10 years ago...I looked my cheating boyfriend in the face and said "I refuse to become a bitter black woman." It was a juvenile declaration. He didn't deserve to hear my aspirations. But it changed me. It gave me a challenge.
5 years ago I fired a young, white woman from an education program when she said that a parent had "Angry Black Woman Syndrome". She had "learned all about it in a college class. It is especially prevalent in Caribbean cultures." Well - in true angry black woman fashion - I fired her ass. Racism angers me.
This morning, I was reading The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. The mother was violently chastising Pecola, a little girl she helped and took into her home when she had nowhere else to go. Her angry words cut me deeply. Mostly because they were typical. Familiar. How could she be so mean? How can we be so mean?
So, I wanted to start a conversation about happiness, contentment and deep fulfillment. I've been on a search for it....to breath it...to wear it in my face... let it devour my day...spill out in my smile...live in my words.
I refuse to say that black women's anger is endemic, but I have to consider some real destructive patterns in my own life. This is hard to write, so please say "amen" in the comment section, if any of this rings true in your life. Here is a quick recap of my search for happiness...
Pattern #1: Happiness is truth. (my early 20s) I use to be a protester...the bull-horn girl in the quad in college. Now, I see these "truth crusaders" everywhere, wagging fingers at grocery store clerks, and telling girls at the beauty shop "the problem with Black folks". Like them, I thought I could force others to understand my truth! ...the truth of what happened to Black people, to women, to my family, to me...and then I could heal. But as the late Tupac Shakur said in Only God Can Judge Me (rest in peace brother), "Black power is what they scream as they dream in a paranoid state and their fate is a lifetime of hate!"
Pattern #2:Happiness is a love affair. (mid-twenties)I needed a man. I worked on my junk to get ready - I got an education, kept a sway in my hips, stayed up on world events....so that when I meet him...yes that one, the good looking, good smelling, good talking Black man... I'd be ready! The problem is that "that one" didn't came. "This fool" and "that fool" came instead ...men that clearly had NOT been "prepared" for me. I grew angrier. Even now, after finding a beautiful Black man to marry, I'm still healing from this chapter.
Pattern #3:Happiness is power. (late-20s) I worked so hard to be in charge. It was extreme. A woman on that power chase. It comes in many forms - we gain power through money, sex, violence...especially verbal violence like the mother in the book.
Pattern#4:Happiness is boundless service. (early-30s) You've seen it. Serve others. Feel good. Don't get enough in return. Keep giving. Silly decisions. Eye rolls. More sacrifice. Work harder. Prove worth. Feel emptier. Get bitter. Blame. My drug of choice was service to public schools. What's yours?
Pattern #5:Happiness is a daily choice. (now!) Patterns 1-4 didn't work. So, I'm trying this pattern on for size now. Everyday, I decide to be happy. It's my number one priority. A close second - being healthy. I tell you, a firm commitment to me- every decision, every day - makes a difference. I don't have it all figured out yet. I don't know that I ever will. But it feels good already. I am a rebel against unhappiness and all things unnatural. This poem inspires me. Maybe it will inspire you.
Revolutionary Dreams by Nikki Giovanni
i used to dream militant dreams of taking over america to show these white folks
how it should be done
i used to dream radical dreams
of blowing everyone away with my perceptive powers of correct analysis
i even used to think i'd be the one to stop the riot and negotiate the peace
then i awoke and dug that if i dreamed natural dreams
of being a natural woman
doing what a woman does
when she's natural
i would have a revolution
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