder what that was like–being able to associate sound and person. How unique it would be to ascribe emotion and sound to another human being.

Until it happened to me…

There are certain songs that help you remember what was lost, gained and the indignity of what was almost yours:  being a part of the we, being an us. That is the beautiful thing about it, thought. The person may be gone, but they yet remain. The sentimentality of memorable immortality.