Tonight the 10th anniversary celebration of Black Girls Rock awards will debut on BET at 7 p.m. CDT. In honor of the ceremony I revisit an article I wrote for the November 2014 issue of B-Metro magazine.
You see an African-American girl bouncing through the aisles of your local supermarket donning a T-shirt that reads “Black Girls Rock,” and you’re offended. You want to approach her parents and ask how they would feel if your daughter wore a shirt declaring “White Girls Rock.” But you decide against it.
You believe that if your daughter did wear a “White Girls Rock” T-shirt, both she and you would be declared racists and you don’t think that’s fair. You think it’s a double standard.
Sometimes I feel as if I’m caught in a love triangle—writing and teaching both tugging at my heart. I was born to teach, but I didn’t realize this until after working in education for seven years. When I was a girl, I named all my dolls and other toys, arranged them in nice, neat rows in alphabetical order, and then launched into a lecture on whatever struck my fancy at the time. The classroom called me early in life, but I didn’t know it.
But I was also born to write. This I’ve known since the day I wrote my first poem. I was only 7 or 8 years old, so it was terrible, and I’m sure it included the line “Roses are red, violets are blue.” But it was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the written word. And it was this love that led me to study journalism. I had dreams of working for Essence magazine and one day starting a print magazine of my own.
But a career in education was still whispering in my ear, flirting with my future plans. In graduate school at UC Berkeley, I was a graduate student instructor, or GSI, and taught a communications class for undergraduate students. I was charged with breaking down the complicated concepts and theories the professor discussed in her lectures. I did such a good job that students assigned to other GSIs would ask to come to my class, willing to sit on the floor or stand in the back if there weren’t enough desks.
I applied for Teach for America. I was accepted by Teach for America. I turned down Teach for America. I had also been offered a job as a features reporter in a city that I loved with the man whom I love. Writing won my heart again…
Today as we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many of us will read, listen to or share quotes from King’s famous I Have a Dream Speech — as well we should. I made listening to his speech part of my morning devotional.
But there are many powerful words of wisdom from King that we rarely hear. A few years ago BuzzFeed compiled 17 Martin Luther King Quotes You Never Hear. Yesterday, I read through them again and there was one in particular that struck me:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde
Last year See Jane Write almost killed me.
I put so much time and effort into building See Jane Write into a business — while still teaching full time and taking care of family matters — that I often sacrificed sleeping, eating, and exercising for the sake of work.
And, of course, I got sick. Very sick. My body is still healing from all the damage done. But I’ve promised my body I will never hurt it that way again.
This year I promise to take care of myself and I’ve realized that to do so is a feminist act.