What It Means To Hold Space For Yourself And Your Community

What It Means To Hold Space For Yourself And Your Community

It's having the ability to balance showing up for your own goals, and for your progressive monarchy, anyway.

Human Interest

I'm one of those people who's almost over-passionate about the progression of the black community. I am always looking for innovative ways to contribute to, and reach us, wholeheartedly.

It's gotten to the point where I tend to share my room and platform with those who are on the frontline, grinding out on the pavement in ways that so many of us are unsure how to bring to life. This is one of the ways that I do my part; how I hold space for myself and for my community.

But what does that mean? What does it mean to take up room in each space?

If I were to define it, it would mean fulfilling your passion(s), while effectively bettering your community. It's also simultaneously understanding that your mental health must be prioritized when it's time to be, and knowing that sometimes, you just can't bring everyone with you. In today's plight, this type of passion often stands on the shoulders of local community activists, who are notoriously consumed with helping everyone around them.

Immediately, I think of superheros such as Pinky Cole, owner of Slutty Vegan, who has encapsulated her "take-action brand".

She does so through not only providing healthier meals for her entire city on a large scale, but also through her philanthropic underway that surrounds everything that she places her hands on. Cole has paid the rent of various Atlanta businesses who were suffering due to the pandemic. After receiving an onslaught of 1-star reviews and being labeled "anti-police" due to her pro-justice stance to the endless recordings of police brutality, she instead, with the help of the likes of Ludacris, Gabrielle Union, La La Anthony, and Chris Paul, decided to feed the entire city for free for the day. She has committed to picking up the tab of the late Rayshard Brooks' kids' college education to an HBCU. And in just one stroke, she has managed to feed her community, provide education to four children, and promoted historically black colleges.

I think of the king Tamika D. Mallory, who has captivated an entire generation, through her powerful words and unwavered stance on black issues.

She stands firmly, and unapologetically, at the front of whatever line necessary, "demanding justice for every other Breonna Taylor in our society." She speaks with conviction, she is absolutely not new to this, and she impresses paralleled giants like Angela Davis, Louis Farrakhan, and Beyonce. But make no mistake about it, sis cares most about justice. She has spearheaded Until Freedom as co-founder, and she has slowly become the voice of a generation. Her bottom line is clear: her fist will never come down.

I think of Dani Constable, who has managed to build out an entire plan to demand, and create, her 40 acres and a mule.

Dani is leading the revolution of purchasing land and teaching black women and queer women how to farm for themselves in order to eliminate the inevitable food deserts that affect black communities. And sis' business plan is detailed, down to the purchasing of her own livestock. She has single-handedly taken on the task of altering her community's ecosystem, quite literally one dollar at a time.

I think of the warrior, Aleta Clark (Englewood Barbie), in Chicago, who, like many of the people already mentioned, literally cares more about her community than her own well-being.

Englewood Barbie is well-known in Chicago. She stands face-first on the battlegrounds of the city, feeding the "Friends" (or the affectionately named locals who may be down on their luck for the moment) at her nightly outdoor shelter community, Club 51 (51st and Wentworth). She created a Safe House in her community, where she passes out free food and PPE to an impoverished, and ignored, area. She has demanded the attention, and respect, of the city's mayor and police chief, and sis has time-after-time raised money, brought awareness, paid for funerals, and supplied for those who are without. Even during those times where her neighborhood may have caused her pain, she shows up every time.

And I think of Lindsay Peoples Wagner, who has taken her massive platform at Teen Vogue, and has pivoted an entire brand to include the voices of so many that are voiceless.

Lindsay is "bringing people who look like you, with you", personified. She is the youngest editor-in-chief with her company, listed in Forbes' list of "30 under 30", and participated in the recent viral movement of #ShareTheMic with Diane von Furstenberg. She doesn't shy away from adding deeper hues to her room, and being unapologetic about it. At any time, you can find her fighting for black and brown fashion inclusion as founder of the Black in Fashion Council, and sitting in her high-profile corporate office, asking why Breonna Taylor's murderers haven't been arrested.

Community activism means being innovative.

It's standing tall.

It's making the move without applause.

It's sleepless nights; sacrifice.

It's reaching across the aisle, and profoundly supporting those around you.

It's being OK with losing those who don't agree with your message.

And most importantly, it's knowing when to back away, and take care of self.

As a writer for a black female empowerment hub, I've experienced my fair share of online ridicule and harassment from trolls on the world wide web. Or, I've taken on subjects that have intense stories that stick with me and linger in my mind for weeks. I've learned the importance of disconnecting and not allowing too much of one thing, to consume me.

Understand that, for women such as these, it's magnified.

They tend to take on the world and their own problems. So much so, that their genuine concern for mankind can ultimately mean that they lose themselves in the process.

Aleta Clark, who operates solely on the kindness of others—or even sometimes, her own dollars—at times, has to beg the community for support. Many of us only know Tamika Mallory because of Beyonce. Pinky, thanks to her loyal celebrity clientele, has catapulted her brand, even though she has had a failing restaurant in the past. And Dani's GoFundMe has reached only 30% of her Phase ONE goal, or 1% of her entire project's goal. And there are hundreds of other women just like them, at the forefront, doing the same work and making the best of their efforts with what they have. It's not having the notoriety, and working toward fixing what's broken on your front door step, everyday, anyway.

And it's, with or without support, having the ability to balance that self-imposed desire to selflessly continue to show up for your own goals, and for your progressive monarchy, anyway.

Understand what you're asking when you continuously pull from ladies such as the Tamikas, or Lindsays, Aletas, Danis or Pinkys of the world who carry the load. It's imperative that we stress the importance of protecting and prolonging our mental health—for ourselves, and for those who lead the movement as well.

Educate yourselves on their movements, don't ask them how you can support them. I can assure you, they have told you how you can support them. Our communities are all of our responsibilities to maintain. So, find a movement, support that movement, get involved, and stay involved.

Because sometimes, whether on a large platform or a small, leaders and difference-makers need someone to help carry the load for them, too.

Featured illustration by Mary Long/Shutterstock

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It’s worth reading on your own to get the full breadth of all the foolery that transpired. But the Twitter discourse it inspired on what could lead a successful Black woman to accept lower than bare minimum in pursuit of a relationship and marriage, made me think of the years of messaging that Black women receive about how our standards are too high and what we have to “bring to the table” in order to be "worthy" of what society has deemed is the ultimate showing of our worth: a marriage to a man.

That's right, the first pandemic I lived through was not Covid, but the pandemic of the Black male relationship expert. I was young – thirteen to be exact – when Steve Harvey published his best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Though he was still just a stand-up comedian, oversized suit hoarder, and man on his third marriage at the time, his relationship advice was taken as the gospel truth.

The 2000s were a particularly bleak time to be a single Black woman. Much of the messaging –created by men – that surrounded Black women at the time blamed their desire for a successful career and for a partner that matched their drive and ambition for the lack of romance in their life. Statistics about Black women’s marriageability were always wielded against Black women as evidence of our lack of desirability.

It’s no wonder then that a man that donned a box cut well into the 2000s was able to convince women across the nation to not have sex for the first three months of a relationship. Or that a slew of other Black men had their go at telling Black women that they’re not good enough and why their book, seminar, or show will be the thing that makes them worthy of a Good Man™.

This is how we end up marrying men who cancel twice before taking us on a “date” in the Popeyes parking lot, or husbands writing social media posts about how their Black wife is not “the most beautiful” or “the most intelligent” or the latest season of trauma dumping known as Black Love on OWN.

Now that I’ve reached my late twenties, many things about how Black women approach dating and relationships have changed and many things have remained the same. For many Black women, the idea of chronic singleness is not the threat that it used to be. Wanting romance doesn’t exist in a way that threatens to undermine the other relationships we have with our friends, family, and ourselves as it once did, or at least once was presented to us. There is a version of life many of us are embracing where a man not wanting us, is not the end of what could still be fruitful and vibrant life.

There are still Black women out there however who have yet to unlearn the toxic ideals that have been projected onto us about our worthiness in relation to our intimate lives. I see it all the time online. The absolute humiliation and disrespect some Black women are willing to stomach in the name of being partnered. The hoops that some Black women are willing to jump through just to receive whatever lies beneath the bare minimum.

It's worth remembering that there are different forces at play that gather to make Black women feast off the scraps we are given. A world saturated by colorism, fatphobia, anti-Blackness, ableism, and classism will always punish Black women who demand more for themselves. Dismantling these systems also means divesting from any and everything that makes us question our worth.

Because truth be told, Black women are more than worthy of having a love that is built on mutual respect and admiration. A love that is honey sweet and radiates a light that rivals the sun. A love that is a steadying calming force that doesn’t bring confusion or anxiety. Black women deserve a love that is worthy of the prize that we are.

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