little girls, fictional worlds & the characters that raised us

a remembrance of the written landscapes that transported me - and countless other little black girls - to a place of belonging and a radical love of blackness

i am from conway, arkansas. a small town where all the boys were black, all the girls were white but some of us had to be brave. while the idyllic, sleepy-town was fairly racially homogenous - it always seemed to be struggling with a white-washed identity that forced all of its black residents to fit in or be counted out.

i don’t regret the upbringing i had, nor the experiences that came along with it. after all, conway is the place where i learned the transcendent truth of dubois’ “double consciousness” and the bilingualism of code-switching - ways of seeing and being in the world that have been priceless to my becoming. yet, constantly traversing the boundaries of my mostly white classrooms and all white teachers and finding solace in between the pews of my all black church, it was jarring at times to feel the compelling need to contort myself to accommodate each setting without bending myself into an unrecognizable form.

as i admitted in my last post, i was never mrs. popular. therefore, my friendships were usually limited to small circles of other strugglers of my same ilk - most of whom happened to be white. it is not lost on me that i never had any of those anger-inducing, tragically racist experiences of any of my friends wanting to touch my hair or feeling the need to tokenize me at every turn (truth: that happened when i got to be an adult with white co-workers who had lost their damn minds). but still. i always felt a sense of longing. an emptiness. a wanting for my self. even though most of my middle/high school friends were (and still are) truly lovely people.

“...conway is the place where i learned the transcendent truth of dubois' "double consciousness" and the bilingualism of code-switching - ways of seeing and being in the world that have been priceless to my becoming.”

i found my self in the fictional worlds created by the eloquent imaginations of such women as bette green, mildred d. taylor, and candy dawson boyd (*shout out to my moms for all the library trips and book fair money she could muster*). reading about brown and mahogany skinned girls who struggled with their hair or whose parents are sharecroppers struggling to be free or whose complexion caused her to struggle with her own self-worth - freed me in a way i may never have found in a white-washed town.

the magical ability of philip hall likes me, i reckon maybe, roll of thunder hear my cry, a different beat, to chase away the monsters of internalized, self-hatred well before i knew the pernicious truth about white supremacy has been salvific time and time again. i thank God for the books whose words shaped in me an unapologetic resolve - to like myself. to hear the thunder of my soul. and dare to dream to a different beat.

i only pray that one day my work will do the same and that my fictional worlds will push us to save ourselves in such troubling times. Until then, I'll just keep #writingthework #mysoulmusthave for all the little black girls looking for themselves in a foreign land.


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