Black women, my beautiful sisters, allow me a moment to address you and only you. I speak to you from a place of love, of respect and in a safe space where we can discuss ourselves without the world trying to inject itself, as it so often does. I come to you to celebrate you.
Black women, we are givers. We are lovers and nurturers. We are caretakers, who, all-too-often, are inclined to look out for everyone’s interests but our own. We put everyone first, but ourselves.
But it’s time to put an end to that and fast.
There is a famous scholarly work called All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But Some of Us are Brave: Black Women’s Studies. And that title just about sums it up. Black women are, all too often, dehumanized, forgotten or invisible in the media.
When Black people are discussed, Black manhood often centers the conversation.
When womanhood is discussed, White womanhood centers the conversation.
But, oh, my beautiful Black sisters, I don’t need to tell you how we are the best and brightest, even when we are not seen. And this is precisely why we need to be brave enough, as many of us are, to demand that we put ourselves first.
What does that mean? It means making sure that when we talk about womanhood and experiences that we are careful to talk about the politics of our experiences that are unique to us and only us. We must resist the desire to play the respectability politics game and, at the same time, resist the negative stereotypes inflicted upon us. Our bodies — our hair, our skin and our curves — are our business.
This also means we must advocate for Black women’s interests in conversations about racial injustice.
So many of us know all too well that Black women are at the forefront in the fight for equality for Black men. But far too often, where our needs are concerned, we are left standing alone. We must demand that our men advocate for us. Yet, simultaneously, we cannot depend on them. We need to speak for ourselves, loudly enough that we be heard.
From the communal to the personal, we must refuse to silence ourselves, which we often do for the comforts of others. All of this while we live in pain and discomfort. We must not put our own humanity aside. We must not tame our complicated selves, because God forbid, we become too much for others.
We are not too much or too little – we are enough.
It is difficult to change a society that consistently disrespects and disregards Black women if we do not continue to stand up for ourselves, regardless of how tired we are. We must respect ourselves and one another.
In my daily life, I pledge to change how I interact with my sisters. I pledge to put Black girls first and make them – us – my priority, unapologetically, and entirely.