For Tay'on And The Love Of Sisterhood3/11/2013
Keturah, Takiya, Kelli, Grace, Rashanay, Naiyah, Monique, Jordan, Stephanie, Tayler, Camilla, Bria...
Keturah, Takiya, Kelli, Grace, Rashanay, Naiyah, Monique, Jordan, Stephanie, Tayler, Camilla, Briana, Bryneisha, Lakiya, Trinity, Marie, Erin, Naomi, LaRika, Keshawn, Flaxine, Keara, Crystal, Ebony, Phyllis, Kelia, Amiyah, Nia, Janae’, and Tay’on.
These are beautiful young Black girls entrusted to my care as Youth Minister and some of my baby cousins—all of whose pretty little faces completely light up my world. I write this post thinking primarily of them, but of Black women everywhere—particularly, the future of our sisterhood. I love Black women. (Thank you Alice Walker for teaching us to say that so openly.) I love who we are. What we’re made of. Our talents. Our sass. Our beauty. Our heart. Our love. Our work ethic. Our history. Our legacy. Our style. I just love us. Like really. As far as I am concerned we are nothing short of spectacular. Agree? Yes? Good.
However, I am often disturbed by the way we are portrayed in mainstream media--as if we can not get along, support one another, and have no clue as to how to resolve conflicts in our relationships. Now listen. If you’re a fan of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, I am certainly not here to judge your television choices because I am just as guilty as the next person. I was a faithful Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop fan for several seasons, recording missed shows on my DVR, peeping their shoe game, admiring their expensive styles, laughing at some of their jokes, and shaking my head at their all too common pettiness. However, about a year ago, I decided that I’d had enough; I was tired of the fighting, name-calling, “Bitch this and Bitch that,” drink-tossing, and weave-pulling that had become part of my weekly television consumption. More than anything, I could not directly relate to their behavior and the way they misrepresented the sisterhood of Black women.
The truth is I enjoy rich friendships with several Black women; so I reject the notion that “women just don’t get along.” I am so grateful for my friendship with my sister Dominique. She and I are both young female preachers in our denomination. We both do our share of preaching, traveling, and teaching. Naturally, we share a lot together—ministry experiences, prayer, lots of laughs, and even vacations, but what I love the most about our relationship is that there is not the slightest bit of competition. We are real sisters. We make a point to support each other, modeling real loyalty, just the opposite of what some people expect...as we stick our tongues out at the naysayers—TOGETHER! LOL!
Honestly, I’ve always made a point to get along with Black women with whom I share space. At my job, I always befriend the new Black woman in the office. I don’t want to compete with her, but I want to help her and share resources. I show myself friendly because that’s how I was taught to make friends. In fact, I have ten or so girlfriends, Black women, that I went to high school with some 15 years ago, and we’re all still friends. We were close then and we are close now. We aren’t perfect, and I am sure we occasionally misunderstand and even irritate one another, but we don’t fall out and fight when there is a conflict. We figure it out.
Listen. I would not be who I am today if it were not for Black women. I have an awesome mom (my #1 cheerleader) , stepmom, grandmas, great-grandmas, aunties, cousins, and play mamas. These women have taught me nearly everything I know: how to dress, speak, share, when to wear a slip (yes I still wear them sometimes), how to roll my hair, how to scramble eggs, and apply lipstick. I distinctly remember riding around with my Aunt Alice in her tan Aerostar van circa 1991, and at age 8, she was teaching me to say, “I am beautiful brown.” I repeated it over and over as we rode believing every word.
Black women even taught me how to read and write. With the exception of first grade, all my elementary school classroom teachers were Black women: Ms. Lake, Ms. Mitchell, Ms. Ward, Ms. Thurman, and Ms. Durant. These women showed me I could be smart, educated, and accomplished just like they were. They had advanced degrees, incredible teacher skill, and love for children. They didn’t expect any less of me because I was a little brown girl; on the contrary, they pushed me harder.
My point? I owe Black women everything. And I love them. So I refuse to use my energy to tear fellow Black women down. Our sisterhood is sacred to me and I find it more than worthy of being preserved.
So I say to the young Black girls in my life: you are beautiful, smart, talented, and powerful—all of you, individually and collectively. This means embrace your own talent and intelligence, as well as that of your sisters.’ There is no need to compete with other Black women you know; just do you. And don’t be jealous of what she has that you don’t because her story is not yours. You have your own journey. And when you make choices, don’t be selfish, thinking only of yourself, but of how your decisions will affect Black girls coming behind you. Root your sister on when she succeeds, this serves only to inspire and motivate you. There’s no need to be envious of her. She is a reflection of you, making you look good.
I just want you to know that having healthy, positive, relationships with other Black women is possible. I know this because I live it everyday. If our community is to move forward and grow together, you will need to preserve the sisterhood. And I know that those of us ahead of you have not practiced this well. For this , I am sorry. I apologize for any poor examples we’ve set on TV, at the house, on the block, in the family, at church, or wherever. When you heard us gossip about each other, we were wrong. We you saw us disrespect one another, we were wrong. But you can do better. I know you can. Sure, you will run into challenges and you will have disagreements, but do your best to work that thing out. And if you just don’t like somebody, that’s cool. There’s no need to fight, pull out weaves, and curse one another in the street. Agree to disagree and keep it moving. Remember, we are much stronger together than we are apart, for we rise and we fall together.
Don’t believe the lies your TV tells you: we can get along and we can support each other. Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are not the standard. You are the standard. Create the friendships with other sisters that you can be proud of. Be there for her. Be loving. Be a sister. Believe me. You need each other more than you know. I am excited about what you will accomplish together.
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Arionne lives in Kansas City, MO and travels frequently as a speaker for youth, women, and girls. She is the founder of AriSpeaks.com, a blog all about inspiring people to chase their dreams and live passionately. Follow her on Twitter @AriSpeaks.