I am sure my Jamii SiSTARS were expecting a profound academic piece to start off the New Year, 2021. But, they told me I could choose my topic and it didn’t have to be in my area of expertise. I’m a scholar-activist and a Professor of Sociology at Virginia State University. Surely there is plenty to write about-being delivered from a year- 2020- that most would soon forget about, and all. We all have struggles, but imagine the common struggles that we all share – a pandemic (I dare not speak its name), lockdown and alienation from our human social bonds, shortages, financial and political crises, and the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that tipped the iceberg and inspired international resistance. I mean all of that would inspire thought from all of the roles that I fill. There is a point of analysis from my role as a scholar, an activist, a professor, and a sociologist. Hell, being the first to “come out the Jamii gate,” I should come out blazing, right?
Well, I’m not, because while I realize that we have symbolically crossed into another year, the residue of 2020 is still upon us, and I realize that it sticks a little thicker depending on your location within society. Who is us? Us is my Black and Brown SiSTARS who are holding it down-who have been holding it down-enduring the added weight of all of the baggage that got piled on top of our professional roles, our familial roles, our community roles, and the burden of the silent, yet stiflingly bonding, interlocking oppressions of race, gender, class, sexuality, religion, motherhood, cultural affiliation, caretaker status, age, and our general status as “the other” without flinching, without a complaint. I am talking to my selfless SiSTARS right here.
Why you ask? Because I want to know the last time someone asked you how YOU were doing? No, not the everyday greeting, but really asked and cared about how you are doing? Even more deeply, I want to know when was the last time you asked yourself how you were doing? When the New Year came in, did you take inventory—emotional, spiritual, physical, mental inventory? During the “break,” did you sit your ass down and enjoy stillness? Did you calm your mind, feel your emotion, connect with yourself, outside of your purpose and this work? Did you ask for help? Did you accept help? Take time to lick your wounds, or even feel your wounds? Unpack the baggage and give people back their shit to make room for your own? Or when the New Year came in did you welcome it symbolically without releasing and cleansing?
And the reason why I ask these very relevant questions is because my answer is to each of them is no, and I know most of yours will be no, too. You see I know how we roll. I see y’all beside me on the battlefield every time I am on it. So, this will not be another academic piece. This piece is for you. It’s called “Self Care.”
Our divine purpose keeps us grinding
And it’s almost as if the peels from the grind give us strength
We eat adversity and it seems to nourish our connection
Got people gazing at us in amazement asking, how did they do it.
They hit us with their blows-trying to silence us
We chew them up and when we spit
We spit truth, fiyah, affirmation, lessons.
We take bullets to the heart, bleed tears
Still we rise
After all, we still got work to do
And we know, no one can do it better than us.
That thought keeps us alive – thriving.
And because they see us in the light
They don’t recognize our vulnerabilities
Because we don’t let them show.
We often work in the background, because the spotlight is
Not what we seek
watching others Stand in our spotlights
misperceiving our silence as being weak
And instead of being angry, we smile
Because we know, we are the backbones in every struggle
Our foremothers taught us that.
Maybe not a thank you
Maybe not a certificate
Maybe not a mention
Maybe not a trophy
Maybe not even an I see you.
But we keep grinding anyway-selflessly.
I am writing this to let you know
That I thank you
I speak your name
I love you
And most of all …
I SEE YOU!
And if no one has told you yet
I appreciate you in all of your light.
It shines beautiful and illuminates your Crown
So take a moment Sis
Inhale and exhale
Speak your own name
Take your own place
Remove that excess weight
And when the struggle gets too heavy
Know that it is o.k.
To Take a break—
The struggle ain’t going nowhere,
So it’s alright to give yourself permission to…
Remember “self care, self care, self care…”