Grateful to share another #dearblackgirl letter with you from this first wave of women who offered to share their hearts and stories with us. We can’t wait to receive your #dearblackgirl letter today! For #dearblackgirl submission guidelines visit our Get Involved page.
Dear Black Girl,
“How do you get your hair like that? You must be mixed”. “So how exactly did you get that job?” “Why were you selected for that leadership position?”
The above are just a handful of questions I have been asked in the course of my life. There is definitely not enough space for me to detail all the odd and sometimes borderline offensive questions that have been posed to me. When I think about what it means to be a black girl in America – my mind is immediately bombarded with a myriad of images. But before I get too far along, let me start by sharing a story that first enlightened me that I was a black girl in America.
I was just about 13 years old. Now you may be saying to yourself, how did you just come to realize you were a black girl at age 13? Well, I always knew I was a black girl – but prior to 13 I didn’t think there was anything unusual or out of place about that. Up until that point in my life, I had been surrounded by a very diverse and culture rich family; the community in which I lived was also diverse; and the school was chock full of brown and black faces with sprinkles of white as well. Nevertheless, at the age of 13 I was uprooted from what was familiar to me up until that point. The junior high school I was attending was not necessarily the most productive environment and my parents made a decision to transfer me to a private catholic school. Not just any ol’ private catholic school – but a predominately white (ok, I’m being generous – 90% white) all girl catholic school.
Now at that time, I received this as the worst possible punishment my parents could have ever imposed upon me! And to top it off my older siblings were in favor of this decision. I could not imagine what I could have done to receive such a horrendous punishment. Well, let me honest here – the decision to transfer me to this school came soon after I had my first physical fight at school. So yes, I was not completely innocent – but it was only one fight! At the young age of 13, I did not understand the rationale of their decision – but sitting here today at age 35 – I am forever grateful for the decision made by my parents and siblings.
Nevertheless, my transfer to this school was a culture shock for many reasons. I was one of a handful of minorities (minorities meaning black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian etc). Most of the other girls came from pretty wealthy neighborhood and families. Everyone followed traditions and were a part of a faith that was unfamiliar to me. Moreover, both the teachers and students looked at me as if I was the odd one. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel confident…I left like my language was unrecognizable to others…I felt like I was worth less than those around me…I began to question my place in the world and how I could possibly fit it. Despite those above-mentioned feelings…my experience there actually provided me with a solid foundation. If it were not for that culture shock – I most certainly would not be the black woman I am today.
Being a black girl in America comes with what some would say many negative connotations. Rather than me focusing on those, please allow me to share some positive and uplifting notions that have been imparted on me by the black women of my family, friends, mentors and other positive supports. Black girls (women) are: strong, durable, intelligent, diverse, unique, patient, caring, powerful, tenacious, steadfast, complex, rich and beautiful. Those are just a handful of our wonderful qualities. See, as black girls we do have to endure a lot – but that is also what uniquely positions us for such greatness. We are contending with many social ills, stigmas and stereotypes that sometimes make us want to give up. And believe me, like the story I shared above I have encountered many situations where I have been doubted, questioned or was straight up told “you don’t belong here”, “you cannot achieve this”, “you are not worthy”. But guess what? Words like that is just fuel to my fire – they ignite me and allow me to push forward.
So my dear black girl, please know you are destined for greatness, you are destined to be whatever your heart contends, you are duly positioned to combat any adversity that comes your way – and in the great words of Nikki Giovanni, “deal with yourself as an individual worthy of respect, and make everyone else deal with you the same way”.
With heart-filled regards,