“Black Womanhood is only exalted if it’s in servitude for someone else. Why are almost all popular depictions have Black women having to be super-humans?” – Atari Gems

By Atari Gems • 

I’m exhausted. My mother tells me to slow down. Drink more water. Cut back on the things. Limit time on social media. Go to the gym I’m passionate about. However seems like the work keeps stacking and stacking. I step back and scale it back then feel guilty.

Like the crack of thunder, or flash of lightning there is an activist. Activist whether they are at the forefront of movements or doing the grunt work or in the community in some Capacity. More than likely they are doing all three.

Some days I’m not sure what exactly my role is. Sometimes I’ve voluntold what to do, sometimes I feel as I solely exist an as a placeholder. Black women run stuff. Black women get it done. Black women are tired.

One thing that has been haunting lately as the two year anniversary of my grandma’s passing approaches was did she ever get a chance to rest?

My grandma, a statuesque woman at 5’8″, always seemed to be on the good side of things. Always optimistic, faith never unwavering. She was always was taking care of someone up into last year when she was diagnosed from cancer. In what seemed like fragments of a second my grandma who was a pillar in the community was rapidly decaying for my eyes.

It didn’t occur to me for 6 months because I was I the haze of school, trying to graduate, working in the community. Literally working myself to death. When my grandma passed everything seemed to go quietly. In one way I was upset she passed because she was one of the only [people I could confide in at the moment. In retrospect, I wondered if it was selfish of me to think of my grandma’s passing in this manner. My grandma was more than a pillar in the community, impromptu counselor, and stand in leader.

My grandmother and her legacy was not who she was in service. Poignantly I remember her wanting to focus on her art more after retirement but her self doubt trapped her there. Inactive doubting the very thing that made her happy. I wonder what my grandmother felt about all the emotional labor.

I see it in all the women in my life that intersection of the two. From the pruning hands of my great grandmother who was a domestic worker until her late 80s only to work a double shift caretaking of my family. To my mother who is overworked at a hospital, she is surrounded by nurses. While I need to develop further research into my family history. But n my most recent recollections all of my female relatives have been a caretaker in some capacity The cape seems to be sewn to our necks. We are always assigned to be a wonder woman or something akin to a female version of Superman. Black women must be made of something bionic. We’re going to school, we’re working full time, we’re starting blogs. We’re running programs.

Damsel Hood is reserved for white women. White womanhood has more than enough tears, Black hands are a tissue. We never get to rest or contemplate. In addition, cleaning everyone’s messes, Black women must be made of something bionic.

It’s A bird. It’s a plane it’s a Black woman. However, this idea has always persisted since the capture of our foremothers from the motherland. Black women have been the “help.” Always in the background, tidying. Just only called to fix things only to be fixtures laid on. The voice of the Black woman is always threatening.

We must save the house from burning even if we get burned in the meantime. I find myself exhausted. Weary about the current state of affairs. Trying to see what role I play and pondering if history is indeed repeating themselves.

I’m disillusioned by the American dream and no that I do not have the same opportunity to fail like my counterparts. No one has sympathy for the poor Black girl. Black girls and women trudge through. Surviving is what we know. I’m trying to find the comfort in that but it’s hard.

It ’s anxiety inducing to never feel like you have the opportunity to learn. I find myself asking more and more what are my identities if they all end up serving someone. Black Womanhood is only exalted if it’s in servitude for someone else. Why are almost all popular depictions have Black women having to be super-humans? Even when Twitter rallied to have esteemed Black fairy Godmother Oprah Winfrey to be president The sentiment though what seemed cheerful still had the undertones: the Black woman must fix a mess she didn’t create.

Why are we always entrusted to fix everyone’s messes? While this is not a slight at domestic workers whose contributions are always seen as secondary. I think of the ways Black women are groomed to nurture everyone. For this reason, I have to limit my time in the community and social media. The daily stressors of my job, the trappings of life, and the realities make me increasing weary.

This time last year I found myself stressed out all time, I wasn’t taking care of myself properly. I’m learning to take my time and that I don’t have to give more of myself than what I am able to.

I find it increasingly difficult to make space for myself and state my needs because society assumes that I will only be able to offer myself to aid. I see this not only occur in my life but with other Black femmes. I think of my mamma,my step mother,baby sisters. I think of my fictive family: how we share space on the days it seem like the world is too much.

A death that still haunts me is the passing of Erica Garner, who died of a heart attack at 27. She was called into activism after the murder of her father. The after effects of burnout are present, I try to take self care days but trying to survive seems insurmountable to the stress I daily encounter. The most I can do is surround myself by people who care for me. Go where I’m appreciated and remove things that cause me extra stress. I will say that I don’t have the answers and everyone’s needs are different. I will leave with this: Black women take the breaks you need.

Atari Gems is a writer/podcaster/mental health advocate from Richmond, VA. She hosts the Black Minds Matter Project, a bi-monthly show highlighting mental health of Black folks in the age of Black Lives Matter.