You never forget your first. I was late, my first was in 2007. But I haven’t stopped getting it since then. The following is my first piece, “Black Woman, Black Angel”.
-By Jontae Grace
Few women in the world have been forced at times to carry the burden of an entire nation on their shoulders. The Black American woman is one brilliant example. Throughout our four-hundred year history, Black American males have faced every conceivable form of physical, mental and psychological violence from a world that frowns upon Brown. In addition to these, our women also suffered unique punishments associated with their beauty and womanhood. And every time, it was our Black Female Angels who risked life and limb standing beside us in faithfulness, behind us in support, and leading us along peaceful paths with sound moral judgment. None of the social movements that we attribute to our Black male leaders would have succeeded if it were not for the scores of unnamed, faceless Black women who orchestrated and coordinated them.
In this patriarchal country in which women and men have traditionally held separate domains, African-Americans have provided a model (though not perfect) of gender equality that is often imitated, but never duplicated. Throughout U.S. history, Black women have been the driving force behind our social, political and economic progresses. I liken the Black Female to rich fertile soil, providing the nutrients needed for a tiny acorn to become a towering cedar. And like fertile soil, the Black Female is overworked and underappreciated. Yet life as we know it would cease if it weren’t for their presence. In addition to providing the priceless fruit of children and future generations, our heavenly ebonies also reproduce our social and cultural histories through their ever-important parental roles. Without that, our collective memories and self-identities would literally disappear in a generation or two.
It is important for us to cultivate and care for this plot of land that the LORD has been so gracious as to give us to tend. Yet some males and females have some weeds growing with us that we should uproot. Both of us have been deceived by an American Dream in which we are not intended to be part of. For males, our quest to salvage and assert our manhood which has been under constant assault has forced many of us to overcompensate and turn inward, imitating the same oppressive behaviors that we claim to be against. I, like many of my peers of this generation, are searching for elements of true manhood, which has rarely or never been taught us. I guarantee that one thing all Black males have heard from their Mothers is, “I can raise you and teach you right and wrong, but I can’t teach you how to be a man.” Oftentimes, the streets become like a surrogate family; other times, rap music provides much of the direction that young men lack. Then males have to sift through the wordplay to find underlying themes to put to use in our lives.
This is why we need strong, patient women to help us build healthy gender relations. Don’t spend all of your time waiting on a man when you can build one. Teach us and be an active participant in shaping the type of men that you want to see. Relationships are journeys shared between two individuals; growth and maturity is a part of the path. The most important thing that a female should know is to stop looking for a man with your eyes, and look with your heart. What is pleasing to the former is rarely the case with the latter. I asked my Grandmother, who just celebrated her fiftieth wedding anniversary, what she thinks is one problem between the sexes. She said without hesitation that females in her day just wanted to be loved; she mentioned that today’s woman has a laundry list of prerequisites that they measure men by. It’s good to have standards, she said, but it is important to know when you’re being unrealistic. Black males are like an endangered species, especially in higher education and professional occupations. Therefore a man who has reached the next level and demonstrated that he wants more outta life should be celebrated the same way black men celebrate sistas on campus. My Nana had some sharp comments about men also, and I totally agreed with her. But in conclusion, thank you Black Angel, because I wouldn’t be right here if you hadn’t been right there.
P.S. This note was a hella rough-draft. Please excuse my wandering thoughts, as this was more of a freewrite than a structured essay. Be blessed.