When I was in elementary school, I HATED February. It was Black History Month, and I was like the only black kid in most of my classes. It was the time when they made us watch those gut-wrenching film strips (yes; like from a projector!) with the po-po’s hosing away black folks like dog poop on the sidewalk. Inevitably, we’d see some girl getting spat on going to school in Montgomery, Alabama and I would get the question.
“Is that your mom?”
“Do you know her?”
“That girl kinda looks like you.”
If you grew up in the 80’s you know what I’m talkin’ bout.
As a kid raised in the 70’s and 80’s, I witnessed first hand the “New Black Woman.” She didn’t want to be a maid. Or a nurse. Or a teacher. She had her sights on her M.D. J.D., and XYZ. She read Essence and Ebony like she read the Bible. She wore an Afro and owned a black pic with a tiny little black fist on the handle. She watched Good Times, The Jefferson’s and Diff’rent Strokes. She had a velvet picture of Martin Luther King and black Jesus hung on her living room wall. While she had one foot into mainstream society through education and vocation, her other leg, boths arms, torso and head were still firmly entrenched in the black family, black culture, black love and black eyed-peas. She was a proud sister soldier, and raised her daughters to be the same. She loved her sons. But we can see how well that turned out, huh?
Downside was, she adapted aspects of feminsim–you know, the stuff about men, fish and bicycles that did not benefit her. She watched this commercial like it was a Sunday school lesson:
She worked from 6AM to 6PM and believed that bunk that kids were better off housed in institutionalized day care. She LOVED her black brothers to the point of near-blind worship. She worked herself almost to death trying to navigate within and out of the black community, and she took it on happily, because that’s how she was groomed from birth. She simply did not know any other way.
Fast forward to the 2000’s. New millenium, new woman. She’s the New, NEW Black Woman, and she’s shaking off all that baggage and starting, for the first time in the history of America, to live for HERSELF. le gasp! She charts her own course. She’s not just interested in getting her “edumacation” so she can go back to being a community mule. AND, she’s NOT getting an education out of FEAR of economic survival if she bears a child out-of-wedlock. She gets her education because she wants, no…DEMANDS success. She also demands to be seen as not a black woman, but simply a woman. She knows that she deserves and should expect that the her children have their father’s name, because he EARNED it when he married her. She knows that being feminine can be a most powerful sword to wield. She owns a passport as uses it. She selects men based on character, not color. She still cares about her community–after all, her family still lives there while she’s kicking it in the ‘burbs, she’s just no longer blood-letting to feed vampiric folks who want to suck her and her resources dry. She’s dedicated to discovering and exploitng her own unique beauty, not striving to look like White Barbie dipped in chocolate. She eats clean, cares about the environment, and exercises because she’s free from hiding behind a shield of fat. She embraces her hair and knows how to make it beautiful.
If you’re reading this and not rolling your eyes, you ARE the New, NEW Black Woman, and I’m happy as hay-ell to celebrate the history that you are writing right now.