Message to the Black Woman
(Theme for this quarter: COMPLEXITY)
January 1, 2013
copyright, Rhonda Sherrod, J.D., Ph.D.
Happy New You!
(Don’t You Know Who You Are?)
As we cross over the threshold to a new year, isn’t it time to do some soul-searching? Brace yourself for some real talk here: Isn’t it true that far too many of us have been living far beneath our worth and our dignity… for far too long.
Years ago, I wrote that, “When the Black woman is left alone, unmolested by the forces of White supremacist thought, she is a true force of nature.” Indeed, her genius often manifests itself as a splendid tour de force in any and every realm of endeavor she chooses. But how does one get to that psychic space where one is “unmolested by the forces of White supremacist thought?” It is not easy. It requires study, critical thought, thorough analysis, and faith. It requires one to consciously craft a self-concept that consistently and permanently respects the self and that rejects other people’s pathology. It requires one to believe — really believe — that “I am; yes, I am.” I am what? I am all that I need to be, and I have, as Paul Tillich would say, “the courage to be.” Or, as soul singer, Chaka Khan, has stated, “I’m every woman.”
If you are everywoman, and you are, and if all you need is inside of you and it is, then you have the power to be who you want to be and to get what you want out of life. You have the power to define you. You have the power to put your dazzling imprint on this world, just as so many other Black women have already. You have the right to self-determination, and the right to be a whole human being — not just an attachment to someone else, or a travesty of womanhood, a caricature for other people’s amusement. The Black woman’s history of dynamism, discernment, determination, common sense, tenacity, intelligence, and sophisticated behavior, even under the most trying circumstances, is much too rich for us to falter now.
The question is how do you navigate through the toxicity that permeates the environment in a culture that has been designed to oppress all women, but at the same time, paradoxically, to elevate certain women and relegate Black women to the complex position of being disrespected even as we are performing heroic tasks and being all things to all people? Black women are dishonored even as other people (that is, ALL other people) take full advantage of our energies and vast talents to enrich themselves. So, how does the Black woman create the environment she needs, so that she can have, at the very least, a fighting chance at expressing the power that is in her to benefit her and her community?
That is a tough question because what is required is a brand of fearlessness that, through a relentless period of attack and miseducation, we have been led to believe we don’t possess. We have been beaten down, psychologically and emotionally, just enough to make us believe that we don’t have the courage, the will, the faith, the tenacity, and the brilliance that powered and emboldened Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Pauline Hopkins, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Francis Watkins Harper, Mary McLeod Bethune, Maggie Lena Walker, Bessie Coleman, Mary Church Terrell, and countless other Black women who lived in times that were even more difficult than the one in which we live.
So, the truth is that in the sacrosanct area of your very own mind – where the genesis of most great things resides anyway — you are free. Psychologically, the aforementioned women were free. Those women possessed the belief that as Black women we have the right to a life that is worth living at every level and manner of existence. They believed that we do not have to, and they certainly did not, settle for other people’s corrupt vision of what we deserve and other people’s circumscribed version of who we are. Those sisters made those decisions in the holy, inviolate, inner sanctum of their minds, and they activated those decisions through their studied and well thought-out behaviors and actions.
Answer these questions: Have we lost the belief in self that powers the mind to engage in things that are meaningful, that animates the spirit and soul to feel free to soar, and that gives us permission to do what we came here to do? Are we letting other people, or tough situations and circumstances, get in our way and drag us down? Are we allowing other people – even people close to us – to convince us to minimize our talents and abilities?
Go ahead, with great sensitivity and self-compassion, and search your soul and answer those questions. Then take the time to study and divine how to get to the New You in the New Year — the you that you were divinely designed to be in the first place! (If, for whatever reason, you cannot access the beliefs that you have a right to what you want and that you have the power to get it, start doing things devised to get what you want anyway and make a believer out of yourself.)
In the meantime, best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year, and Happy New You to You!
“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” Angela Davis
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker
“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” Lorraine Hansberry
“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” Audre Lorde
“The major premise of effective education must be self-knowledge.” Dr. Na’im Akbar
- Bessie Coleman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)