I keep wanting to quote “For Colored Girls…” because I feel like Ntozake Shange’s point in writing that choreopoem is one in the same with my mission in the #SmartBrownGirl movement and specifically, what I hope to be, event series. To speak to the nuances of colored womanhood. Dig a little deeper, build a little higher and spread a voice to those unheard.
sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life
she’s been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn’t know the sound
of her own voice
her infinite beauty
she’s half-notes scattered
without rhythm/ no tune
sing her sighs
sing the song of her possibilities
sing a righteous gospel
let her be born
let her be born
& handled warmly.”
– Ntozake Shange, for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf
It was such an honor to host the first #SmartBrownGirl event in Brooklyn, sponsored by Natural Girls Rock, this past weekend and to share the floor with women of great caliber whose inspiration I pull from, so it was great to share it with others. Jovian Zayne of Teach for America, Kimberly Foster of ForHarriet.com, Zoe Zeigler of ColorComm and Janell Hazelwood of Black Enterprise joined me on a panel discussion about Vulnerability and the Strong Black Woman Archetype. The theme of this discussion arose from my book, Send It On, a collection of short stories that follows the emotional tale of coming of age for a young woman as she reckons with her identity as a Strong Black Woman. The largest arch in the story is the main characters, Solana’s, fight with understanding her vulnerability. This is my story. And it is the story of many other #SmartBrownGirls. So when I decided to actually do this event, it was easy to pick what the discussion would be on, because I wanted it to be personal. Intrinsic, a space between us that we thumps loudly so we know it’s there, but we fight so hard to ignore it because pretty, warm feelings are much more desirable. Vulnerability is not just a term used when discussing relationships, it is also applicable to career, lifestyle and faith. So here we are, on a Saturday early evening discussing vulnerability.
The discussion that came out of this panel was awe-inspiring. We oft forget how deeply insecurities sit, just above the belly of embarrassment, covering up a sense of self. Jovian reiterated a point that she made in her #BTVF interview, about making it to a point where you are content with your purpose not needing to be where everyone else is at; you don’t have to worry about being left out if you are where you need to be. Janell commented that you should embrace your vulnerability and use your weaknesses to propel you forward. Zoe reminded us to give ourselves a moment to enjoy the actual moment without an urge to dash to the next goal or compete in an imaginary race against your peers, take a moment to be content. Kimberly spoke a word, “I owe it to my forefathers to live in my purpose everyday,” as we should take advantage of the rights and freedoms our ancestors hard fought for us. And that was just the beginning of the conversation to be had.
— Janel Martinez (@janelmwrites) October 4, 2014
Kimberly Foster, founder of ForHarriet.com shared a very personal story about her father’s passing and how it changed her life. We shouldn’t feel ashamed of how we deal with grief and in the time that Kimberly took off from school, at what she considers her lowest point, she started her now successful blog, ForHarriet.
The energy was dazzling, fluid and palatable. So many gems were shared about dealing with and finding comfort in your vulnerability as a #SmartBrownGirl. I could not have done any of this by myself. It was great to have Kelly J and Natural Girls Rock as the premier sponsor, along with Sheer Luxe Beauty as our sponsor. Many thanks to the panelists who electrified the room. Trudy of 4cHairChick, for helping to turn this from a passing a idea into a live production. Mo of CurlsandMo, for picking out amazing vendors that added to the great energy of the evening – you ever been to event where it’s just a hodge podge of folks selling random things that no one really wants, girl I didn’t realize how much vendors can impact your space until this event, so thank you thank you. Thank you to Melissa Chanel and all the volunteers for ensuring everything went smoothly day of show, ensuring that they audience felt everything was effortless. Oh and to Melissa my homie since high school who allowed us to use her beautiful space, Dumbo Sky, with the gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline. Every single person who had a hand in pulling this off I sincerely thank you.
Be sure to look up each of the panelists on social media (click their names in the article), they are women who have a world of knowledge to offer! Check out our Facebook photo album for all the pictures of the event!
Stay tuned we just might bring this to your city soon. Let us know in the comments below what city you’re in if you would like to see a #SmartBrownGirl panel happen near you.