I’ve been searching for inspiration. Normally my first port of call is the black community; men and women who have led the nations of Africa to independence; recorded the struggle for relevance; fought selflessly to gain something for generations’ that ‘humanity’ denied they meet. Those people who not only share the colour of my skin and the coarseness of my hair but the struggle that accompanies who and what we are. Who better to consult than the slave that birthed a warrior overnight? Who better than the selfless martyrs that fertilized our lands with their blood, to mourn the shedding of more? When we cry, will the tears of our freedom fighters not pour down from the skies and the bark of our trees not shed a layer of their own skin? And so it is- in those moments when I am lost to the world’s adversity, my eyes and my heart search for answers in the accomplishments of those who have come before me and overcome the challenges common to our controversial existence. Their fight, my inspiration.
As I sit here, it has occurred to me that the reason I search history for inspiration, is that of all the black (African) women in my life at present, not enough of them inspire me. They suffer in silent acquiescence; good wives clinging to a misinterpretation of love and loyalty. They raise their daughters to beware of glass ceilings, but refuse to be the sledgehammer that shatters society’s boundaries. They give up their careers and ambition to assume roles beneath their qualifications, even though they have the capacity to raise the bar in the industry of their choosing. And even in exceptional circumstances when they hold positions of power, they neglect to leave the pavement lit for those who follow; they treat who should be their greatest allies as competition. They are the definition of resilience and yet they refuse to rise too high or make strides too wide for the world to digest. They are heroines waiting patiently for a signal. They are witnesses to their own anti-climax. They accept expiry dates on their worth even though their value in this world is immeasurable. And yet if you ask they will speak of hope forgetting they were once a symbol of its meaning. And if you beg they will make promises of change without acknowledging their abandonment of its attempt at reality. And if you capture a still image of them they will smile for you, even if they’re dying inside, they will smile. Not in hope that a history book will print their portrait on happy pages, but more so that they themselves can verify they are alive, however dormant their being.
If only they knew who was watching and listening to them devalue themselves. If only they could see what they are passing on by subscribing to complacency. Or perhaps it should be me that wonders- what am I actively choosing to inherit, and what do I desire to pass on? No one can convince me that the life of a black woman is not the most challenging to live. If the world is not weighing our beauty on a biased scale, black men continuously fail, abysmally, to play a suitable role in our empowerment. When we find a voice, we’re accused of being combative. When we demand egalitarianism, we’re accused of inciting gratuitous noise. When we redefine our standards we’re accused of duplicitous radicalization. When we express ourselves, or love too hard, we are seeking attention. So, we will be scrutinized. So long as our hair has the ability to lock and our skin shares the shades of brown earth, so long as our voices carry and our convictions are substantiated by strength. I think that this is one of the sources of our resilience- knowing that we don’t make the cut- but showing up anyway. Showing up strong.
That is the black woman I want as my inspiration. The kind that shows up- and shows up strong.