Black women and girls are facing serious problems, and the entire black community (and by “black community” I am referring to the collective of black people, not an actual physical community) has it’s own set of problems to deal with. For those of us concerned about black women and girls, and black people in general, there is a question of just how much each of us can, should, and is willing to be tasked with in order to help black women and girls out of their specific predicament.
The blogmistress of What About Our Daughters is doing a series on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People–a book written by Steven Covey–that I would suggest you all check out. One of the habits pertains to differentiating between your circle of influence and your circle of concern; the gist of the story is that we should focus our time, energy, and other resources on those people, places, and things that are in our circle of influence, where we can often have an immediate and long-lasting effect, rather than to spend an exorbitant amount of our emotional energy worried about problems we have little to no control over, the circle of concern. This is not to say that you should stop caring about those problems that you cannot immediately correct; the point is to ask yourself where it would be best for you to invest your resources and direct your thoughts–the circle of influence or the circle of concern? And, if you find yourself perpetually worried and upset over people and situations over which you have little control, perhaps you should begin to reflect on why you have granted so much control over your thought-life to those people and situations.
As all of this relates to black women and girls: How much of our resources should we be directing towards efforts to improve the lives of black women and girls? Personally, I read books, and then if those books were good resources that I think would improve the thought processes of other black women I pass the books on to another black women. I have (partially) read and then passed off Getting Played: African American Girls, Urban Inequality, and Gendered Violence by Jody Miller; also, I am currently reading The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–and How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay. My plan is to write a review for this blog on The Defining Decade–because I think it is an excellent book and that many of the young and not-so-young black women here could benefit from reading–and then I intend on passing it off to another black women who I think would get a lot out of it.
At this point in my life, I do what I can with what I have to help black women and girls. However, full-time activism is not a career I aspire to. My plan over the next year includes school, travel, and working on my personal life. I am not going to put my life, dreams, or goals on hold until all black women everywhere or all black people everywhere are living in abundant life. Many of the problems that plague black women and girls are so entrenched that even if those of us who are living comfortable, financially secure lives were to make improving the lot of black women our full-time gig it would still take decades to see any real change. Thus, I believe that telling black women or girls to put their own lives and self-improvement on hold in order to wait and work on ‘change’ would be a waste of time.
For those who do care about the collective problems of black people–those of black men, black women, or the black community in general–it is possible to skin more than one cat at a time. There is no need to wait on everything to fall into place before you start working on the issue of particular importance to you. There is no need to build a hierarchy of who is worse off–black men or black women–and then have a long protracted fight over whose needs should go first. Just pick an issue that is important to you and then work on solving that issue within your circle of influence.
If you are someone who claims to care about the well-being of black women and girls, what activities do you take part in to advance the interests of black women? Do you think that there are certain issues individual black women should address before working on larger, macro issues?
Jamila Akil is a Senior Editor at Beyond Black and White. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilaakil.