The Gathering Space
I’ve always considered myself a fierce advocate for all things multicultural. I’m a firm believer in cultivating one’s own voice and in the power of community, because, let’s face it – it takes a village! Recently, I’ve been attempting to work on my needs as a cisgender woman, as a person of color and ultimately, as a therapist. The question I’ve repeatedly pondered is “where are the spaces for Black women to exist and to be…safely, and whole-heartedly be?”
The Struggle is Real
We may all be familiar with the expression, “the struggle is real.” This colloquialism emphasizes that stress, difficulty, pain and suffering are very prominent, authentic and valid experiences. Unfortunately, these experiences can also feel very isolating and make one question “why me?” When the social systems of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, identity, ableism, ethnicity, culture, age, socioeconomic status, and language intersects with “the struggle” it can be overwhelming and complex.
Assimilation, in terms of culture, is a process that many Black Americans begin at birth. The idea that “blackness” has to fit into the box of “whiteness” is an exhausting, frustrating and in some ways, life-long ordeal. Assimilation for Black women is a huge part of “the struggle” and becomes more prevalent as Black women attempt to “break the glass ceiling.”
You Don’t Have to Struggle Alone
Support is important! And it can be difficult to ask for help and seek support when there is a cultural belief one must be strong, but not too strong; resilient, but not broken; nurturing and passionate, but not angry. Fragility is not a privilege afforded to Black women, and I would argue it is not a privilege Black women desire.
I’ve noticed the time of need for black women is now. As a therapist, it is my role to ensure individuals have the accessibility to safely explore their inner most thoughts and emotions, in a supportive and nurturing environment. As a passionate advocate, I also believe dynamic conversations about social justice issues can foster strength and create change within the broader social system. Black women need a space to explore their emotions and experiences of oppression and marginalization in a safe, supportive, and validating environment, while at the same time, cultivating the essence of Black womanhood (many may know this as #hashtag “black girl magic”) with other Black women.
I recently read a blog post by one of my mentors and clinical supervisor, Ruby Blow. In the blog, she discussed how women’s lives are so often devalued and based on service to others; how women, in many ways, are not able to fully cultivate their inner strength and “womanity” due to the societal belief that women are weak and less than (Blow, 2018). She uses the #hashtag “you’ve been in the background much too long.” I believe this #hashtag emphasizes the importance of women, from all walks of life, leaning into their magic and growing into the light that is their very essence.
Essentially, this blog post, in large part, is a call to action. I’m extending an invitation to Black women in Atlanta to be a part of a group, which explores the dialectic of race and gender, while identifying ways to handle the repercussions of marginalization in a therapeutic way. This group will be known as Her Story because, while I believe all women have a story to tell, I believe in the value of and urgency for Black women’s voices to be heard.
Her Story is a gathering space for Black women to be unapologetic and authentic. It is a therapeutic support group created to cultivate the essence of Black womanhood for women age 25-40. This group is designed to be a safe space to address the cultural and emotional needs of being both a Black American and a woman from a strength and skills-based approach. It is my hope this will be an opportunity for black women to gain some liberation from discrimination and oppression by learning healthy and effective ways to navigate marginalization when in an invalidating and ineffective environment. The group will meet weekly for 8 weeks and will be a closed group.
Now, is the time for Black women to rise out of the ashes and darkness of silence and oppression and to grow into the light of their voices and power.
Blow, R. (2018, August 1). A seat at the table. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.developmentcounts.com/a-seat-at-the-table/