I was on my way to the Summer Institute for Youth Mentoring in Portland, Oregon (the Whitest city in America) when I received an email from a fellow Sistah in this mentoring work. She said:
I know you are going to do great tomorrow! I wish I could be there to support you! This is a great opportunity to shine among your peers and those trying to get where you are. There are not many of us that can play in this mentoring field. Give them hell but don’t give them everything!
I was inspired by her words of encouragement and it gave me an opportunity to reflect on the space I was entering and about to navigate. I had been invited to the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring as a special guest speaker to talk about Critical Mentoring. I knew that in the world of mentoring it was one of the most prestigious opportunities available. I also knew that it was rare for the institute to be based on a topic like civic engagement, which inevitably included discussions about equity, activism, and protest. But, what I had not realized until my Sistah wrote to me, was that I was among the few Black women to be included in this way and to have a platform of this magnitude, though many of us have been engaged in mentoring work for a very long time.
Though I already knew what I knew, my Sistah helped me to revisit the idea that Black women have been doing the heavy lifting and for a very long time. While we may be garnering a bit more attention and maybe even accolades now, the burden of moving our world forward in revolutionary and liberatory ways has always been ours to bear. Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Nina Simone, Bettina Love, Fannie Lou Hamer, Blossom Brown, Shirley Chisolm, Patrisse Cullers, Bessie Smith, Audre Lorde, Kimberle Crenshaw, Maxine Waters. Must I continue? She was reminding me of the women in the mentoring field who have been engaging in research, practice, and curriculum development, fundraising, and training for years only to be underrecognized and undervalued by their colleagues in the field. Black women who have and continue to do the heavy lifting.
And, we just keep doing it. The internet is currently ablaze with the news of Black Trans Activists who set Politicon on FIRE when they shut down (and I mean they shut him all the way down) host of Breakfast Club, Charlamagne tha God during an interview event. Charlemagne is responsible for leading and participating in a discussion in which he and comedian Lil Duval joked and laughed about killing trans women. You can check out the background story here: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_597e1a82e4b0da64e879c8f6/amp. But, there were lots of folks, trans folks included, at Politicon and lots of folks in the room when Charlamagne was being interviewed. Apparently, no one deemed it the time or the place to disrupt and speak truth to power.
Enter Black trans and cis women.
They not only disrupted the event but called for a boycott of the show and garnered immediate and national attention to the pervasive violence and murder happening against trans women. Where was everybody else? Content to ride on our backs and on the subsequent wave of attention we mustered centuries of sweat, tears, and strength to push forward?
Today, on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, it’s time to respect, appreciate, value, support, and honor the work of Black women, both cis and trans. The world wouldn’t be what it is today without us, our frameworks are naturally rooted in love and liberation, and we seem to be the only ones who are just fine with doing the heavy lifting.