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  • These Are The Voices Of Black Women In America

    Written for Rebekah Bastian for Forbes

    The two weeks since the murder of George Floyd have been some of the most significant in the recent history of the U.S. People are protesting systemic racism and racial violence across the country and beyond, social media movements are spreading with the intention of showing allyship and activism, and corporations are making statements about their support for Black lives. Amidst all of the voices of celebrities, influencers and company PR departments, it is more important now than ever to make space for the voices of the many Black Americans experiencing this time the most viscerally.

    After publishing an article last week about what Black Americans want their white friends to know, I’ve had the honor of hearing many stories from Black women across the U.S. These voices are important to amplify because the intersection of racism and sexism creates a heavy burden to bear – one that Black women have carried throughout history. We have the opportunity to listen to them and learn from them.

    “As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, friend and physician who is a black woman, the recent senseless deaths due to racism have weighed heavily on my heart and conscience. It is a painful reminder of systematic injustice and my inability to protect those I love when their only infraction is the color of their skin. Throughout my career as a primary care physician, I have indiscriminately cared for those who don’t look like me—some of whom may even hold racist views, as evidenced by their comments or worn paraphernalia. I think the fact that they would choose to see a physician who is black shows that their racism existed on a subconscious level, deeply reinforced by societal norms. Over the years, we built a bond that enabled them to trust me with their lives and their families lives. Now I ask that they look beyond the learned racism and return that same compassionate care to my black brothers and sisters universally. When racism exists, especially systematically, all black lives are threatened regardless of education, location or socioeconomic status. I helped save your lives. Please help save ours. Black lives matter.”

    – Sylvia Gonsahn-Bollie, MD, Silver Spring, MD

    Internal Medicine and Obesity Medicine Physician 

    “I feel mentally and emotionally exhausted in the midst of these times. I’m tired of seeing us killed and treated like animals, and deeply saddened that it took this long for some people to recognize that these racial injustices are a part of a larger, systemic issue that needs to be addressed. The #amplifymelanatedvoices movement is beautiful and will be remembered in history, but it is only the beginning. #blackouttuesday was impactful, but again, only the beginning. Because the reality is that we have been fighting this fight for centuries and it will not be resolved in one day. With that being said, in spite of it all, I am reminded of the resilience of the Black community. We have persevered for centuries and will continue to do so, as we use our voices and platforms to educate, inspire and tell our stories.”

    – Latrice Love, Dallas, TX

    Founder & CEO of Liplove

    “As a black woman, I have been angry—really angry— lately. Then sad. Then worried and back to sad again. I didn’t have a choice not to talk to my children about racism in America because not informing them could mean death to any of us. That’s a pretty jacked up way to live—in a constant state of fear and trauma. Then we are criticized for being traumatized. And as if the constant state of fear, panic, and trauma wasn’t enough, when we try to voice our feelings we are met with hateful comments like, “oh, typical angry black woman syndrome.” It’s a lot to deal with and still keep your head up while raising children who are kind and confident. And what’s wrong with us as black women expressing our emotions? At the end of the day, I am tired of being wrong for being born black.”

    – Tameka Anderson, Roswell, GA

    Mother, grandmother, behavioral specialist, founder of Parenting Confident Kids

    “Since the death of George Floyd, I have had conversations daily about racial injustices, systematic racism, racial profiling, how to react when stopped by the police, etc. However, before I could allow myself to have this conversation with my clients I needed to do so with my sons, ages 4, 16, and 19. They were confused, wanted to know why this was happening and could not believe that racism was so prominent. They now understand why my husband and I have always been cautious when interacting with our white counterparts. They now understand what we have been trying to shield them from. We were then faced with whether we should allow them to protest. Without a doubt we knew we had to. This cause is their fight and they deserve to be a part of the movement. Do we worry? Absolutely! All the time. But we also know we cannot shelter them.”

    – Guan Ellerbe, Brockton, MA

    Mother, wife, behavioral health practitioner and small business owner

    “One of the most racist experiences I had as a nurse was when a patient did not want me as their nurse because I am black. I was the only black nurse working on the hospital unit and I felt a range of hurtful emotions. Inside I was hurt, but I told the charge nurse and then I had to continue my nursing duties like it never happened. My feelings and emotions weren’t addressed, and no one seemed to care. This was not the only time, but the first time. With each encounter my education or clinical background didn’t matter— the only thing that mattered was that I am Black. Moments like this in society make me focus on my own racist experiences while fearing for the life of my Black son.”

    – Glenda Hargrove, Atlanta, GA

    Mother, Registered Nurse and owner of Pill Apparel 

    “Dear White People, I have just one question for you? At what age does my black son become a threat to you and your family? At what point in his life do you write him off as dangerous? At what point do you tell your kids that he is problematic and they shouldn’t be friends with him?  You’ll see him and say ‘aww’ and ‘how cute’, right now, but be honest with me. Tell me when the ‘aww how cute’ becomes ‘hello 911, there’s a black kid doing xyz’ or ‘hello 911, there’s a black guy here and he isn’t supposed to be here’.⁣⁣⁣”

    – Karen Akpan, Los Angeles, CA

    Mother, Content Creator at The Mom Trotter and founder of Black Kids Do Travel

    “The unforgettable and tragic death of George Floyd is an example of the continuous violence against Black America. It hurts and breaks my heart that in the 243 years of America’s existence the disrespect for lives is still part of our history. If George’s death was not recorded and the murderers were not caught in the act, who would be next? I am fearful for my nephews, family, friends, and all Black men, women, and children—including myself—about the uncertainty of our future in a world with hateful people who don’t value others who don’t look like them. While there are allies who are joining us in solidarity, I am skeptical if they will support Black America after the protesting and news coverage stops. If you are standing with us now, thank you, but continue to stand with us until there is change.”

    – Marie Y. Lemelle, Southern California 

    Publicist and Content Creator

    “In February, I was driving back from visiting my daughter in college and I jumped in front of a state trooper.  I wasn’t speeding, just trying to get home.  I was pulled over and I couldn’t understand why.  He said I didn’t have a front license plate.  I informed him it was a rental car I was returning the next day.  He then accused me of drinking because he smelled alcohol in my car.  I reached down to pick up the hand sanitizer that had fallen on the floor.  I was then interrogated about why I rented a car and why I wasn’t driving my car.  When I replied I don’t drive my car long distances because it’s older, he then asked me how old it was.  Questions that were, in my opinion, intrusive. After running my tags, he found nothing.  I drove away shaking and angry.  It doesn’t matter that I have a PhD, say the right things, do the right things—because of the color of my skin, assumptions are made about me.”

    – Dr Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Grand Prairie, Texas

    Facilitator, speaker and author 

    “Here I sit, the benefactor of the work of many selfless black men and women, still afraid of being killed anywhere without reason. I’m afraid for my boyfriend. I’m afraid for my dad. I’m even afraid for my cousin who is going to the police academy. The trauma of witnessing black people get killed is sometimes overwhelming, and yet there are white people who are dead set on convincing me that this is not a problem or that it’s insensitive to focus on this because ‘all lives matter.’ I’ve discovered so many people I grew up with are racist  since George Floyd’s murder, during a time when I could use the comfort of friends. I sometimes replay precious moments I’ve had with those white friends and wonder if they were all a lie. I feel petrified and alone. I can’t sleep and, when I do fall asleep, I have nightmares of being hunted and I sometimes wake up screaming.”

    – Kim Diggs, Carrollton, Texas

    Content manager for BuzzBallz

    “Last year, my 5yr old son said his skin was ‘good sometimes and not good sometimes.’ He also said the other white children in his class look like they have ‘lucky skin.’ Yesterday, my eight year old asked about George Floyd, and three hours after having the talk about racial inequality and racial discrimination, he and his father were racially profiled by a white woman. My son cried. As the mom of three black sons, I fight the thought of losing my son to violence. I am extra strict with them so that they learn how to speak to authority figures. This is a reality that is not uncommon in the black community.”

    – Dr Omerine MD, Rock Round, TX

    Mother, physician 

    The energy that is forming—finally—around understanding, naming and acting against racism and systems of oppression is promising, and we need to keep it going long past any trending hashtags or news cycles. At the same time, we need to keep centering, listening to and amplifying the voices of those with lived experience, and making sure they are not drowned out by well-intentioned, newly-enlightened activists. Black women—and all Black Americans—must be believed and followed in order to create sustainable change.

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