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Picture This … A Legacy of Self-Care

The challenges to the change that I want to see are not rooted in any institution within the U.S. They are not challenges that we have to go to the government to march or petition about. They are challenges that lie within the mind of every black woman in America that may have uttered or thought the following:

“I’m a strong black woman, this is what I do. If I don’t do it, I’m considered weak and I am definitely NOT weak. Strength is in my blood.”

“I’m not crazy! I don’t need counseling!”

“Depressed? Black women don’t get depressed, thats for white people.”

“I got Jesus, and He’s all I need – not therapy.”

HOW CAN THEY ASK FOR HELP WHEN THEY DON’T KNOW THEY NEED IT?

Convincing black women that there is strength in vulnerability is not an easy feat. Showing them that accepting help and support from someone is an excellent way to experience love would take a change of heart, mind and spirit. The change that I see is a transformation in the way that black women think and their perspective of their place in the world. It would require that they admit that the level of responsibility that they believe they have is excessive and impossible to meet while remaining whole.

I combat the myth of the strong black woman and the idea that the responsibility that they take on (without boundaries) is causing them mental and physical disease by simply to them. I listen attentively and ask questions to make them think about the consequences of the choices that they make. I do work that facilitates self-love, unconditional love, asking for and receiving help and support. Most of the women that I work with are aware of the myth’s affect in their lives. However, I need to reach the women that don’t know and aren’t convinced.

Dismantling this myth has to become a movement. This is precisely where PulseWire and other online communities can be a catalyst to bombarding black women with the information necessary to transform their thinking and perspective of who they are in the black community and society at large. Social media and online communities have a way of appealing to people in their quest for information through anonymity. It would afford those women that are unsure about exposing very personal information to a live (face to face) group the opportunity to share with a group that offers a liberating platform through some form of anonymity. Real work and real relationships can and would develop once the initial insecurity dissipates after several on-line meetings.

This has to become a movement of women that are willing to develop the habit of taking care of themselves so that one day, taking care of yourself becomes a legacy for ALL women.

Comments

Mei Li's picture

cheers

When I was working with women, facilitating poetry workshops, we focused extensively on mythology and how it has influenced them as American women. It was amazing to encourage a conversation that enabled them to truly look at the myths we have here, that they had cultivated about themselves and who they were meant to be.

I wanted to write so much about self-love too. I think in America, for all women, this is a priority. I learned yesterday that there is a new hormone that women are injecting themselves with that cuts off their appetites. There is so much time and money, self-loathing, and mis-perceptions of self that enable going along with these things.

I'm curious about the institution comment though. I know it begins with self-love and helping that become the legacy of all women - but you live in the US too, when/if you watch television how many images are thrown at you? How many billboards do you see with half-naked, skinny, blond women? How many black people are only portrayed most of the time if they are light-skinned?

I don't have cable or even a tv that gets channels because I couldn't look at it anymore. I was so sick of thirty-second clips telling me about what a woman needs to do, be, buy, look like, how she should act. So, how do we reach women when so much of what is causing this has to do with huge corporations, multi-national companies, and corrupt politics? I know it is possible, because I de-programmed myself through truthful education, practicing yoga and learning to love my body exactly how it is and honoring it at every moment - no matter what - and then going through teacher training so I could teach other people the same aspects of self-love through yoga. What I found is that it really helps when people slow down..when they were in my class they had no choice, I helped them melt into themselves and when they stepped onto their mats they were agreeing to be with themselves for an hour and a half. That time is so critical. Self-reflection leads us to self-love, I think.

Your assignment reminded me of Alice Walker's In Search of Our Mother's Gardens. She talks about how spiritual and creative black women's great great grandmothers were, even if they didn't realize it, and often times the creative part was oppressed because they were purposefully kept illiterate - but they couldn't take their voices from them. She writes,

"How was the creativity of the black woman kept alive, year after year and century after century, when for most of the years black people have been in America, it was a punishable crime for a black person to read or write?And the freedom to paint, to sculpt, to expand the mind with action did not exist. Consider, if you can bear to imagine it, what might have been the result if singing, too, had been forbidden by law. Listen to the voices of Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, and Aretha Franklin, among others, and imagine those voices muzzled for life. Then you may begin to comprehend the lives of our "crazy," "Sainted" mothers and grandmothers. The agony of the lives of women who might have been Poets, Novelists, Essayists, and Short-Story Writers (over a period of centuries), who died with their real gifts stifled within them," (Walker, 234).

Do you think, at least partially, that Walker's excerpt reflects what the phrases you are speaking of have been born out of?

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

mariposa's picture

cheers, to you!!!

thank you, Mei Li, for your comment. I do agree with you about how much we are bombarded, by the media, that we do not fit in the definition of beauty, successful, worthy, accepted, the list goes on ... These issues do contribute to a woman's worth all over the world, especially in America. They media does have a role in stifling women's voices and talents because they believe that if they do not live up to what is projected in the media, they are not enough. The excerpt of In Search of Our Mother's Gardens that you quoted is a testament to that, thank you.

My work and research on the myth of the strong black woman has awakened me to just how much black women internalize their roles and most of the things that they do are subconscious. They are not aware that they are sacrificing themselves for someone else. They are not aware that they are over-eating because they are taking on someone else's pain and do not have an outlet. They are not aware that they are stressed because they have to live double lives and are not sure when to turn one off and one on. The change that I see begins with them realizing that their minds have a tremendous amount of power. I want them to realize that It is the mind and how they are processing their lives that is causing them to be physically sick - somatization. Once we get to the point of realizing that, I think that the possibility of healing and forming better habits is endless.

I really appreciate your comment. It helped me to see things from a different perspective. I will definitely refer back to the excerpt from In Search of Our Mother's Gardens for future reference.

You are appreciated.

mariposa

Peace and ... Bliss,
Restorer of Peace

vyarie's picture

Hi!

Hi Mariposa,

It appears that you have gone far past the superficial in diagnosing the true problems with female empowerment in America. It is inspiring to see someone who is working towards real change, a far cry from the band aid approach that is commonly seen. Many people could learn from your writing and form your knowledge. I hope that you continue to participate in the World Pulse community.

Regards,
Vanessa

mariposa's picture

thank you

Aaahhh Vanessa! Thank you for the acknowledgment! I am clear that this work is my purpose because it affects the quality of our lives. We can be 'stronger' (this work has made me see strength in a totally different light), healthier, have better relationships. I am committed to guiding women to recognizing this dysfunction and equipping them with the tools to live complete lives. I'm excited about it and I know that it can be done!
What are you passionate about?
Do you have any experience with the myth of strong women???
Mariposa

Peace and ... Bliss,
Restorer of Peace

antoniamichaela's picture

Thank you

Wow; I found your piece here very real, and your clarity of vision on what you want to do to tackle further the situation of internalized oppression amongst black women in USA is very impressive. As a white woman, I notice the depth of (and myself still participate in) internalized oppression amongst white women, and for black women that burden must be double, since you face the oppression of racism as well as sexism and patriarchy. I really admire what you are doing to work towards awakening other black women to taking care of themselves. I was reminded when reading your piece by a book, "When Chicken-Heads come home to roost" by Joan Morgan, which explores several of the issues you mentioned, and is also seeking to convince black women that there is strength in vulnerability. I wonder if you know it.

I learned a lot from reading this, thank you, and very best of luck. Love.

Antonia

mariposa's picture

Thank you, Antonia!

Thank you for your comment. The issue of self-care is something that, I think, most women (regardless of race) struggle with because we are vey often taking care of others. And, like you intimated, it is woven within the fabric of our culture to ensure that we continue to take care of ourselves last, if at all. This must change and I believe that it can start with me. Thank you for referring me to Joan Morgan's book. I read it a while back and need to refer to it again. I am sure that I will have a different perspective once I pick it up again.

Thank you,
mariposa

Peace and ... Bliss,
Restorer of Peace

Kim Crane's picture

inspiring

It is so hard to tap into the power of that message "take care of yourself" when it is either drowned out by contradicting cultural messages (as you described in your post) or co-opted by companies that target women in order to sell products ("you are worth it!"). As a white woman I can't speak to the particular challenges that black women face. I do believe that we all deserve a community that will listen to us and support us in getting past the myths that hold us back. I loved your ideas for using Pulsewire to create such a community to address this issue. I hope you will continue to use PulseWire to further your inspiring work!

All the best,

Kim

mariposa's picture

we are one ...

Kim,

What I am so excited about in terms of finding this community is that there is sooo much that I can learn from women all over the world! As I learn and grow, I have discovered that we are all one. When you strip away geography, culture, language, socioeconomic status, race, religion ... we are women. And I believe that there are some things that are just part of being a woman. As women, we think more of others than we do ourselves. It's within our nature to want to make sure that the people that we are in relationship with are better off for knowing us. Its a beautiful gift! This gift manifests itself in different ways according to geography, culture, language, socioeconomic status, race religion and we have to learn how to use it so that it benefits ALL of us - women included. :) That is what I want to work on accomplishing - establishing boundaries so that everyone involved will live better, fuller lives.

Thank you for your comment and encouragement!

mariposa

Peace and ... Bliss,
Restorer of Peace

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