I’ve been writing, trashing and rewriting this post multiple times. The first time I thought it sounded too militant and angry. The second time I thought it didn’t tell the entire truth of how I felt and what I’ve come to realize. My only prayer is that this time I can tell the entire truth and let my soul speak.
It’s no secret that this year has been an especially trying one. It seems like a lot of us have experienced what has felt like a personal hell of some sort. I’ve felt it in the air for most of the year and it’s the thickest fog I’ve ever experienced. Various things have tap danced around my PTSD and even stood nearby, breathing on my neck to remind me of their presence.
After seeing Queen & Slim last week, it pulled the rest of my terror and pain out of me. It was something I grappled with even seeing in theaters because I didn’t want to contribute to seeing black pain being turned into a performance piece. That’s what I initially told myself. It’s the same reason I’ve never seen Roots. But I went to the movies with my older sister anyway and took in all of Queen & Slim. I saw myself reflected in the tough exterior of Queen; the “I’m going to speak up when this is wrong” even if it sticks my foot in my mouth” way she handled things, her hidden trauma, her choice to be alone and shut out family. I also saw myself in Slim; the devout faith in God, the questioning of what I believe in and myself when some hard shit comes my way, being doubtful and eventually standing up to show others the fruit of their unwillingness to let go of certain narratives of others. Things that I’d only scratched the surface of.
They’ve been just beneath my surface. Although I’ve talked about things I’ve experienced, I haven’t always been able to bring myself to say certain things aloud. The most glaring thing was something that happened recently and made me question myself as a black woman in a way I’ve never done before. The funny thing is that days after this elicit encounter my DNA results were updated and I found out a little more information about my ancestral roots. Somehow this year decided to challenge me by making me learn how to lean into myself, trust myself and face hard hitting moments – past and present. Everyone always says to leave the past where it is but what happens when the past and present collide? Do we ignore one in favor of the other?
That being said, at 28 I can’t say that I’ve never experienced racism but the form of it that I encountered this year, one I like to call oblivion mixed with fragility and privilege, sliced my soul open and turned it inside out. I’ve found myself watching actress Jenifer Lewis‘s interview on Hollywood Unlocked often these days and she said something that made a light bulb go off in my head. She essentially said that some shit will come to our front doors and we have to know who we are when it does. Ironically my experience actually involved a front door and the words “I felt ambushed and attacked when you…” because I dared to express a safety concern. Because I dared to set an unmistakable boundary.
This person couldn’t fathom the fear I felt about an unlocked door because they never had to. They couldn’t fathom the fact that my terror not only stemmed from my sexual trauma paranoia but from my fear as a black person in a more affluent area as well. I’ve often thought about how someone could call the cops because they’ve never seen me before and put my life in jeopardy. I never used to think about my life in that way before but I can’t pretend that some people, especially those in authoritative positions, are committed to looking at black people a certain way regardless of how kind, sweet, educated and wealthy we are. None of these things “protect” us and separate us from the supposed “ghetto” or “bad” black people. We are seen as one in the eyes of others. And I understand that all too well now. Sometimes I think some of us try to separate ourselves from each other because we think if we can prove that we’re different, the hate will dissipate. But I know the ugly truth of trying so hard and still being treated any kind of way.
To have my sexual trauma, something I made sure to at least make another person aware of, disregarded and turned into an attack on them has threatened my sanity and willpower. To have the reality of my blackness ignored drove the knife in even further. I’ve also come to realize that some people know zero bounds when it comes to taking your trauma, fears and discomfort about them. That they will feel comfortable as long as you don’t tell them when they are overstepping boundaries…because they want to be in control. It doesn’t matter if it’s conscious or subconscious. Things like this always reveal themselves.
But coming across more of my beginnings as a black person along with three pivotal journals that detailed my life between the ages of 17 and 18 reminded me of how far I’ve come. Who I am and how I’ve learned to stand taller in my experiences and in this life. I used to question why I was born a black woman and why I had to experience the pain that I have. It’s because I could make it through and stand a little taller each time. And I could let pen hit paper, fingers stroke the keys on a keyboard and turn my pain into purpose.
I am a southern bred, God loving black woman with a range of experiences under her belt and I am here. My trauma comes with me but so does my healing, dreams, intuitive nature and my growing ability to let love + clarity help guide me. Some shit did come to my door and it took strength I didn’t even know I possessed to keep walking through. I used to say I didn’t know how I was alive after battling years of suicidal thoughts and depression but I know now. I didn’t even tell anyone that the suicidal thoughts had come back since I’ve been living in a new space since August. But, beneath the surface, alongside my fear and pain, was still the innate desire to hold on to something. To create. I didn’t know then that I still wanted to live despite what I considered too much and I am doing that.
My soul has been turned inside out and I’ve learned more about myself in the face of adversity that have come in various forms; lately they have looked like smiles, feigned kindness and understanding. I am still here and I am doing more than getting through now. Unless it’s a part of God’s plans, no one can take that from me without me putting up a fight. It’s different than building impenetrable walls. This fight is knowing I have the right to live, take up space, connect with who I’m meant to connect with and be loved in the process.