Black women are strong, we have to be. The nature of the world simply demands this of us. To exist as ‘the only one’, or ‘one of few’, in everyday circumstances would toughen up anyone. Just the other day, while I was running errands, I noticed that over the course of my entire day, I only saw one other black woman. Just one. In an isolated thought, that might not seem like a big deal to some, but just try to put yourself on the other side and imagine existing in a world where so few people look like you, on the street, on TV, at work, when dating.
I try my best not to let this hold me back from doing the things I truly want to do in life. My mom always taught me that wherever I was, was where I belonged. But truth be told it gets exhausting and for so long I refused to admit this to myself. I worked hard, desperate to show that I was just as good as anyone else, just as smart, just as qualified, just as pretty. But, I was tired. I was tired of being strong and striving. I wanted softness, gentleness - ease of existence.
And so, with great conscious effort I slowed down and made my softness a priority because the reality is that Black joy, my joy, is an act of resistance. It looks into the face of injustice and says, “I am enough, just as I am.” It heals the shouts and whispers of trauma that have taken over our social feeds by being shared so carelessly, and news that has been reported to conform to biases.
And so, I’m leaning into the softer side of what it means to me to be a Black woman.
I am joyful and I fiercely protect my joy even when it’s difficult. I laugh wholeheartedly and sometimes loudly despite what others might think. I talk as freely as I want to with friends and don’t bite my tongue when I code switch - I enjoy my expression as my own.
I take care of myself. I’m talking deeper than face masks and pedicures, though those are important too. I do the hard work of unpacking internalized racism, negative self talk and a host of other things through therapy. I create healthy boundaries and when those boundaries are violated, I take a step back. I curate my space on social media so that I intentionally see more Black creators, more women with my body type and more softness.
I move slowly and lean into my sensuality. When it’s warm I make small picnics for myself and ride my bike to the park and sit quietly enjoying the sun. When it’s cold, I light my candles at night and get cozy under my favorite blanket. I have created a home - not just a place to lay my head - but one that reflects my taste and travels and style. I invest in good products that leave my textured hair soft and reveal their natural curls and I no longer feel shame when I change my hairstyle from braids, to weaves, to wigs, to natural looks. It’s all a part of my Black girl magic and to ignore it would be dismissing a part of myself that makes me, me.
And my skin - oh my skin. It is nourished and loved for its deep shade of brown. And when I go on vacation, either solo or with friends, I strip down to get as dark as possible and put sunscreen all over my body. I rub coconut oil over every curve and crease and love it for everything she stands for.
And I love, deeply. Family and friendships are tended to like well watered gardens. And, I remain open to possibilities, cherishing chance encounters for the enchantment that they are.
Black women deserve to be recognized for their softness and not only their strength. In this season of recognition of the contributions to society by Black people, I encourage you to highlight your Black friends for their gentleness, softness and joy. Because while they are holding so much together, and being so strong, their softness can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked.