{… So while part of me wanted to nestle her in an Iyanla mammy t***y-like embrace and say “baby, I don’t know why”, the realist in me said “welcome to the world, little sister”- and I cried for both of us…}


For weeks I’ve been putting off starting this blog. I thought long and hard about the name and of course, it came to me unexpectedly (that’s usually how it goes). Then I would talk myself into and out of this. I went through a range of thoughts- “just start it…but there are enough blogs. But I have so many ideas…but have they been done already?” I exhausted all the usual procrastination tactics of a person afraid to put themselves “out there”. Until last Wednesday night. After an emotionally draining episode of “Underground”, a video of a little girl in DC was final last straw. It was the push that I needed to put my blog idea into action.

     Season 2, Episode 3 of “Underground” is appropriately named “Ache”. It was a lot to take in. [Spoiler Alert! Click here to read with the spoilers removed.] If you watch the show, this is the episode when Rosalee is bleeding from being shot, dealing with a snakebite, covered in leeches, beaten and choked by a slave catcher that she was forced to murder…oh yeah, and she is also pregnant. Meanwhile, her mother, Stine,  is also being beaten by a slave driver and a black man who claims to love her.  She is deeply tormented and copes by drugging herself. She was clearly at a breaking point and eventually attempted suicide by walking out into the ocean cradling a large rock. Just when we thought she was gone, there is a powerful scene with the other slaves working together to save her. Amirah Vann, the actress who plays the role of Ernestine (and plays the $#!^ out of the role, I might add) tweeted, “[s]ometimes you need community to save you!”

     

     After watching the episode twice to fully digest everything that was going on, I decided “dis tew much”. I went to Twitter for a few laughs to lift my spirits before going to bed. I came across a video from the town hall meeting to discuss the recent disappearance of black children, mostly girls, in Washington, DC (link to Vann Applegate’s tweet~> https://t.co/UhIccOtLow ). There was a girl who looked about 14 years old being consoled by an older black woman. It takes a second for her to start speaking because she is doing that deep sob where you can’t get your words out. It’s that kind of cry that babies do after they hurt themselves and even once they fall asleep, every few minutes they take a deep breath that sounds like they’re still crying. When the cry lasted so long that your soul is still weeping after the tears stop. That’s how this girl was crying…so I was ready to cry with her before she even started speaking. She stands up in front of everyone and asks, “why [does] stuff just have to happen to us? Why do people have to be so horrible to us? Why can’t we get more respect? Why men and women…hurt us so bad?” It literally felt like my heart dropped. I wanted to hug her…but then what? Hug her and tell her it’s going to be okay? I can’t do that because I don’t know that.

     Yes, we have come a very long way since the days of slavery but the mothers of those missing girls in DC probably feel just as helpless as Rosalee’s mother. Ernestine’s daily existence was all about protecting her children, but in an instant, she was forced to deal with the reality that she can neither protect her children nor herself.  I am not a mother but I am one of those stereotypical southern black women who will nurture anyone in need. And like manly black mothers, I want black children to be able to have a carefree childhood before they are forced to face the world. But they do, eventually, have to face the world. As much as I wanted to comfort that little girl, I had to be honest with myself- the only answer I have for her is “they don’t give a __ about us.” Why? I have no answer for that. 

     Part of becoming an adult is accepting that there isn’t an answer for everything. For [many] black Americans, part of that is accepting that some people will hate you, or just as bad, be completely neutral about you without any sound reason.  They say go where you are celebrated rather than tolerated. The problem is, there are people who neither celebrate nor tolerate us. That’s the reality of being black in America. I remember watching movies about the “olden days” and believing those things don’t happen anymore. And I remember how badly it stung when I started to realize that some of my white “friends” and teachers weren’t so different from the “bad people” in “Mississippi Masala” or “Mississippi Burning”. (Sidebar: Those movies traumatized me as a child and as much I love traveling, I STILL don’t fool around in Mississippi. Alabama either. But I digress…) I cried as that little girl spoke because I remember being her. I knew her eyes had been opened but I could also tell that she doesn’t yet see just how bad it gets for us sometimes. All she knows is that she can’t play with her friends so this is some BS, but the disrespect and disregarding of black women spans so much further than this. So while part of me wanted to nestle her in an Iyanla mammy t***y-like embrace and say “baby, I don’t know why”, the realist in me, who is much like Angela Bassett’s character on “Underground”, said “welcome to the world, little sister”- and I cried for both of us.  

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     So what does that have to do with starting this blog? “Assata” means “she who struggles” (word to Assata Shakur). Some of the women who have inspired me the most only exist on my phone. Without realizing it, I curated this online sister circle with women from blogs, Twitter, podcasts, and YouTube whose voices, lives, and struggles I found relatable. It’s so much easier to envision yourself being successful when you can see other people who have achieved success and you don’t have to stretch your imagination to literally see yourself in their shoes. I’ve learned some great things from people other than black women, but you can’t talk to me about swimming for cardio when you don’t have to deal with an afro afterwards. I can’t directly apply your advice about operating in the corporate world if you’ve never been the only black woman in the conference room (with maybe one black man, four non-black women and 37 white men). The point is, some of our issues are unique and we need to talk to one of US about it.  Blessings were meant to be paid forward so if my voice or my story can inspire someone the way these women have inspired me, I’m obligated to share myself with them. I believe I have something to offer, not because I think I have it all figured out, but because I know I don’t but I know I’m not giving up any time soon. The people who struggled just like you are able to give you advice from a unique perspective. The people who pulled Ernestine from the depths of the ocean were slaves themselves. They only saw her drowning because they were out there with her. Saving each other is what we’ve always done, and must continue to do. Sometimes you need YOUR community to save you. If you don’t have that community, start building it. We ouchea, sis (and brethren).

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