Set the scene:
A beautiful Black woman with deep mahogany skin, long flowing locs, quick mouth to match her quick thoughts, and a belly laugh that vibrates the entire space… (have you caught on that she is me? Well, it’s ME) finishes a talk at the University of Wisconsin with a target population of marginalized students and staff who feel unseen, unheard, and institutionally-unsupported. They are in the space, smiling, jotting, reflecting, answering questions, shedding callouses, healing wounds, loving on themselves and proud about it.
Needless to say, I walked out of the student center feeling purposeful and aligned. Feeling humbled and grateful. Feeling sad that I didn’t have a “me” when I was struggling with my sexual identity and the intersection of race and parenthood but feeling happy that these students do. So, again, I walked out of the building feeling good… real good.
Then, I got on the freeway and began to get bullied by the tractor trailer drivers who were flying up the road, probably aiming for a quick transport and drop off in Chicago and/or a few cities along the way. So, while chatting with my wife, looking at the cornfields and trees, and trying to stay calm while being pressured by other drivers, I got pulled over. Yup… red and blue lights that scare the absolute shit out of me because…..
I’m surrounded by fields not witnesses
I’m in a state that has open politics that counter my very existence
I’m a woman
And cops murder Black people at a rate higher than any other racial group
In trying not to panic, I begin to answer the questions that are asked of me:
What am I doing here?
Why am I so far from home (my drivers license is registered to DC)?
Who invited me?
Now, anyone that knows me can confirm that my mouth is quick and my thoughts are quicker, so while I wanted to respond with answers like:
1a. Well your answers brought my ancestors here so I didn’t have a choice but to be “here”
2a. I came to help people that look like me and teach them how to protect themselves from people that look and/or act like you.
3a. I was invited, on purpose and by purpose, by my God and guided by my ancestors and Orishas
But instead, I had to think about:
2. Staying alive
3. Surviving to tell my story
So I silenced myself. Well, my true self. Instead, I read off my credentials, explained my purpose, and forgave myself for compromising so I could live. Oh, don’t get it twisted, when I drove off, I cried, I screamed, I was angry- rooted in fear, disappointment, confusion, frustration and more. And I went to my hotel room and stayed there. I wasn’t ready to face the other things I’d been experiencing, like to racial discrimination at the hotel (in which they implied that I was “stealing a room” because my wife’s name was on the room so she could get her Hilton points but the card was in my name), or the rental car folks who implied that I lied when I told them the car wasn’t taken care of prior to my arrival, or the TSA lady who told me I was derogatory because I was tired of them harassing me about a fake water bottle they thought they saw in my bag. It was all too much and I was over it and remember, I was only in the state to help the marginalized students like me.
So eventually, I completed my internal battle, prayed to my God and spiritual guides, put on my big girl panties and pulled them all the way up, and headed back into the world to be Black, a Woman, Bisexual and same gender partnered, a mom, a teacher, a leader, and a trailblazer.
So, while this cop, who aimed to make me feel shitty about being me and bullied me on the freeway, and tried to take my joy, he (well they because it was a couple of them) only solidified my purpose in this world.
All these identities that I get to hold are gifts from the Most High. He saw me worthy and fit to carry this package of race, gender, sexuality, and more. And, I vow to always use them to benefit my communities and to blaze trails for all of us. I vow to not let anyone make me feel like my gifts are weights. I vow to continue to be… me!