That incredibly insensitive, freakishly foolish Harriet Tubman “sex tape” parody that showed up on Russell Simmons’ new YouTube channel, Def Jam Digital, with a “this is the best thing ever!” message from the hip hop impresario, had the internet in an uproar yesterday, inspiring a chorus of “aw hell nawl” blog posts from some of my favorite sister warriors, including Demetria Lucas’ “Who Makes Fun Of Harriet Tubman” and Jamilah Lemieux’s “Russell, You Let Harriet Tubman Down.” One that really tugged at my heartstrings, though, was a piece written by my friend, Tarana Burke, an amazing woman and mom who has long championed my career as an author and who, in my opinion, really hides the fact that she can write her booty off. Exhibit A: Tarana’s “Sing a Black Girl’s Song,” a meditation on the emotional, mental and physical attacks against black women and a plea to black men to defend our honor. Witness her beautiful words:
“bein alive & bein a woman & bein colored is a metaphysical dilemma/I haven’t conquered yet”— Ntozake Shange
This says it all.
This quote says everything about how I feel in this body, in this skin, with this face, in this world some days. Waking up woman and brown, for me has increasingly becoming an exercise that has to be undergirded by a mental, spiritual and at times, physical armor. When I get up and face the world, I never know what new attack on the body, mind, and spirit of black women or women of color or poor women has happened in the illusive still of the night. If we are not being publicly humiliated by national radio hosts, then we are warding off mainstream media’s
attacksconcerns about why we aren’t married or “marriageable” or worse we have to be faced with 40 foot tall, full color, attacks on our wombs, using one of our babies.
Our murders go unnoticed. Our children are unprotected. And our existence and humanity becomes couched in the sexualized, unforgiving lens of white men, the incessant needs of black men or the whiney, intrusive, pseudo omniscient agency of white women.
It’s humiliating. It’s infuriating. It’s unconscionable. But mostly, its exhausting…
* * *
“Somebody, anybody, sing a black girl’s song…sing a song of her possibilities…”
I guess I want my song. We sisters have been singing to each other for a long time. We have a small chorus of brothers who join in from time to time. But really, we have been force-fed songs for everybody else. We know all of the words to our songs by heart and our songs are pretty, but they don’t soothe our souls like when…you sing. I don’t expect * them * to sing, but I want you to sing. my. song. Love me. Sing to me. Protect me. Make this pain go away. Don’t create this pain. Is it too much to ask to go to sleep and wake up to the melody of you singing my song? I want to go through the day with your song for me playing over and over again in my head. I want to have random memories of your lyrics cross my mind and make me smile. That’s how I want to survive, with you and I singing each other through unjust verdicts and heinous videos and anything the world throws at us. I know how to sing your song. I sing it with a hoodie on, I sing it in front of prisons and courthouses, I sing it every chance I get, I promise you I do.
sing. my. song.
Don’t hate me because I love you and we could sing together, but my voice is tired. I just want you to sing for a little while.
* * *
This is but a portion of Tarana’s incredible piece—one I identified with as a black woman and a mother of African American daughters and as a woman who wouldn’t mind waking up to a the collective of brothers singing my black girl song. I invite you to read “Sing a Black Girl’s Song,” on Tarana’s blog of the same name HERE.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.