A Letter to the Unborn Queens
As I scroll down my IG page, I see many pictures of black women of all shapes, sizes, and skin tones screaming their beauty out loud. I see phosphorescent lipsticks. I see highly melanated oiled skins bathed in light. I see empowerment. As we decolonize ourselves, our bodies, our beauty, our finances, and our voice, I cannot help but slightly resent our mothers who passed down for way too long, unrealistic and harmful beauty standards as well as toxic ideas about womanhood, standards and ideas that we are now deconstructing.
Yes, some of us had mothers who burned their bras, marched on Washington with their afros, and raised their daughters to live and think independently. But some of us had mothers who, tangled in the harsh reality of immigration and/or poverty, did not believe they could afford to challenge the status quo. Indeed, my mother’s philosophy of womanhood was deeply rooted in respectability politics rather than challenging gender roles and fighting against racial bias in the workplace. I grew up watching a powerful, strong black woman earn a nursing degree, become practically the sole provider of a six-person household, and take care of most of the chores, and yet stay involved in church. I watched a fierce, intelligent queen being exhausted every day for almost two decades.
And though I salute her continued sacrifice for taking care of my siblings and I, I often catch myself thinking “what would her life look like now had she been a little more selfish? Would I even be here? And if I were here, what kind of young woman would I be?
As I grown in self-love and try to extract all the internalized sense of “being less than” that was passed down to me through my mother’s silence on so many crucial issues, I am learning about the importance of forgiveness. I reflect on the importance of forgiving our mothers for the few issues they did not fight for. I forgive our mothers for all the unhealthy relationships we saw them in that terrorized so many of us about black love. I forgive the repressed, cursed sexual emancipation that made too many of us seem or feel like hoes, tramps, skanks, black bitches, wanna-be-white-girls, etc. I forgive the dirty looks on the liberties we’ve taken, the frowns on our avant-garde looks, and the uncomfortable questions suggesting our incompleteness as single women and single mothers.
Yet, for all victories black women won, there is a number of battles that still remain; and those cannot be overcome in one generation. I am thinking about so many of our fellow queens around the world whose crowns have been stolen by economic and political systems that prevents them from shining. Too many of our sisters are being fed “purity” and “humility” messages that keeps them from believing in their own potential, in their own financial and political power, in their own sexuality, and in their own royalty. Too many of our sisters remain held in bondage, serving as sex slaves in neocolonialist systems that profits from their physical attributes. A number of us are healing, and a number of us has yet to heal.
If there is one lesson that I’ve learned is that people tend to assume that emancipation and progress are linear. We tend to take for granted the victories won in the past and the freedoms we have, believing that things will continue to improve in space and time. Yet, history shows that it is not always true: women have not always been unable to vote; similarly, women have also not always been confined in the home. Women ruled in antiquity and who worshipped gods AND goddesses; they were elders and counselors in other words sitting in villages; and now forever first ladies, duchesses, CEOs, authors, etc. But somewhere in between, for a long period of time, we lost much of our power. And just like we have won battles in the past, but we can lose others ahead. The nature of our fight for equality and civil rights changes, but we have to make sure that no matter what, we keep fighting.
Unborn queens, we need you to keep looking for unaltered beauty in yourselves just like we are finding it in ours. We need you to keep shouting, protesting, drafting bills, taking office and advocating for your rights, just like we are, just like many of our mothers and grandmothers were.
But we also need you to erect new statues, new monuments in which our inner and outer powers are reflected. We need you to build better, stronger bridges across nations for the other queendoms out there. We need you to keep singing, keep painting, keep writing, keep twerking, keep showing that glowing skin and embracing your blackness.
And lastly, though we may not ask it, we’ll need you to forgive us for the battles we did not think of fighting yet. We are strong, but not almighty, and we cannot change centuries of oppression, assault, confinement, harm, terror, and micro-aggressions all by ourselves. And I understand now that our mothers couldn’t either.
Until we meet a few years from now, I say to you: You are a queen whose inner and outer beauty was designed and molded. You were given a voice. You were granted power. Use them.
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