Thursday, December 18, 2014

Black Women and Our Limitations of Strength : The “Figure it out Yourself” conundrum.

By J. Naomi Johnson

We all heard about it. The news hit heavy. “Titi Branch, co-founder of Miss Jessie’s hair care line, dead at age 45.” Julee Wilson,

As shocking as that was to the entire natural hair community the cause, an apparent suicide due to asphyxia, was even more alarming.

Besides feeling that the Black community had been robbed of yet another innovative powerhouse many were left wondering how and why this could have happened. Why would someone so beautiful and successful feel that this was the final option and that there were no other choices? We may never have that question answered but the many articles, Twitter post and online blogs all point to depression as the culprit. Some post even included contact information to suicide prevention hotlines.

But is providing the info for help going cure the problem? Although helpful, the answer is no. “Many African American women do not seek treatment because it is viewed as a personal weakness, not a health problem.” National Alliance on Mental illness,

How many times have we been told to be strong when faced with adversity instead of being offered an answer? How many times have you been told that it will pass and to have faith instead of given a viable option to solve the problem? Often, being told to be strong is a passive aggressive way to being told to suck it up and deal with the situation never really gaining the resolution or support we need. Black Women: Your strong, you will figure it out yourself.

The common misconception that strength and perseverance are the same thing is cliché. Strength is the measurement of one’s current state. Anybody can be strong but not everyone is successful in using their strength to overcome obstacles. Whereas to persevere is to “to continue doing something or trying to do something even though it is difficult.”

What does this mean? It is simple: Your strength can fail you but perseverance will not.

Black Woman, you must persevere!

Since slavery that is what we have been doing. We have had to be our own solution. We have had to figure it out ourselves and although it has helped us to persevere it has had severe side effects. Depression is one.

When does it stop? We need help. We need a solution. We need action. Not to be told to build a bridge and get over it. Not to just be strong and continue on. We need results. Damn it.

Although depression is a real issue, with Black Women leading the trend, the truth is Black Women are under attack and constantly at war. No one could walk a mile in our shoes and no one would want to. We don’t want to. We are at war with the masses, we are at war with our men, we are at war for our children and even worst we are at war with ourselves.

Shows that air on VH1 and Bravo such as Sorority Sisters and Real Housewives of Atlanta, respectfully, help to promote unruly behavior between us. Yet, we watch these shows critiquing the women we view on them while encouraging premeditated division in our social group. These shows also plant seeds within each of us. Seeds that inevitably will not cultivate the next generation of progressive Black Women. This is most devastating and disturbing because we are successful in numbers. Just recently we witnessed the power of large numbers in places like Ferguson and New York in response to police brutality.

Black Woman, we must win this war but in order to do that we have to battle depression, we have to protect ourselves from the exploitation and destructive media, we have to cultivate our families and make the best choice for prosperity and future generations. We must not be succumbed to a good time or getting “Two on” for the hell of it. We need a plan and I have some ideas that may help:

1. Shows that are not conducive to the efficiency of Black women have to be boycotted. In a TMZ video Al Sharpton stated, “Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains…the higher you go the whiter it is.” Although harsh, this is often the case. This creates misunderstanding of ethical obligation. What is virtuous to the executive is not to the Black Women who produce the high ratings for the networks. By not watching these shows you are effectively digging into the pockets of the advertisers and sponsors which cause them to not work with that particular network. A great example of this is with Kelcie McCrae who created a petition to cancel the VH1 show Sorority Sister’s.

2. We must have dialogue. We have to talk about it. We have to bring to light these issues and stand with each other often times being the support our fellow sister needs to lean on. When I was an intern with the Pan African Arts Society of Denver we worked with a group called Phenomenal Woman. This group met once a week to talk. That one meeting was the difference in many of those women’s lives. There are also many groups that support women on website like Those groups range from natural hair care to fitness. As Black Women we must utilize these opportunity to form close bonds and address issues.

3. Black women have to take an active interest in their health and practice actions that encourage a healthy lifestyle. I think this is the hardest because Black Women have so many societal obligations and roles. Often time is not an option and instead of going to the gym after dropping the kids off we have to go to work or back home to finish the laundry and so on. Start slow and take out time for you to focus on you. Pick up a activity or go for a walk or jog. Start slow and then increase when you’re ready and committed.

4. Don’t hide behind the mask. A good friend of mine would say, “You gotta love you first.” I love make-up and adding extensions to my hair for different looks just like the next girl but I keep in mind that those are additions to me. It does not benefit you to have a beautiful sew-in but damaged hair underneath and it is equally destructive to have a poor skin complexion under hordes of make-up. Make-up, weave and even expensive clothing are not you. Those things are just extra. At one point it will all have to come off and you have to face who you are in natural form. The more you do the more you give away to people. This is counterproductive because people already know what to expect of you. In other words, they know what you are about. This makes you a one dimensional character. A woman with no layers and boring. I don’t care how beautiful you are. Once people see you as boring they will start to lose interest. There should always be something left to “wow” the masses. Think in terms of your favorite car manufacturer, all the features are add-ons and not the engine. You can go without the add-ons the engine will always be there.

5. Make the right decision not the selfish one. I am completely guilty of this. This is a journey for us all. This goes for career and family life. Black Women at work can become competitive because of the lengths they have to go to break through that “glass ceiling”. One way to combat that is to form workplace support or mentor groups allowing for women to help develop each other for promotion and developing a semi-counsel to deal with or address issues within the organization. Large numbers and reach in different departments is always best.

6. Love each other more. Very simple call to action. Look at your sister as a vehicle for success and hope and show love. If you do this you will receive it. Tenfold.

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