When I was a little girl my favorite time of the year was summer, not only because I was out of school but because Summer BBQs allow me access to my heroines. Fueled by good food, stiff drinks, and sexy Black music I sat and listened to these amazing Black Women share stories. Stories that centered on family, boasted triumphs, recalled Black history, celebrated Black love, and reinforced Black unity, and it filled my heart. At 46 I realize that while I was sitting in awe, they were preparing me for the world, for my job as gatekeeper to our history, our foundation to our lifeline.
I grew up respecting and honoring Black Women.
When I was in my teens, I entered a new phase of independence. Fueled by solo train trips, dance, Harlem, Hip-Hop, and a new interest in boys I knew everything (and nothing at all.) I had a tight circle of neighborhood girlfriends, we lived at each other's homes, our mothers were friends, we sat on the rock and laughed, we graduated from New Edition to whining our waist to Dancehall. We saw the way men looked at us, we knew the ones that preyed on young women, even if we didn’t have the language we told each other’s stories. We became the gatekeepers of a generation of women destined to change the world…. long before we knew it.
I grew up believing Black Girls.
When I was in my 20’s it was the 90’s or as I affectionately tell my friends “Ah the ’90s were wild”. A recent graduate, fueled by Money, Power, and Respect Hip-Hop continued to take center stage. My circle still tight but slightly different because of work saw us on every guest list, at every club, and always ready to party. We worked hard and were ready to take over the world! We’d smirk when our mothers and grandmothers reminded us to have a few dollars in our pockets, who you come with is who you leave with and to NEVER leave our drinks alone because men would spike them. We became the gatekeepers of stories of misogyny, rape culture as well as the protector of every Black woman we came in contact with.
I grew up protecting Black Women.
In my thirties and now forties I began to openly speak out about what I noticed long ago, not many believed Black girls, they didn’t respect Black women and not many wanted to protect Black women. They were openly ready to condemn Black girls for breathing, assault Black women for choosing self and the only time respect was given was while singing loudly along with Aretha Franklin but the women in their everyday life, no. And through all of this abuse, these same people expected Black women to serve their needs.
Last night this was only confirmed for me as I sat and watched Black men, white men, and women celebrate a guilty verdict of a cop killing a Black man, while simultaneously “justifying” a cop murdering a 15-year-old girl.
She had a knife.
She was stabbing someone
She was the aggressor
She, she, she, she…
She is now dead.
She is dead because the same system that presents white men with privilege, protects white women, and finds cause for Black men to still be alive can’t seem to muster the same energy to protect, believe, honor and respect the life of Black girls and women.
Not in life, nor in death. Rest in Peace now #MaKhiaBryant Black women will now and forever protect, honor, and respect your life.