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I am her, that woman who is part of a line of bad, bodacious women. Except for my Aunt Bea, who was the publisher and editor of Sepia magazine, most of their names are not highlighted in history books or a PBS special.

My grandmother, who is 106, continues to wake up and be present in her world, although she no longer has sight. This propels me to get up when I want to sit down. She told me when she was living in Wilmington, North Carolina, that she sat in the front of a bus before Rosa Parks. The white bus driver told her: “you might as well get used to it” because of the civil unrest that was happening in her southern, segregated town. My grandmom is a trailblazer and entrepreneur who had a sandwich stand and a childcare business.

My Nana was a tiny woman in stature who had the spunk of a giant and the heart of a lion. She protected and provided comfort and rest for a world of women and men in her home. My mother continues Nana’s work to offer me and others who need her home a respite against a world that too often can be mean. It is my mother who taught me how to be a sister to other sisters.

I am part of women like Momma Emma who nurtured a neighborhood of children including her own and who told me: “Tell ‘em you don’t come in body parts.” I belong to that tribe of teachers and poets like Sonia Sanchez who told me not to gossip, but instead help a sister or brother to improve their condition. She continues to teach me what it means to be human and a Black woman in this world. Momma Sonia often reminds me of how some are surprised by our contributions like those showcased in the book, I Dream A World, which was produced by photojournalist, Brian Lanker and documents a range of Black women that editor Barbara Summers notes had a “fist up, death-defying love that challenged the unfair conditions of life and muscled in on injustice as it nursed both sides of a nation.” Without reparations, this nation has nursed our tits dry.

Recently, Gwyneth Paltrow noted how she learned about self-love from her Black friends. She says, “It’s like from the deepest part of their souls all the way to the tips of their fingers.” My question to this is if we don’t love us, who will? This is the muscle earned when we are not put on pedestals, when we have to fight white women, white men, and our men too, to claim our femininity, brilliance, and space. I am her!


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