“Ain’t I a Woman”? Redefining Black Womanhood

“Dat man ober dar say dat womin needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted ober ditches, and to hab de best place everywhar. Nobody eber helps me into carriages, or ober mud-puddles, or gibs me any best place!” And raising herself to her full height, and her voice to a pitch like rolling thunder, she asked. “And a’n’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! (and she bared her right arm to the shoulder, showing her tremendous muscular power). I have ploughed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And a’n’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear de lash as well! And a’n’t, I a woman? I have borne thirteen chilern, and seen ’em mos’ all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And a’n’t I a woman?

Sojourner Truth

I would like to give this message to you, me, to us, exactly as it was given to me from the other side. There are some ancestors who remain close beyond the veil, simply to be of assistance to us. Sobonfu Some, author of The Spirit of Intimacy explains, “It is this power of ancestors that will help us direct our lives and avoid falling into huge ditches” This article is such an attempt. This message will be written in the vernacular as this was how it was received. True literary prose is not only defined by “proper” use of the English Language. You can not merely read words. You must feel them. This is a message from our enslaved ancestors. The women on whose shoulders we stand. The women who are both proud of us and fearful of where we are going.

“Ain’t you tired of working for the white man? Getting up every morning to go take orders from somebody. Taking yo children to the white Woman to teach them? And teach them what? Cause they sho didn’t teach us nothing and didn’t want us to learn. Didn’t want us to teach each other nothing, cept how to work for them and cook for them and serve them. And you think something has changed. The white folks then is the same white folks now. They just gotta pretend they done changed. Cause things look a little different. But I see nothing has changed. Sure it seem like you got mo opportunity, mo schooling, mo money. Mo chances to live a better life. And believe me. I’m happy for ya. Cause I see that some of what I been through has caused some good. I see that my holding on has made life a littler better for ya. You get to raise ya children, ain’t gotta worry about them being sold from ya. That’s a blessing I tell ya. But I want more for ya. I see ya hurting all on the inside. Ya seem happy but it ain’t like it should be. I see ya hurt bc I know what it’s like. Want to be something but can’t. Want to go somewhere but feel like if you do, something bad gon follow. Just living in fear. Confused. Don’t know xactky which way ta go. I see you living, but do ya have a life? You look so purty with all ya nice clothes and hair. And those fancy cars and look at ya homes. Ooooh Chile, we ain’t have all that. But I see ya sick and in pain. I see something missing from your life. Anger and hatred all in your heart. I don’t believe I went through all I went through for that. But maybe that’s why. Maybe ya carrying my pain on top of yours. Cause wasn’t no where for my pain to go cept my Womb where I carried ya. I ain’t have no time to cry or mourn cause there was too much work to do. Always some work to do. Work the fields, clean massa house, watch them terrible children, do all the work Missus didn’t want to do, and to tell the truth ain’t have no good sense on how to do. Yet we was the dumb niggers. Then at night I was just too tired. Too tired to even cry I guess. Cause where do I start? There’s so many things to weigh me down, I guess I just give it to God. But Chile, please listen to me. Cause I’m on the other side now. And I see things that you can’t. So let me tell you. Ain’t no future in working for no white Man, sending your Children to be taught by the women who hate you. My Missus liked to wish I was dead. Cause even in my captivity I shined. As much as they took from me. As much as I thought I didn’t have left. Cause what did I have? I couldn’t have my freedom. I couldn’t read. Couldn’t write. They sold my children, lynched my husband. But I be damned even after all I done lost. I still had something. And That one thing is what I gave you. It be too easy for me to tell you what it is. You gots to go find it. But just follow the path I left for you…

Over the past 2 years I’ve really begun to question what in the hell am I doing with my life and it’s amazing!! I’ve followed the script that has been laid out for me (mostly). I graduated high school. Went to college. I got two degrees; one in Sociology and another in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting. For the past 10 years I’ve worked as a Tax Auditor. Two years ago I decided to go back to school and pursue a Masters degree in Health Services Administration. By all accounts, I’m somewhat successful. Good career, good education. My daughter goes to a good school. But is that really how I’m going to define my success as a Black Woman? By My ability to get educated and then assimilate and integrate into white society. I’m one of two black Women in my Department. Most of my day is spent surrounded by white men and women. My daughter spends most of her day the same way. Is that success?? Or am I merely reliving the same life as my ancestors; just a more comfortable, covert enslavement. I’ve been harassed by white men and become the target of hatred by white women. My child has come to me and told me that her white “friend” wanted to play a game where she was a slave.

We’ve defined our strength by the ability to put up with white people’s shit. To carry the weight of the white world on our shoulders. Success is the winning of white approval and acceptance. But if this is truly success, then why are we so unhappy and sick? 80% of black Women are overweight or obese. We have higher rates of hypertension, diabetes, fibroids, PCOS, and hysterectomies than our white counterparts. We need a pill to fall asleep and one to make it through the day. Many of us have toxic relationships with our men and struggle to raise our children. Some of us can’t even get a man. We’re angry and bitter, depressed and overwhelmed. Is this what defines black womanhood? The truth is, we are living a life that is in direct opposition to the reality of our DNA.

I’ve taken a good look at my life and I said to myself, “ain’t I a Woman”? Don’t I deserve more than to work day in and day out in an environment where my guard is ALWAYS up? Where I constantly have to watch my back? Don’t I deserve to feel free, be healthy, happy and whole? Don’t I deserve to tap into my inherent gifts and talents instead of working in a field where my intellectual capacity is being atrophied? Don’t I deserve to nurture my children and my man without the constant stress and pressure of climbing the corporate ladder? I want to climb my own ladder and reach the height of my own dreams and goals. Ain’t I a Woman?

I’m following the path our ancestors laid for us. I’m digging to find that “something” the women before me left behind. I’m redefining what it means to be a black Woman. I’m more than a college degree or a career or what good school my children attend. I’m more than chronic disease and a wounded Womb. I’m more than a black face drowning in a sea of white. I’m a black Woman who is going to find her way back home.

Kathleen, “The Nutritional Truth Teller” is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant and a Certified Vaginal Steam Facilitator. She is the owner of Beauty In A Barbell Nutrition, whose sole mission is to optimize the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the Black community through African Holistic Health. She carries with her the ancestral knowledge and wisdom of the medicine men, women, healers and warriors she lovingly calls her ancestors.