I claim space. I claim space extremely intentionally. I claim space in ways that make some people feel so uncomfortable that they call to question how they show up in space with me at the same time. Now when I state that I claim space, I suppose it is far more complicated than just the act of being in physical space – and it also includes being in physical space, as that too comes with risk and a sense of boldness. My whole body, my brown skin, my freckles, my curly and full hair that sometimes blocks the people behind me, my education, my multiracial and multicultural family, my Black Feminist identity, and all of my good days and not yet the best days – complicated, messy, and complete, I show up and claim space.
What others have called my radical disposition, my epistemology and ontologies are completely tied to the work of Black Feminist Scholars. Once I was able to recognize that the academy was not built for me, or anyone who looks remotely like me, I understood the capacity of my voice – both in the loudest and completely silent forms. I own and acknowledge the privilege of having the language to make sense of what I know and I also acknowledge the privilege and space of Black Women as knowers beyond the walls of higher education, despite all of the efforts made to strip us of those freedoms.
We are born this way. We are simply enough. Our abilities and confidence are instinctual and we only coined the phrase Black Girl Magic to ensure that others knew, not from a place of first knowing ourselves. The boundaries of the academy are so limiting and assume so little of us that when we show up knowing that we already have all that we need, we are enough – we become noticed, felt, and powerful.
I appreciate how this sense of being enough comes with self-work and I offer specific items below that impact me in ways that are affirming, empowering, and critical in my development of self:
Fall in love with yourself. You are simply unable to give to others and give to yourself without loving yourself first. THIS TAKES TIME. We infatuate about how we want to love and be loved and forget to do this inside our own minds, bodies, and soul. Create a list about what you love about yourself. Loving yourself does not come without the days we receive comments on a paper that we worked so hard on, or the days when we do not like how our body feels, or the days when we are unable to complete the checklist – all of these days are 100% part of self-love.
Spend time alone…and I suggest that as an introverted extrovert. Be alone. I am not suggesting that in opposition to being in a relationship, although I think being single is a healthy point in life too. I mean be alone in your thoughts. Be in conversation with your mind and body, without distractions from others. Go outside. Go to the movies. Stay in for a weekend. Write in a journal.
Determine who really matters. Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, Twitter...these do not determine your value or who matters to you and who you matter to as well. Figure out who your real friends and family are – we have far less than we may think or assume. Who are you willing to do as much as possible for and who shows you the same? When you have one free night a week based on your schedule, who do you want to be with and why? Those who matter will hold you the most accountable to your core.
LEARN. LEARN. LEARN. Seek opportunities to learn. The opportunities you explore may range from helping kids at home in the hood to taking a class at a college or university. I try to read as much as possible. I found that one of the worst feelings is not knowing because I did not invest the time and space to learn when I had the chance.
Be politically involved. Knowing what’s happening at home, in your community, on your campus is essential. I always find myself in communication with folx who share that they do not read the messages from the institution’s President or Chancellor, yet that is one specific space to know what your administration is doing. How are you fighting against injustices at your institution and not reviewing the roadmap to the injustices? We are not always reading, listening, and entering spaces because we agree with administration or community politicians – we just need to know what they are communicating.
Determine what makes you feel happy. I love to travel, use Yelp to find cool local places, spend time with family, and much more. I prioritize these things even in moments that feel “too busy.” Knowing that busy is an excuse, as we make time for a lot of things, focusing on making effort to engage with things that make you feel happy as part of your week is essential. For some, it may be the treat at lunch here and there, for others it may be Netflix or the gym, and for others it may be a bucket list item in life. Do these things! What are you waiting for? Someone recently asked me how I could manage traveling, working full time, consulting, and finishing my PhD at the same time and I said how could I not – my life goes on regardless of these factors and the idea of waiting for a better time is too ambiguous and unpredictable. No one else will guarantee my happiness.
Find your sisters…and I don’t just mean cis-ters. Who do you know you can call 24/7 with a question about APA citations or to share that embarrassing story about your night? Establish that network of Women of Color, specifically Black Women, those who understand you and constantly work to understand you more. Black Women have never been alone in our journeys and have always been a collective, in community. In the same spirit of determining who really matters, it’s essential that as scholars, practitioners, and scholar-practitioners, we lean on, love on, and push forward one another. We live uniquely in the intersections and are the only people able to understand our experiences. Think about the people who build you up, hold you accountable, and hug you at the hardest times…those Black Women are your sisters.