Advice to a Young Miss On the Occasion of her Coming of Age

Today, I was speaking with one of my students about a ‘first’ she will experience this week after a traumatic loss. She responded to me, “I’m just trying to be strong.” I started a conversation with her with, “What If I told you I don’t want you to be strong?” As I went for my walk today (I only had 20 minutes instead of 30 but I was determined to walk) this poem started to form in my head:

What if I told you I don’t want you to be strong?

What if I told that being strong is just a recipe for heartache and loneliness?

What if I told that being strong is a girdle of despair chained to your heart drowning you in this life?

What if I told being strong will cause you to go hungry?
That being strong will results in early morning headaches and high blood pressure medications?

What if I told being strong will have you standing in your driveway screaming at the top of your lungs with your wig on crooked and clutching your housecoat with one hand?

What if I told being strong will cause you to turn away from your babies because hugs require soft?

What if I told you that being strong kills more black women then bullets?
That being strong snuffs out our lives and living like a fastidious serial killer?
That being strong chokes our originality?
That being strong squashes our humanity?

What if I told you I don’t want you to be strong?

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I thought it fitting that I passed a free ‘library’ as I walked and pondered.

So WHAT do you want me to be, then? What do you want me to be?

I want you to be…bold and angry and vulnerable and sad 

I want you to eat love in large chunks and ride out this life like its a brand spanking new Harley with shiny rims and the sun is dawning off the coast

I want you be laughing at all the wrong and inappropriate spots so that people are asking you to leave polite places but doing so with smiles on their faces

I want you to be art tearing down stereotypes and creating new hype about hair and sneakers that never need cleaning

I want you to be dreaming about how tomorrow ain’t got nothing to do with yesterday while living full tilt in now

I want you to be looking in the mirror grinning at your own self and saying come on girl lets take a walk today

I want you to be grieving and not swallowing your pain but howling out loud cause it hurts you in spaces you can’t reach

I want you to be sitting in the sunshine waiting on the rain cause you like the way warm water feels against your skin

I want you to be dancing off beat and out of sync while learning the steps and getting in rhythm with your own flow

I want you to be free of this shackle that is the strong black woman myth

I want you to be free of this shackle that is the strong black woman myth

I want you to be free of this shackle that is the strong black woman myth

And when someone throws it in your face challenging you to stand up and go on when you need to take a minute and catch your breath because…life

I want you to be standing in your ground hands on your hips shoulders squared knowing that you rise on the shoulders of millions of women who died being strong being black being female and for every Martha for every Mary for every Sharnice for every Loquitha for ever Wanda I want you to say

Bullshit

And gone about your damn business being you.

   

I took a walk today.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. heyannis says:

    Mighty advice in this powerful poem. Thank you. xoA

    1. I hope she takes it. I didn’t.

  2. k1955 says:

    You are the Divine Ms. O!

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