Yesterday on her return from the Essence Jazz Fest in New Orleans, former Bennett College and Economist President Julianne Malveaux posted something quite amazing on her Facebook page. Here is what she wrote:
“I wish that all of my sisters can be released of the pain they carry around. Walked Burboun Street with two of my young’uns last night (well I was back in my room by 2:30, I think they stayed out until 4). In the time I walked I was stunned by the number of sisters without joy in their eyes. Oh, they were looking good, and there was some laughter, but too many were walking down Burboun like it was a death march (perhaps I exaggerate slightly), a duty, not a joyful experience. And the street was packed, but there wasn’t alot of connection. It made me sad. ..I met a sister who saves all year to come to New Orleans, she and her 32 year old daughter. Mama was far more joyful than baby girl though, mama bubbling up with smiles. Young sis looking great, but nearly vacant eyes. I want to hear from FB friends about this pain and how we can heal it. Or am I simply overreacting?”
No Julianne you are NOT overreacting. You are 100% on point. And you nailed “the look” that our baby girls have in their eyes-it is void, soulless, angry, broken, wanting, fearful, and careless. I don’t say this to condemn them. I love them as do you. That is why I wrote that tome known as “Black Woman Redefined”. We have labored together at Bennett College to speak life to these beautiful creatures, to try and instill in them a sense of purpose, destiny, and the belief that they can have it all. But like you I am worried that the notion of “having it all” is forcing us to “do it all” and in turn, we are missing what “being it all” is truly all about. “Being” is about living present. We have failed to model healthy lifestyle choices for them. We have failed to model peace for them. We have failed to model fulfillment for them. We have failed them. Is it any wonder they look so void?
The other piece that is real, is that black women are simply exhausted by life. We are beyond sick and tired. Many of us are quietly depressed, hurt, struggling, and alone. We look great on the outside, but the truth is so many of us are hurting on the inside. And we are playing it out on the stage of life. The Basketball Wives, The Real Housewives are in many ways art imitating life. That is real. We are angry. We do go off. We are simply tired. Many of us fear being alone, so we make bad choices to avoid that fate. We put up with the unthinkable to keep our status and things, because we know the stigma that often comes with being labeled, “strong, independent, lonely.” Sisters it has to change. Something has to change.
The solution has to begin with us teaching them what we did not get right. We have to help them to “Redefine Success”. It has to be on a new set of terms. Ones that don’t leave us all feeling so damned exhausted and worn out. We, the women of Gen X and the Baby Boomers have to step up and help our young sisters to be better women. It starts with what we model and sanction to them in our homes, our marriages, our churches, our relationships and in our workplace behavior.
Sisters it’s time to heal. We owe it to these young women. They need us.
Sophia A. Nelson
Chairman & Founder, My Sister to Keep