Who Can I Run to When I Need All of the Above?

I remember, sitting and watching as the first woman became the Vice President of the United States, and I remember feeling this abundance of emotions not only because she was a woman but a woman of color. I watched as she gracefully took the stage, and I listened as she made the promise that she would not be the last woman in her position and definitely not the last woman of color.  A dream that seemed so out of reach for women of color was quite literally unfolding before our eyes. I reflected on her words about her mother and asked myself who do I run to when I need support and guidance and why do I run to them?

Strong, nurturing, independent yet dependable, confident, and powerful, are all words I have heard used to describe women of color. While I feel that we are all those things and more, one thing I feel is often missed or overlooked when speaking about black women, is that we are human. The world has gotten so used to seeing us as the first ones into battle and the last ones to come home when the war is over. As a young African American woman, I can say being a woman of color is more than a notion, especially in today’s climate. In the recent protests supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, I found myself constantly asking myself “am I showing up enough,” “am I posting enough,” “am I being the strong black woman I am expected to be?” Eventually, I found myself leaning on other black women for guidance and support.

I’ve always admired Black women who have more life experience than me, that recognize the weight of the job expected of us as women of color. I strive to learn from these women, considering their advice and how it  can pertain to my life. I prefer honesty and transparency from the women I admire , and for those women that make their decisions out of love, I admire even more. I feel that Black women have made struggling look so good and, in many cases, easier than it truly is. So, when I meet women who can be honest with me and speak truthfully about what it means to be a Black woman in America, I gravitate towards them. In today’s climate more than ever I feel young women of color need a role model that can provide them with spaces to fall apart, to get it wrong, and to try again, spaces in which we can be human. I’ve watched peers completely break down because they didn’t get it right the first time, or it was more overwhelming than expected. There is “no room for mistakes” and “they should be able to handle it” in their eyes, and many of us don’t ask for help. While being great, excellent, and always putting our best foot forward are all things that I can get behind and support; I don’t think we, as young women, are given the opportunity to get it wrong, or at least we don’t feel like we can. I can say having those safe spaces, where we can make mistakes, learn, fall apart, and put ourselves back together with the guidance of those who have come before us, makes all the difference as a young woman of color.

1 thought on “Who Can I Run to When I …

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Helen! K. Harris’ speech made me feel so emotional! I watched with my 6 and 4 year old. We felt like she spoke to each of us and were so proud to see a multicultural, strong, and brave woman stand in front of our Nation to represent us.
    I admire all these women who are not trying to be successful on their own but are taking all the people, especially women, with them to lift them up and empower them!
    As Victor Hugo said: “then they are those we come across, whom we barely know, who offer you a word, a sentence, give you a minute a half hour, and change the course of your life”. Keep growing to be that woman and touch people’s lives especially little girls from minorities to show them that we are capable of achieving bing things! YES! We can do it. And we ARE!

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