Behind every Black woman, there's a group of Black women screaming "ayyyyyeee" and real ones know that "ayyyyyeee" is a love letter in itself. When God created the woman, He knew that we would create boundless magic and that we would empower other women to do the same. Isn't that so powerful? To think, that by you simply being your fierce, feminine self, that you are igniting the fire in another woman. Women are creators in every sense of the word and thank all of the gods for choosing our chromosomes to have this blessing.
Being that we are in the middle of Women's History Month, we wanted to be extra intentional about how we honor the women in our lives who create memories for us. Life is so delicate and gives fleeting moments that we must learn to treasure. So, we asked a few women to write a thank-you note to the woman who has affected their lives the most and this is what they had to say.
From: Elizabeth Antoinette
Courtesy of Elizabeth Antoinette
To: Mama Shadonna
One of my favorite parts about our relationship is you telling me stories about my childhood, and the one that sticks out the most is that of a conversation with my first-grade teacher. Funny, because a lot of people that know me now wouldn't imagine that little Liz was as shy as a turtle back then, but my intellect made me shine in a different way, and apparently everyone wasn't fond of that.
Somehow this teacher didn't know what kind of parent she was dealing with and had the nerve to tell you, "She thinks she can be whatever she wants to be." And you responded to her, "And she can."
There's more to the story that I'll save for the sake of brevity, but I am so thankful for you always standing up for me and my siblings then and even now, through your example of strength and steadfast prayers. You taught us the importance of family, education, and faith, and pressed on us that it didn't matter what we lacked, we could achieve anything we set out to accomplish. You more than proved that yourself when you decided to go back to college and obtain your degree.
So, I'll always think of you to thank for your influence on me as the woman who's affected my life the most.
From: Chassidy Jade
Courtesy of Chassidy Jade
To: Terri Meredith
I met you at a time when I was really confused about my career. Little do you know, you set me up for life. I came to your poetry events faithfully at my cousin's spot being filled with inspiration from so many creative and strong women. You were the first person to let me touch the mic without the "politics''. Once we were formally introduced, Zombii mentioned I was a filmmaker listing my resume that I was quite shy about. You looked me dead in the eyes and said, "People do a lot of things if she doesn't showcase it herself who cares..." Ha! I crawled into my 22-year-old shell and ate that because you were absolutely right! Work was slow and my writing took a back seat.
You were on me every single week asking me wtf I was doing with film. I went home every night and finished writing my first short film, Brown Ballerina, and named the main character after you. You proudly hosted my first film screening and the film went off to be selected to the Toronto Shorts Film Festival, being viewed all over the world. I also dedicated my art shows to you, which only highlights various female artists of color. You were brutally honest in a loving way.
You re-sparked my voice. You continue to motivate me and so many others. YOU DESERVE YOUR FLOWERS. I am forever grateful for your love.
From: Dianne Myles
Courtesy of Dianne Myles
To: Tiara Lucas (My Daughter)
My baby! Thank you for being fearless and unapologetic with your voice. You have forced me to choose what type of mom I want to be. You hold me accountable to my word, and you make me evaluate myself daily. I now understand that as a mom, you teach me as much as I teach you. You are smart, bold, courageous, passionate, and beautiful. You put family first in all you do, and I admire that about you.
Thank you for choosing me 16 years ago, today, and always!
I love you,
From: Anita Aloys
Courtesy of Anita Aloys
To: My Older Sister, Liberty
I know I always tell you this, but I love you very much! I don't know if you are aware of the role you played in making me the woman I am today or how important your presence is to my life but I want you to know that it is significant. When mom passed, you took me under your wing and nurtured me so lovingly that even though I felt the hurt of losing a mother, I never felt like I grew into my adult years without a mother. I've always wondered how you did it, how you could be so selfless even from thousands of miles away, also while dealing with losing a mother too! I don't know if I say thank you enough, but I am really grateful.
I am so glad to have you in my life because you are a reminder that soulmates exist. You are the best friend I prayed for, the confidant that I never knew I needed and an inspiration in every way.
I am so proud of the woman you have grown into, how happy you are, flourishing in your career choices and about to get married and start your own family! I hope you know how much I love you and that no matter how far apart we are, I'll always have your back and be in your corner.
I hope I see you again soon because nine years apart has not been easy.
Your loving sister,
From: Majesty Acheampong
Courtesy of Majesty Acheampong
To: My Mother, Pastor Brenda Timberlake
My mother was the first woman who showed me that it was OK to be bold and unapologetically fierce. Her confidence shaped my life and how I carry myself as a woman today. She never tried to hide or dim her light, Brenda was the light, OK! Her style always made a bold statement, and on any day you could catch her in sequins or a bold hue, even if it was just for an errand or trip to the grocery store. Her makeup was always flawless, and her curls always perfectly coiled.
The best part about my mom is that her interior matched the fly of her exterior. Her warmth and kindness always made an impact on others, and she showed kindness to everyone she met. My mother influenced me to show up as my authentic self at all times boldly and to make a big statement and impact on this world. My mom has been a pastor for over 30 years, so she inspires the lives of others from her pulpit. Although I am not a pastor like her, she has influenced me to use my influence as a content creator for the greater good, so I treat my platform like a pulpit of sorts to empower and uplift other women.
I celebrate my mom today and every day for inspiring me to show up bold and fierce in every way both in person and on social media!
From: Taylor Baldwin
Courtesy of Taylor Baldwin
To: My Mom
Thank you for literally everything because all this magic wouldn't be possible without you. You gave me life but have gone the extra mile to pouring into me the confidence to be the woman I am today. You made and continue to make sacrifices for your children that I cannot begin to repay you for. Thank you for giving me the room to be myself and create my own path, even when you didn't understand. I am beyond grateful to have you as my mother, bodyguard, therapist, and everything above. I know you worried about me growing up because I was so shy and such a loner but just know that I have found myself in my art.
I hope you know I am truly happy with the way my life has unfolded. A lot of my success and life choices are because of you! Thank you for giving me the room to grow and glow in my dreams.
From: Dominique Webb
Courtesy of Dominique Webb
To: My Granny, Doris Webb
Sometimes I think I can still smell you. I can smell the rubbing alcohol you used to douse your knees with, and the sweet peppermints you'd pop into your mouth right before telling me to hand you the remote. I miss those subtle moments. Where we just sat together while you rambled on about the neighbors, or whatever mundane thing you wanted to fuss about that day.
I miss you complaining about how my nails were too long or my hair was too long. I miss your teachings. You taught me not only how to be a woman but how to be a strong woman. You taught me the power of being a praying woman.
You taught me the power of being a praying Black woman. You taught me my magic. You taught me how to use my powers for good.
You taught me how to act with poise, speak with grace, but to speak even if my voice shakes. I can never repay you for the things you've taught me. But as you always used to say, "You do good and you pass it on." Thank you for teaching me to do good and pass it on. Thank you for teaching me how to be a strong Black woman.
What a blessing it is to have known you in this lifetime.
I miss you and I love you Granny. Always.
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Featured image courtesy of Dominique Webb
Joce Blake is a womanist who loves fashion, Beyonce and Hot Cheetos. The sophistiratchet enthusiast is based in Brooklyn, NY but has southern belle roots as she was born and raised in Memphis, TN. Keep up with her on Instagram @joce_blake and on Twitter @SaraJessicaBee.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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Featured image by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images