What Being A Strong Black Woman Means to Me

One day, you will decide not to move. That is, you will not move, and it will be a purposeful decision, not because you are physically unable. You will decide that this place is it, and you will put down some roots in this place.

For example, I can take a long time to decide, and even I did it one day: I decided not to move.

Shortly thereafter, I paid for an artist to make a logo for me, because I felt ready to tackle more of the someday I will’s in my life.

Notice that I said “felt ready to” because a change in attitude and being rooted are the first steps to accepting the title of “strong black woman.”

I had been called a strong black woman many times before I accepted the title but I don’t think that I enjoyed the title until I strengthened my roots.

How I started

I moved to the DC area from other parts of Maryland in 2006.

I was a strongish black woman who needed to provide for her child and the DC area is always bustling. After working for two employers in the area, I decided I was not seeking to part from the third.

I decided that I was done with changing employers while searching for new opportunities, so I would put down more roots than usual and see what it felt like to work for the same employer for more than five years—a step that I had never taken before.

If I found new opportunities it would happen while I remained at the same place of employment. And this is when I began to feel more at ease with the strong black woman title that is so often thrust upon black women like myself.

Becoming a stronger black woman also meant being truer to my underlying personality traits.

I have always expressed my opinions, and, sometimes, I have done this at inconvenient times with messy results. I have suffered from some of these blurts and angrily written retorts.

For instance, one time when I was the only black woman in a room of other women, the group was asked a question. I responded with the truth, and then I was told that my comment was not nice.

Now, this could be the beginning of a lot of stories, but this was twenty years ago at a Girl Scout leader meeting in Iowa. I was pleasantly surprised to receive support from the Girl Scout area manager that she wanted the truth to her question, but this very simple interaction exemplified how my opinion might not be equally valued by dominant group members.

That evening was just one instance of many where I elected to be the strong black woman in order to ease someone’s burden but added to my own. So while this title of strong black woman can be burdensome, it is necessary because a strong black woman helps black children be rooted as well.

Fortunately, as I had inched toward age 30, I had learned to hold back, to listen more, to wait at least 24 hours to respond, and sometimes to respond in writing—and, oftentimes, to throw that writing away— but I also learned to cover up some true feelings.

Becoming more true to myself

I have learned to say exactly what I mean but to stay concise and to respond when asked.

As age 40 came and went, I realized that no one has the unlimited energy to respond to all the injustices he or she sees.

Furthermore, few people want to hear everything that is on your mind. In fact, most people do not really care, because—going back to that energy thing— being a grown-ass adult is a lot of work and few people have enough time to deal with their own problems!

So, I learned to pick a few issues of importance that would always get my response, but to hold back on other issues unless someone wanted my opinion.

Case in point, in the fall of 2020, I received a call from a colleague who had started baking as a side business, and she asked for my opinion about her banana pudding cake. We had a great conversation about generational preferences for banana pudding. She said that she needed to bake a bomb cake because a future business opportunity was linked to this particular cake, so she called two women who she knew would tell the complete truth.

So, I felt validated, she got her information, and I thought to myself: Taking a stand on an issue is when that strong black woman image is true. At those times, I can be where I am valued and let my light shine in the most authentic way possible. Having roots at this workplace has helped me develop various levels of emotional connection with people.

What being a strong black woman means to me now

These days since I have passed the half-century mark, I am only interested in being my authentic self—an educator, a daughter, a mother, a creator, and sometimes a strong black woman.

At some point, we humans have to put our faith and support behind a cause.

I am strong when it comes to the issues that I care about, but I am not afraid to show my vulnerabilities either.

Sometimes I get tired or I cry, but I get back up the next day and I support my cause and that is what any strong woman does.

Sometimes, a strong black woman is a historical paragon, but more often than not, she is a woman who has come into her own authentic self. She has set down some roots in a place.

Jeremiah 17:8 talks about when you will not move due to faith with these lines:

“They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”

A strong black woman is productive.

She has progressed on her journey to a spot where she can be a woman who lives her truth as authentically as she can, despite a world that may have different expectations for her.

May we all reach this destination someday.

Melissa Edwards

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