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One of the buzzwords of 2020 during the pandemic has been “self-care.” I love that many social media platforms are centering on the importance of mental and emotional wellness. For Black women, self-care is revolutionizing. By learning to love ourselves more, we are reimagining our roles in relationships as women and/or mothers. So much of our Black experience is about caring for others. I learned this early in life.

I saw the women in my family prioritize the needs of the men in their lives. I watched my grandmother work from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. as a nurse, then come home to take care of her disabled son, who was a victim of gang violence. In my teen years, my grandfather had gotten sick with lung cancer and liver disease so she then retired as a CNA and also took care of her husband.

I remember my grandmother being very committed to getting her nails and hair done weekly. I remember her making sure she wore her Sunday's best for church and taking her time to look and feel beautiful. As I reflect, I am aware of the levels of the trauma she survived simply from being Black and being a woman, which is traumatic enough in a world that hates blackness and hates women.

I know that many Black women have stories of seeing their mothers sacrifice for others. There is nothing like the love of a Black woman. We carry the love of God innately as descendants of the first mothers of the earth. We just can’t help how much we love — especially how much we love Black men.

We are now at a time when the conversation is shifting and women are claiming their emotional independence and wellbeing. Women are cutting the cords of being emotionally responsible for men, who have time and time again disappointed us by not having our backs. Yet, they are willing, able and ready to run to the rescue of Becky, Maria and Ming.

After a conversation on the new social media app ClubHouse, many women agreed with a comment I made about rethinking the role of a man in my life and asking myself, “What do I need one for anyway?” I was expecting a lot of pushback, but many of the women agreed and shouted Amen!

The dynamics have changed and women are sick of being hurt, used, abused, lied to, cheated on, humiliated and abandoned by Black men. This trauma has impacted us for generations and we are unapologetically done from what I can tell. I think that many of us want it to work, but are no longer willing to place all of our bets on somebody’s ashy son. This doesn't mean, we don’t love you. Like I said, we can’t help it. It also doesn’t mean that we have to self-sacrifice and suffer in order to be loved back.

We are finally willing to love ourselves and God firs,t and when you do that, you begin to question why you would need a man in the first place. Everything we want to accomplish — our education, our entrepreneurial businesses — we have been able to do alone. So wouldn’t it be possible to have happiness without the ideal ring, wedding and potential future divorce?

There is so much societal pressure to be married, as if that is the only happy ending. Would it be possible to create new ideas around happiness, relationships and what #blacklove looks like? Wouldn’t it be possible to fall so in love with yourself that the presence of a man is the cherry on top to a wonderful ice cream sundae? The cherry is great to have, but if you take the cherry off, you aren't necessarily missing out on the enjoyment of the sundae itself. The sundae is life, the sundae is all of the things that life offers you.

I do think that partnership is a wonderful thing to have, but I do not think that it is the only version of being successful and fulfilled. Let’s be real and face it: many of us know somebody's husband was just in your DMs.

I’m not going to lie, a part of me is a little sad and feels like systemic racism and the war on Black men has won. They have successfully created a gap so wide between the Black man and the Black woman that Black women are losing interest altogether. This becomes scary for obvious reasons — destroying the Black family has always been part of the foundation of the system. (Read: Willie Lynch letter) I understand that on one end, but on the other end is my heart, my experience, my disappointment and, most importantly, my love and devotion to myself.

We all know that we cannot love others more than we love ourselves. We all know that our reflection of ourselves shows up in the dynamic of our relationships. Black women are doing the work to repair our self-esteem and confidence and find worthiness in a world that perpetually disrespects us. Are men doing the same work or are they being left behind? 

Why is it our job to continue to carry the weight? When will they lead? I feel so strongly in saying that our men better step up or they will lose their women. Would they even care? After all, they have choices — Becky, Maria and Ming always seem to win. There are always posts that share how Black love is revolutionary, and I agree that is because it is f**king hard! Both parties have to be willing to do the inner work, inside and outside of a partnership.

I think that the real revolution is Black women finally taking the space to heal ourselves and create communities that uplift us and center our experiences and voices. Many Black women are finally agreeing, "I don’t want to be strong and angry for the world anymore. I am ready to step into my divine feminine nature. I am ready to be consumed in peace, and if you Black man can’t offer that peace or disrupt my peace and communion with God, I do not need you."

This is what I am seeing and this is also where I am in my journey. There are always circumstances that we can’t help, like that of my grandmother. Those circumstances were out of her control and she did her best. Now that her son and husband have passed away, she is traveling, she is going for wellness walks and developing a sense of independence and a relationship with herself I have never seen.

It's beautiful to see, but it is also sad that the passing of her men has allowed her the time and space to put herself first.

I don’t want to have to wait. I want to have the space to love on me. And if you are fortunate enough in your own journey, you can join me in loving me. I feel empowered in that statement. I feel empowered knowing there is more to my identity than being some man's woman.

I find the words of Eartha Kitt in a popular interview to resonate with where I am coming from, when she was asked about compromising for love.

“A man comes into my life and I have to compromise? We must think about that one again,” Kitt said. “A relationship is a relationship that has to be earned, not to compromise for. When you fall in love, what is there to compromise about?”

The lesson we are learning is very simple: do not compromise, love yourself, that is the only eternal love.

My prayer is that Black men step up in every capacity. Heal yourself, hold each other accountable, protect us, defend us. If you don’t know what to do, just start somewhere so that my questioning of what we need Black men for doesn’t even have to exist.