Strength by Chasity Jones Selenga

To be transparent, these last four weeks have unintentionally flown by and have been filled with great pain, sorrow, depression, loss, and grief to be honest. I can feel my own spirit at the beginning of a long healing process and have a feeling that these words kept between you and I will be a tremendous part of my healing. Healing in itself is an essential aspect of Womanism and how I found my way to it. I have been privileged to develop spiritual practices that encourage and assist with healing in emotional, physical, mental, and wisdom ways!

Today, I acknowledge the Africana Womanism (Clenora Hudson-Weems) characteristic of strength. I must admit I have a strained relationship with the word as a Black woman. I was raised by strong women to be strong in an environment in which we will always have to strong. As a result, being soft is interpreted as weak. I mourn that Black women rarely find spaces in which they can turn off their survival mode- fight or flight nervous system responses and relax while being soft. It is so foreign. At this point in my life softness is so inconvenient and also something that I don’t even know how to maintain consistently.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the strength displayed through my mother and aunts and grandmothers. I thank God for the strength that they passed on to me because I would not be able to forge my own path in this world without it. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a high cost for being strong all the time. I am exhausted, I am empty, I am deficient, I am overwhelmed, and overstimulated. I am tired of fighting, I am tired of building, supporting, and nurturing. I am tired of displays of strength that enable me to survive in this body and social location of mine. WOE is it. What a double-edged sword in every way including how we treat ourselves and allow ourselves to be treated to how we raise our children with strength as a guiding principle. Our children MUST be strong. Strength is a blessing but it’s also an invisible thief that steals the soul from Black women. We don’t get to enjoy the full range of privileges imbued to us by the divine feminine. We have a masculine energy thrusted upon us and we embrace it because it helps us to survive. (I am not speaking of biology or gender roles but feminine and masculine spiritual energies.)

Strength can keep you from falling apart externally. I was raised to never let them see me down or cry. Strength can help me pick up the pieces of my life after tragedy, conflict, and loss, however, strength does not protect me from pain. In fact, it can cause more pain by having to conceal it constantly. When we are strong all the time, we limit ourselves and are seen as “strong enough” to take pain. Thus, there is less support, less interest, less resources to help you through your pain and circumstances. Strength comes from survival and is infused in everything that Black people do. It is a unique and tragic essence of Blackness in this country. W.E.B Dubois believed that this this unique and tragic essence of Blackness was a result of the heavy burden of a ‘double consciousness’ or what we might call today as code switching.

Obviously I’m talking about strength in a non-physical way. Strength is such a multi-dimensional way.

I am dwelling in this season with a heavy heart both grateful for the strength I have access to while simultaneously resenting the fact that I have to strong in the face of adversity.

Below is a poem written to all the women of the earth, from the beginning of time until now. Of course, I love being a woman, a Black woman especially, but I MUST express my genuine displeasure with the ways in which we must exist in this patriarchal society imbued with white supremacy. I hope to adapt this into an alive work of art so let me know if you have any suggestions for collaborations!

A poem that represents the cry from the depths of my soul. Obviously I love being a woman, but there are moments when I must lament what women must face. As I wrote this I had that feeling that I was writing on behalf of scores of women including my ancestors. Especially in the wake of policies passed to prevent safe and accessible abortions in Texas, this piece is pertinent.

I pray to God that my daughter will not have to embrace strength as a necessity throughout her life but can enjoy moments of softness, relaxation, and goodness like those before her have never known.

Woe is it to be a Woman

The womb knows no privacy

On display for the world to see

Judging

Deciding

My worth determined by my womb’s performance

But it’s function

No privacy

No agency

Like Hagar decisions are made concerning the sacred space in my core

My center

This sacred space is not honored for what it is capable of

But controlled

We are feared

Subjected

Repressed

Made small

Crushed

There is so much more to me than my smile

Do you even care to know who I am

and the unique particularities of the universe that has manifested as me

Or are you still looking at my chest

My thighs

My eyes that hide

The fact I’ve been conditioned to make you comfortable even in my own discomfort

Ignorant of your ignorance

How does a mermaid dwell in the shallow waters of another’s soul

I live for the depth

Intimacy

Passion

Relation

Human connection

I grow in deep waters

I am nourished in the dark ocean of life

I want you to know there is so much more of me to love

So much more woman

So much more to ME

Than what you see with your eyes or even touch with your hands

I am land

Air

Fire

WATER

Pain

Rupture

Fissure

Throbbing pain

Poking

Prodding

Ripping

Separating

Needles

Scars

Blood

Bruises

Pain

Regardless of the decision there is pain

Pain of prevention

Pain of menstruation

Pain of pregnancy

Pain of postpartum

Pain of termination

Fear of judgement

This world will never know and never hear the collective pain and cry of women. FOR WOE IS IT TO BE ONE.

Bio

Chasity is a Louisiana native and from a conservative, Evangelical background until moving to Seattle, WA to be a community organizer (young adult missionary). It was here, she began to challenge traditional mission work in the context of colonialism and began her process of liberation (decolonization). For the last two years, as a Master of Divinity student at Boston University School of Theology, she has focused her degree on exploring various Liberation Theologies including Black Liberation, Womanist, and Decolonization Theologies. 

She has recently launched Fourth Wave Revolution in an attempt to educate as well as decolonize! For the last five years, she has done this through various ways: sermons, adult Sunday schools, workshops, individual and collective consulting, yoga and mindfulness, support groups, and more! It was her hope to one day give birth to a movement that would transform the way we engage in anti-oppression and anti-racism work while maintaining and in some cases recovering ourselves. According to Decolonial theorist Albert Memmi, racism is a symptom of colonialism (The Colonizer and the Colonized, 69-70). Therefore, we must reach deeper and address as close to the root as possible to dismantle racism and white supremacy. Fourth Wave Revolution is committed to digging deeper.

As a new mother, Chasity is also thinking into conscious parenting as well as how to transmit the core of feminist, womanist, and liberation theologies to children. To stay updated on upcoming events, follow our Facebook page by clicking here!



Categories: Ancestors, Black Feminism, Divine Feminine, Family, General, Identity Construction, Resistance, Womanist Theology

Tags: , , ,

6 replies

  1. Thank you so much for this honest and insightful post. I can feel all that you mention in your first sentence — “pain, sorrow, depression, loss, and grief” — coming through every word, as well as most precious hope, and especially hope that your amazing daughter will be able to live without the burden you describe. That hope is such a blessing to all of us who are your readers! You had asked for suggestions for collaborations for your extremely powerful poem — I have always found that music, especially drumming, when paired with poetry offers a way to amplify the emotional tone of the words. Perhaps you know someone who could either write a piece to complement the poem or to be played in the background as you speak it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment! I should consider collaboration in the form of music! I am so self conscious about my ability to communicate my poems effective on any other medium than written but I am slowly working my way to it!
      -Chasity J.S.

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  2. Yes, developing and maintaining strength can be arduous and tiring. It can wear us out. Good for you for surviving! Bright blessings.

    Like

  3. I really take your point that you do not have the luxury of reacting as you might truly wish or feel because of the very real need to be strong. I also agree that because of that capability, less support and resources are provided – it is a double bind and WOE indeed, is it.

    Like

    • EXACTLY!!!!!! It is assumed that since strong women can survive well enough why invest in improving the quality of life of these women. This is a topic that Delores Williams explores brilliantly in Sisters of the Wilderness. It’s so overlooked and the necessity of being strong as well as the circumstances that produces the necessity culminate in a lack of quality of life.
      -Chasity J.S.

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  4. Powerful! (and your little girl is too cute for words.) I hope we can all change the world so little ones like your daughter (and my granddaughter around the same age) don’t need to hide who they truly are.

    I love Carolyn’s idea of putting spoken word to music for your powerful words.

    Yes, Texas makes me so angry that I even yet managed to put any thoughts into words. And Texas isn’t alone. A symptom of something so much larger.

    Like

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