Young, Disabled And Black: A Response To Solange's Recent Diagnosis
"Just because I can’t be out in these streets anymore doesn’t mean I stopped caring ..."
January 26, 2018 at 3:32 pm
As if life wasn’t hard enough by simply being black, disabled gotta be thrown in the mix.
There was a time when I put my body out there on the front lines, leading protests and speaking to crowds about the injustice my people were feeling. It didn’t matter that I was a 5’2" and living with a debilitating chronic disease.
At the end of every action, I could barely walk. My ankles and toes were swollen from the rheumatoid, and my fingers and wrists swollen from holding up signs and heavy megaphones. I put my body through all of that because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know how else to express my outrage and melancholy activism. I took to the streets because that’s the only thing I thought I could do, because that’s what everyone else was doing to bring about change.
Now, I can’t do all of that. My health is on a slow decline and I can barely hold myself up some days. I wake up with my hands clenched so tight and so weak that I can't even lift my falling blanket to cover me. Even typing on my keyboard brings me pain.
Then comes the guilt. I used to do so much; my fist were high in the air, and my boots anchored on the ground. I see people take the streets now to protest the ridiculous things 45 is putting us through and I feel like I’m not doing enough for my people.
Then I read an article about Solange's diagnosis and how we should always check on the strong friend, because sometimes they live through their pain in silence. That resonated with me, as I'm sure it did with many black femmes struggling with an invisible disease. I read Solange's post apologizing for not being able to perform at Afropunk, and I knew she felt the guilt that many black femmes feel when they're debilitated from giving.
For Solange, performing is her way of resisting. For that to be taken or interrupted, it’s more than heartbreaking. For many people living with chronic illness, their talents and passions are put on hold or even completely taken away. Performing was Solange’s super power, as mine was to unite and chant. Are we useless now that we can’t do those things? Do we still mean something to this movement and to our people?
Yes. Our survival is resistance. Our existence is a political statement. Taking care of ourselves is a form of protest because they don’t want us to love ourselves. I am young, disabled and black. Just because I can’t be out in these streets anymore doesn’t mean I stopped caring or stopped “doing something about it.” In response to Solange recently sharing with us her diagnosis and what she has been going through, I know her music is her activism. I know she delivers to us in her lyrics what MLK delivered to us walking in these streets. I feel your guilt, sis, and I know as black women we have to hold everyone up but we need to hold ourselves up too. It’s OK, Solange. It’s OK black femmes struggling with chronic illness.
There needs to be more done for black people living with chronic illnesses and disabilities. People with invisible illnesses, like Solange's and myself, are constantly pushed and not taken seriously when we say we don’t feel good. We’re held to the same high standards of daily physical activity, when for me it’s even hard to brush my teeth in the morning. There needs to be more awareness within our communities of people living with these silent pains. We look to celebrities and think them untouchable and when they come forth with shocking news about their health, we question our own mortalities. But for people like me, that question is always lingering. The quality of life we live and how we live it is forever changed. Just like mental health within the black community, physical health needs to be made aware of. We need to be there and do better for our loved ones struggling through their day. If you know anyone living with a disability or chronic disease, please check-in with them and see how they’re doing. Validate them and listen to their grievances, even when you can’t understand their invisible pain.