“Blackness Is Ongoing.”-The Power Of This Will By Undoing

I am in this space of radical love and self-acceptance. In my devouring of the fire of Feminista Jones; the medicine at the shoulder, knee, yea, hands of Toni Morrison; I came across the sister oracle, Morgan Jerkins.

This book had been on my radar for over a year. It had been in my literature orbit, and hidden among other Amazon needs. However, now, this time, I bought it.

What I got in the about 8-hours of the author herself, was a dual realization of my power as a Black woman. And the invisible chains that held, pulled and sought to destroy me.

I found myself nodding when she talked about the paradox of being a smart, quiet, Black girl. I teared up remembering my middle school self: smart as hell, awkward, with parents that prized grades over social status. The struggle with sexuality as a Black woman versus the idea (even appearance) of being fast. I was mad as fuck with her as she relayed her frustration with college acceptance; the loss of her father and hiding in the depths of academic success. I clasped my hands, as if she could feel them, when she talked about her faith. I even teared up at her *manifesto in Chapter 9.

The power of this book is it’s willingness to confront the joys and struggles of being a Black woman. She rips off the Band-Aids with laser precision and pulls no punches.

While reading it, I found Morgan on Twitter. I tweeted her about how the book effected me. How I wished I had something like this 25 years ago when I was a girl and trying navigate woman spaces I was thrust into. I had to examine myself and alla my stuff as the choreopoem goes.

In, with, that examination, came a strange empowerment. The further acceptance of my Blackness. Of forgiving women in my family whom did only what they knew to do in order to keep me safe and tame. I no longer felt that my experiences were alien.

This book was a reminder of self, my entire self. Of allowing my daughters a freedom I never tasted. I was reminded my soft heart and quiet nature were never a detriment, but a tool. I was reminded just as Phylicia Rashad said:

“Your whole self is such a treasure.”

I had forgotten that. Like any good writer, Morgan made me remember. For that, I am thankful.

Thank you, Morgan Jerkins.

*The manifesto in Chapter 9 is one of the boldest, most vulnerable things I have read pertaining to loving yourself as a Black woman. I am glad I have this book on Audible so I can go back and reference it on blue days. The days where my magic, my swag or my sway feel less than. Where I feel less than. Where I am low, in need a level of refilling God-deep. One of the joys of being a writer is you get to see and feel deeply. With that depth, the refilling, too, must be just as deep.

For A Fast Girl: Being Honest With A Little Black Girl

I am the proud Mama of two daughters.

In my decade and some of being a parent, I have made it my mission to be as honest with them as possible. I remind them that they are beautiful, smart and capable of all that they wish. In the coming onslaught of puberty/preteen/teenage angst, I now have to have conversations with them which–in complete candor–I don’t want to have.

I don’t look forward to telling my oldest daughter (soon to be 12), because her body is changing, people will start looking at her. There will be boys as well as men looking at her. Through no fault or provocation. I will have to tell her how to defend herself from someone’s son whom may try and touch her. I will have to assure her that her body is hers, and she has complete ownership of it!

I will have to tell her that because she is tall, she will never look her age. I will have to tell her when men approach her, to limit her eye contact and always be aware of her surroundings, and where people are in conjunction to her.

I have to tell her how to stay safe when Mama Bear ain’t there.

I have to tell her what it means to be called fast, because she still has a grandmother of a certain age. For that reason, her grandmother will think the best way to keep her safe—is to over criticize. Minutely critique. Just as her mother did to her.

I don’t look forward to the cloud which may form over her bright hazel eyes. She’ll be thrust into a world that wants to devour her, while she still loves reading, sneakers and the MCU.

I don’t want to watch that residual spill over to my younger daughter (now 10). I don’t want to have to repeat this information to her. I don’t want to tell my bold, intelligent baby girl that the fact she is so shapely, some boy may try to touch her. Or think she’s available, because she is thicker than her sister.

But, this must occur. I have to have these conversations. I have to arm them. I must arm them. The world I desire to change (and I may leave them), will not tell her these things. They will not tell my daughters their value aside from their sensuality or esthetic. The world will evaluate, rate, like, share them only as it relates to what it can get from them.

And be quick to call them names if something happens to her. I arm my daughters with self-honor and undeniable truth. In that power, with that power, do I allow my daughters to truly become everything they desire. Telling a girl that, is more powerful than you can imagine.

For A Fast Girl: When They Call You A Name

I don’t know who started this.

I don’t know who the first person was to call a Black girl fast.

I don’t know if it was meant to be a joke or a correction or to save her life from something unseen. What I do know is, now a century and a half from enslavement (and what passes as freedom), this word has been used to corrale Black girls ever since.

From there, it’s a slippery slope, right? If you can call a Black girl ‘fast’, it’s easier to call her a ‘ho.’ Which makes it easier to call her a ‘bitch.’ Which, in turn, makes her devalue the other Black girls around her using the same vernacular.

It is so easy to devalue a little Black girl. Making her an object and not a person is the quickest way to keep doing that. To keep making all the music she listens to value her body and latent, potential sexual prowess.

With this roux, you’ll always grow fresh crops of fast girls.

Inevitably, someone will challenge this observation. They’ll say I’m too sensitive. That I’m overreacting or my favorite: hit dogs holler. To that, I counter by saying, “Who is throwing the rocks?!” I’m not being sensitive so much as observant. That’s what my job is as a writer.

In the age of hook-up culture versus primo geniture fueled by toxic patriarchy; of #MeToo and rape culture; sexual assault taken as a male past time, someone must be vigilant. Someone must be willing to protect our girls. Someone must believe them. Someone must be willing to go to the mat for little Black girls and women. Someone has to be willing to take the rocks that accusers have and disarm them. One at a time.

In the interest of honesty, I too have been called fast. By my aunts that thought I was doing too much for male attention (e.g., switching, what I wore). I’ve also been called a ‘ho.’ And bitch. And ugly. These comments came from young men, men and boys that once I wouldn’t, couldn’t give them what they wanted (either sex or attention), the next step was to try and make me feel bad. In making me feel less than, their egos remained in check and unscathed (note: this is how toxic patriarchy works).

However, the great thing about aging out of that particular bracket where being called fast was an option is self-reflection. I now have the life experience to look back and determine just what and why that was trash behavior! Moreover, I am able to assert the trash behavior was independent of me! This means people projected what they thought onto me.

In a toxic, sexually charged culture, any deviation to that acceptance of said dominant culture is, can be, problematic. Not allowing myself to be dehumanized was problematic. Standing up for myself is problematic. Not allowing myself to be loved or desired in pieces was problematic. Not being sexually available (which is the definition of being a ‘fast’ girl might I add!) was problematic!

The adage goes, “It’s not what they call you, but what you answer to.” In order to protect yourself and your spirit, you cannot answer to every thing you are called. At the same time, knowing who you are will make those names not stick. And those same dogs that holler? You can throw your rock right back at them.

For A Fast Girl: The Black Girl Body


For as long as I can remember, my body has been policed.

From how I wore my hair, to how short a skirt I could wear. My aunt even told me this golden quote:

“Jenn, all you had all your life was legs and ass!”

True story.  But I digress.

But, I remember the first time I was called ‘fast’ or that I was ‘trying to be fast’. I had no idea what that meant as an 8-year-old girl. I knew that when I started to get taller, my mother and father got worried about how they could keep me looking like a little girl. I remember the vinegar my grandmother had her in mouth when she even said that word ‘fast.’  I remember my Aunt Linda said I was ‘switching’ and did I think I was fast?

I had no concept of that.

Later on I found out that I have a slight curvature to my back, and that causes me to ‘switch.’ It wasn’t anything I could control. I remember feeling bad about my body and wishing to change it. I didn’t want to have long legs. I didn’t want the butt I had. I just wanted to change!

I remember I was in third grade when the first boy touched my butt. I was told this was normal and ‘some boys just do that.’ I remember in third grade when a boy told me to open my legs and let him touch me. I remember I pushed him away, hit him and cried. I remember telling my teacher what happened and us both being sent to the principal’s office.

BOTH. OF. US.

I didn’t tell my mother, or aunts, or grandmother what happened. There was no note sent home, and he stayed in my third grade class. For me? The worst thing was to be considered ‘fast.’ Especially when I had no concept of what it really was to be it; or what it meant to be called it.

Girls, now women, of a certain age know what it’s like to have that look on older women’s faces when they call you this name. This look of disgust, horror and anger. I remember I couldn’t have red nail polish. I couldn’t wear my hair certain ways. And I always had to have a slip when I wore skirts so ‘no boy would look up my dress.’ In the reflection of my womanhood, I know that a ‘fast girl’, to be labeled a ‘fast girl’ is to be called  a slut or a whore. It’s a sweeter way to tell a girl, especially a little Black girl, that her body is a temptation to men, even as young as seven or eight.

Being called fast is supposed to be some type of deterrent. A way to warn you to control yourself before the outside world pounces on  you. It puts the onus of all sexual interaction or interest on a girl.

A little girl.

And the word is so ingrained among the African-American community that is hard to stop using it–even in casual conversation! But let us examine this further. We tell little Black girls how precious they are, how pretty, and then tell them they have to be cognizant of how they sit. The nail polish they wear. How they wear their hair. We police everything about them.

Why?

The world outside our doors never sees them as girls. We know there is research that exists that think Black girls as young as five are sexualized. Being fast is another way of asserting that same control the world has a little Black girl, until she falls in line. Until she sees her body as weapon and temptation. Until she cannot celebrate her full lips, curves or plump rear end.

Now this is not a deterrent to decorum. I believe little girls should be able to be little girls, for as long as possible. But there are other ways to affirm this other than policing what they can’t control.

Little Black girls deserve to be protected and loved too. The world already seeks to devour them. Let’s not serve the world’s lion the meat of their flesh before they are able to identify them. And run from them.