black and a woman

sarah duval

To be black and a woman  Often times means being too big, bright, or bold for other people’s consumption  People will project their insecurities onto you with ease  Before you can even open your mouth to speak  You’ve already become a caricature of a person  That you’ve never met and neither have they  But she’s scary, and doesn’t smile enough, and speaks too loud for their liking 

To be black and a woman  Means chipping away at yourself  To fit into white spaces Making yourself palatable to the masses You soften your voice

So as to not be perceived as aggressive You code switch when talking to professors You smile at strangers To minimize the threat your existence poses You try to shake the feeling that you don’t belong on this campus  But confederate flag posters woven with cotton  Don’t make you feel at home 

To be black and a woman  Means people encounter you with perceived notions about what it means to be black and a woman  They want you to fit into the box they’ve crafted for you so tenderly  They’ll interrupt your sentence to tell you about your own experience  They’ll ask you what it’s like to be you But your answers fall on closed ears  They’ll demand answers to their questions  What are black parties like?  Why can’t white people say the N word?  Why can’t black people be racist?  Questions you’re too tired to answer 

To be black and a woman  Means spending a year and a half  At a predominantly white university  And still not being comfortable in white spaces  Whiteness and wealth have always been unchartered waters  They remind you of how much harder you’ll have to work to make it in this world  And by making it you don’t mean landing a position at Daddy’s law firm  Making it is paying off your student loans by 30  Owning a cute cat  Maybe having a kid  Taking care of your parents the way they always have for you  You learn quickly that you’re not like your peers  Your family doesn’t own a house in Nantucket Your grandparents didn’t vote for Donald Trump  And you have nothing to fall back on if you fail at this institution 

To be black and a woman  Means you’re not allowed to show weakness  A mask of strength and resilience etched to your face  You watched your mother create a home within herself for others  Carry the weight of the world on her shoulders -  To this day, you’ve never seen her cry  So at 14 when sadness starts to eat away at you each night  You think there's something wrong  You learn to bury your depression before it buries you  And that no one will notice that you’re anxious if you carry yourself with grace  People can’t know that it hurts to get out of bed  So put yourself together like you always have  And carry on 

To be black and a woman  Means membership to a vibrant community of other black women  Who will lift you up when you’re feeling low  Who will help you take out your box braids on a Saturday morning  Who will listen to you tell the story of your assault at 3 am on a Tuesday night  Who will dance to Solange with you in the living room of your apartment  Who will tell you when you’re wrong  Or when you should reconsider, going over that guy’s house, texting your ex you miss her  A community of black women you can talk political theory with  Or start a mosh pit on the boardwalk with  A community of black women who make it easier to be black and a woman  Who help you embrace the skin you’re in

To be black and a woman Means actively deconstructing societies image of you What does it mean to be beautiful Is beauty of any value?  Your hair doesn’t fall like there’s does  Your nose is wide like your grandmother’s There’s no avoiding who you are  Self preservation must come at any and all costs  You remind yourself that you are capable  That if your ancestors could, you can 

The black women before you  Breathed you into existence  Resistance and resilience will pave the way

Sarah is a junior in the School of Public Affairs majoring in CLEG and Spanish Studies. On campus, she is involved with AUSG Women’s Initiative, the Black Pre-professional Society, and the President's Council on Diversity and Inclusion. She is passionate about justice, unity, and self-care. Her art is inspired by her identity, relationships, and family history.