Growing Into My Black Femininity

“Black women breathe flowers, too. Just because we are taught to grow them in the linings of our quiet does not mean we do not swelter with wild tenderness.

 We soft swim. We petal. We scent limbs. Love.

 We have been too long a garden for sharp and deadly teeth. So we grow ourselves into greenhouses.” — Nayyirah Waheed

Photo: Kelli Rad

Photo: Kelli Rad

I have never been just a woman, I have always been a black woman. In our society, these two things are rarely separated. When speaking about my gender, my race inevitably comes into play. When you look at me, I am the definition of every stereotype that many people are grateful that they are not. We are criminalized. Marginalized. Hyper-sexualized. We hold on our backs the weight of what everyone else wants us to be. We are put into boxes and constantly reminded that we are not worthy until we prove otherwise. 

 

I grew up wishing that I could be white. I was ostracized by many blacks because I spoke too properly, had opportunities that others didn’t and devoted my time to things that they deemed unnecessary. To white people I was always “not really black”, as if it was an honor to detach myself from the melanin in my body. I used to push conversations about race to the wayside, my coping method for my internal struggles as I tried to identify who I was and where I fit in.

 

In the recent years, I have been constantly exploring and embracing my black femininity. Learning what it’s like to have support by others who identify in the same way that you do. Exploring the truth that it is okay, that it's revolutionary; to be a black female that embodies her intelligence, grace, growth and self-expression. I’ve learned the importance of reclaiming space, unlearning what you’ve been taught for years and accepting who you really are.

 

I am a black woman, from every curve on my body to curly hair on my head. From my intellect to resilience, from my strength to my weaknesses. We should not be apologizing for who we are but instead, coming together to help one another actualize our dreams and become a generation of females that will pave the way for those to come. So that young black girls can grow up, not feeling as if they need to “be white” to be successful, or accepted or loved… but that they deserve all of those things, just as they are.