Im going to lead with this, so you can continue or dismiss yourself accordingly. My. Black. Matters!
Now, my journey through my black womanhood has been an ignorant one, for lack of a better word. I grew up hating myself, my blackness, my nappy hair. Despite my moms efforts to tell me I was beautiful, I saw otherwise in my community, on television. I wanted to look like the Emilys and the Morgans and the Sarahs. I was always told I was pretty for a black girl, but I wanted to be beautiful like I thought the white girls were. I hated that I was curvier and taller than everyone else. Little did I know, I already seen as aggressive and intimidating by white folks from a very young age.
My family was one of the only black families in our neighborhood, until maybe 6th grade when we 1) moved and 2) changed schools. But, when I started seeing more black folks outside my family, black folks from urban areas, black folks that owned their blackness, I was intimidated. Many of them called me white girl, a couple of them threw garbage on me in 7th grade, and called me names because I was not black enough. But then, I knew I was not white, but I was not fully accepted into the black community either, unless it was basketball season, because everyone in a small town will rally behind a successful athlete. So I developed some anger. A lot of anger. I hated myself for not knowing who I was, and I hated not being accepted. I wanted to change myself, make myself smaller somehow.
I hated myself, so I avoided people who looked like me. I was only attracted to white men, because that’s mostly what I grew up around, and the black boys in schools were called and seen as ghetto or thugs. I wanted a “good” life. I wanted success and enough money. I couldn’t get that by being with a ghetto boy, right? So I dated white dudes. The one black boy that I gave a chance to, my junior year of high school, beat the shit out of me AND tried to kill me before I headed off to basketball practice. That almost solidified the fact that I didn’t want and would never be with a black man.
Note: Interracial relationships are not awful and I DO NOT frown upon them, I was in mine for all the wrong reasons, so I am speaking to that.
When I went to college, 8 months after setting foot in New York for the first time, I started dating the boyfriend of my longest relationship. He told me he liked me because I was different and not like other black girls he’s been around. And that flattered me. I told me I wasn’t like “them”. And I loved it. We traveled, we ate fine, we went on holiday to England and the UK. I thought I was fancy because I was in a world where the white folks were. I had a white man, so I deserved white treatment. And I got it. I got more things when he was there, than when I was alone, in the same airports, the same restaurants, the same establishments. I help myself higher because of this. I believe that I was different, so much so to where I did not want to go back home, embrace my family, or give back to anything black within the community. I used to tell people I wasn’t really black because I was articulate and educated, which is what a lot of my high school teammates used to say. “You’re not really black Jaymee, we’re not talking about you.” I was ashamed to be black. I was intimidated by blackness. My, how ignorant and poorly conditioned I was.
After I started teaching in Bedstuy, becoming an advocate for my black and brown babies, and seeing so much little excellence, something started to turn in my brain. Hanging out with some of my black friends with similar upbringings, and seeing how they embrace themselves and promote everything black excellence, more turning. When my then boyfriend told me I shouldn’t go to a black lives matter march in 2016 because I was “inserting myself into a problem that didn’t concern me” because I “don’t have the same problems as those other black people” because they “chose to be helpless and not get their stuff together”, the wheels turned faster. And then, in the blink of an eye, Trump was elected, I was asked to bet on horses and straighten my hair, do laundry and cook dinner after work. I stopped playing music in the house, stopped talking with my hands. And we split up. I was molding into the strong, black, power, BLACK, firm, BLACKKKK, person that I was almost supposed to be, that I was suppressing. And I lost people. I was not going to make myself smaller. I was not going to suppress myself any longer. FOR WHATTTTT!?
I thank my career and my students for jump starting my brain to wake the hell up. Now, I do my research. I embrace my blackness and my people. I understand and fight for our cause. I want to be black. I want to show what black is, what excellence is. I want to give my little kiddies, and my big kiddies, a sense of self and purpose and identity that I did not have when I was growing up, despite my moms early efforts. I want to speak up, march, protest, survive. I no longer cut myself, because I know who the I was hurting now. With all the pain in the world and all the people hating and targeting us, why would I want to personally harm someone so beautiful?
We are are in different stages with our feelings, our understanding, our journey. And all handle ourselves differently. I came online, woke up, tuned in, a little later than some, a little earlier than some. All I know is that currently, in present day, I am more proud of who I am than I’ve ever been, regardless of who I have lost along the way. It took teaching my people, in their little, impressionable bodies, to realize that I must figure out, or start to figure out, who I am so that I can teach them to know and love who they are. That is strength, that is power, that is my blackness. See my color, and understands the steps that had to be taken, the things that had to be overcome, to get here.
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Click here for a related video featuring more of my thoughts and affirmations to help our youth and ourselves.
Positivity, Growth, and EXCELLENCE!