Let me tell you why I’m mad.
And I’ll say it eloquently, so you won’t feel threatened by my emotion just because my skin apparently tells my story before I have even opened my mouth.
I’ll say why I’m angry with a soft voice, a tone of professionalism, and with tranquility.
I’ll say it quietly, analyzing every word that comes out, policing my feelings, and deradicalizing my thoughts because the action of a Black woman being mad just happens to be radical enough.
I’ll tell you why I’m mad.
I’ll tell you it is because I have spent my whole life ensuring that you felt safe around me while I was watching Black and Brown bodies outlined in white on TV screens for as long as I have been alive.
I’ll tell you it is because melanated folks are more likely to be stopped by the police and held at gun point while the CIA admitted to placing crack-cocaine in Black communities.
I’ll tell you I’m pissed off because I have been taught to silence myself, refrain from discussing topics that affect my people, and shrink when I am amongst male professionals if I ever want a seat at the table.
AND unfortunately, I feel like I have been stuck at the kids table my whole life no matter how quiet or loud I pull my chair in.
No matter how many letters follow my name, MS, MA, PHD –
So, I’ll just make my own damn table.
I’ll tell you it is because I am often viewed as being “DTF” before I even introduce myself.
And in case you do not know what DTF means, it means “Down to Fuck…”
….and Fuck, I am completely down to dismantle the stereotypes that have been haunting Black women for years, criticize the small minds that assume redlining was never real, and crush the attitudes that white privilege doesn’t exist.
See, I am not down to be your housewife and cleaning maid: your Aibileen Clark nor, your Minny Jackson.
I am not down to be your “fix you up” Black woman: your Olivia Pope nor, your Taraji P. Henson.
I am not down to be your sassy Black friend: Your Madea. Your comic relief.
And although I am a queen and my family is on welfare, that does not make me a welfare queen.
And while you’re laughing at these tropes of Black women created for an audience with the disproportionate value of my skin color in accordance to theirs, there are Black girls, Black women, Black people going missing. R. Kelly is getting away with murder – he’s been killing parts of girls for years, yet, he walks away innocent every time.
There are Black boys, Black men, and Black bodies being shot and having their name placed behind another hashtag.
Nurses and doctors telling us our pain is all in our head and that a sip of water and Tylenol will always do the trick; but the pain feels like hell and
America, you created it.
So, tell me –
If all it takes is water and a pill, how come you couldn’t have cured this nation a long time ago?
You whipped the stories on our backs, shackled us based on petty crimes, chained us to your sins, and locked us behind metal bars.
And no one is talking about it. No one cares to talk about it.
Angry Black Woman? Fine.
But isn’t it clear that I have so much shit to be mad about?
I had been feeling blocked for a long time. Clouded by negativity, suffocated by the inability to change my perspective, and saddened by the fact that the rest of my life is so close yet so far away. I was feeling stuck, uninspired, unenthused, and unmotivated. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it as to why I felt this way and I am writing in the past tense which makes it feel like this is a feeling of before; of previous times. But a huge part of me feels like this is another step part of the recovery process.
I’m an avid believer in signs all around us. That the “bad things” that happen to us are meant to spring us forward into beautiful spaces, that the negative events that take an emotional toll on us set the path to our unremarkable freedom, our coming of age. I tend to look at the hard times as something that we have to get through, but we must be willing to grow through the entire thing. In the moment, you feel lost. You feel like you’re floating in a sea of why the hell is this happening to me and your vision is blurred by the damning thoughts of not again. But this is your time. This is the very moment where you can decide what is going to come of this.
2019 was filled with change. I had moved to a new state: New York. I started my life as a Hall Director and made it through my first year as a graduate student. I went to a conference in Boston, learned more about my why, and continued to settle in my understanding as to where I will fit in this whole “higher education” thing. I traveled to California for an internship that was solely based on my creativity, my ability to think outside of the box, and personally challenged my capability of checking off a goal and experiencing something I was entirely scared to do. Because if you can’t beat fear, you just do it scared, right?
And that’s exactly it. I could not beat fear all of 2019 and I am entirely okay with that. I said yes to things that would challenge me and even said no to more things that I felt wouldn’t have been beneficial for any party involved. I learned what it meant to actually take care of my energy; protect it, rather. I began to recognize when something was no longer fueling my soul, left my positivity withered, and my care for myself shallow and I escaped those things. I believe, in 2019, I had finally started to feel proud of myself. Through the chaos of whatever was happening at home and even the destruction that sometimes was right in front of me, I had managed to say, “I can do this again.” When the rest of the world has spent its time spilling its rhetoric in the news, painting my skins picture, and telling my story before I had even worked up the confidence to introduce myself, I pushed through. Even if just waking up in the morning was the biggest task that I felt I needed to conquer that day. I did it. 2019 was about me and it will continue to be.
I fell in love in 2019. I won’t make this a love story, but I did. Although I have been working to fall madly in love with myself because that’s always what comes first for me, I found somebody who understands my puzzles, my hardships, and my entire story front and back. Who wants to see me during my worst of times and at my best (and for a recovering perfectionist… that’s pretty difficult for me to grasp). Someone who wholeheartedly understands that the work I am doing, how I am doing, how much I am doing, is for my future. They never hold me back from anything, always push me to go have fun, and constantly remind me that I will conquer whatever I have coming up. They never put me down and always bring me back to reality when my ideas, my thought processes, my overthinking skyrockets me into the stars. I couldn’t be more thankful.
I realized that family isn’t family.There’s something I’ve noticed pushed in the Black community that regardless of how a family member treats you, you must forgive them. “Well that’s still your…” is what they say. However, through recognizing that I need to protect myself, my energy, and my heart, sometimes that calls for the removal of things that swallow you whole and revert you back to an environment you fought to stay away from. A space of judgement, disapproval, and shatters your own confidence. A spot of distrust, continuous abuse masked behind a “I still love you, though,” and “through all of it, they have still been there for you.” Yet very much, the things they have been there for me through was because of them. In 2019, I refused to be around people who were comfortable in their negativity and got drunk off of their toxicity. I had to remove myself from folks who refused to grow, struggled to acknowledge how their hurt was hurting other people, and winced at the thought of carrying folks simply because they asked me to. I left things behind that destroyed my peace. I chose me in 2019.
And this is what I ask of you in 2020 – maybe you are reading this and you’re completely familiar with me. You know who I am, and you know what I am going through. Maybe you are someone I went to school with who now only sees me on social media and assumes that I am living a life of ‘doing big things’ or maybe you are someone who never gave me the time of day in elementary, middle, or high school. It’s possible that you’re even someone I work with right now or you have absolutely no idea who I am and you stumbled across this post out of nowhere (if that is the case, it’s nice to meet you.) Regardless of who you are, if you take anything from this, it is that you deserve to put yourself first. Remove the negative connotation of being selfish with yourself – with your well-being, with your body, with everything that you are. Putting yourself first does not mean never helping anyone else out – it means thinking about what you have to do to become the best version of yourself. You do not owe anyone anything regardless of if they are your family or your friend for life. When you are working to become the best version of yourself, you begin to inspire others to be their best selves or kickstart their process of becoming exactly that. I’m not sure what your philosophy about life is and honestly, I am still fine tuning mine – but I know it goes something like this:
The shit this universe will throw at you can be completely perturbing and in a lot of cases, seem entirely unfair. You will filter through life feeling an abundance of ways, learning how to define your thoughts, and undergo a series of experiences that could appear unfortunate. You will have the brightest of moments, reflect on your time in different stages of your growth, and smile at the realization that you’ve continued to wake up everyday and keep going for your dreams or keep looking for exactly what your dreams are. That is exactly it – life is about you. It’s about creating the world you’ve always imagined, what you have always craved for, and that means working on becoming your best self, however you define that. My best self is someone who understands the social constructions created were never meant to serve her but continues to persevere. She is someone who fights for the rights of others but fights for her own rights just as much. She is someone who does not feel ashamed to be proud of herself anymore and inspires others to do the same. Life is about rising by lifting others and getting the support to leave things behind that are heavy. Not forgetting where you came from but not carrying things that make you go ten times back when you put your energy into moving five steps forward. Life is about creating, epiphanies, a whole lot of shifting through the nonsense but the willingness to keep on going. I don’t know what my destination is – but I know life is about the journey, even the bad parts of it. Growth and healing – they aren’t linear, but I will actively continue to do to be the best version of me.
2020 — to whoever is reading this, it’s your turn.
Here is one huge thing I have learned:
Everybody is not going to be happy with the choices you make.
And at the end of the day (this is the GIANT thing I’ve learned):
Who the hell cares?
Quite recently and during the last few months, I started feeling poorly about myself and environment I was in. I was smiling but it felt only sincere when I was surrounded by people I genuinely liked. I was laughing – but sometimes even those moments felt hollow. I couldn’t quite understand what I was going through, but I had this huge epiphany literally seconds ago… who the hell cares? There is so much power in that statement.
I care. The people who matter care. Those who see the bigger picture of the work that I am doing care. Those who the work is benefiting, supporting, giving a voice to, they care. True, genuine, and supportive allies – they care. And sometimes all of those people who care arenotsitting at the same table as I am. Sometimes I’m the odd ball out, however, I have got to stop letting the folks who do not see the value in my work dictate my mood. I have to stop letting folks who have generationally always been in power decide how I feel every day. I have to deconstruct the thought that maybe my work does not matterbecause it does. My work is bigger than myself. My work is for Black girls who never thought they could be in a position of power. For Black folx who felt as though they were consistently climbing up stairs that had no final destination. For individuals of color who have been fighting a battle for years and still have not seen quite what they deserve. For young students, kids, teenagers, adults, that are members of an array of marginalized communities who are striving for success in a society that claims they will never make it there.
My work is for them. And although I am exhausted working this hard every single day – at the end of the day, my work matters. So, I will continue to be outspoken. I will continue to be a voice that empowers the voiceless to use theirs. I will continue to do this work if it means I get to see someone who traditionally was not, is not, and the society believes should not, walk across a graduation stage with a diploma in their hand.
If you’re competing with other people to drive your success, you have already failed. And although failure can be seen as a beautiful thing, since it is the beginning of your comeback story, you actively trying to be better than someone else as opposed to being better than who you were yesterday illustrates an insecurity within you that is far too deep to be healed by an A on a test or a “good job!” by your supervisor.
What’s wrong with internal validation? Nothing. Emotionally healthy people have their own internal validation. That doesn’t mean that people do not get insecure, feel like the weight of the world has existed on their shoulders, strained their back carrying the anxieties of most days, and worry about what’s coming up the pipe line. Through all of these uncomfortable feelings, these people still move mountains. They are guided by their passions, challenged by their weaknesses, and embrace the momentum they have found within themselves. It’s about the journey of getting to where they want to be that has the most impact on who they are about to become, what keeps them motivated, and creates a resilience within themselves that no one can ever defeat. At least that is how it feels for me.
I’m not a pro at any type of psychology. I received my degree in Sociology and Criminology and I still would not even say that I am a pro in that. However, through analyzing my experiences moving throughout a variety Corporate Americas’ nine to fives, seeing co-workers, teammates, friends, and more around me failing at becoming everything they have aspired to be, and even taking the time to address insecurities within myself— I have learned a few things.
When I was younger, around middle school to high school, I thought life was about receiving a degree, getting a good job, paying your bills, and living like that day by day. Additionally, I thought to obtain all of these things, you had to make sure everyone around you liked you. I craved to be liked and would bend myself backwards to ensure that if someone did not like me, how could I change to make sure they did?When I realized I was living for everyone else’s approval, that left a void in me so large that felt impossible to fill…and it was. When living for other people’s approval, I was trying to meet their expectations that align with their values. This created a painful dissonance and separation between what they expected from me and who I actually was. Additionally, it fogged my view as to who I even wanted to be. By molding myself every day to meet the needs, wants, desires, and expectations of those around me – I was constantly tired and at the end of the day when looking in the mirror I had to ask myself: Do you actually like who you are? The amount of times that felt like a trick question was endless because since I was living to please others and competed with others… I didn’t even know who the hell I was. Along with that, I did not know who the hellI wanted to be and how the hellI was going to get there if I kept looking for others approval. So, Freshman year of college, I stopped.
Freshman year of college was a year of rapid growth, immense change, and an intense beginning of the journey to become the person I am now. You will hear me say it time and time again, I hate competition. When I meet folks, who are competing with other people solely because they “want to be better than them,” that is the energy I stay far away from. It makes me uneasy, keeps me uncomfortable, and places the worst taste in my mouth. How far are they willing to go to ensure that they are better than them? What type of behavior are they going to participate in? There is vast difference between those who compete with another person because they feel inspired by that person but still support that person and refrain from participating in toxic behavior to diminish them and those who actively seek to find ways to exhibit to other people that they are better than who they are competing against. The real question those people have to ask themselves is this: Do you like you? Are you proud of you? And if you’re reading that and struggling to find an answer, hesitated to answer, or felt you had to convince yourself that yes, I do like me… this is where the reflection can begin. This is where the support can start. This is where the radical self-love can come forward. When I was surrounded by people who were constantly throwing microaggressions, demonizing communities, speaking poorly of cultural identities different from their own – I had grown exhausted of being a part of it. I spoke out, lost friends, but gained empowerment. When I had settled into what being me meant, I learned that it had nothing to do with those who were around me. It had to do with what I had inside of myself – and I had a whole lot of drive, a whole lot of determination, and a whole lot of “why the hell should I care if people like me if I am standing up for what is right, what I care for, what matters to me?” I learned that our society is already competitive, oppressive, and negative– why am I going to continue and be a part of the trend?
If someone were to ask me what I thought life was about, this is exactly what I would tell them:
Life is not about competition. It is about inspiring, helping, encouraging, and empowering others so we can all reach our greatest potential. If you’re busy trying to do what others are doing solely to be better than them, not finding and learning your own passions to drive yourself forward, or looking for constant validation to fill a void that only you can fill (with the support of counseling, loved ones, and beyond) – you will be filling a pocket with a hole at the bottom of it for years. For me, life is about foundational passion, finding your own personal goals, creating yourself for yourself, and empowering those around you to do the exact same. Although I am constantly working on who I am, who I want to be, and have acknowledged that growth and healing is not linear, I have found that I am living for myself. Understanding how liberating that truly is has been one of the most impactful turning points in my life. Therefore, at the end of the day, when I am doing certain things in my job, in my personal life, or even the classroom… I am doing those things with love, not for it.
Someone told me once that I speak in clichés and I have been reflecting on that ever since.
Was it the way I curled my tongue when I told them that some of these words that I’m repeating have kept me alive for years?
Was it how I played with my lip when I stated that if I didn’t speak like this, my resilience would have trembled at the sight of the next mountain?
Was it how my teeth chattered when I explained that if I did not speak with what they qualified as cliché, if I did not voice my concerns through words that they felt were insincere, or if I had spent my whole entire life rewriting the narratives everyone has been wanting to put in my mouth for what feels like centuries – that I wouldn’t be here right now.
Because although what I say you might not fully believe, my words are not for you.
My words are for me. However, they are also for everyone who has ever felt less than, shrunken, and forgotten. It’s for the people who have felt pushed off to the side, meant to be seen as small, and removed.
My words are meant to pull myself and all of the others out from under the ground and realize that the light they thought had been stolen or lost had been in them all along.
And if you cannot relate with my words, if you feel the necessity to try to figure me out, and if you crave to understand me just to say you accomplished something and you’ve conquered an activity: my words are not for you.
I am not something you can conquer; I am not something you defeat.
I am not for you.
It is defined as “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”
This feeling resonated with me throughout college but has completely unraveled itself over me since August 2018 when I entered Canisius College as an official graduate student. It has been a while since I’ve posted on here. I did not want to write entirely about something I have been experiencing since entering graduate school without the proper introduction as to how I even got here (and trust me, on most days, I’m not sure how I got here either).
It was February of 2018 when the panic had set in. Was I getting a full-time job after undergrad or do I make the choice to further my education?Through constant chats with my professors, advisors, mentors, my friends, and of course, my family, graduate school ended up being my path. However, I had to put in the work to get to that decision. Through resume checks at the career center, signing up for mock interviews, talking to those whose positions inspired me ever since I received the position as a resident assistant- I made sure I spoke to anybody and everybody about what I was considering. I wanted to hear their perspectives, ask questions about their path, learn what empowers them, and draw my inspirations from those conversations. I knew I wanted something familiar but something different. I could not put my finger on it until learning about Canisius College—A small, private, Jesuit-Catholic institution located in Western New York. Something that pushes me is my passion for social justice activism. I had studied gender, became fascinated with the social constructs that guide our society, wanted to have discussions revolving around queer identity, and craved to have a space where I could talk about the intersectionality of it all. However, something I had never truly considered as even part of my path was attending a religiously affiliated institution, but something told me I should.
When I had first arrived, I was greeted with a warm welcome. Hugs came my way, conversations were started, and experiencing Buffalo was just over the horizon. Since I was with my family, I wanted to make sure they were able to check some things off of their bucket lists as well. Therefore, after I checked in, saw my (very first!) apartment, learned a little bit more about what I would be doing—it was time to adventure.
We picked up our things and traveled to the Buffalo zoo, Niagara Falls, and dinner at a French restaurant in downtown Buffalo. When we returned to my apartment, we continued to unpack, shop for necessities, and reality slowly began to set in. I was officially beginning my career within Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration. I hugged my family goodbye, watched them drive off, and began my life at Canisius College.
Hall Director training was both nerve-racking and exciting. Although I was constantly being called on to answer questions, there was something enriching about that. Something had told me when I was sitting, listening to presentations, and eagerly waiting to meet my first ever RA staff that I was in the right place, doing the right thing, and going through the right path. I was smiling, I was excited, but more importantly, I was ready.
RA training began and I could feel the shakiness in my voice when I had to hold my very first staff meeting. Although none of the RAs had made me feel like I was not capable, I was extremely focused on not messing anything up. However, as the year progressed—my team became my family. Just like any family, hiccups happened, team dynamics shifted, and life got in the way sometimes—but at the end of the day, I am proud of who my team became and everything we conquered throughout the year.
Academics was a whole other notion that was extremely daunting, uncomfortable, but riveting. Sitting in another classroom feeling as though I do not belong, but also understanding the hard work I put in every single day got me to this very place: I felt an extreme amount of dissonance. I was walking on the edge of “I’m confident I am meant to be here and am capable of doing this work,”and “How did you even get here? Who let you squeeze through the education system to sit in this very seat?”The constant back and forth of wanting to believe in myself and understanding the world around me, how academia was not meant for women like me, how this classroom wasn’t built to advance me, and how this knowledge wasn’t created for me tore me into several pieces every single day. Nevertheless, just like I did in college, I won my first year of graduate school. I stayed motivated, I stayed focused, and I stayed determined to not only prove to myself that I am capable, but to show other Black girls and Black women that they can do this too.
I write this as I sit in Rohnert Park, California for a summer internship. High school me would be so damn shocked at where I am sitting right now, what I am doing, and how far I have come. I am breaking the status quo. By being a Black woman, by existing as a Black woman, by fighting as a Black woman—that is power in and of itself. I’m 23 years old and still fighting to recognize that but acknowledging it has gotten so much easier. Here’s to the things I’ve done, the things I’m doing, and to the things I will do. To those Black girls and all Black womxn and beyond reading this, I cannot wait to see what we conquer together and how the world will try to silo and keep us out. We were meant for this, we were made for this, and this is just the beginning.
I feel my anxiety sitting infront of my heart.
And I am just waiting for it to stand on my rib cage and beat on its chest like it’s won me over.
So I can battle it again-
interlocking it with my bones and grating it to be just enough dust that when it rises up again— it will be as small as it makes me out to be.
I want all of you to see that you are more than capable of completing every single thing you write down in your planner, take note of as your goals, fight for in your everyday life, and strive to complete. You are more than capable to conquer everything even beyond that.
You are smart. No matter what anyone tells you, you are intelligent. Your mind is filled with colors, your thoughts add sparkle, and your dreams put forth the most incomparable magic that shines through the shade of your skin. Your Black is beautiful.
You are beautiful. And although there will be days where you won’t love how the curls fall on your face, how your skin carries your ancestors, and how your curves hold your resilience, through every corner, crack, or whichever ways oppression tries to sneak its way in, you are beautiful. And I need for you to recognize this not only when you look in the mirror, but when you tell yourself that what others are saying are not true. When you notice the lack of representation on your tv screen, hear the rhetoric from the community around you, and taste the sour feeling of someone who carries hate in their heart as they look your way:
You are meant to be here. And no matter how much this world tries to shrink you, pull you apart, or erase you– you are meant to be here.
And I can’t wait to wish you a happy birthday again.
I think everything just hit me all at once. I am leaving. I am no longer an undergraduate student, I am officially a graduate student paving my way to my success whichever way I measure it. Although I can completely look back and see all of the hard parts of my past four years, those hard parts wouldn’t have toughened me up for the rest of the world that I have been begging to see since I was a Black girl unable to really understand why some parts of the United States really just aren’t safe for someone who wears this color on their skin. Creating myself has been one of the most rewarding but completely tiring things I have done and it simply is not over yet. I have so much more to do, so much more to offer, and so much more to change… and not only for other people, but for myself as well.
Something valuable about self-reflection is the ability to know when you have checked off something huge in your life. If you can recognize the hurdles you have jumped, the wounds that you thought were never going away healed, and even though there are some days where it feels like you maybe took 15 steps back in your journey to recovery or happiness—those are just days. You have the ability to make it farther, you have made it this far.
I took the world around me for granted. And although I am speaking about the items I have, the roof over my head, and the clothes on my back, I am also speaking about those who have taken the time out of their day to show me they care. Whether that was through a small gesture, an “I hope you feel better!” text, a “do you need help with…?” question, those were all small moments of pure love.
I just got back from dinner with two amazing people in my life. People that I can honestly say I would never want anything to happen to our friendships moving forward. After they had left, I began to really think about those who I allow into my life and how I could not understand what I had done in my past life to have gotten so lucky. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who would walk you through a breathing exercise on the day of closing when your anxiety decided to flare up. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who would offer to drive to your school and help you move things home then pick up your belongings and drive to your new home that is 6+ hours away. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who would remind you what you deserve when you come crashing into their room at 1:00AM and don’t know what to do with yourself. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who wipe your tears and allow you to take a moment on the days you know you have far too much to do but you’re stability shakes and cracks whenever you pick up your pen and pack your bag. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who speak highly of you to the friends they made at their institution. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who would let you just vent about anything and everything—even if you did feel as though it was a stupid thing to vent about. What matters is that they listen. These people make you feel as though you are listened to, you are understood, your feelings are valid, you are more than capable, and you are enough. These are the people who I want to be surrounded by every single day. These are the people I want to thank.
I spent the last blog reaching out to those who tried to fold me back into myself. The people who ached for my weakness and grinned when they learned what would hurt me. But this is for the ones who remind me on my darkest days that the light will return shortly. That even though it is dark now, I have always fought and climbed my way out of it and that I should be proud of that. That I am more than I thought I ever would be and I need to start owning that. That people who truly care for you will always make sure that they show you they do.
This one is for you.
I want to say thank you to those who allowed me to be completely vulnerable. Who chose to support me while I put myself back together which, on some days, felt almost impossible. Those who chose to deny the hatred that floods the media for “people like me,” and created their own sparkling views to envision me as someone who deserves to speak, who deserves to smile, who deserves to learn, and who deserves to live. I want to say thank you because although we are all busy, tending to our lives, hopefully taking moments of rest to reassure ourselves that that too is an essential part of progress towards success and happiness—you are the people who I want to spend the rest of my life with. You have no idea what you all have done for me and a blog post won’t show that, nor will any amount of thank you’s come close to the amount of gratitude and immense amount of tear jerking love I have for everything you are. The type of love you have given me in these past four years (and some of you reading this, my whole entire life) I hope I am giving it back to you. And if I have failed in doing that in one way or another, this is me taking the moment to let you know that I love you, that I care for you, and I appreciate you. The type of support, love, care, and positive energy is what I want to give to others for the rest of my life—if I can help people feel how I feel right now: loved, empowered, appreciated, cared for, understood, and at ease— at least one person, I will know I have done enough. Thank you for helping me understand that the days I feel as though I have shrunk to the last drop of resilience I have left, that there is a whole glass waiting for me tomorrow. Those are just days and I have the ability to try again.
And so do you.