What is a Strong Black Woman?

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Once, my uncle walked in on me crouched over the washing machine in tears. I was “venting” to myself and I didn’t realize anyone else was there to listen to my present plight. 

He walked over and said, “Shauness”, in his low and steady voice. That is his nickname for me. In his relaxed and laid back way he said, “everything alright?” I chuckled to myself because my uncle is like that.  He’s not overly emotional but he has a way of letting you know he cares about you.  I proceeded to tell him about whatever was upsetting me at the time and I continued to let the tears stream down my face.  Then he said something I will never forget:

“It’s alright to cry.  It’s alright to completely fall apart.  The catch is, you have to put yourself back together again. That is what a strong black woman is.  It is not the lunatic yelling and screaming or the person who gave up. It is the woman who has unmatched resilience.  That is the legacy.” 

Today for Martin Luther King Day I have been thinking about “the legacy.”  I came across a reading I have always loved from “African American Political Thought” with quotes from Washington, DuBois, Garvey and Randolph. It is one of my college favorites. There is a DuBois excerpt from “A Philosophy from 1913”:

…I will be a man and know myself to be one, even among those who secretly and openly deny my manhood, and I shall persistently and unwaveringly seek by every  possible method to compel all men to treat me as I treat them. 

In 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated. 

Prior to his death he was fighting for and preaching about the same thing. Today is an American holiday because it wasn’t about black supremacy it was about human rights.  It was about change.  It was about…LOVE. 

What legacy does his widow Coretta Scott King have to preserve? I wonder how often she has to “fall apart and put herself back together” again. I wonder how often all the wives, girlfriends, and mothers of slain activists or martyrs “fall apart.”  I wonder if they have ever said “I don’t need no man!”  I wonder what trials they have faced.  I wonder if they have ever called AAA for the 2 gallons of gas that comes with the membership because they can’t afford to get to work.  I wonder if anyone has ever called them a “bitch” or looked down on them. I wonder if they even see color at all or if they just feel pain with no identification and no overly simplistic labels. I wonder what their definition of a SBW is and if they even consider themselves one. Is Coretta glad he fought and died or would she have chosen normalcy? Would she have chosen a movie and dinner?

What will your legacy be?

 

By: Shaun Nickens 

 

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