There’s about half an hour left of Black History Month as I type this, and I am determined to cling to each minute left, use it. I feel like I’ve been slightly MIA this month–a respite from writing, a sabbatical from marching, moments in shadowed corners away from the fray, where I hear my breath and hear my thoughts.
February has been such a pendulum month with peaked highs and such deep lows that I don’t know how to summarize it, so I won’t try to. I can’t fully articulate the soul-ache extended to my limbs, the way you wake up tired after a full night of slumber. Neither can I fully capture the heady joy that awakens, vibrates into being unexpectedly, and thrums new life into my fingers as they flex and I face a new day. It’s both of these coexisting realities I have known this month as I unravel my country to examine its threads and allow God to unravel me so I can be known.
But in these remaining minutes, I want to remember, that is, I want to pay homage to the blackness that birthed me and has also been part of the dual realities–the weariness and the vitality. I want to remember the black women who have seen me through seasons and those seasoned with years beyond my own.
I want to remember my Abuela whose stories pulled me to an island I had never seen and whose own story dared me to be a warrior like her, serenity and fortitude in the cocoa-brown of her eyes.
I want to remember my Grandmother Joan, whose patient brown hands could stir pitchers of brown-sugared lemonade, wave into the air with her bright, high laugh, or clasp my shoulder as she reminded me again that I belong to her, belong to family.
I want to remember my aunts, black, bold, laughing, loving, drawing us all in and together, Caribbean beats and earrings with afro-womened silhouettes.
I want to remember my mom, who gave me histories to interpret my existence, took me to Civil Rights museums and MLK’s fatal hotel, but also the grassy knoll in Downtown Nyack where she hosted picnics with me and my sister where we feasted on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; she gifted us innocence.
I want to remember the black girls of my childhood on my screen, the Tia and Tamera Mowrys and Kesha from The Magic School Bus and even Francine from Arthur (coded black) that showed me that I belong in so many spaces, even if then the screen didn’t show us in all of them.
I want to remember the women from graves long grassed over: Sojourner Truth with her blunt, fierce gaze, Harriet Tubman, Marian Anderson–whom I did my first biography book report about.
I want to remember the black women in my childhood church who mentored me, sang with me, and taught me to pray to a God that created all our colors and cherished us.
I want to remember the black sisters in my church now that give me the freedom to break apart but keep me from being forever strewn in pieces–who also let me be full and loud and unapologetic.
I want to remember my black friends in college who rinsed the product from my hair, invited me to discover my own blackness, and taught me how to be angry.
I want to remember the black women on YouTube who helped me love my curls.
I want to remember Maya Angelou, whose words taught my own to push past the wired walls of fear and self-consciousness that caged them and find the music freed beyond them.
I want to remember the singers of the blues, of the oldies, of Motown, that my 24-year-old soul still finds resonance with years later when I hear them sing of new love, endured struggles, and the sparkled, boogied happiness to be found in-between beats of a longer song.
I want to remember the black women I see protesting on the news, lecturing in white academic halls, preaching poetry in protest on a vacant stage–the ones who refuse to be made invisible and give me the courage to be seen.
I want to remember the black women whom I am friends with still, whom I weep on the phone with and rant on sidewalks with and dance to Beyonce and the Wobble and samba with (shout-out to all the Afro-Latinas out there!).
I want to remember the black women I have never known, but whose lives I feel the weight of with each step I take.
You will never be forgotten. With 2 minutes to spare, I’ve done my very small part in making sure of it.