Long ago, I learned that the black woman was synonymous with strength. The African-American woman is like none other, withstanding the trials of time. Let’s face it, “Black don’t crack” wasn’t just a random phrase. Our curls are popping, melanin unmatched, curves emulated, and strength shines.
It’s common to hear the compliment, “You’re pretty for a black girl” with the expectation that dark is not beautiful. It’s time to tell the masses that their ideation of beauty just doesn’t understand the magic here. Just check out the…late great Maya Angelou’s words in her poem “Phenomenal Woman.”
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Our transformation into society has withstood many bumps (major understatement). We force industries to conform and recognize our worth or we take our ever-growing dollars everywhere else. Black women are hustlers that make money, food, or supplies stretch like…. Well, magic of course. #melaninmagic. Majestic unicorn breaking barriers.
When I see us continually accomplishing, an overwhelming “Yaassss Sis” permeates my heart. We all know the few we’re often taught, Harriet, Sojourner, Coretta, Ida, and more. That’s the black history we all know.
However, black history is NOW:
Nikuyah Walker- First Black woman Mayor of Charlottesville, VA
Susan Rice- First Black United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Ursula Burns-First African-American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 Company
Channing Dudley- First African-American president of a major broadcast TV network
Loretta Lynch- First black female Attorney General of the United States
Halle Berry- First black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress
Mia Love- First Black Republican elected to Congress
Michelle Obama- First Black First Lady of the United States
Simone Manuel- First African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold in swimming
These are just a few examples from the last ten years. The Black Girls Rock award show and Black Girl Magic Movement really set a flame to truly seeing other women of color honored and highlighted regularly. There are also multitudes of African-American names you’ll never recognize, but they are making moves and opening doors for the next generations in every field. These accomplishments are no easy feat. I’m proud of the constant blooming list.
African-American women make it look easy while overcoming obstacles. The myth and image of the strong black woman pushes us through the day, but often denies us the ability to cope in a positive manner. Our strength is not un-ending and it CANNOT always be self-sacrificing.
African-American women have higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, uterine fibroids, and obesity among other conditions. All the while, we also have higher percentages of unemployment, wage gap challenges, and single-parent households compared to our counterparts. That brings about its own set of stressors. We even still struggle with acceptance into corporate America.
We’ve all experienced one of these thoughts:
Should I straighten my hair for the interview? Why does embracing my culture make others feel so uncomfortable? Where can I find clothes that won’t accentuate my curves? If I say this, will it seem too intimidating? Will this action further perpetuate the “angry black woman” stereotype?
In short, being us is frustrating sometimes. We know this, Sis! With the amount of stressors are you surprised that depression is rampant in our community? I know it is not a topic WE like to discuss. But Mental Health isn’t something to only bring up when your uncle “who smoked the wrong stuff and has never been the same” comes around. We have to break the stigma and start the conversation. Our elders have passed down the notion that inner struggle is equivalent to evil, weak, or weird. This only increases the likelihood that our community will continue to suffer in silence.
We’re expected to….
not break a sweat under pain
not be vulnerable
not ask for help
….because we’re strong.
In reality, we all need help and support sometimes.
According to Mental Health America, African-Americans below poverty are three times more likely to report severe psychological distress. It’s not okay to feel down, lonely, or “off” every day.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that 2/3 of people with depression go untreated. Depression is real, but also treatable. It can manifest itself in many forms including postpartum, situational, clinical or even seasonal. There are other options besides just praying about it and sweeping it under the rug like our grandmothers did. Self-care is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. You cannot pour from an empty cup. Knowing your limits and taking care of yourself shows strength.
As we follow Maxine Waters in “reclaiming our time” let’s also reclaim our physical, mental, and emotional health. Below are a few examples of self-care. You are worth the time and effort to maintain and gain your strength.
- Therapy- Venting In a safe space while sorting through feelings is an invaluable resource. Many of us carry childhood pain or lack positive coping mechanisms, and have no idea where to start. Most insurance policies even have tele-therapy options offering webcam or phone sessions for convenience.
- Exercise- Physical activity benefits both your physical and mental state. It increases the neurotransmitter dopamine which counteracts your body’s stress response and promotes mood regulation.
- Unplugging- Taking a break from social media, electronics, and distractions gives you the opportunity to reflect and relax while being intentional and mindful of your thoughts.
- Meditation- This has become a pillar of self-care. It requires no money, just effort. Taking time to channel your own energy and slow down increases the tenacity with which you tackle the rest of the day. Meditation also helps keep unexpected problems and occurrences in perspective.
- Aroma Therapy- Essential oils whether in baths, massaged into the skin, or diffused in the air are proven to trigger different emotions. Use them for positivity, calming, and healing. Studies reveal lavender, chamomile, and frankincense can aid in reducing stress and anxiety.
Research, try things out a bit, and find out what works best for you! Jump onto the trend of self-awareness. Reclaim your time. The generational curses and negative coping mechanisms of sex, drugs, anger, and silence ends with you. Start the conversation with your mom, aunts, sisters, and daughters. Break the Stigma. Support those that seek their strength and those that relish in it. Take care of yourself! We have more barriers to break and history to make!!