Where are Black Women and girls safe?
Who comes to see about us, except for us?
Does Jesus weep for Black girls being harassed on bus stops, assaulted in homes, misunderstood in schools, and forgotten in churches?
Does God cry when Black women die?
During Jesus’ ministry he came to the home of a dead girl. He enters the home and takes the girl gently by her hand saying, “Talithia, koum!”, which means “Little girl, I say to you get up!” (Mark 5: 41-42)
This can be taken as but one signifier of God’s (through the person of Jesus) attention to Black girls and women.
We are called to be the hands and feet of this Jesus, who gave care, healing, life, and restoration to this girl.
Jesus weeps with us as he did with his friends, both Women of Color, at the death of Lazarus (John 11). But he doesn’t just weep. He acts. He brings life from death.
So if God not only weeps but acts, what are we doing?
News flash, Black women and girls are dying. I am not only speaking to the threat of physical death but to all the kinds of death that Black women and girls die. To be a Black woman or girl often means becoming intimate with the realities of violent cishet patriarchy.
Moments after I sat with one of my best friends, also a Black woman by the riverside. We were partly in disbelief and at the same time not surprised. Black girls and women are on fire.
The reality is that Black women and girls have been burning for some time now.
Breonna Taylor would have celebrated her 27th birthday a few weeks ago. Instead, there is an ongoing fight not just for justice, but to keep her name in the wave of discourse around Black life and death.
Breonna’s murder in her own house and bed while sleeping echoes loudly the often deadly plight of existing as both Black and girl/woman. Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau faced intersectional violence that is harrowing to even read about. Althea Bernstein is recovering from burns on her body, imagine the scars on her heart.
So often churches contribute directly and indirectly to the harm Black women and girls face. Now is not the time to avoid conflict or attempt to return to “normal”. In fact, a return to normal co-signs with the suffering of Black girls and women.
Normal means that Black women will continue to die during childbirth at skyrocketing rates. Normal is the slaughter of countless Black trans women. Normal is 1 in 4 Black women experiencing sexual assault before age 18.
Normal is deadly for Black women and girls.
Putting the fire that is a constant assault on the lives of Black women and girls out must become paramount. To this current cultural moment, to our movements, and to our faith communities. And putting the fire out extends long past protests and shared Instagram posts.
If you are a black woman or girl this is a battle cry for us. This my love letter to you as a sibling in the struggle. If you love Black women and girls this is a call to action.
First things first, Black girls and women matter.
We matter. And we matter to God. All of us. Cis. Trans. Queer. Straight. Fat. Thick. Nerdy. Skinny. Hood. Quirky.
“I am black and beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon”(Song of Solomon 1:5 NRSV).
Here a woman speaks not only to her physical being but also to the reality of sin and other darkness on her being. I want to challenge us not to look at this solely from the eyes of condemning the presence of “darkness”.
Instead, let us look at this text with eyes that allow us to affirm the beauty and worthiness of Black women despite the darkness of systematic violence and oppression constantly imposed on our bodies, minds, and spirits.
Despite it all, the woman in the Song of Solomon is beautiful in the eyes of Christ, her Maker.
Society often chooses to affirm the presence of the respectable, fair-skinned, middle and upper class, and educated Black women and girls. Perhaps because this is easier and more proximal to our White-dominated society.
That said, the passage in the Song of Solomon is both good news and an indictment for all of us to create a world in which all Black girls and women can live freely.
Black girls and women are worthy of an abundance of love, care, freedom, and safety.
We show Black girls and women that they matter when we fight for the world in which this becomes a reality. A story about a Black male surgeon rebraiding his Black woman patient’s hair has recently surfaced. The surgeon paid particular attention to his patient’s braids even to the point of his incision.
Not only does this point to the need for culturally responsive and patient-centered healthcare, this is but one example of the love, care, freedom, and safety that all Black women and girls deserve.
We deserve it from Black doctors, White doctors, and all doctors.
We deserve it from all hairstylists.
We deserve it from all lawyers.
We deserve it from all Pastors.
We deserve it from every professional and every co-worker.
We deserve it from family, friends, and lovers.
We deserve it from you. Yes you. You reading this article… we deserve for you to understand our culture, our needs, and show up for us.
There is no prerequisite for this, no requirements or checkboxes.
We deserve this because Black girls and women are an expression and creation of the divine.
To erase, exploit, and harm us is to sin against the God who created us as both dark and lovely.
Black girls and women are tired.
Fannie Lou Hamer once said that she was” Sick and tired of being sick and tired”. Right now this is the battle cry of countless Black girls and women. It is exhausting to navigate a world in which your identities render you generally unprotected and unsafe.
We have had countries and movements built on our backs for centuries and we are as human as we are resilient, “strong”, and magic. It is past time that our dignity and humanness be consistently affirmed.
The trope of the strong black woman can and will kill us if we let it. We deserve so much more.
As an organizer, it is always daunting how people refuse to show up for Black women and girls in protest, but also more broadly. This phenomenon is so often the opposite of the ways we show up for others. On top of that, when we choose to name this we are condemned and even shunned.
Showing up for us looks a lot of different ways, but is absolutely essential. We need folks showing up for us in classrooms, churches, and streets, STAT.
Stop stealing our lives and livelihoods.
Just a few weeks ago John Gray attempted to erase the work of Latasha Morrison, Founder of Be the Bridge by launching Become the Bridge. When confronted, Gray issued what he called an apology and received support, including from his Black woman followers. This incident with Gray is but one example of how the work of Black women is stolen and erased and it must stop today. So much can be said about the harm that comes to us, but at the end of the day, the most important word right now is, stop.
For decades now, Womanist scholars in the wings of our foremothers have pointed to how a society centering Black women and children is a freer society for all.
In Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology, Dr. Monica A. Coleman argues, “Salvation is the insurrectionary and revolutionary process of challenging the status quo and demanding equality and inclusion.” Protecting Black women and girls looks like demanding this equality and inclusion for them at all costs.
Demand that school districts stop suspending and expelling Black girls.
Demand that Churches and institutions do not support misogyny, homophobia, patriarchy. Stop giving your attendance and money to these places.
Demand justice for missing and murdered Black girls and women.
Have you asked the Black women and girls in your lives what makes them feel free, loved, and safe?
Notice that my question is centered on our experiences.
Additionally, don’t ask every Black woman and girl you know this if the depth of relationship is not there and be prepared for no answer or an answer grossly different than you expect.
A Non-Exhaustive List of Places/People/Things Offering Us The Healing We Deserve (Or Helping Us Find It)
A few resources for the people who love us, claim to love us, or want to love us better
Required Reading (once again not exhaustive)
Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by Adrienne Maree Brown
I Bring the Voices of My People: A Womanist Vision for Racial Reconciliation by Chanequa Walker-Barnes
Making a Way Out of No Way: A Womanist Theology, Dr. Monica A. Coleman
Parable of the Brown Girl: The Sacred Lives of Girls of Color by Khristi Adams
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movement by Charlene Carruthers
Don’t just read, find ways to creatively, and consistently invest in our work.
Yes, God cries when Black girls and women die. Every single time. Never ever forget it.