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“The one person who will never leave us, whom we will never lose, is ourself. Learning to love our female selves is where our search for love must begin.”

-bell hooks

Dear Black girl, Dear Black woman, Dear Blackity Black Black You –

Black girls don’t cry. Maybe you know this phrase. Does it hit you in the gut? Maybe in the arm? Where do you carry your pain? Where do you go to cry?

I want to tell you that I cried a lot as a child. I want to tell you that as an adult I didn’t realize how hard I had internalized this adage, until I cried at work. Because, I don’t cry at work. In fact, I don’t cry – period.

Because nobody has time for tears that won’t change anything. Right?

Dear Black girl – wrong. Tears affirm our body’s validity. Tears affirm our righteous resistance to injustice. Tears affirm our alive and still here and breathing breathing breathing.

Tears affirm me – I am not ashamed to share that with you. And, I bet they might help to affirm you. To affirm your experiences. To affirm your enough enough enough. Your experiences matter. You matter. I hope you one day believe that with every single cell of your beautiful melanin.

A few months ago, a coworker noticed me wiping my eyes and asked me what was wrong. A retired judge and guest mediator was saying sexually explicit things to me, I explained, self-consciously wiping the remaining moisture from my eyes.

“I’ll take care of it,” my coworker promised. “I just – you always seem so strong – I have never seen you cry.”  

To be fair, my coworker probably didn’t even realize the connection between ideologies of strength and black womanhood.

 But I bet you know the stereotype. I bet you feel it in your arms and shoulders – carry it on your back that has been a bridge for so long it doesn’t even know it shouldn’t be anything else.

I bet you know it in your smile stretched so wide face feels like it is about to bust because you are so busy breathing breathing breathing.

I bet you know what it is like to live with it. Strong independent Black woman – it’s supposed to be a compliment. But we know the statistics. Statistics like because medical professionals believe Black women to have a high pain tolerance, they are routinely prescribed less pain medication than white women. Statistics like Black women in the United States have the highest maternal death rate. Statistics like – in a recent poll; medical professionals believe Black women have a special tolerance to pain.

Because they aren’t statistics. They are stories. They are last Thursday. They are last year. They are tomorrow. They are you. They are me. They are my PCP asking me twice in a row if I eat fried chicken. They are my friends saying they were denied pain medication. They are us.

We carry these stories in our chins and foreheads. We carry these stories in the tips of our fingers and the clack clack clack of our shoes. We carry them in our lips and hips and bellies.

We carry them today and yesterday and tomorrow.

We carry them and carry them and carry them.

Someone once wrote that just because you carry it doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.

Just because you don’t cry doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

Dear you,

When they ask you about Weinstein or Nasser or Kelly, it is okay not to answer. It is okay to walk away. And, it is okay to center the stories and narratives of Black women. Of Black Girls. Of Black Trans. Of Black Folx. Of you.

So many people want to discuss white men violating white girls and women so they can avoid discussing the violation of Black folx. So many Black folks are used to being relegated to the margins that vocally prioritizing the wellbeing of Black folx feels difficult at best and futile at worst.

Dear Black you,

Let me tell you this: You deserve to be protected.

You are equally as important and worthy and valuable as any other person.

And, it is okay to center your story and narrative.

It is okay to tell the stories of Black folx exclusively.

It is okay to cry. It is okay to cry. It is okay to cry.      

So much love,

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