Category Archives: Dimensions of Black Womanhood

Through Thick and Thin

August 16, 2016

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I am on sip number one of Jack and Coke number two when he announces that he likes his women thick. And although I relinquished the inclination to knot myself in his frame awhile ago, the comment still stings my ears in a familiar fashion. I don’t like it. I try to brush it off and keep swaying to whatever the DJ is playing, but the words stick to my back like damp sweat under a dress on a hot summer’s night.

See, Black women are supposed to be thick. We’re expected to be thick. Our bodies are meant to swirl and curve and swerve and spiral in delicious and astounding ways. If they don’t do all of the above, we’ve somehow betrayed the norm and defied the preferred standard. Or at least that’s what I’ve learned and am now fighting to unlearn. That is what I’ve been told and am now working to untell myself. And, it is difficult to carve a new truth after years of the world force feeding you tablespoon after tablespoon of bullshit.

See, I’m learning that the gap between what Black women are “supposed” to be and all of the many things that we actually are is colossal and wide and deep and not quite close enough to being bridged.

I don’t want to write self-love anthems or body image anthems or any other anthems for that matter. I want to write the truth and serve it on the rocks. And the truth is my body does a lot less swirling and curving; it does a lot more standing straight. The truth is I’ve been known to settle in the mirror for a few minutes lifting my butt and fantasizing about what it would look like if it were “just a little bit bigger.” The truth is I am a ball of contradictions – a woman who urges other women to define themselves for themselves while still untangling her story from the raucous narration of Black men.

It is that narration that resounds every day while I fight to mold my own thoughts about the body I inhabit. It is that narration that crept up on me on Sunday afternoon in aisle 11 while I was simply trying to grab dishwashing detergent. It’s that narration that has made me an expert comedian when it comes to cracking jokes to my male friends about my less-than-rotund butt. It’s that narration that rolls off my tongue anytime I bop and sing Drake’s line, “And your stomach on flat flat/and your ass on what’s that.” It’s that narration that I am trying so hard to unhear after 26 years of letting it fill a few chasms in my self-esteem.

I would like to tell you that I am giving it all up–the appetite for validation, the listening ear to the body types I’ve heard Black men prefer, and the complicated relationship with my silhouette–but, that wouldn’t be quite true. Because most revelations about this life don’t come in singular Eureka moments or striking sweeps of the heart. The ways in which we grow up and unbind ourselves from the same shackles that shattered us are complex and unending, complicated and never quite complete. The ways in which we evolve and step into the fullness of ourselves are not nearly neat or seamless enough for the conclusion of a blog post.

There will be another moment when a Black man announces that he likes his women thick. I’ll still flinch on the inside. I’ll still wonder when it became kosher to stick the possessive pronoun “his” in front of an entire group of people. I’ll still grapple with drawing parallels between his statement and my view of my own body and womanhood. I’ll still be a mess of contradictions trying to throw away all of the puzzle pieces and reconfigure them the way I want. But, I will remember that I penned this piece and I hummed this hymn. I will remember that for a woman who has spent years writing her own story, it’s about time she started narrating it as well.

Xoxo,
Tyece

 

 

 

Dimensions of Black Womanhood: The Visionary and The Powerhouse

December 8, 2015

You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.–Shirley Chisholm

Tyece: The Visionary

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

The summer of 2011 tasted like cough syrup caked at the bottom of a Cabernet bottle. Sour. Bitter. Unwelcome. One bad surprise after another, the kind my mother insists make your left eye twitch. Except these weren’t just surprises, they were grenades. And bad wouldn’t describe them, but harrowing and hellish would. That summer sprinkled cyanide into my sweet glass of burgeoning adulthood and summoned me to take a sip.

I should have died. But it would be unfair to say I wanted to. If you ever want to die, I imagine you must feel something, if nothing more than the pitch black desire to leave this planet. Instead, I went numb. My mind went blank. There are whole months I do not remember. I took a passenger seat in my own existence and let the devil on my shoulder drive me straight into oblivion. We cruised through fog for hours. I fell into a hard sleep. Didn’t wake up until 2012.

Read more of my story here.


 

Jamé: The Powerhouse

Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 8.30.17 PM

6 a.m.: I’m up, reading the eight plus news outlets I’m subscribed to, catching up on what’s been going on in the world. I eventually fall back asleep.

9:30 a.m. I’m back up, this time looking to make sure all is well on TheBlondeMisfit, checking for the one millionth time on grammar, punctuation, and social media handles.

1:30 a.m. The day has passed, and amidst busy schedules, many posts, and countless time spent on various projects, I’m forcing myself to go to sleep.

Somewhere in between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. the next day, I am an artist, spoken word poet, lyricist, singer, dancer, actress, musician, journalist, blogger, stylist, and social commentator. The friend who blurts out a creative idea while drunk and realizes the next morning it might actually be brilliant. The hard working student who everybody tries to get on their group project, because they know no matter how much or little they do, it’s going to be a great project.

Read more of Jamé’s story here.

Dimensions of Black Womanhood: The Visionary

December 7, 2015

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

The summer of 2011 tasted like cough syrup caked at the bottom of a Cabernet bottle. Sour. Bitter. Unwelcome. One bad surprise after another, the kind my mother insists make your left eye twitch. Except these weren’t just surprises, they were grenades. And bad wouldn’t describe them, but harrowing and hellish would. That summer sprinkled cyanide into my sweet glass of burgeoning adulthood and summoned me to take a sip.

I should have died. But it would be unfair to say I wanted to. If you ever want to die, I imagine you must feel something, if nothing more than the pitch black desire to leave this planet. Instead, I went numb. My mind went blank. There are whole months I do not remember. I took a passenger seat in my own existence and let the devil on my shoulder drive me straight into oblivion. We cruised through fog for hours. I fell into a hard sleep. Didn’t wake up until 2012.

That’s the thing about being a spark for others to reach the best, bravest, and boldest parts of themselves. You don’t become that spark until you learn to fly above your own fire. You do not get crystal clear about your future until you wake up from that comatose moment, the one that convinced you there was nothing left to salvage from the ruins.

I could have vanished into becoming a victim after that summer. Instead, the Universe positioned me to become a vessel. The Universe sat me down one evening in the white hot heat of Plano, Texas and decided that light would still spill through my heart’s broken windows. Twenties Unscripted was conceived from my spirit’s beautiful cracks. But, I wouldn’t know it until much later, after years of penning half-baked love stories and recounting dating horror tales. I wouldn’t realize just how much my life’s purpose underscored that sincere, sassy and sometimes smart-assy take on growing up. Hell, I wouldn’t know just how much I would grow up. Evolve. Blossom into the kind of woman and writer I once assumed was left in summer 2011’s rubble.

But, it didn’t always feel good.

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you about nights that antagonized me as I stared at the ceiling, contemplating how to turn a dream into a dollar. But, those nights are only a sliver of my narrative. Instead, there are entire chapters dedicated to the insecurities I had to relinquish. I had to learn how to love a body I believed had betrayed me. I had to find and nurture a spirit that got lost in the wreckage. I had to quiet a mind that remained convinced everyone was out to get me or rip me to shreds. I had to make peace with my past, one inked with handwriting from other people’s demons.

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

I am still doing the work.

I’m still climbing the skyscraper toward radical self-love. Still clawing my way toward unwavering confidence. Still demanding my feet to find comfort in the big shoes God asked me to fill. Still throwing nine hours of my day toward fulfilling someone else’s dream. Still running to catch the bus. Still canceling events. Still wondering where in the hell is my Michael B. Jordan? Still losing money from rushed ideas. Still growing up in ways both wildly different and eerily similar from that girl who started a blog one night in the white hot heat of Plano, Texas.

Yet through it all, I see a future packed to the gills with opportunity, even if I’m completely unsure how I will get there.

Because I’m crazy enough to believe I have the power to live off of my name. Wild enough to declare that I will use every centimeter of talent the good lord gave me to pay bills from my purpose. Relentless enough to pursue and perfect my craft. Brave enough to keep leaving my heart wide open on the Internet. Convicted enough to see my dreams all the way through.

Fall 2015 tastes like the first sip of medium roast coffee on a rainy day. Warm. Refreshing. Restorative. Just what I need to put my mind at ease. I earned this cup of joe. It’s what you receive when you rise from the ruins and turn mayhem into manna. It’s what happens when you build a beautiful stained glass window from your shattered bits. It’s what happens when you do not crumble into becoming a victim, but instead rise to the occasion of being a visionary.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Dimensions of Black Womanhood: The Powerhouse

 

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Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

By: Jamé Jackson

6 a.m.: I’m up, reading the eight plus news outlets I’m subscribed to, catching up on what’s been going on in the world. I eventually fall back asleep.

9:30 a.m. I’m back up, this time looking to make sure all is well on TheBlondeMisfit, checking for the one millionth time on grammar, punctuation, and social media handles.

1:30 a.m. The day has passed, and amidst busy schedules, many posts, and countless time spent on various projects, I’m forcing myself to go to sleep.

Somewhere in between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. the next day, I am an artist, spoken word poet, lyricist, singer, dancer, actress, musician, journalist, blogger, stylist, and social commentator. The friend who blurts out a creative idea while drunk and realizes the next morning it might actually be brilliant. The hard working student who everybody tries to get on their group project, because they know no matter how much or little they do, it’s going to be a great project. I am the Type A friend you have whose anal, not in the extremely annoying way, but in the If-It-Has-My-Name-On-It-It-Needs-To-Look-Amazing type of way. The nicer version of Miranda Priestly and the passionate one who will cry every time she makes any step in the right direction because she remembers the hard work she’s put in. I am the girl who loves Pinterest for ideas but hates posting on Instagram because of lighting.

Powerhouses are not just CEOs from the corporate business sector. We are the women who somehow do a million and one things without breaking a sweat. We seamlessly blend all of our gifts, talents, and necessities together and manage to work hard to get what we need and want. We look fabulous doing it. Yet, behind the cool images, awesome clothes, and seeming facade, let me tell you this: It is literally crippling.

Looking back, I don’t think I ever had a choice of not being a woman who wanted to tackle the world. As a child, I saw my mom somehow work for the government, go to grad school, and support me in literally EVERY SINGLE THING I was in at school. She was a strong Black woman. As are her sisters. As is her mother. As is her grandmother. I didn’t have the option to be anything BUT strong.

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

Life, however, can quickly remind you that you still need help. You still need to cry, and you still need to step back from trying to tackle the world before it tackles you. While everything appeared fantastic, I found the things that used to bring me joy were only bringing me pain as my stress levels continued to escalate. I tried to hold the entire world up on my shoulders. Be the perfect student, friend, daughter, girlfriend, Black woman who doesn’t cry (according to society), activist, and still be the life of the party. Pretty much, I was suffering from the ‘Superwoman’ complex, the blessing and curse bestowed on us Powerhouse women. Us Black women.

For years, I always felt I had to over perform to excel. That projects had to touch the sky or everything that I did had to go over and above. While people were patting me on the back, I was dying inside trying to remain the strong and perfect ‘Powerhouse’ image, not allowing anyone to see I was literally bursting at my own seams. Until one day, when amidst shooting pains in my chest and migraine headaches that would last days, I was diagnosed with depression. WHAT? Powerhouses don’t break; Powerhouses can stand up against anything. It was in that moment that I had to step back and realize that I was good enough. I had to make lifestyle changes to avoid a life of pain and self-sabotage from my constant need to perform and do well.

So today? I am still the Powerhouse, A-1 player you want on any team. However, I use down time to rest. I practice yoga and meditation. I learned how to say ‘no’ when things either didn’t appease me or they felt like an inconvenience to my life and what I wanted. I learned and am learning every day that things don’t have to be perfect to be perfect, and that making mistakes sometimes is the only indication to remind yourself you are still simply human. Do I still have my days I find myself pushing myself too hard? Of course. But I have so many Netflix & Chill nights alone, where I can just unwind and enjoy the time I have to myself.

Realize that a Powerhouse is only a Powerhouse when she learns that before she saves the world, she must save herself. She must treat her life like the greatest project she will ever tackle and understand that she is no good to anyone else if she is not first good to herself. Realize it takes a lot to look this good, and if sometimes you have to rip the layer off and expose the wounds to breathe a little, do it. Powerhouses are not impenetrable. We are transparent in our journeys of how we get to where we want to go- and no matter how easy or painful- proud of the process that makes us more beautiful every day.

Jamé Jackson is a native Washingtonian and recent graduate of Howard University, where she received two Bachelor of Arts’ degrees in English and Classics with an emphasis in Greek literature.In July 2015, Jame’ officially pioneered TheBlondeMisfit.com, an online, inspiring destination for young, Misfit-thinking women. A self-taught fashion photojournalist, Jamé has been published in Elite Daily, Gritstyle and several other publications. 

Dimensions of Black Womanhood: The Free Spirit and The Artist

December 1, 2015

We write because we believe the human spirit cannot be tamed and should not be trained.–Nikki Giovanni

GG: The Free Spirit

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

I’ve tried to hide my heart for most of my life. It always seemed to beat too loud and break too easily. I remember being a child in church, trying to stay calm while the choir sang. The music created electricity in my veins that made me want to dance up and down the aisles one minute and fall out bawling on the pew the next. I was a quiet ball of intensity, infatuated by the contrasts of joy and pain, trying to be happy, but always questioning.

I imagined myself an old soul, a captivated free spirit, having been here many times before. I knew how to change the mood in a room, to uplift and relieve tension. How to contain storms that were constantly rising and falling inside of me without breaking a sweat. I don’t remember what it felt like to be a light-hearted, uninhibited child. I always had to be careful. My home life was strange and we had secrets. So I learned how to pay attention to make sure we appeared normal. I worried about what would happen to us, to me, if anyone found out.

Read more of GG’s story here.


 

Kesia: The Artist

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

I’ve always been a storyteller. In middle school I came in every Monday with a story to tell my friends as we sat on the windowsill in our homeroom. At the time, my mother was in prison. I was sharing a small room with my younger brother and living with a family that had three daughters, girls who had been my friends for years. I remember once my half-sister came to visit from Florida. She was an only child who lived with my father and her mother. She marveled at the fact that all us kids lived in that small house. If it appeared fun to her, that’s because, most of the time, it was. This is the thing about being one of the “unfortunates”: If you survive, it’s because you learn how to spin gold from the thread life has given you to hang yourself with. That’s what storytelling is.

Read more of Kesia’s story here.