Black Women Health and Wellness

Photo by Clarke Sanders on Unsplash

Let’s face it…the health and wellness of black women is not a priority of the society that we live in. Black women face the intersection of gender and race minority (double minority). If you are an immigrant, such as myself, you stand in the center of a 3-way minority junction. The term “intersectionalilty” highlights intersections such as these very well for people of color. Health and wellness for black women is an area that is sorely needs more support.

Health and Wellness

How do you ensure health and wellness for a group that is mostly invisible to society? Black women become visible when we are viewed as the “angry, black woman,” “loud and belligerent black woman,” “strong black woman,” “big-bosomed, big-boned, and wise older black woman,” “promiscuous, booty-popping and oversexualized black woman,” and the “rude, disrespectful, and aggressive black woman.” None of these stereotypes are positive and truly represent the dynamic mysticism of black women.

With the cloak of invisibility thrust upon black women, the scarcity of services targeted to and available for black women presents a real social problem for us and society. And, sometimes the quality of services that are available is so meager, it may as well be non-existent. Issues with services available to black women include cost of services, distance to travel to obtain services, quality of services, insurance coverage, stereotypes and stigmas. All present obstacles that need to be overcome to ensure proper access to suitable services. ...

5 Self-care Tips for Mothers Everywhere

Photo by Eloise Ambursley on Unsplash

So, in this month – May – we celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States and parts of the Caribbean. Many of us will be heading out to seek out the perfect Mother’s Day presents, scheduling our Mother’s Day specials (brunches, dinners, massages, etc), and generally obsessing about the perfect Mother’s Day for our loved ones. So, as a mother myself, and surrounded by my own mother and mother-in-law, of course, I will be doing the same!

Of course, I had to join the Mother’s Day festivities. What can we say about mothers? They are awesome. We know there are mothers who have this name in roles only. But we have to give thanks for the women in our lives that love us unconditionally and support us. Most of these precious women tend to care for everyone but themselves. Society has taught women that caring for themselves is selfish and inglorious. But, we are here to dispel that myth and remind all the mothers out there that taking time for yourselves is essential to practicing proper mental health. We cannot pour from an empty cup. Period.

To all my black women, we are one of the most neglected groups in the world. Click To Tweet

To all my black women, we are one of the most neglected groups in the world. Black women walk a tight rope not experienced by other women. The tension and stress that black women live with is unparalleled. We tend to get lost in translation in racial issues; in gender issues, we still get lost, and many do not even consider ethnicity. To black women, I say that, “We are enough.” For black mothers, we carry a societal burden that both stiffens our pride and frightens us beyond words. I am here to tell all black mothers that we do not have to suffer in silence. The archetypal strong woman and angry black woman are roles that we do not subscribe to. For we are strong enough to pave our own paths. We seek more than what has been allotted to us, and for this vulnerability is no longer shunned. For without vulnerability, we cannot experience life to its fullest. ...

What Does Intersectionality Mean in Mental Health?

Image courtesy of Kimberlé’s Twitter

 Intersectionality

The term intersectionality, coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and scholar, describes the overlap of social group categorizations (race, gender, social class, etc) and its relationships to systems of oppression and discrimination.

The term intersectionality as it relates to mental health is important as the term can help minority groups describe our experiences as we navigate our social and political worlds. As Kimberlé noted in her TedTalk, when we are unable to name an issue, we are unable to fix the issue.

Intersectionality and Mental Health

Minority groups already have a clear understanding of what it feels likes to not belong to a dominant culture. We know what it feels like to be unrepresented in certain circles. One of our most basic psychological need is belonging. When we feel like we do not belong to groups, we experience feelings of invisibility, unworthiness, loneliness, and low self-esteem and self-worth. Over prolonged periods, these negative emotions have lasting impacts on our mental health.

The importance of intersectionality is that it recognizes that people do not always only belong to a single minority group. For example, black women experience dual minority status (being black and being woman). Another example is a black lesbian woman; this person would experience a triple minority status (black, lesbian, and woman). Lastly, I’ll use myself as an example. In college, I quickly learnt that I was a triple minority. After much discourse with my African American female friends, I quickly began to understand my social status. I am a triple minority [black, woman, and immigrant (Jamaican)]. ...

3 Lessons on Black Love

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

I first became familiar with the ‘black love’ term when the Obamas became the first family of the US. I didn’t fully understand the need to have a specific term to describe a black couple. The Obamas and the Carters have become the gold standard of black relationships in the US. Maybe that’s because of the preoccupation with social media and the need to find role models that we can identify with.  This creates a certain amount of pressure to adhere to a society-approved relationship model as well as completely undermining those relationships that exists outside of the spotlight and have managed to thrive.

Lessons Learned about Black Love

1)     I’ve heard my friends say that once we reach our 30s, finding a black man who doesn’t have a child is basically unheard of.  Does this mean that we will then have to settle because that’s what’s available? If that’s the case, in what other ways do we settle in our relationships? For me, I have found that I dumbed myself down because I found that the previous men I had dated were not always on my level intellectually and/or emotionally. So, I wonder how many other women have done this and how often? TLC sang that they required plenty conversation with their sex, a practice which I subscribe to.

2)     Black women seemed to have lowered our standards for our relationships. Why is this necessary? Should we not expect our black men to be better for us because we are worth it? Every day, I see black men walking around with their underpants hanging out of their pants and I can’t understand how as women we have accepted this? I appreciate some swag but is there no limit to what we will accept? And this is just one area where I question our standards. What are our boundaries for our relationships and partners? I’ve learnt that setting boundaries and standards will allow my relationships to flourish. I struggle with effective boundaries as does everyone. But we must be willing to consider the other partner’s personal space, feelings, and needs. This is, of course, not always easy. But to have healthy relationships, we must learn to be mindful of these things. ...

Black Women: Why We Need Sisterhood

In college, I learnt who I could be. I have had sisters all my life, but I had never experienced sisterhood. My first day of classes, I think in my first class too, I met her. Krystal Jackson is the sister I never had. I learnt the differences between sisters and sisterhood.

I learnt that I could step outside of my comfort zone. I began to learn to redefine friendship and relationships. I learnt that friendship is a relationship. A lesson that many people still do not understand. I began to evaluate the friendships in my life. As time went on, I realized I started cutting people out because we no longer had similar interests or values, and frankly because for some, I no longer needed to hold on to them. I think that’s another issue we experience. We have friendships or other relationships that have served us but we can’t let go when it’s time to move on. I learnt that relationships have a role. They are either moving you forward or moving you backward. They do not standstill. I became a woman in my friendship with Krystal. True sisterhood challenges you, protects you, gives you space to grow, mirrors yourself back to you, helps you to build character, and teaches you how to love and support unselfishly. We learn that we can succeed together through honest communication. This is not to say, it’s not difficult, because of course it is extremely uncomfortable and can hurt sometimes, but when you experience the joys that comes after, you rest assured knowing that you are becoming the woman that you want to be. ...

On Being a Black Woman

I’d like to say that I always liked being black, but I’d be lying. I’d like to say that I always liked being dark-skinned but I’d be lying.

I’ve just started writing this piece and my fingers are already unsteady. I’ve always lived in my head; played stories out there, held long deep conversations with myself when I struggled to find someone to connect with, and wrote long beautiful poems there. I’ve been the dark-skinned oddball in the family for so long, I don’t know how to be anything else. It took a very long time – 20 years – to start to embrace my complexion. I’d also always known that I was black, but until living in the US, I really didn’t know that I was black.

I was the youngest of 5 kids, and 1 of 3 girls. I have the darkest-skin complexion of all 5 kids. I was reminded of this daily growing up; whether by familial jokes or by people on the street. I quickly learnt that skin complexion was of the utmost importance within my culture. My older sister was light-complected and was just viewed as beautiful everywhere she went. My middle sister was more caramel-complected and got close to the same responses. But me, I was told that I was too dark and when I was ready to have kids, I should be sure to find a light-complected man to improve my children’s color. Then, I was also told that I should never wear lipstick because my lips were too thick.

As a child, I did not understand the erosion that was happening to my self-esteem, starting with my own family, and extending to people that I met that felt the need to offer their opinions without being asked. By the time I was a teenager, I realized that I was subconsciously choosing partners who were light-skinned even though I found myself more attracted to dark-skinned boys. I wrote a post earlier advising that mental health in the African and Caribbean culture is nuanced because of the historical traumas we have suffered. Any person of color knows that we are not just viewed as black, we are viewed by people in our communities based on our skin-tone. We have only to listen to dancehall/reggae, soca, and hip-hop music to be reminded of this daily. I was so conditioned to look at skin color that when Destiny’s Child first came out (they were the first poster I hung on my wall), I immediately looked for the darkest-skinned girl in the group which then began my love affair with Kelly Rowland. To finally see a successful dark-skinned girl on TV changed my life. ...