A Love Letter to My People
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
I wanted to write this post a few months ago. But every time I put pen to paper, my ink spewed nothing but frustration, anger, vitriol, venom. And that's not my M.O., so I gave my feelings some space and tonight I'm having another go at it— on the eve of the most high-stakes U.S. election of my life so far.
Elijah McClain. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. By early June, with record numbers hitting the streets in protest of the George Floyd murder, the onslaught of the 'muted and listening' hashtags, the back-to-back corporate apologies— it was all so much. For some of us, social media became an increasingly crippling space. I woke to a minefield of triggering posts and content every day, and the hypocrisy bandwagon of the Lea Micheles and Reformations in my feed spun me into frequent unbridled rage.
I tried a few times to rise to the ranks of my brothers and sisters who seized this moment as an opportunity to share their experiences with those finally willing to listen. Ripping open healed wounds in service of progress and anti-racist education, many of my brave friends managed to generate productive and practical plans for change. But for me, it was too much. With each attempt, I couldn't get past the stale irony of the oppressed tending to the oppressor; the heavy burden of Black people to guerilla educate on the violent bigotry of our nation for this new wave of "white enlightenment." I never posted my self-film on social media, ultimately deciding I'd find other ways to care for myself.
Screenshots from my never-shared #blm post
What helped me keep it together during those weeks, or who rather, was none other than the ultimate millennial auntie, Elaine Welteroth. Her Instagram feed was (and still is) a warm sanctuary of unencumbered light, profound mindfulness and 'guard your peace' imperatives. But it was one her reminders in particular that kept me afloat for the remainder of the summer. In short—
Black people, our joy matters.
My decision some years back to leave my job as a corporate lawyer and become an artist was not one I made lightly. No Black person who has ever clawed her way through spaces traditionally and overwhelmingly reserved for white people makes such decisions lightly. Frankly, I was never all that enchanted by what I studied across *seven* years of higher education, and it's safe to say I disliked law school (and that's putting it mildly), but whenever I came close to abandoning the track, I'd ask myself "if not me, then who?"
Representation matters. An Ivy League educated Black woman taking up space in a field where there's a less than a .1% chance of anyone looking like her matters. It tells every little black girl who dares to dream of holding that space that her dream is possible. And until we're no longer squinting to find women like me in those spaces, there aren't enough. True, I gained a lot in leaving my law firm. But it doesn't mean that choice didn't weigh heavily on my conscience. Is one less of me at the firm a step back for advancing my community? In the same way a win for one of us is a win for all of us, the setbacks ripple with powerful effect too.
Recently, a former university classmate of mine, (and similar to me, a daughter to Caribbean immigrants to the US), said of the experience of Black Excellence, "as unfair as it seemed, [my parents] taught me that the only way to avoid being dismissed because of my Blackness was to be absolutely perfect in everything I do." Ooof. That hit when I read it. Because that was my life. Got myself my two esteemed degrees. Years spent painstakingly studying topics I cared little for. By the time I got to practicing law, I was so mentally, emotionally, and spiritually depleted, that I routinely started the day disappointed that some undiagnosed illness hadn't suddenly taken me in my sleep.
Choose JOY for Celie. Choose it for Sofia!
It took me a while to come to terms with the importance of my joy, and it's value compared to living life to defy statistics.
When you exist in spaces that weren't built for you, sometimes just being you is the revolution.
- Elaine Welteroth
The pain, the frustration of that little black girl in the video atop this post, fighting for herself and her people through her tears, resonates for every Black person who has persevered in a hostile world. When the little girl's overwhelm begins to take over and she closes in on herself, a stalwart voice (presumably her mother or some parental figure) interjects through the congregation, commanding "DO NOT STOP!" I had parents like this, who themselves had to fight tooth and nail to rise from their circumstance, enduring extreme racism and bigotry with every hurdle, and I am grateful for them. But when this is the reality that little black boys and girls are born into, it's no surprise that joy continues to elude them; to them, joy is an expensive luxury reserved exclusively for white people who can afford it.
There is still much work to be done, but as we fight for ourselves and each other, we must continue to feed our light—basque in joy and claim it as what we deserve—for how can we feed each other if we are not fed ourselves? For me, embracing this notion has allowed for a transformative rebirth. A manifestation of the dreams of our ancestors, to be born into more peace, more joy, more freedom.
Oh, but my joy of today
Is that we can all be proud to say
To be young, gifted and black
Is where it's at
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Aquarius Rising is an account of what love looks like
when you consciously choose it for yourself.
Find me on instagram: @aniseology