#SayHerName, #TransBlackLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter have helped bring attention to the continued murder and violence that Black women face both at the hands of the state, and so often, at the hands of Black men. The stories of Dee Whigham, Korryn Gaines, Rekia Boyd, Skye Mockabee, and Sandra Bland are only a few―there are many more whose name’s may never rise to national attention.
But we can not just listen to the experiences of Black women when they call out to us from the grave. We must act by listening to the voices of Black women who are here now. We must listen to understand what we as a community can do to support them. We must listen to understand what we do that hurts them. We must mobilize each other to act for their health and well being; as they have mobilized for the health and wellbeing of us all.
Gathered below are the voices of Black women who advocate and work for the healing and power of our communities everyday. I reached out to hear from them about what they feel we need to be doing to support their emotional health in a culture rampant with misognynoir and transphobia.
Below are their responses. Read them. Reflect upon them. And then take action.
What do we as a community need to be doing to support the emotional health of Black women?
Aaryn Lang: “We need to listen and believe Black women when we share our experiences. We need to understand that the cocktail of misogyny, racism, and transphobia creates a world where we have to do so much extra labor to be able to simply relax or be. I think about how long I have walked around with a chip on my shoulder because being raised as a Black boy grown into a black woman, I never actually had the space to express just how I feel about what it means to exist at the intersections that I do.
Black women, Black femmes, need love. More than anything in the world we need the kind of patient, kind love that we have read about. We need to be heard and held. As a Black trans person, guilt is written into my DNA. It’s so difficult for me to understand what it means to be safe in my body.
We don’t need protecting, we don’t need to be purified, or infantilized. We need people to be willing to stand with us. More than anything, though, Black women and femmes need each other. We’ve operated out of projected self-hate for far too long. Malcolm said it best: The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. And of course, stop f*cking killing us.”
Dr. Moya Bailey: “I need for men to understand that their relationships with women are irrelevant when it comes to how women should be treated. I shouldn’t have to be related to you, f*cking you, friends with you for you to treat me like a human being. As a queer Black woman, I am amazed at my sisters’ ability to mobilize for men unjustly targeted by state-sanctioned anti-Black racism, men who would refuse to do the same for them, who often participate or are complicit in the misogynoir and homophobia that harms us.
I need men to start their own process of healing their wounds around masculinity, to let go of the notion that masculinity is in opposition, competition, or even complimentary to femininity. I need men to see the parallels between stop and frisk and cat calling, between the murders of Black men at the hands of the state that sees them as a threat and the murders of Black trans women whose attackers saw them as threatening too. I need Black men to model the kind of accountability and change that they want to see in their own lives from the systemic forces and people who target them.”
Dr. Alexis Gumbs: “Support Black mamas. Understand that Black mamas are doing the sacred, criminalized work of loving Black life in tangible intimate ways that they are punished for every day. Understand that lack of support to Black mamas (from institutions, from activist communities, from co-parents) hurts everyone and everything on this planet. Especially Black children. And those of us who have been Black children are still coping with that harm.
Imagine how healing it would be for all of us to live in a world where the work of making life happen was shared. Imagine how deeply those of us who have been Black children could heal each other by supporting Black mamas in ways that our own mamas never imagined they could be supported.
The number one way to support the emotional healing of Black people, and your own emotional healing, whoever you are, is to support Black mamas, especially single Black mamas, poor Black mamas, queer Black mamas, immigrant Black mamas, disabled Black mamas and Black mama artists and activists, your Black mama, my Black mama, all Black mamas matter.”
Dr. Dionne Bates: “Support must first start with active listening. In other words, encouraging us to tell our stories and offering a safe space for us to not only feel heard, but listened to without the fear of feeling dismissed, disregarded, or diminished.
Secondly, in an effort to provide more support to Black women who are victimized by police brutality and other acts of violence, we must also make accessible holistic healing systems that address our physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual recovery. “
Vanessa Jackson: “It is extremely important not to buy into the “warriors don’t cry” mythology, since fear, overwhelm and sadness are reasonable responses to the unrelenting attacks on Black women’s bodies (cis and trans) and the bodies of our love ones.
We have a right to grieve out loud when the presence of our children is not even a barrier to our being shot down as we move through the world. We are also entitled to our righteous rage which is often best expressed in communal spaces. We need to ask for support, space to be afraid and still keep moving in the world and find respite in the form of play, dance, sexual passion, laughter and time in nature. We demand the right to heal.”
Cheryl Courtney Evans: “I feel that a major shift in societal attitude around the “traditional binary expectations” surrounding ‘masculinity’ in our patriarchal society is needed.
These attitudes force us to cope with the insecurities developed by men who are trans-attracted, yet fail to cope with those attractions because society says “they shouldn’t”, so their answer to it is violence; this machismo places trans women in second class citizen status. In a world where women (cis and trans) are desirous of male companionship, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be prepared for the possibility of coming up against this male state of mind.
Until as a community we manage to bring about the above-mentioned shift of that which is expected of ‘men’ in our society, and therefore what is demanded of them to claim “manhood”, we will continue living in a “mental minefield”, never knowing when we’ve “got a good one”, and our emotional security will always be at the mercy of a society we can’t truly be sure supports our existence.”
Monique Tula: “Black woman, Black mother, Black daughter…
“She wouldn’t submit.” How many of us know that he silently hates how much he needs us and that our very existence is a reminder of that hate he has for himself? How many of us pray that the next time he calls us bitch, or hoe it ends there and doesn’t escalate into what happened last time (“it’ll never happen again baby…”)? How many of us weep alone and silent when he leaves us bruised and battered for the umpteenth time (“it’ll never happen again baby…”)? How many of us know that his hands will be the hands that take our very last breath from us (it’ll NEVER happen again)?
Your countless names are spoken every day. We speak them aloud and in silence. We speak them consciously and unconsciously. We grieve your names as they roll by in the spectacle of our social media feeds. We speak them alone and as a collective. We say your name each time we say our own.
We say your name every time we don’t submit. They hate us for it but we won’t submit. They murder us because of it but we won’t submit. We won’t submit. We’ll never submit.”
Adrienne Maree Brown: “Things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. We have to hold each other tight and care for each other and keep pulling back the veil.
In addition to the healing resources, it is important to know that organizing and direct action are how we heal at a collective level - we are blood cells calling attention to and eliminating toxins from this national body. So lift each name as high as we can, sign up at policy.m4bl.org.
White folks, look to SURJ for unlearning white supremacy tools so that you aren’t adding to our grief.
Find a circle of people who can hold you through grief and deepen in with each other, that is where we will recognize our resilience.”