Dear Black Women by Yinde Newby

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Dear Black Women,

“There’s so much darkness in the world, but I see beauty left in you girl.” – Justin Timberlake

Dear Black Women,

No I didn’t forget about you. How can I forget about the mother of us all? The strongest, most resilient, beings there are. Black Women, you are magic, I don’t know why we are often forgotten about, why our news never seem to get media coverage. They don’t record our death rates, we don’t know that we are murdered 3 times more than white women are.

They are literally killing us and no one’s keeping up. Sandra Bland, Kory Gaines, Tanisha Anderson, Miriam Carey, Yvette Smith, Shelly Frey, Darnisha Harris, Malissa Williams, Alesia Thomas just to name a few have all been killed by/in police custody.

They tried to get us to believe that our stories weren’t worth covering, that Black women aren’t dying at the same rate as Black males, that we have nothing to worry about, that we should just march quietly and hold signs of our fallen brothers, but who marches for us? Who fights for us? Who spreads the word about us? Women have been carrying the world on their back for years, who’s going to carry us?

Then they call us bitter, we’re bitter and Black because fathers failed to do their jobs, and defined the term inferior and unworthy before we even had a chance to spell it. Because countless men use, belittle, defame, and bash us, we’re bitter because we’re hurt. Because there are a lot of wounds no one has tried to heal, because so many people thought of our bodies as something to glorify but won’t stick around long enough to know the soul inside.

Black women, we aren’t bitter, we aren’t angry, we aren’t ghetto, we aren’t too independent. We’re fighters, mothers, supporters, ambitious, worthy, sometimes fathers, multi-talented, courageous, inspiring, uplifting, and powerful. We don’t conform to the rules of society. No, we won’t cut our dreads, and heat-damage our natural hair to conform to European standards.

No, we don’t have to go natural to get in touch with our roots, and sing to Erykah Badu just to prove we are woke.They want us to fit this image like we shrink on command; they weren’t told that Black women don’t have to bend or change to make other people happy. We’re brilliant whether you see it or not. This world has tried to shake us, break us, eliminate the right for us to vote, make us believe that men won’t want us if we aren’t light skin, 5’5, with a fat ass and long hair.

But who says that we will want them? They tried to separate us in teams, #teamlightskin , #teamdarkskin. Making our babies feel unwanted before they reach the age of 10. Everyone wanted North but no one thought Blue Ivy was cute. They’ve been separating us since house slaves and field slaves. Having us believe that one shade is more powerful than the other just to divide us, but to them when we apply for a job we’re still Black , when we go ask for a loan we are still Black, when we need a cosigner for our business, we are still Black.

They’ve separated us from our sisters long before we could even form a bond with another. Looking down, judging, hating, stealing men all because we were brought up on the ideology of no one wanting us so we have to take. That isn’t true, you can love and wish your sister well without tarnishing your own success. Her blessing never took from yours, we have to build and come together because Black women, we have choices, we have preferences, we don’t need to fit anyone’s guideline, they need to fit ours.

No we don’t only cook, clean, and raise children. We are hustlers, go-getters, bosses, Bill Gates in the making. The power of Black women is that we don’t give up, no matter how many people don’t believe in us, don’t want us, or don’t appreciate us it’s in our nature to bounce back. We are queens, we wear crowns over here, there’s no typical image of what a Black women looks like, because we are versatile and interchangeable.

We are unique, there’s no one like us. Our melanin oozes down our being, we demand attention when we walk in the room. There are Dr. Miamis because people want to photocopy our look; they say we are too dark and too thick but we have people who are using foundation that is way darker than their skin.

We have people putting injections in places injections aren’t supposed to be, just to look like us, and they say that we aren’t game changers, that we aren’t innovative, when we have a whole world flocking towards us just to get the recipe.

No matter how many Black men you date, how many Black  friends you have, how much Black slang you know, how many boxer braids you rock, how sharp your contour line is, how overdrawn your lips are, how tan you make your skin, how “down” you try to be, you can never be a Black woman; Black women are unique. I love you, Black women, even if they don’t love you, or appreciate your complexion — you set the foundation for all things great.

Many won’t understand, many will complain, but there’s something about being a Black woman that can’t be changed.

Love your sister, Yinde


unnamed-5Yinde Newby is a guest writer for theblackertheberry.org. She is a junior journalism & communications major and English minor on the pre-law track at Hampton University. She is a lifestyle blogger, social activist, lover of all things Black, and a hopeless romantic with a dream to change this broken justice system. She believes that mass incarceration has taken over the Black race and she plans to change that by eventually becoming a district attorney. There’s no limit to the work she wants to do, and she believes that she’s living out her purpose according to God’s plan — she won’t stop until she knows she has touched or changed someone’s life. She says “Writing is what I do and who I am! It keeps me sane and relatable. I have things to share, stuff to speak on, testimonies to tell and I do that with my writing. I just want to elevate and uplift the most slept on race.”

Still, You’re Loved by Fantasia Alston

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I was praised

For rocking my fro

Applying essential oils

That made my skin glow

I was praised

for dating within

because I couldn’t possibly love myself

If I were into white men

I was praised

For my fulfilling physique

Curves caught the attention of many

Who were reluctant to speak

But she was condemned

Her hair was relaxed

She might’ve been accepted

Had it flown down her back

She was condemned

For dating outside her race

“How could she love the enemy?”

It was a slap in the black man’s face

She was condemned

For being too petite

Lacking the assets of her counterparts

Most were sure she didn’t eat

Even if her self love wasn’t instilled

I loved her so

How can bashing my own

Cause her to grow

Who am I to judge her being

Because of what she wears

Who she chooses to date

Or how she manipulates her hair

To me she’s a queen

A sister I must protect

No need to know her personally

To treat her with the utmost respect

The resiliency in our blackness is otherworldly

The uniqueness is here to stay

Our preferences don’t dim each other’s light

I wish we could all see it that way.


unnamedFantasia Alston is a guest writer for theblackertheberry.org. She is a 22 year old free spirit  and visionary who spends most of her time  writing poetry, reading (preferably mystery books), and doing whatever she can to help better the community, whether it be volunteering at the nearest homeless shelter or picking up any litter found on the solid surface of the Earth. She also enjoys painting whatever comes to mind, cooking, meditating,  and taking long walks to nowhere.  She currently resides in Columbia, SC. She is a writer for #SCHOOLGIRLHUSTLE, an organization that supports and empowers girls and women to stay in school. Learn more about her and her work here. Follow her on instagram here.

Black Girl Lost

 

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I look at the pictures

I see

afro puff pigtails: her innocence, her take-over-the-world attitude

tucked in some overall denim blues and Reebok classic shoes

a little black girl in her own little black girl world

she is confident

she is fearless

she is loved

but time has passed and so has she

rest In peace little black girl

rest eternally

I look at the woman before me

I see

her weary big brown eyes with lines

aged with disappointment and distrust

her too tight dress because tight isn’t tight enough

her half smile, her crooked mask

so crooked, it’s falling

she’s falling

fast

she is vulnerable

she is doubtful

but she is still loved

the mirror uncovers the lies

she tries and she tries

to cover up

but her dress is too small and her mask

too big

unveiling for all to see

the things she wish she could’ve hid

she longs for her

the little girl

the little kid

and her Afro puff pigtail attitude

as her mind suffocates from her grown lady wig

oh how we play pretend

when the grown woman wants to be a little girl again

this grown woman, playing with real life and make-up and men

can’t wait to grow up and be a kid

again

Black Hair Don’t Care

Black Hair Don’t Care

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She better stop playin’ that natural hair game and put a damn relaxer in her head!

 You wear fake hair because you’re ashamed of your real hair and yourself.

 You know you need to look presentable for this. It’s important. So slick that afro back and straighten it or something.

 That girl is disgrace. She don’t know what the hell she wants. She got a wig on one minute and braids the next.

 Why in the world did you cut it?! You shoulda never cut your hair! Don’t cut it anymore!

 And she know damn well she need to take that color out her head. All them chemicals. Plus she too dark for that light color anyway.

 Natural ain’t for everybody boo. And it ain’t for you.

 

 

This tug of war – also known as the thoughts and opinions on black hair – is everywhere. And it’s getting really old and really tiring. Really quick.

  

Don’t Mess With My Mane

…and I won’t mess with yours. Naw, but really. My hair…is MY hair. I’m not walking around asking you to fix it, judge it, touch it, or give it a score on a scale from 1 to 10. Does my afro look too unkept? Great. You don’t like the fact that I wear extensions sometimes? Just dandy.

 I like to switch up my look and my hair is part of my look. But the best part of it all? This hair…is on my head. Not yours.

The Natural Hair Movement Should Not Be Divisive 

I am just LOVING the natural hair movement and the paradigm shift that has occurred as a result – that is, the fact that we as black women are embracing our hair the natural way it grows from our heads now more than ever. But just like colorism (or in short, the whole light skin/ dark skin thing), it has caused a great deal of division in the black community. Some naturals turn their noses up to what they deem to be the unconscious weave-wearers and identity-barren relaxer-users. Some who insist on extensions or relaxer look at the naturals as going “overboard” with the history and the hotep. Regardless of our hair preferences, we should be standing TOGETHER as women.

 Thou shall not let weave nor wash and go get in the wayeth of that.

Our Curls in a Man’s World

 Some men – whether they are our boyfriends, husbands, fathers, brothers, friends, etc. – have gotten the idea that our hair belongs to them. Men: if you want to change her hair, aren’t comfortable with what she does with it, or if you define her beauty and her worth by her tresses – grab a mirror and take a peek in it.

 You see that – you see your face? You are NOT her and you do not OWN her, or her hair.

 If you don’t like her natural curls, put some extensions in your hair. Or better yet, throw some relaxer on your low cut. Do whatever it takes to keep you from demeaning the women in your life and putting your insecurities and complexes on their scalps and their ends. Please.

Knowledge is (Our) Power

 The historiopolitical implications of our hair – from the use of hair texture to divide African slaves during colonial times, to the use of straighter hair to help one pass as white and gain access to the  privileges that came along with it, to the association of natural hair (namely afros) with the black power movement – are closely tied to knowledge of self. Some use this knowledge to educate and empower themselves and enlighten others. Other people will use this knowledge as leverage over our hair.  They will use ideas of identity to intimidate and using politics of hair to propagate undue pressure.

 Attempting to control black hair – be it by putting down a woman and pressuring her to change her hairstyle because you don’t like how her hair looks or what she does to it or looking at yourself as better than other women because of how you choose to style your mane and separating yourself accordingly – doesn’t get us any closer to liberation or a true love of self; a true love of tearing others down is what this tug of war has turned into.

The Real Deal 

 I think the root of this entire hair debacle is (drum roll)….insecurity. Maybe my hair is so thick, it makes everyone else in the room feel uncomfortable. Maybe you’re jealous because your hair can’t do all the things mine can. Or maybe, you just can’t stand the power, the creative agency or the liberation my hair offers me.

Or, simply put, maybe you have the problem…because I am proud of who I am. Because I am not here to meet your standards. Because my black hair don’t care.

Til They Can’t Bleed No More

Til they Can’t Bleed No More

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There’s a young black woman somewhere who will never exercise her right to vote because she has absolutely no want or (in her opinion) need to do so. She’s criticized for what most would call ignorance, but what she simply calls living her life. The masses put her down for the slap in the face she’s giving the trailblazers before her, the people who sacrificed themselves, both literally and figuratively for black voting rights. Yet and still, she knows no different, all she knows is that her vote and her voice are mute and moot. Spiritually spent, yet perfectly content.

Defeat is a way of life for her and many many others.

So many people are defeated. Down and out. Out for the count. And it’s easy to dismiss them. They’ve given up, you say. They’ve taken the L, you say. They’ve lost the fight without even trying to get a lick in, you say.

It’s significantly easier to label helplessness as weakness than to take the time to find out what exactly has torn down our brothers and sisters, and how and why they have been robbed of their thunder. The power of oppression, the long lasting effects of history and institutionalized degradation are all underestimated to the umpteenth degree on a daily basis.

The fight for equal voting rights for blacks was (and many will argue, still is) a long and arduous fight. Lives were snuffed out and voices were drowned out. People like Jimmie Lee Jackson were physically shut up – young Jimmie killed and his frail and elderly grandfather nearly beaten to death in 1965 – for rallying for equal voting rights in Selma, Alabama. With the close relationship between advocating for equal voting rights and punishment and even death, who is to question black apathy toward such an alleged natural right? And when this apathy transfers to the 21st century, it can turn into complete disassociation. You have a young woman with no interest to vote…because she never learned anything about it. Her mother never took her to the voting booth…because her parents never took her to the voting booths…because their parents were threatened with lynching if they even spoke of voting or the NAACP or anything related to forward thinking for blacks in the Jim Crow south.

It runs deep.

Some people’s spirits are intact while others have been broken, broken again and beaten, over and over again, ‘til they can’t bleed no more. I’m talking about the broken spirit. Treat it the same way as you would a wingless bird. A wingless bird — full of potential, but also, full of defeat. A defeat as heavy as a ton of bricks.

So next time you’re so quick to judge, chastise and turn your nose up to people you consider to be less progressive, or less conscious or less educated than you, tie a ton of bricks to your back and try to fly.

Dear Black Woman Who is Being Silenced for Having Standards

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A popular belief in discussions about equality and justice is that the suffering and atrocities that people of color face are often silenced. Their feelings are often devalued and their experiences are often minimized. Unfortunately, women of color bear the brunt of this silencing. The “angry black woman” archetype is automatically assigned to a black woman who is headstrong, speaks her mind and tolerates little to no bullshit.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: this one is for you.

At a young age, you were taught to have high expectations for yourself, for others and for the men in your life. You go out into the world and all of a sudden, this mentality is deemed invalid time and time again. You voice your opinion on your job about things that bother you, and your coworkers label you the problem – excuse you for wanting to comfortable at work just like everyone else. In a group project at school, when you are vocal about unfair group dynamics, you’re considered a nag, all because you want a decent grade reflective of your hard work and diligence. In the dating world, expecting what your mother and father taught you to expect from men becomes an uphill battle, because once your opinions of how you should be treated clash with your suitor, he turns you into the “see, this is why I don’t date black women” or “(any race other than black) women know how to treat a man and black women need to learn from them.”

You know what I’m talking about and you know it all too well.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: don’t apologize.

If everyone else’s voices are privileged and accepted, yours should be too – and don’t ever let anyone make you believe otherwise. The very moment you doubt yourself, you doubt your self-worth and you yourself are left with nothing. Not a thing.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: take action.

File a grievance at work. Make it known that you’ve worked hard on your part of the project and if needed, debate the grade with that professor. And if it feels like the man is negating you and what you stand for, consider putting him into the “see, this is why I don’t date men who couldn’t give a damn about me or my expectations” file and letting him go.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: you are not angry.

You are simply a being of worth. But the moment you dismiss your worth by letting others dismiss it for you, you will truly become angry – at work, at school, at the man and any and everything else testing your worth.

Dear black woman who is being silenced for having standards: you are not alone, because this one is for you and me both.

Teach the Babies

“Teach the Babies”

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Mike Brown and countless other black boys, girls, men and women have been snuffed out of this world at the hands of injustice. The devaluing of black lives has been made precedent over and over and over again. It’s the world we live in, unfortunately. I have come to terms with this and I move around this world accordingly. But I worry about our children, and ultimately, the children I plan to bring into this world someday.

The sad reality of all this is the fact that we have to teach our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews and little cousins how to navigate within this oppressive society. And this very teaching tends to be oppressive within itself. In the most horrific way, oppression becomes a way of dying…and a way of living. Some children are taught to get home before dark, or to not hang with a large group of boys, or to not dress in clothes that are perceived as too baggy, in fear of police persecution. Others are taught to limit their aspirations and their dreams in order to fit what parents deem a safe and secure mold.

The answer to oppression is not oppression, but at the same time, keeping our children completely in the dark about the world can lead to some grim consequences.  As we fight the good fight, pushing for the valuation of black bodies, we must also find a way to fight for our children – not just following atrocities like the Mike Brown verdict or in the midst of protests and rallies – but also, daily, in our everyday lives.

Education

One can never be too educated. We gotta make sure the babies know this. Although many social circles may try to make education uncool, we must praise it, glorify it and promote. Read as much as you can and pass this knowledge to your family, your peers and the babies. It’s as simple as sharing an article on Facebook, telling your cousin about a great book you read or filling in the little boy around the way on an issue in the news. As minorities in this society, it’s on us to educate our children on black leaders and causes – from leaders in our neighborhood to people and events from hundreds of years ago. We have to educate our children so that when they face injustice, they know it for what it’s worth. We have to educate our children so they can attempt to use the same institutions intended to stifle us as pedestal for success. Education is power.

Pride

We live in a world that values black culture, but that doesn’t mean it values being black. Everyone wants fuller lips and t-shirts adorning their favorite black rappers, but black skin and black life isn’t exactly all the rage. Dr. Kenneth Clark’s famous Doll Test confirmed this notion in 1939 (most black children were found to associate themselves with negative traits in relation to baby dolls– and the results of the replication of this test in the present day assure us that similar attitudes still exist. Forget helping kids to like being black, they must love it. When I was little, I didn’t like the texture of my hair for a very short time. I looked through magazines with Caucasian women with straight hair and asked my mother to make my hair look like that. My mom told me that my hair wasn’t meant to do that, and that my hair was beautiful because I had hair like Jesus – as thick as lamb’s wool. When friends told me that I should try to look for light-skinned guys so that one day, I could have a light-skinned baby, I ignored it because I knew better, and grew up to date men not based on complexion, because all black is good black. Black is black, and black is beautiful. The sooner we own it, the sooner the babies will follow suit.

Code

This world can be quite uninviting, and to facilitate living within this unfortunate circumstance, there is code. Whether it’s working on a job with discriminatory policies, or encountering a racist store employee, code helps us all to most effectively address and circumnavigate particular bumps in the road on our journey. In a store where anger is provoked, even if we want to cuss, holler and punch, it may be more beneficial to tell off the aggressor and report him or her to his supervisor (making sure our grievances are made clear). When a bulwark impedes on an opportunity, we should either find another way to get to that opportunity (all while staying true to ourselves) or use the impediment as motivation for bigger and better. The later has happened to me a plethora of times, but a high school memory stands out. About 10 others students and I were pulled from an English class in high school – we were told that according to our grades, we qualified to test out of AP English for the following year. It was a huge opportunity and it also meant credits toward a college degree. A few days later I went to my teacher about it. After seeing who I was and confirming that I was on the list for the AP Test, she quickly came up with a reason for me not to test out – my spelling, although I had an A in the class and may have gotten a B on a spelling test maybe once. I knew what time it was and so did my family. I took a mental note of this teacher’s character and I used the experience as fodder for getting into my dream school (which I ultimately ended up attending and graduating from).  The code is the map on the path of life – and the way we set up this road map for the babies sets them up for life.

Solidarity

Sticking together is like the icing on top of a cake – it’s sweet, savory and needed for a complete product. Solidarity means education. Solidarity means pride. Solidarity is in the code. We need to buy from each other’s businesses, support each other’s art, be each other’s listening ears and shoulders to lean on. A win for one should be considered a win for all, just as a loss for one should be a shared loss. Stand together or fall apart. Mike Brown’s parents have asked us all respectably to seize from violence and looting – the fact that we are ignoring the wishes of this deceased baby’s parents rips my heart apart, while it has the perpetrators of our oppressive system rejoicing and basking in a mislead sense of self-righteousness – the same ugliness that keeps the status quo, the status quo. The kids must listen, love and learn from their brothers and sisters, and the only way we can instill such solidarity is to lead by example our own selves.

I must warn you. This is no fool-proof method. We live in a country where walking home with candy and a sweet tea can bring you to your demise. Being a child and playing with a toy can cost you a bullet. And in Mike Brown’s case, being black, college-bound, a loving brother and son, and an active member of the church on the wrong day can not only send you to your death, but it could also mean your lifeless body lying in the heat for not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 and a half hours, like road kill.

When the world gets too cold, too unbearably cold, don’t let their spirits become numb. Don’t let them oppress themselves. Teach the babies to love all, but most importantly, teach the babies to love themselves, for one day, it may be all that they have.

“It will be hard…but you come from sturdy peasant stock, men who picked cotton and dammed rivers and built railroads and in the teeth of the most terrifying odds achieved an unassailable and monumental dignity.” – James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

(For more pieces like this, check out the “Let’s Talk” section of the blog)