To Black Femmes, Get Thine Rest
"We must ask: what is so beautiful about a Black femme’s struggle? When the canvas is covered in our blood, sweat, and tears and only held up by our bones, what then, have you
made out to be so brave of us?"
It was a rainy day when we marched. We barely slept. We were both restless and wrestling with the stress of protests and the perverted hands of men we fought freedom for. We sang struggle songs about struggle. And then she asked me the question: “What’s wrong?” The tears strolled down my face. (This) happened to me, I said. Me Too, she said.
We held hands and continued to song the struggle or struggle through the song, but still, we carry the notes of the revolution from our throats like every black woman has ever done whether we’ve known it or not. We continued to march that day and all the rest in 2017 to demand free and decolonized education in South Africa, a country that has denied Black people basic rights and freedoms belonged to them for centuries. Siyaya siyaya siyaya noma kubi, we sang. Even in distress, we are going forward, we sang. So, we went. And when violence ensued, we learned to color code it between race, gender, ethnicity, sex, and sexuality, knowing black women’s blood, especially queer, would always be the most colorful in the oppression palette.
We must ask: what is so beautiful about a Black femme’s struggle? When the canvas is covered in our blood, sweat, and tears and only held up by our bones, what then, have you made out to be so brave of us? What was strong and brave of Breonna Taylor when she was murdered in her bed by government employees? They turned her into comics on the internet, where she became the first superhero celebrated without justice. Did Black women ask to become the artifacts: the rendering of the dead becoming art and thus a fact? Is that the only way our lives become valid? Through our cries pouring out into the streets? Flooding your timelines? How do we combat sexism and racism and homophobia at the same time? Why is it our job to carry the race and protect ourselves from it at the same time?
This question should be pondered in the case of Megan Pete, known professionally as Megan Thee Stallion. She was shot in both her feet by rapper, Tory Lanez. She had no choice but to play protector, protecting the life of a Black man that could have taken hers. In a double threat of violence, she limped out of the car with her hands up afraid the police could kill her. You shot me. I sense that you’re angry, Tory. I now have to be your protector and remain silent to the police about shooting me so they don’t go and kill you. You had no respect for my humanity, for my livelihood, for my body. And here I am trying to preserve yours. When our lives are filled with work and weary, when will we get to rest? Shouldn’t rest be our birthright? To kick our feet up with our faces towards the sun without a capitalist care in the world? Isn’t that my ancestors’ dream?
To all my Black femmes, I implore you to breathe, rest, and remember yourself back to human. Remember yourself back to when your laughter wasn’t a sedative for your suffering, when your mouth wasn’t a graveyard of names of the next and the next and the next black femme always marching at the front of the protest but forced to the back of the bus to make room for the cisgendered men and the cisgendered men only. Rest. To rest is the only way to dream. To dream is a radical act. Only through the power of our imagination can we conjure up our liberation. Laugh. Dance. Love. Let go.
At some point, we must say:
We will not Sapphire for you any longer.
We will not Mammy for you any longer.
We will not Jezebel for you any longer.
This free labor that leads to my demise must end.
We must envision liberation free of patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy where we can enjoy the fruits of 400 years worth of labour and no longer. Our value is not determined by our productivity. And as a Black femme, our ability and capacity to suffer, work hard, or produce is not what makes us (worthy). Set yourself free or on fire. This is a call to rest, love, and reimagine in the midst of the madness. We are always trying to crusade while on a crucifix.
I still mourn for my sister, Oluwatoyin Salau. She had two fights to bear and only two fists against the racism existing under a police state, and the sexism existing under the patriarchy. She used her voice at the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement, defending and uplifting the Black community against racism and transphobia, but who was there to protect her? All she wanted to do was bathe and rest in a safe place. Instead, our sister was murdered at the hands of a man of the same race. And this ain’t the only case. This is only one of many examples that show us they not checkin’ for us.
It is us who take care of us, who have to, who must. Our lineage is but a train of exhaustion, attempting to escape oppression with the destination of freedom but we’ve been pushing this vehicle with our bare hands for over 400 years and all my ancestors really wanted was to rest without consequence and I haven’t ended this sentence yet because we are always running like run-aways or like run-on sentences and we haven’t taken the time or space to breathe or rest or dream. I am calling on all Black femmes (cis/trans/nonbinary) to breathe, to rest, and to love thine worthy selves in Toyin’s name. She deserved all of these things and received none of them.
Make time. Be graceful to yourself. Descansen. Let us honor our ancestors through this calling.
Meet the Family
Jawnified (Kirsis Mariah Matthews) is a Black queer Latinx creative, womanist, poet, free-spirit, occasional fashion icon, into all things social justice & sociology, a Jersey native & a divine heaux of secondhand thrift.
Find Mariah on Instagram: @jawnifiedqueen
Read more of their work at Medium: https://medium.com/@matthewsmariah