You can’t celebrate Black History month without celebrating black women. Through their resilience, black women have played a very significant part in our history and they continue to today in so many different ways. Following discussing the strength of black men Natasha and I want to focus on the resilience of black women by hearing from four black women. All four of these women that have agreed to discuss this topic differ in family dynamic, socio-economic status, background, personality and more. Like our previous blog, this is not meant to be an exhaustive understanding of what EVERY black woman thinks. Rather, this is just a short interview where a few voices are highlighted. Take the time to dive into the realities and thoughts of these four women who all have two things in common, their love for Jesus and their love for their black identity. Enjoy!
1. When did you first understand your black identity?
Amethyst: I can’t pinpoint a time where it was explicitly evident, but growing up in predominantly black spaces and then going to school or events where I was the only one or one of few helped me realize I was black. I learned my blackness was something to be proud of in my home and growing up in the church.
Brianna: I don’t remember the exact age I first understood my black identity, but I do remember beginning to understand my black identity at a young age, around the age of ten. My experiences at a young age helped me understand that my life as a black young girl is vastly different from those of my white counterparts. It helped me to quickly understand that I am seen differently by some because of the color of my skin. It helped me to quickly realize that I was held to a different standard than others, which dictated how I carried myself.
Jessica: I first identified with being a black female in middle school. I wore my hair curly most times and I remember my classmate saying my hair looked like pubic hair. Everyone started laughing and I was speechless, upset, and embarrassed. Of course I believed him and ran to my mom asking her to texturize my hair. I wanted to be like every other white girl I saw in magazines and in my class whose hair seemed more manageable and more beautiful than mine.
Kasey: I’ve always known that I was black, but it didn’t start affecting my life until I was in fourth grade and started having some conflicts with older boys on my bus. My two black neighbors and I would argue with them everyday over who got to sit at the back of the bus and they would respond to us with racial remarks. We were told many times to go back to Africa and we were called black sh*t.
2. What comes to your mind when you think of the resilience of black women?
Amethyst: So many folks come to mind from Sojourner Truth to Ida B. Wells to Katherine Johnson to Fannie Lou Hamer to the women who founded the Black Lives Matter Movement to every mother trying to raise black children. We’re the backbone of the church, we’re the hidden figures in plain sight and we’ve forever fueled the fight for justice, trying to see to it that everyone is free and has a chance to prosper.
Jessica: I think of the amazing character of black women, the brokenness within society and all of the reasons why we have to be resilient. There is a fundamental disadvantage that holds black women back from being successful and filled with worth and significance. The odds are against us but it takes a fearless women that chooses to see her worth over the statistics and biases constantly presented to her. Our appearance alone can determine how we are spoken to and what is expected of us. The resilience that black women have is a constant choice to make that can be tiring and draining, but God is the one that gives us this resilience.
Kasey: I think of the fact that black women have historically been oppressed and underestimated by society, but have continued to thrive and succeed. There have been so many notable black women throughout history that have shown true strength through their perseverance and determination.
3. Who in your life has been a good example of the resilience of a black woman? How does this impact the way you live?
Brianna: My mom is a prime example of resilient black woman. My mom is a teacher and I can remember countless stories where she was discriminated against in the classroom and in the workplace due to the color of her skin. To walk into a workplace and be the only black woman at work and no one speaks to you, and you still are kind and generous, that is resilience in my book. She could have changed worked locations, she could have treated them how she was being treated, but instead she stayed on course, continued doing what she loved (teaching) and continued to be kind to others regardless of how she was being treated.
Jessica: My mom is a great example of the resilience of black women. My mom grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles with a single mom raising 4 kids. It wasn’t expected of her to attend college at all. The norm for her community was to possibly graduate from high school and get a job after that to make your living off of. Though my mom chose to attend college and had gotten her AA. She went on to working as a bank teller at Wells Fargo. She ended up working her way to becoming Vice President, senior business client manager at Bank of America. She worked hard to get to where she is today and ignored all the odds that were against her.
Kasey: My mom and my grandma Betty are both examples of resilient black women. My grandma had a difficult childhood, losing both parents before the age of 18 and growing up to be a domestic violence survivor. My mom was a single mom for years and suffered through the stress and anxiety that comes with being a single mom. She also has vitiligo which takes away her skin pigmentation. I believe she’s a resilient black woman because she is determined to rise, regardless of her circumstance. She’s so proud of her blackness and worked to instill confidence in my siblings and I.
4. What do you all want other black women to know about the power of the black women? What do you all want non black people to know about the power of the black women?
Amethyst: Don’t relinquish your power because others don’t know how to handle it. (And make note of those who can’t and operate accordingly. Your intuition is probably right.) Never dim your light to make others more comfortable. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Your power comes from who God has uniquely made you to be. It’s also ok not to be ok. We got a lot to be mad about. Use that righteous rage in productive ways that power your ability to be a change agent. Your strength is in your tears, too. We are complex human beings.
We are often under-appreciated. Malcolm X is quoted as saying, “The most disrespected woman in America, is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the Black woman.” Try to look throughout history to understand that statement. (Hint: You don’t have to look far.)
Brianna: I want other black women to know that they have strength and power and it comes from the struggles that we as black women have endured. I want black women to know that their power does not come from a man or another group of people, it comes from within. Our power comes from our mind and our perspective. All women are strong and it is important to use our power and knowledge to lift each other up and support and encourage one another.
Jessica: The importance of discussing these topics is so essential because it allows for other black women to be in community to work through the struggle of being a black woman. In community, we can be a comfort and a source of truth against the lies we have been told. I used to believe what society portrayed me to be and it took community to comprehend my worth. We are not alone when we stand together and come to terms with how we’ve been hurting.
I want white people to know the power of black women as a river that will never stop flowing. There is persistence and a fixed focus that black women have in order to overcome these issues. The need for black women to work twice as hard shows that we expend too much to give up. We put too much energy, time, and emotion to accept a no.
Kasey: I want for all other black women to know that there is strength and power in our blackness. For black women whose ancestors were slaves in this country I want them to know that our ancestors were strong and we should be PROUD of their perseverance and the fact that we descended from greatness. I want for them to walk in their unique beauty and recognize the beauty in others, without feeling the need to compare.
5. What is your perspective of the strength of black men?
Amethyst: Strong Black men aren’t intimidated by strong Black women. Strong men don’t measure their strength by their masculine performance or by toxic societal norms, but by the way they love and support those around them, by how emotionally mature they are, along with the character and integrity they possess.
Brianna: When thinking about the strength of black men, I think of every black man that is striving to make it in today’s society. I see strength in black men everyday. I see it when they are providing for their families, working to make ends meet, fighting for their mental health and physical health. Black men have to be strong because there are several stressors they are faced with every day from institutionalized racism, economic and financial instability and host of other things. When I think about the strength of black men I think about everything they have to carry day in and day out.
Kasey: I think that black men face so much discrimination, and live in a society that urges people to fear them. For this reason, I truly admire the strength of black men to be daily overcoming negative stereotypes that surround and criminalize them.
Written collaboratively by: Gabrielle Clark and Natasha Shorts
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