To be young, black, gifted and woman is to understand your strength, your power, your talents and your beauty. Somewhere in between reminding myself of these things and showcasing it to the world, I struggled to see any of that within myself. Whether it be the contradicting tiger stripes plastered all over my non-existent hour glass shape, my bellowing passions that deemed me aggressive to others (especially men), my beliefs in fairy tales that made me a "difficult" partner or my crippling anxiety that made me question the smallest of things—I saw my imperfections, my flaws and my mistakes as reasons for why I was a young, black, gifted woman who did not deserve praise.
I did not see myself as perfect or put together compared to the beautiful black women and women of color who I grew up admiring for their successes or contributions to culture. Those women never let anyone "see them sweat,” so I believed they didn’t. It did not deter me from the want to go after my dreams and passions, but it did make me somewhat believe that I would have to conquer a certain level of perfectionism before being able to succeed in what it is I wanted to do in life. It left me feeling as if I were the only one who dealt with mental health issues or thought about sex or wanted to have a lazy day where I did things that may be seen as “unladylike.” It made me quiet about certain things because it did not feel as though there was a space for both—reaching success and being quirky, different and normal.
But as with many things, I found solace and encouragement in music. As of lately, I've noticed a rise in women of color artists who were comfortable in letting their imperfections show or discussing topics that are considered taboo for us to have an opinion about. Think about Solange’s album, A Seat at the Table, or Rihanna’s Anti album. In these works of art, I found voices that portrayed the complexities and layers that make up a woman—a black woman specifically. “Cranes in the Sky” explained the many different ways that I tried to get out of my “funk” and failed at it. “Sex With Me” gave me this sense of ownership over my sexuality and sexual prowess. Then there are artists on the rise like SZA, Sabrina Claudio, Kari Faux, Princess Nokia, Jorja Smith and Ray Blk who are finding well deserved recognition in being unapologetically themselves. They are showing that #blackgirlmagic is not solely about the idea of perfectionism and being the best and always being happy, it's simply being a black woman who continues to be herself however she chooses and pleases to be, and to be proud of that. We can talk about sex, have sex, not have sex, like men, like women, not like anybody, be upset at a f*ckboy, or be in love with one. It's about creating a community where black women can find joy in the many different ideologies that make them, and have a place where they can discuss our ideas and revel in our feelings without being judged.
Like many women this past week, SZA’s CTRL has been on repeat, and I cannot stress enough that it came in great timing. Sometimes life can be exhausting to say the least. Whether it's trying to figure things out or trying to deal with the motions, we need to allow ourselves the reassurance that it's okay to mess up or go against conventional norms. CTRL hit a goldmine for me! I caught myself exclaiming every other verse, “Yaaaasssss girl, that's sooooo me!” Or sharing why “Garden” and “Broken Clocks” were exact reenactments of my life. Did SZA and I possibly share some sort of past life? SZA, like so many amazing and beautiful artists of color, showed me the beauty in my strengths and weaknesses. They all have made it OK for me to be me—a young, gifted and black woman.