This list is part black-women-who-get-it and part stark resource for searching black lady souls. Resources that help us calculate our grief and separation from White Christianity are very slim. I invite you to peruse the following books that have been very helpful for me in my process.Read More
Poetry is for nights like these,
When I think of Cyntoia
And her 51 years to life.
Imagine if I had been her,
And I’d killed to stay alive.
I’d be in jail, too.
I cannot lie,
I cannot lie.
Poetry is for nights like these
When I think of Alanna*
When I think of white abled hands
Resting around the throats
Of our bodies.
I’d want to hurt
The hand touching me, too.
I cannot lie,
I cannot lie.
How can I pray?
I would have to stop believing in the way
That white men pray in order to even find God.
They always pray before they eat their prey.
They bless with their mouths.
I cannot lie.
Is God in the throat of Cyntoia?
Is he, in her breath, caught
beneath the white palm?
Is he in the grain our ancestors hid inside
Of their braids so that they would not starve
When they landed in the next garden?
I cannot lie.
I wrestle with the way that we suffer,
And it is not enough for me
To lie on my couch and preach the
Gospel to myself, when black girls are
Being gagged and told to shut up
And take it.
Litany: a series of petitions for use in church services or processions
* Real names ommitted.
Photo Cred: Sherry Zhu
how to help cyntoia, forwarded:
Cyntoia Brown (29 years old now) was 16 years old when she was imprisoned for killing a 43 year old man in self defense. She’s been ordered to serve 51 years in prison before becoming eligible for parole. The Tennessee Governor can grant her clemency and free her before he leaves office in January.
Contact Tennessee Governor and urge him to grant clemency for Cyntoia before he leaves office. Call, write letters, send emails:
Governor Bill Haslam
1st Floor, State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243
Read More Information:
Send a letter of support and encouragement to Cyntoia:
Tennessee Prison for Women
2 North, B49
3881 Stewarts Lane
Nashville, TN 37218-3302
Send support funds to Cyntoia that go directly to her books: jpay.com #00410593
This morning, I woke with a migraine and self-limiting thoughts about my current relationships. My heart was full of the comments of people I thought had my back, but had actually been talking behind it. There isn’t enough sage in the world that can cleanse a heart of the sting of that feeling--that can fully restore trust that has been singed off by the flame of a lie or the breach of boundary. This feeling wasn’t the end of the world, but it did mark the ending of a hope. I felt disappointed.
So, I lay and let the disappointment wash over me--just for a moment. I let myself feel what needed to be felt, so that I could go on about my day with forgiveness on my tongue and hope renewed in my chest. It’s okay to feel, I tell myself. Feelings are an indication of how much I care. It’s okay to feel disappointed, I remind myself. Disappointment is an indication of how real my hope is in human love. Love is limitless. Humans are not. Friendship will come again.
What I’ve come to believe about love stems from my deep-seated beliefs about God. I believe that love is the spirit that connects us all as human beings on this earth. It is the backbone of kindness, truth, healing, wonderment, generosity, stability, and strength. Love keeps us patient. It keeps us full of gratitude. It teaches us to treasure the little moments.
Love is also risk. It’s the gentle quaking that comes when we have to decide whether or not something or someone is worth the ache of disappointment as well as the depth of human joy. In order to love, we need vulnerability. We need a “yes” that accepts all of the risks that come with putting yourself out there for the sake of connection.
Black women have a reputation for being the hardest to love. There may be levels and lies to this statement, yet I type this, I wince. I think of my own times of hard-heartedness. I think also of the raw moments when I’ve wept into my pillow at night—when memories have felt stronger than my own black and female backbone. I think of hard-heartedness as performative. It doesn’t solve anyone’s problems. It doesn’t keep us alive. It certainly doesn’t keep us from feeling humiliated, wishing the world would see us as the soft and human creatures we are.
Yet, this hard-heartedness has brought me a gift. Despite the times I have let it shape me into the beloved hard-to-love-black-woman, it has led me to an oasis of self-love. And I finally chose to drink deeply from this oasis, my hard-heartedness melted. It was as if to say, Beloved, you've been using me to protect your heart from pain, but pain from hoping, risking, and loving is beautiful. Don't use me to keep you safe anymore. Just trust love.
This oasis of self-love revealed to me how much space I have to care for both myself and others. Self-love showed me the power of fully accepting who I am, so that I might know how to fully accept the humanities of others—no matter the degree of risk. Self-love taught me that however the world, my partners, or other black women may receive me, I have nothing to prove to anyone. I, in my body, as I am, am enough. I am enough as I process and grow. I am enough when my anger fills the room. I am enough when I apologize and receive no forgiveness. I am enough when I am quiet. I am enough when my friends go home. I am enough when no one is listening to my voice anymore. I am enough.
The self-sufficiency that comes from being a black woman in an anti-black, anti-woman world is not what makes me enough. Hard-heartedness and resistance to bullshit does not make me enough. No, I am enough because of love. When love is present, I am enough. Love in its limitlessness and abundance has been an oasis for my suffering and disappointment (even my disappointments in my own self). So, at my worst—in my anti-self, anti-truth, hard-hearted, and hard-to-love-black-woman spaces—I am still enough. I am enough because the spirit of love and connection is for me and with me--even in the heat of my human wanderings--and it will stay with me till the end of my days.
My most recent and second only serious relationship ended inside of my partner's sudden and unmoving silence. After we ended things, we danced through a number of months, skipping around the fringes of a friendship. We texted, joked, went to movies, and tried to move on in our own ways. Still, I had questions. I think part of me was trying to understand why his response held the same frequency as almost every black man (both patriarch and friend) I had ever been close to.
I found myself rationalizing. Perhaps, it was me. I was the cause of all of my father's and step-father's and grandfather's and ex-husband's and brother's and ex-boyfriend's silences. Perhaps, it was the quiet six-year-old with the thumb in her mouth who caused the effect. Perhaps it was the 15-year-old girl who was confused about affection. Perhaps it was my 19-year-old self who was so determined to be loved that I got married way before I could really understand what love was and was divorced before I had time to truly become an adult.
Perhaps it was my personality type. I am an I/ENFP according to Myers Brigg. I am Gemini, born on the 8th day of June in 1993 (the day of new language) at 2:02 p.m. My natal chart sites that my moon sits in Aquarius, Mercury in Cancer, Venus in Taurus, Saturn in Pisces, and my rising sign is Libra. All of this natal chart business (apparently) means that I’m equal parts analytical, expressive, and emotional AF. I am an Enneagram type 7w8: the enthusiast meets the challenger. I am High Dominant Influential, according to DISC. Perhaps, I am too much the strong black woman feminist type who wears her heart on her sleeve. Perhaps I self-victimize. Perhaps my hyper-analyzed patience for men has too many holes in it.
Perhaps it was my fault that almost every black man I'd known had at times chosen silence over softness, but I would wager that this was not the case. I would wager that the relational casualties of every black man I know has less to do with me and everything to do with the systemic emotional economies that people of color have had to negotiate since the beginnings of colonization. Perhaps this issue is much deeper than one of the many contemporary conclusions we draw: "these niggas ain't shit."
how I’ve fed the system
In the months after my relationship ended, I delved deeper into this idea of confronting my relationship to an ideal of how black men show up in our culture. Black men are some of the most beautiful and deeply complex people on earth. Yet, our culture treats them like zoo animals—empty-minded creatures on display who are not to be tampered with. Black masculinity has become costumed in the garments of white distance, lest white fragility be triggered. The integrity of black masculinity as a construct has historically also been called into question.
But here’s the thing, I believe that black men are made in the image of God just like I am. We live in a fallen culture that does not create space for the rehumanizing of their image. The black male image is probed, questioned, and tested for safety. I hate it, because I’ve done it too. I’ve walked into rooms and into conversations with presumptions that are out of line.
Lately, in my photographic work, I've been exploring this topic of black masculinity and it's continued narration of both silence and violence in our culture. It has exposed some deeply wounded parts of me and has called me to question my understanding of the experiences of black men. Despite the major and minor traumas I've experienced with black men in my life, I'm learning my bias has been destructive and bleached in a colonized understanding.
The hardest part of advocating for black men in my work is the fight to see. It's the fight to see the hairline crack of hope for softness in places where all I've experienced was hard-heartedness, stoic apathy, and immense pain. It's the fight to intentionally listen though I can only recall a handful of black men who have listened to my experience as a black woman without rationalizing or minimizing. It's seeing the hairline when most of my hardest nightmares have come from memories of (several) angry black men in my life and their hands placed somewhere on my body, ready to strike. It's pushing aside the memory of his arm around my throat, or his voice booming through my heart. It's seeing the hairline when those same voices drown out my own, just because they can't relate.
This work has been an exercise in quieting my heart to hear beyond my bias and the pain of my experience. It's an exercise in empathy when on some days, I just want retribution. This work is the question that I've been asking my whole life: Where are you, black man? Are you here?