In honour of Black History Month, we express the importance of Black culture. However, I would love to express my thoughts and feelings on what being a Black woman means to me.
As a Black woman, I understand that things may be harder for me and that I have to work 100 times harder than other women. The way stereotypes were placed on me from the moment I was born isn’t fair. It makes things much harder for me to accomplish since people already have this certain picture painted of me in their heads. However, being a Black woman means so much to me. It means being powerful, educated, talented, a boss and an inspiration.
Growing up, I never really understood what being a Black woman meant, and I didn’t think of it to be as important. However, over the years I’ve had many influences around me that demonstrated what it truly means, as well as understanding the importance of who I am. I have four amazing women in my life that have helped me realize what being a Black woman truly is, that being my mom and my three older sisters.
My mom is an immigrant from Eritrea, a country located in East Africa. My mom lived in a war-torn country before she left to seek a better life for her future family. She then lived in Saudi Arabia with my three sisters and dad before she took my siblings to Canada to seek a better life. Imagine a woman with no English bringing three young girls under the age of seven with no help. She then worked two jobs to make sure she could support my sisters while my dad was in another country working alongside attending school and getting a degree as a Personal Support Worker. Fast forward to the present day, my mom and dad owned a shop in Union Station from 2003 to 2020.
My mom holds such resilience and strength that I’m sure no other woman I know could come close to. It’s something I admire greatly about her. Since I was born in Canada, she helped me remain close to my culture and be proud of where I came from. From the meaning of my name to playing cultural music around me, taking me to church, and more. With me being a future journalist in the making, I can now make my mother proud knowing that I’m one of the very few Eritrean-Canadian journalists out there. The thing with my mom is that she did whatever it took to ensure that my sisters and I get the lives we deserve along with having the opportunities and education she never had.
My three sisters are three women I talk the most highly of to anyone. Every girl wants a sister to be able to have that connection and be able to talk about things you may not be able to do with others. I used to complain about having sisters because the feeling of being compared to them sucked.
But now, I don’t mind that at all because my sisters are all bosses in their own ways. All three of them have incredible careers that they’ve worked so hard to be in. My sisters are also all extremely different from each other, both personality and career-wise. Yet, they all embody similar characteristics my mom has which is nice to see. My mom who is a queen has now brought up the new generation of queens in my family.
As a child, I had a hard time accepting myself as a Black girl. The struggle of looking different from every one of my friends to also being treated differently had a massive impact on me. I had a hard time accepting myself for who I was, and I always feared that no one liked me because I was a young girl who happened to be Black. I still have that same fear today. As I study to become a journalist, I have to work so much harder than my friends who aren’t Black because opportunities may come easier to them, and they might not face the discrimination I will. I’ve also faced a lot of backlash growing up because I’m very passionate about issues facing the Black community. Yet sometimes, I’m scared to show my emotions because I might be labelled as an angry Black woman or over-emotional.
I feel like for me, and any other young Black woman or girl, it’s extremely hard for us to feel a sense of belonging or importance in society. The way we have all the odds stacked against us before we could even speak is the problem. The way society tries to fit us into their moulds is why people don’t look our way. We fight every day to make our feelings feel validated. We are the blueprint for many things that pop culture adopts today and the world needs to give Black women the respect they deserve. I think that’s also one of the reasons why my understanding of how being a Black woman means a lot to me, we are a part of so much culture that is appreciated by many. I take great pride in knowing I could create more culture or be a part of history one day.
However, I don’t let that stop me at all. As a matter of fact, I continue to use my voice as a Black woman because Black women deserve to be seen and heard. We deserve to be able to be recognized for our talents and strengths and not just for our bodies and attitudes. The reason why I became a journalist is so that I can paint a picture for little girls, a picture showing them that they can be where I am today. No matter what adversities they may face growing up, they will always be spreading that Black girl magic throughout the world.
Like Rihanna said in an interview with Essence, “I’m a black woman. I came from a Black woman who came from a Black woman who came from a Black woman and I’m going to give birth to a Black woman. We’re impeccable, we’re special and the world is just gonna have to deal with that.”