"I'm not ok."
Black women have been uttering that phrase in one form or another over the course of this summer.
Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles are elite athletes in their respective sports and have placed a spotlight on the expectations placed upon Black women to always be on, always perform, always win. Regardless of the mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical cost.
This expectation has been for four hundred years.
Black women have been marginalized, demonized, idolized, and demoralized in a country that does not see them as human.
Nikole Hannah Jones, earlier this year, made the bold move to not accept the Johnny-come-lately offer of tenure only after UNC was publicly shamed for not giving it to her in the first place. She announced she would instead go to Howard University and be celebrated for her brilliance instead of tolerated for her contributions.
Black women this year, after the year of loss of everything that seemed normal in an abnormal world, decided to so something we haven't been able to do in centuries, center ourselves.
In centering ourselves, so many people who relied on the Mammy in us for their nurturing or some variation of the Jezebel or Sapphire to satisfy their fetish, have had to face their unrealistic life-blood draw down of our essence.
I didn't think it was happening at first, almost the way the phebletomist told me I had fasted too long and my blood wasn't flowing, she couldn't get a line for the tests my doctors were ordering. "Next time, don't fast so long."
Her comment spoke volumes to me, I had just been going through the day, it had been an especially difficult previous month and I was just depleted. I fasted by mistake, almost forgot that she ordered these tests. I had had water and a bit of coffee, but no food. Before I knew it, it was early afternoon and I still needed to get these tests done so I drove over to the Blood Draw Clinic.
They ask you screening questions before they get started. She put on the blue rubbery tourniquet and began to thump my veins, one arm didn't work so she went to the other one. She picked up the baby butterfly needle and proceeds to stick me in my dry-as-parched earth arm. Nothing.
She gave me a cotton ball to sop up the needle prick and a band-aid. "Come back tomorrow, first thing in the morning."
It was a sobering moment to me.
I had starved myself and didn't know it.
I was depleted, empty, and nothing could flow.
That is what Simone and Naomi were trying to tell us.
To invite us back into centering our own lives, our own needs, our voices, our instinct. To trust that we know what we need and if we don't speak up, everyone will keep trying to consume us or call us names if we choose to not entertain them, or produce for them, or otherwise be at their back and call.
I'm not ok is not a failed response but a champion response, to choose oneself, to center so that I can be in top form again. That is the gift I'm embracing on this Friday. Thanks, Naomi and Simone, and you, too, Nikole.
We all deserve more.