I’m a Black Girl and I am not Broken


I am many things.   Among them—I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a poet, a writer, and  a lover of love and admirer of creation. I am a person of deep faith, a survivor, and a brave bird.  But for all the things that I  am—both good and bad—there is one thing I am not:

I am in no way and by no measure broken.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been all up and through some hurt, but I am increasingly more intentional about emerging from those experiences stronger and more definite in my purpose.  I am grateful to the universe for every door that opens for me and even more gratified for the wisdom to know which one to walk through.

I guess this is why I am troubled by a representation I see in the larger culture: Black women as “inherently broken”.  These representations are adopted wholesale and perhaps more damaging internalized, when they should be interrogated, and even outrightly refuted.  Hence, this post emerged after a misguided attempt to garner my affections. The unrelenting pursuant diagnosed my disinterest, as follows:

“I’m saying bay [urban colloquialism for the term of endearment baby] I’m perceptive but even a simpleton could see you’re going though an internal struggle based on previous trauma…..[it continued] Bay don’t be scared to take assistance while moving on…Those chains aren’t  going to protect u nor make u whole…”

Delivery aside, the notion put forth in this ghetto soliloquy shook me to my core.  Nothing about our interactions up and until this point had communicated either directly or indirectly anything about my past or any pain that was a part of it.  I can say this with confidence because our conversations had been limited to text messaging—clearly not a communication medium optimal for real human connections.  I can also tell you as a matter of fact that this person was by no means perceptive or intuitive.  He was not even smart. We had spoken maybe three times in life.  What I see is that he had clearly ingested a narrative of what Black woman are as a collective, and projected this myth on to me—a practical stranger. For this he was unceremoniously dismissed.

Honestly, I did not need to be healed; dinner and a movie would have been enough.

The Broken Black Girl archetype—not unlike the lonely Black girl narrative— is ubiquitous throughout pop-culture.  Our struggle for identity, voice, and healing from the historical remnants of our storied collective experience is one the should emerge from the margins. Yet, I am convinced that the redemptive power of such stories is often lost.  In particular, this plays out in film:   The Color Purple, Waiting To Exhale, Precious, and  For Colored Girls are immediate examples. Each of the creative works tell the story of a Black woman or multiple Black woman in the throes of pain, hurt, anger and general brokenness.  In fact, Tyler Perry has made an empire on capitalizing from the well-worn tales of damaged Black women.  In his work, they are often redeemed by faith, however, the message of redemption is never the dominant narrative in the story arc.  It is the hurt experience of the “damaged” Black woman that is the focus.

It is time we started telling the stories of not only survival, but emergence and optimization.  I want to hear about Black women doing amazing things and living amazing lives on their own terms.  I want to wrap myself in the stories of yes strong black women, another archetype that is getting a bit stale, but more so fully developed women who are vulnerable, talented, smart, funny, and dynamic as the Black women I know.

I’ve lived a lot of life in these near thirty years, but more than bearing the scars of past hurts—I am embodying the power of resilience that manifest  from the downturns in life. I’ve emerged from each hurt experience more wise, and grateful to the universe for trusting me to be a teller of my story and our stories.

I am intentional.  I am courageous.  I am beautiful. I am smart. I am multi-dimensional. I am witty.  I am connected to nature and one with creation.  I am strong and weak.  I am prone to mistakes, but eternally evolving. I am at once grounded, but flying high in the skies.

I am a Black Girl and I am Not Broken.

What It Feels Like for a Girl: Poem and Polemic in For Colored Girls


Tyler Perry’s film adaption of Ntozake Shange’s theatrical masterpiece For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf is a commentary on the boundlessness of black genius, as much as it is a polemic against patriarchy.  The genius is found in the performances of the all-star cast and Shange’s poetry.  A self-proclaimed Black Feminist, the polemic is Shange’s—yes—but as retold here becomes largely Perry’s.

Last weekend I had the privilege of seeing the film with a group of sister friends and it is an experience that I will not soon forget.  The film is Perry’s best work yet and this is a testament to the genius of Shange’s material and the film’s brilliant cast, as much as it is to Perry’s artistic vision. For Colored Girls is examines how black female identity is negotiated, subjugated, represented, co-opted, and often times negated. Told through the interwoven narratives of nine women, the film uses the plays poetic voice to its advantage. Shange’s words drip of the tongues of Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Anika Noni Rose, Kerry Washington, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, and Phylicia Rashad, with as much potency and relevancy today as when the stage play debuted in 1975.  Look for Oscar nominations  Newton and Elise.

Based on the narrative thread of his films thus far, Perry is clearly negotiating some issues around black male identity, as much as he is black female identity.  The narrative arc of Perry’s films usually finds a female protagonist bound by an addiction to a man, to a drug, to a lifestyle that finds her losing herself.  The films usually end with the Black woman finding redemption through an act of spiritual transformation—a divine intervention.  With this transformation, she is fully formed and in touch with the God with her.  She is then able to access worldly love with a deserving man.  Tyler has a prototype for his ideal man, he is hard working—and often blue-collar,  he is spiritually in touch, and essentially neutered—void of any overt sexual aggression.

Tyler’s critique of Black men is perhaps even more powerful than his edification of Black women. In this film, they are misogynist, rapist, philanderers, liars, cheats, and decidedly weak.  There is no growth for the men and  no redemption  Accordingly, the films powerful performances are at times subjugated to Perry’s penchant for melodrama—at times it’s not clear if this is Perry’s moment of artistic maturity or a dressed up version of his usual wound picking.  For Colored Girls continues a narrative thread in black dramatic works like “The Color Purple” and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” that explore the strange dyad that is black men and black women—a relationship historically plagued by forced separation, gender role reversal, and plainly said pain.

This is not Madea.  It is a film with an artistic voice and cultural merit; it is well-positioned  among other classics in its exploration of the black women’s relationship with each other and the men in their lives. Perry is not Spike Lee (the one who makes good films), Spielberg, or Scorsese. Yet with this film, he addresses issues and concerns that will resonate with colored girls everywhere: a need to find their voice in a world that so often seeks to negate it; the desire to love and be love; and the innate resiliency that makes Black women the survivors we are.

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