From a young age, I understood the role of Black femmes as one that focuses on giving love. We are cultivated to be that strong sense of love, support, and uplift within the Black community. We create movements, stand at the front lines and most importantly unconditionally love our Black men. However, it was at this age that I questioned whether that was our singular purpose.
The start of the BLM movement really opened my eyes to how this role manifested into real-life. All around me Black femmes ignited like it was a third sense.
“Save our Black men”
“What are we going to do about it?”
All this action that I saw from Black femmes I didn’t even know were into activism like that. We sparked into action for Black men, and the betterment of the Black community. The unbeknownst children of every Black femme from the moment she comes into conscious. None of this still sat well with me.
Why was it an obligation?
We’ve seen time and time again how unrequited this love is within the Black community. None goes as hard for Black femmes as we do for others. Another reason my soul felt unsettled by this, came after I watched the interview between Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin in 1971 on the television series SOUL! In this conversation, Giovanni and Baldwin have a dynamic dialogue about being Black in America, and namely about the relationship between Black women and men.
If you haven’t seen this conversation, please do. It truly gives Hotep Twitter a run for their money.
From this video, I came to understand our role as Black femmes to be one that comes from a place of sexism, privilege, and force. It denies the ability for Black femmes to use our love, joy, uplift, and support for ourselves. Moreover, it makes our existence only important if we are providing emotional labor to our fellow Black man. And finally, makes our existence rooted in providing a service with no intention of receiving the same energy back.
How does this not influence the way we view romantic love or even self-love?
All of this brought me to the idea of self-love as a Black woman, as a Black femme. Our self-love isn’t the topic of conversation, I believe because it calls into question the ways in which the Black community makes us a commodity, and how the world treats us. It questions the ways that sexism and racism in this country and society at-large has forced us to hate ourselves, and profits off of this hate.
With that being said, loving ourselves fully and publicly does not align with the narrative Black femmes have been feed since birth. It makes us the focal point of all the love we are meant to “give away”. It makes us take up space, and fight for our own self-preservation, which should connect to the self-preservation of all Black people but as we can see that’s not the case. Nonetheless, loving ourselves as Black femmes taps into the patriarchy that exists in the Black community. And begins a much larger conversation about the relationship we have with ourselves and other Black femmes.
I hope this introspective and personal note leads you to think of the ways this society pushes Black femmes away from ourselves. I also hope it leads you, to intentionally continue this self-love path. As many self-love campaigns and content surrounding the internet now, it is important to remember that your journey to self-love is endless and individual. We are constantly recognizing our identities, fitting into our skin, and finding the things that tickle our soul. All of which, differs for everyone and cannot be done in one lifetime. There isn’t a strict criterion for how a Black women or femme should love themselves and forcing yourself into one is only denying what you want and what feels good to you. The goal is to just be in love with yourselves in the best way you know how.
Be kind. Be selfish. Be in love.
~ Your sis.
A space for and by Black Femmes