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First off…let me say…I’m coming to you all with yet another post that I’ve sat on for far too long. I wonder if these posts are similar to what preachers go through when they’re waiting on a word from God. Any who, there’s no grand intro to this one. Just dive right in.
I lied awake, crying my eyes out and sobbing…after watching “When They See Us”. I saw too many tweets stating how the documentary is “a horror movie to us.” I cried…and cried…and cried as I watched on screen the plight and struggles of the Central Park Five, now known as “The Exonerated Five.” I cried, maybe to God perhaps, because I’ll never understand how to live in a world and be “free” yet be so hated all at once. As a black woman, I’ll never understand…why I’ll never be a enough to a nation that I had no choice but to belong to. I’ll never be enough to my country…which I still love.
If you aren’t aware of “When They See Us”, this is a documentary of five African American boys who were wrongly convicted (by a white prosecutor and jury), interrogated (by white policemen), and coerced into confessing to the vicious attack of a white woman in Central Park (NY) in 1989. A line resonated with me from Miss Ava Duvernay’s documentary. It went a little something like this (And I won’t say who said what. I’ll leave it to you to watch the documentary if you haven’t seen it already.):
“Why they do us like this?”
“How else they gon’ do US?”
You see…in this documentary….these boys weren’t deemed enough to a criminal justice system that never ceases to fail MOC (men of color) over and over again, stemming from years of hatred. These men- Kevin Richardson, Antron Mccray, Raymond Santana Jr., Korey Wise and Yusef Salaam-weren’t enough. They weren’t white enough. They weren’t worthy enough. In 1989…each every person involved in their case sentenced them to prison and sentenced them to years of (what I imagine) doubt and rejection…of never being..enough.
Are you enough?
Above you will see a video, derived from the movie “Green Book”. In this film, we venture with a working-class Italian-American bouncer who becomes the driver of an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South (oh boy!). On a dark, rainy night on the road, the famous pianist looks at his bouncer and proclaims: “If I’m not black enough and if I’m not white enough…and if I’m not man enough…..what am I?”
Identity. In the down time I do have…I sometimes spend it reflecting-becoming more and more aware of myself and my feelings, despite how horrific or shameful they may be to me. I think we all find ourselves at a crossroads and struggling with identity.
I think of “young” Adia. I remember my grandmother enrolled me in a summer camp at a local university, beginning in 2005. I came home maybe the first or second day with my skin horribly enflamed with acne. My forehead and cheeks covered in pimples, Bobbie (my grandmother) immediately took me to our nearest Walmart and we settled on “Stress Free” Neutrogena. My face cleared the next day, almost immediately.
Stress. A state of mental or emotional strain, tension, or toll. You see, the special thing about this summer camp…it was very unique really. Up until that point, I had spent my whole life going through predominantly black schools and this summer camp? It was a whole new thing. Here I was overweight, black, and in a room full of white people….My identity? Shattered. Broken between: “Am I white enough? Am I small enough? Am I pretty enough? Was I….enough?"
I think from a young age, I found myself asking these same things- If I’m not black enough…and I’m not white enough…and I’m not small enough…If I’m not pretty enough…Then what am I?
I tried so hard to fit….all the time. In middle school, I was told I acted “white” because I liked to read. I liked books. I liked big books. I liked to read everything. In those summer camps, I had interactions but never felt a real “belonging”. Every Train, Bowling for Soup, and Green Day song still never made me like “them”. And going to school each year in the fall with my black peers still never felt like there was an “US”. I think I had a little rise to fame among my black counterparts when I finally made a name for myself after a scuffle with a classmate. While my grandmother made sure to hammer that violence was never the answer, I felt….good. My classmates applauded me right as I was escorted to the Principal’s office. It was such a proud moment in my life…until I realized I was facing expulsion. Anyway, it was this point…at 10 or 11 years old…I somewhat…felt black enough. Finally.
High school brought a little more sense of belonging. I took on leadership roles. I became Student Body President as a Junior. I made my OWN name…as Adia Louden. While I was never small, I no longer questioned whether I was black. I didn’t question whether I was white. I began to feel fine…as me. The world quickly reminded me though…I was and will always be…black. At this point, in high school, I was also swimming on a swim team. As if it wasn’t bad enough being a rather large girl on the team in a one piece. I was a large, BLACK girl…and every white person at every swim meet let it be known. My identity reduced- dissolving.
If I’m not black enough…and I’m not white enough…and I’m not small enough…If I’m not pretty enough…Then what am I?
Perhaps the best thing I could have done, next to slapping my classmate (of course, right?), was attending a historically black college and university (aka HBCU). My college years were a time to be alive and being around so many black people…so many DIFFERENT black people…made me proud to be black and OKAY with being whatever kind of “unique” that came with MY blackness. Don’t misunderstand me. I still felt very uncomfortable among white people. But, I knew….I was black. And I was black ENOUGH. I knew…some part of my identity was coming together. However, I still didn’t know…if I was pretty.
Identity. What do you do when don’t feel enough? If you’re not black enough…if you’re not white enough…if you’re not SOMETHING enough, then what are you? I’ll tell you.
It is now at the age of 23…I feel everything and all of these things at once, thinking of the struggles “young Dia” went through…and how…I never want to let her down.
If you’re not enough for somebody…then they don’t deserve your body. And I mean that in a variety of ways-your friendship, your spirituality, your soul, your intimacy. Because the truth is….you’ll never be enough for the wrong person (that quote extends far beyond romantic meanings). And it’s a lot of wrong people in the world. These people will call you ugly, despise you, discourage you, lie on you, cheat on you, and even…try to kill you…and bury you. But that never means…you were or are never enough.
Say it with me: YOU ARE EVERYTHING.
Be everything…and be everything to the one person who will always have your back.
Be everything to YOU.
Peace and Love,