black women Archive

Raising her, saving her: a Black mama’s pain and reality

Lately, I look at my daughter and it’s increasingly clear that the childhood years are coming to a fast close. As the dolls and stuffies that used to be in daily play rotation lay untouched and our evening talks center more on the intricacies of managing friendships with the occasional questions about more mature fare, I look into her beautiful face and see signs of the young woman she is becoming—a sensitive, headstrong, occasionally verbose being who still believes in fairness and goodness in a world that is often anything but fair or good, especially for those of us with darker skin tones. I also find myself scared shitless thinking about the current state of the world she will be coming of age in.

When my son was little, I knew that the world would judge him harshly. He was a Black boy; that’s just the way it is and was. By the time he was entering his tween years, I saw the looks that no longer regarded him as a cute kid but saw him instead as a potential threat. It hurt my heart but he had our village to help steel him against the realities of Blackness and maleness.

Yet I was naive when my daughter was born. I didn’t think that she would face the same racialized tensions that her brother would face. Oh, I knew there would be challenges as a Black girl but the events of the past year have really driven home for me how unprepared I am for the realities of raising a Black girl in this current climate.

I am raising this almost at times ethereal soul in a world that finds justification in the degradation of Black women and girls. A world in which a white police officer can sexually assault 13 Black women and girls and the mainstream media can barely be bothered to report on his trial. The same officer whose guilt or innocence will be determined by a jury that has nary a Black person on it. A world in which a foster child is attacked viciously in school by the school resource officer for the “crime” of typical teenage behavior, with far too many adults believe that she should have done as she was told and, in some sense, deserved that wanton violence.

This year we have seen the cry of Black Lives Matter yet far too often that cry excludes Black women and girls and as a Black mother raising a Black girl, I cannot sit comfortably in that reality even when I know that my son and his peers are under attack for their Blackness and their maleness. What about my daughter? Hell, what about me?

I knew that I would have to raise my daughter to deal with the very real microaggressions that occur when existing in white spaces. The “friends” with the backhanded comments about appearance, hair, family…I lived that life as a girl, I still live it to some degree as a woman. But the acceptance of Black womanhood and girlhood as permanent second-class status that is worthy of state-sanctioned violence? No, I can’t accept this; I refuse to accept it. Yet what can I do? I have no pearls of wisdom other than my own lived experience. The last female member of my immediate family died six weeks after my daughter’s birth. I have no mother, sister, aunts or cousins to surround my girl and give her the strength she will need to rise above it.

Black women and girls have always existed in spaces that elevated white womanhood, but what we are facing now is more than just the elevation of whiteness and femaleness. It is a systematic attack on Black women and girls. It is an attempt at complete erasure of our lives and our experiences.  In a world where one missing white woman or girl is broadcast on a 24/7 loop, it is agonizing to know that only the degradation of Black women and girls is worthy of media coverage. Rarely is the humanity of Black women and girls deemed worthy of acknowledgement. It is enough to make a mama weep. How do I raise her? How do I save her in this cruel and ugly world that sees no beauty or worth in girls like us? 
Black Girl in Maine runs on passion, a need to write, and reader support. If you enjoy the musings, I would be honored if you would please consider making a one-time contribution or becoming a monthly patron. Thank you.

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Zoe, please sit this one out…my thoughts on the Nina Simone film

My skin is black, my arms are long, my hair is woolly– Four Women by Nina Simone


Growing up as a cocoa brown child with nappy hair in the 1970’s and 80’s, I never felt very cute or pretty. Oh, it’s not that anyone told me I wasn’t, my Pops used to call me his beautiful black bunny! However society let me know that compared to my latte and peach colored friends, whatever beauty I had only existed to those who were obligated to say such niceties. Rarely did I see reflections of my type of beauty; even growing up in Chicago!  Sadly my story is the story of hundreds of thousands of cocoa colored girls with nappy hair. I would like to think things have changed since my childhood but even in my day to day life here in Maine, I see the seeds of self-hate being planted daily with little brown girls, who look at me with the same raised eye brow that I used to give me family when I tell them otherwise.

I remember as a child stumbling across one of Nina Simone’s album covers and thinking that ugly woman looked a lot like me. Childish thoughts for sure! Thankfully I grew up and found my own beauty and realized that there was not a thing wrong with being a cocoa brown nappy haired girl and Nina Simone’s music has been one of the soundtracks of my life. Along the way I saw Nina’s beauty, a beauty that in my childish and simplistic mind I was not able to see. It’s safe to say I am a huge fan of Nina Simone.

Hence when I heard news that a film about Nina Simone’s life was going to be made with the beautiful and talented Zoe Saldana playing the role of Nina, I was momentarily shocked. Zoe is an attractive and talented actress without a doubt, however she looks not a whit like Nina and to play the role of such a legend, well you do need to look like Nina.

For those not familiar with Nina Simone, she was more than just a wonderful singer and the “High Priestess of Soul” she was a force to be reckoned with! Nina Simone had many faces yet they were faces that capture her essence and beauty at a time when a dark brown woman was rarely seen to be beautiful.

Hollywood has a way of playing it safe when it comes to casting for Black roles, rarely picking actresses darker than a paper bag and when they do; well we get to be The Help. Frankly I am tired of seeing only light complexioned African American women in roles; I need the next generation of brown girls to see themselves. I need to know that a day will come when a little girl who looks like me won’t be damn near 30 before she sees her own beauty.

So Zoe, this is not personal, to play the High Priestess and capture her essence, you need to resemble her and has lovely as you are, you simply don’t.

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Everything but Black

One of the subjects that I rarely ever write about on this blog is the fact that I am married inter-racially, yes the Spousal Unit is white and I am Black. I think part of the reason is that there are many far more competent bloggers who write on the subject and also that I have been married so long that we are just an old married couple as far as I am concerned. Back when I was young, I sort of got caught up in the whole we are interracial thing and honestly at this point, it just is, sort of like the way I wear my hair naturally specifically I have dreadlocks and its just a part of me. No need to dissect it…it just is.

I also raise my kids so that while they know their Pops is white, the fact is that they will be viewed as Black most likely, back in the summer and fall I wrote at one point about how elder boy who is now 17, refers to himself as an Half-frican. Yeah, that’s what he calls himself and frankly I got no beef with it. He’s old enough to know that white privilege does not extend itself to him just because his Pops is white….sorry, it just doesn’t.

That said and I will admit maybe its because I am suffering from PMS (sorry for revealing that but its my reality and I am old enough that I don’t feel the need to hide it) but it just rubs me the wrong way when I stumble across other Black women many who are partnered to white men who decide to breakdown their racial makeup.

Look, what Black person in America ain’t mixed with something? Shit, we (collective Black Americans) have not been purely Black since we were brought to this country. Otherwise how the fuck do you think we come in so many different shades? Look, we run the gamut from Whoopi Goldberg to Vanessa Williams and everything else.

Yet sometimes I encounter especially online, women of color who many might be called Black, who feel the need to tell you they are 1/4 crawfoot native, 1/8 this, 1/16 that…..look, its cool to know where we come from, in fact I wish I knew more about my own background. But I sometimes think some of these folks do that shit, to deflect from being plain old Black, after all its not exotic enough to just be Black. I know, because when I was a young woman, I did that same shit, claiming native this and that. Yeah, there is some Native American, Cherokee to be specific in my family as well as Mexican but those numbers are so small that really when I thought about it, I realized I was doing it more at that time because I was not proud to be who I am which is a Black America. Thankfully I am over that shit now. Now you ask me what I am, and I am going to tell you, I am Black. Plain and simple.

The other part of this that rubs me wrong is that many of these same folks will marry inter-racially and then have kids and tell you little Jonas is this and that, which may be true but it seems they are trying to avoid calling their kids Black in any way. Yes indeed, I have seen this too. Problem is you see the kid and even though little Jonas may be fair, half the time you can tell little Jonas is not pure white. Nope, you got Mama bringing her color issues to the kid. I’m sorry that is just wrong.

Obviously, I got no beef with interracial pairings, I truly believe love knows no color but at the same time, I think we do our kids and partners a disservice when we lack self love and instead latch onto whiteness because we are uncomfortable with blackness. For too long whiteness was the only standard of what was good and beautiful and times are changing but too many of us have not gotten the memo. Instead we choose to live withoutdated notions instead of changing the standards. I think its one of the reasons so many Black women love Michelle Obama, now that America has a Black first lady and the world stage knows she is a gorgeous we are willing to publicly acknowledge that Black is beautiful, thing is Black has always been beautiful.

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