Black + Woman

Black Woman,

Your history in this country is one soaked in prejudice and corrupt perceptions. You, the first black woman slave, was shipped across the water to be the property of a master. From the beginning you were targeted and abused. Your body was vandalized and crudely labeled. You carried the shame of black skin and were constantly penalized for it.

You were forced into a mold. A happy slave who loved their master. You were Mammy. You did what you were told, and never forgot a smile. You were painted plump, with dark skin. You were depicted as loyal, but you always knew your subordinate place. However, you were Jezebel too. You were labeled as promiscuous and blamed for your voluptuous body. You were known to seduce other women’s men. But if they knew the truth, they would know that it was never your choice to have your body ravaged by those who refused your freedom.

You, black woman, have a history. A history that continues to show truths of a horrific arrival in the land you now call home. You have come a long way as you have lived through the legacy of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Jacobs. These women paved the way for your heroes: Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, and Ella Baker. Your history has been a fierce battle for basic rights and a chance to rise above the stain of your skin color.

Today, black woman, you live in a country where you are free. You breathe and hold on to what those before you could not fathom. However, you have your own battle to wage. Your sons lay dying in the streets and diminishing in jail cells. Your daughters are objectified; losing hope and pride in what once was their refuge.

You, black woman, have seen and felt it all. You have dealt with the pain that you would never wish on another woman. You are aware of the system that belittles you, and continuously drowns out your voice. You are battle weary and broken from your fight. This battle continues to wage from one generation to the next with no end in sight.

But black woman, don’t give up yet. You are not alone. Your black skin holds together a body that can and will brave any storm that comes your way. Your black skin houses a mind filled with brilliance, intelligence, and wisdom. Your black skin protects a heart that has been broken and mended many times over for the injustices you and your family have endured. Your black skin is fashioned to withstand the birth and nourishment of your black children. And your black skin encloses a voice box that creates a cry that refuses to be silent.

Rise up, black woman.  It is too soon to be weary. Pursue the legacy and the wisdom that your grandmothers granted you. Pursue the dream that your mothers prayed and spoke over you. Pursue hope, peace, and beauty for your black daughters, and continue to pursue justice and restoration for your black sons. Your change will come like the rain, pouring healing on a soul and renewing dignity to the heart.

You, black woman, are not alone. Millions of others have walked this jagged and uneven road before you.

You are resilient.

You are strong.

You are a black woman.

“My grandmother and my two aunts were an exhibition in resilience and resourcefulness and black womanhood. They rarely talked about the unfairness of the world with the words that I use now with my social justice friends, words like “intersectionality” and “equality”, “oppression”, and “discrimination”. They didn’t discuss those things because they were too busy living it, navigating it, surviving it.” – Janet Mock

What Are You?

“What are you, anyway?”

My whole life I’ve been told that I should be a white girl or for a black girl I act “too white.” In a way I’ve been conditioned to just laugh it off and ignore people’s ignorance. But recently a question that has caught my attention is “what are you?”

First of all, the question is degrading. I know the person who asked didn’t mean to make it sound rude, but to me it implied that I was somewhat less than because they didn’t know what category to stick me in. My conditioned response was that I was black, but they wouldn’t take that as an answer. They then started peppering me with questions: “No, you aren’t mixed with something?” “How is your hair that way? Black people hair isn’t like that.” “Why do you talk like a white person?”

At this point I found myself shutting down. These people were relentless. I mean children are dying all over the world and your main concern is if I’m black enough to be black. It’s insane. Anyway, I honestly don’t even remember how the conversation ended but I remembered how it began.

What are you, anyway?

What am I? Well, I am a black young woman. My mother is mixed and my father is black, but that doesn’t mean I’m less black than the next black woman. My hair lays a certain way, but that doesn’t mean that my hair is any better than the black woman with supposedly “bad hair.” I speak well and I even have a hint of a country accent, but that doesn’t mean I’m not black because I “talk white.”

Besides all the things I just listed, I am Bayli. No matter what color I happen to by mixed with; I am human. I am a child of the Most High God. I have special gifts and talents that God has blessed me with to bring glory to Him. I am a successful young adult. I have potential to do great things on this earth. I can make decisions, and I’m wise enough to ask when I don’t understand or when I need counsel. I have hopes, dreams, plans, and I know I will fulfill each one of them by God’s grace.

That is what I am. Who I am. What I have been made to be.

I am not the black girl who talks white. I am not to the black girl mixed with some white. I am neither dark-skinned or light-skinned.  I am no better than the girl who’s fully black and I am no less than the girl who is fully white.

So what am I, really?

I am a young woman named Bayli.