We're Declaring February 13th "Hug a Sista Day"

by Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn

This year, we’re claiming Friday, February 13th is “Hug a Sista Day.” While it’s not an officially recognized day in the U.S., it should be. Black women, generally speaking, are a lovely lot. Often maligned and misunderstood, African American women are deserving, and well-overdue, for their own special day of recognition.

Historically, black women have been the caretakers of the nation. In the south, countless enslaved women (who would later become “the help” after emancipation) were charged with feeding, caring for, and raising the children of white people, as well as their own kids.

We have been pioneers in higher education, business, and politics. We have been the galvanizing force of every black movement in this country—from Civil Rights non-violent activism to the social programs that became the backbone of the Black Panther Party to the nationwide Ferguson rallies that have erupted around the country.

Meanwhile black men get the glory… and the airtime.

Last week on “The Nightly Show,” Larry Wilmore and a panel of black men—including Oscar-nominated, Grammy-winning hip hop artist Common, and New York Times columnist and best-selling author Charles M. Blow—discussed black fatherhood in America on his new Comedy Central series. All but one of the four panelists, including Wilmore, were raised by households headed by single black mothers. (The one that did grow up with his dad, had to content with emotional absentee-ism due to his father’s alcohol and substance abuse issues.)

Still, Wilmore found time in his half-hour program to query the panel about the degrees to which black women are "bossy." (The next day, Wilmore offered an on-air apology after black women on Twitter called him out.)

We cheer for our fictional primetime heroines: Cookie, Annalise, Olivia, Abby, and Mary Jane. But none of these ladies are getting any real love from their men, black or white. (And in Cookie's case, there's little regard for her from her black sons for whom she sacrificed everything!)

In the real world, single Black women aren’t doing much better.

Black women remain largely disadvantaged when it comes to relationships, with marriage rates lower within the black community than for any other racial group. According to recent Census data, over 70 percent of black women are the sole parents of their children. And yet, the majority of black women happily stand by black men.

On the online dating scene, studies by OkCupid.com since 2010 have consistently shown that black women have a lower preference ranking with men of all races—including black men. Men write back to African American women at markedly lower rates compared to women of other races.

In the U.K., a 2013 research study examining preferences of a Facebook dating app found men prefer ‘dating out’ with women of other races than with their own, with men least likely to respond to ‘likes’ from black women, doing so only 7.5 percent of the time. This is much less often than how often they responded to ‘likes’ from Asian, Latino, and white women.

And the older the woman, the further down the scale a black woman slides.

Still, black women set the trends in beauty. (Okay, when is the last time you heard about a black woman going in for lip-plumping injections or expense self-tanning treatments?) Our hairstyles—from the afro to the cornrow—have been copied by women around the globe since the late 1960s.

And if you’ve ever hugged a black woman, you know we do it better than anybody. So, America, it's time for a little compassion. At the very least, some of Aretha's old fashioned R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

The author receiving a much-deserved hug from TV One's Roland Martin.

Before breaking out that box of chocolates for Valentine's Day, sweeten the day of a black woman this Friday with some random acts of kindness—be it your mama, grandma, auntie, cousin, or next-door neighbor. If hugging a black woman on the street might be deemed as inappropriate (we're certainly not advocating any indecent behavior), a friendly "Good morning!" or "Hello!" will suffice.

And sistas need to be loving on each other. A simple smile and a nod will do. Compliments can go a long way, too—be it on her outfit or her smile. Even a simple, "Hope you're having a blessed day!" can sometimes make a positive difference. It always does for me when I'm on the receiving end.

Take this opportunity to share this on your social media pages, and encourage others spread a little admiration on behalf of black women this Friday. It’s not that we need the adoration. But, certainly, we're worth it.

Photo: Shutterstock

Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn is an L.A.-based journalist, and co-author of Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture, and Creed (Atria Books). She is currently co-writing and producing, Lovers in Their Right Mind, a black-Persian romance starring Navid Negahban (American Sniper, Homeland). Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @JaniceRhoshalle.

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