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Black Women, It Is Okay To Let Go Of Your Cape

Listen to Black Women, It Is Okay To Let Go Of Your Cape

When I learned about the death of Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst, I immediately felt compelled to look at her Instagram. Her last post was a stunning photo of her with the words, “May this day find you rest and peace.” Hours later, Kryst would leap from the 29th floor of a New York City Midtown high-rise to her death. According to media reports, she left a note leaving everything to her mother with no other information. I scrolled through her social media and stared intensely at her photos, wondering if her smile met her eyes. Was she happy, or was she like so many Black women finding moments of joy instead of a life of happiness? On the outset, Kryst is a stunningly beautiful woman with a life that many of us would long to have. Still, we must remember that social media is just a series of carefully curated moments. We never know about the shadows that linger.

I once read that people don’t fake depression. They fake being okay. Several months ago, I wrote a blog titled How Are You? I Mean Really, How Are You. It was at a time that was at a very low point in my life. However, on the outside, everything appeared perfect. I was waking up every day, going through the motions, posting on social media, attending speaking events, posting pictures, smiling, and laughing, all while feeling so empty on the inside. With the proper lighting, pain can be concealed very well.

While I do not know what Kryst was facing, I do understand what it is to be a Black woman in this world.

America has developed and perpetuated a narrative that Black women are always strong and resilient. I believe this narrative is saddled on the backs of Black women so that Black women will not be perceived as needing assistance, compassion, patience, and understanding. Perpetuating the myth of the Strong Black Woman makes it easier and acceptable to overlook Black women. Black women are never given the opportunity or afforded the luxury of being a victim.

And sadly, many Black women have bought into this myth. Black Girl Magic has been so distorted it now means Black women are capable of doing anything. Black Women are the “Magical Negro.” You need our vote? We will do it. You need us to teach you diversity and equity for free? We will do it. You need us to protest injustice? We will do it! You need us to save this nation? We will do it. We can shoulder it all.

Who are we to ask for help? How dare we ask for assistance. Who are we to ask for our worth? We believe we must always be the ones to fix it. Because this world has always demanded that we fix it, and sadly we have often answered that call with little to no reward. We have always been America’s nursemaids.

If we speak up in a meeting, we are unsupported. We are perceived as angry and not being team players. Yet as soon as the meeting is over, we are chased down in the hallway and, in hushed tones, told, “I wish I were as strong as you.” Even with multiple degrees and experience, our qualifications are called into question. Online we are berated. We are judged daily about the tone of our voice, the style of our hair, and the shape of our bodies. Everything about us is imitated, yet Black women are rarely given the accolades and financial benefits. We are watching a rise of Black men who believe it’s a badge of honor to say they do not value or date Black women.

And still, we hold our heads up and fight another day. We are often fighting for people who will never fight for us.

And truthfully, I am tired. The Black women in my life are tired. The Black women I am connected to online are tired. Black women hold so much inwardly and are penalized if we ever show our feelings outwardly. We are fighting battles this world can’t even begin to comprehend. We are trying to hold up others while suppressing our own demons that manifest in ways that are detrimental to our mental and physical health. We smile when all we want to do is cry. We say we are fine when we are not. To show you who we are means that we are weak, and this world doesn’t allow Black women to be vulnerable.  This isn’t magic. Black women have just found ways to make this look easy. And this so called strength is not magic if it is killing you.

I am challenging Black women to reclaim you. Reclaim yourself. Find your peace and your center. Reclaim the true meaning of self-care before the world took it and commercialized it. As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Your joy is an act of defiance because this world never intended for Black women to have joy. Please know that you are under no obligation to save this world, Black women. You do not need to have any loyalty to your oppressor. The only reward this world has ever given Black women for being undervalued, overworked, and underpaid is an early grave. And engraved on your headstone will be the words, she was a strong Black woman. And the world will keep right on turning. The world will find another Black woman they can use as their nursemaid. Another Black woman to be their mule to carry their sins and burdens. Another Black woman they can call resilient and strong. Another Black woman whose back they can use as a steppingstone. 

So, please, Black women, know this is your moment. This moment is about you and your peace, happiness, and love. This moment is not about anyone else. This moment is about you. You are under no obligation to be Superwoman. It is okay to tell this world that you are giving up your cape.

Photo: Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

143 replies »

    • This was so familiar to my everyday experiences and reality. What a powerful article and to all Black women, speak up, or we will Stay sick. #depressionlesson

    • A very timely article. Thanks for expressing what so many of us simply don’t know how to communicate.

    • Yes so very needed. Many of our Sisters have been saying Kay it gown for donkeys years! Zora, Toni, Audre, Octavia, Alice, so many. There was once an organization that created Black & Female: What is the Reality? and its whole purpose was to provide a safe place for our testimonials, a come as you are place. Thousands of women came from everywhere in the world to participate! And still today we persist holding up the bloodstained banner until we die! I’m frankly puzzled by i( it feels like an evil spell. I thank this author for her insightful words and pray everyday for the spell wheel to be broken.

    • This was an absolute great read and I felt every bit of this . Real Conversations that we must have with our daughters at an early age .

  1. Such a moving, inspiring and very much needed article. It left me feeling like I will one day soon be able to remove my cape and not feel bad about doing so in front of whoever may be looking.

    • This struggle is so real. Now that my cape is off, and realized that I committed way too many years to my work, I’m struggling to change this ideology that was ingrained in me as a child. Thank you for speaking my truth.

  2. Thank you so much for this. I preached a sermon two weeks ago “Help Me” we are all crying out for help but nobody hears us and some don’t want to hear us only God hears us cry out to Him. Bless you

    • So true for too many of us.We have money, position, degrees, beauty, children and no real man to cherish us. Our men are depending on us, Roles have been reversed in the Black community. So sad.😭😢

  3. This article is every essence of what brown and black women go through living in this world. In academia this is a constant battle and thank you for validating it is okay to take off the cape. I appreciate the fact someone feels and knows the same pains I at many times experience (e.g, Being underpaid, NOT appreciated and overworked is NOT okay.) Thank you for being transparent, this was a very touching article. ♥️

  4. Blessing🙏🏽 to the deliverer of this inpactful word, it is so true💯. 🔥 It is time for us to love and center ourselves and remove the cape!

  5. Stop the madness. I wish black women were that strong. I wish black woman years ago said to the powers that be,”no, you will not support my family by making my man leave, he is the head of this family and without him we are nothing.” We as a people should have said no. But exulting black woman as the head of the family was not abhorrent to black woman and they acquiesced. We acquiesced to the new nuclear family. Then black women grew full of themselves to the point where they outweighed, literally, their men. Black girl Magic is not magic but mirrors showing black women what they want to see, that they can do it by themselves. So they carry the burdens alone because they drank the kool-Aid and think that the way it is is the way it’s supposed to be. Wake the fuck up black woman! Take your man’s hand and reclaim your rightful place at his side and go get what’s yours… your family, your pride and your place in this world. At last realize it not what you are eating it’s what’s eating you.
    Raeburn Josey

    • Oh wow! A woke person falling asleep to another’s reality based upon a lie and circumstance of survival not a choice.

    • I signed my name because I believed in my words. I made no excuses and didn’t seek to assign blame. I used “we” several times.

    • So true of us, our Grandmother’s & Mother’s. I had a professor in college who taught us to take the hand of our man and walk ny his side.

  6. I couldn’t have wrote or said this any better. My cape has been so heavy for so long. I’ve been trying to remove it in every way possible. Thank you for sharing. Every smile isn’t of happiness. 😪
    Coleboer

  7. So we’ll put! So true. Black woman look out for yourself. Find what feeds your spirit and live a life you dream for yourself. Close doors on the outside noise of society. Love yourself and don’t let the world dictate when you you are worthy. You are WORTHY just the way you are!

  8. I have read this at least 10 times after it was forwarded to me… it maybe one of the most honest piece of work that will give me the joy, freedom and happiness I desire and deserve. Thank you🙏🏽♥️

  9. Hi.. I am an Indian.. woman.. I just replaced your “black woman” word with “Indian woman” and still felt the same emotions as you do now.

    We really need to back each other up -is all I know to do, is what I did when I fell into the spiral of life called depression. Thankfully I did had the support of amazing women whom I fondly call as my friends who helped me get a great mental health counsellor.

    Reach out just to whoever you think can give you that peace girl!

  10. I’m in tears here reading your post as every word spoke to every cell in my being. This is my life. Thank you so much for your soulful wisdom and heartfelt words that deeply touched me.

  11. Yes, we are tired of being critcized for trying to wear the pants in our household, hell, I dont even like pants, my wardrobe is 95% dresses. We want our men to step up and take back our neighborhoods, to pull our boy children up, to cherish the Black woman, to take contol when situations warrant control. We want to feel free to let the cape slip off, secure that our piece of the world wont collapse in a heap with it. They say more black babies are born premature because of the stress this country pushes down on black women. We are through being perpetually pressed: oppressed, suppressed and depressed. May the universe cooperate to uplift us, as we have uplifted the universe.

  12. I love this article and relate to it 100%
    I so badly need to take my cape off for a moment in time
    Or I may end up in rest and peace
    Lord give me the strength today to seek assistance

  13. This was a powerful read…. My heart broke into pieces when I heard the news… and just like the writer did & felt the same thing… and I had similar thoughts… I believe we (our culture) have been under so much pressure to be more than what our past (history) has been that we are afraid to say I’m not ok!!! I need help!!! and taking the necessary steps/action on getting it… food for thought: we all choice a career path and just like most we have been taught to mask it to survive/for money… and didn’t get the teaching on how to overcome what your masking… thanks for writing this… we need to share more articles like this!!!

  14. Thank you SO much for this well written article. It is a true testimony to the everyday challenges of being a brown woman in America

    • Thanks… my mom was said to be a suicide Dec 21 1965 but after 57 years I have confirmed it was murder. She had been depressed. This was the 3rd time my two childhood friends lost their mom and all 3 dads went crazy.. we kids are stronger than our parents but remember they were WWII and taught to hide the truth. I’m excited and at peace because 16 years without help set in me permanent brain damage but it afforded me 5 degrees job loss to the tune of 2.5 million dollars and now retired I serve all women

  15. YASSS, to ALL of this!!! Beautifully written and
    expressed—captures the plight of the Black woman. It resonated with me on so many levels. Thanks for sharing—I’m definitely sharing it with the Black women and men in my life.

  16. Thank you so much for allowing us to remember that we also need self love .We give so graciously to others and to life. Her name is BELOVED. SHE IS EACH AND EVERYONE OF US. We pass her each day in our mirrors but we never take time with her even when we are applying our makeup fixing our hair …we are moving fast we’re not spending any time with…Beloved! PLACE A CHAIR IN FRONT OF THE 🪞 AND SPEND SOME TIME AND LOVE WITH BELOVED. We have become the superheroes of women we have forgotten to take time with BELOVED!. Bring Beloved to the Forefront of your mirrors she has been in the background ..working.. saving ….establishing life for others. Embrace BELOVED .. bring her from behind the mirror she is beautiful.
    My client .. a Caucasian woman said to me one day why do Black Women take care of everyone and everything. She told me she was going to marry again … and asked me if I would would she planned her vacation and her self-love time… and the prospects for a new husband boldly .She looked at me and said you need to do the same. My Beautiful Sister .. Beloved ..she’s waiting for each and everyone of us in the mirror.. spend some time with her sit down 😌 reflect self-love whenever you want to She’s Waiting. Aloha and mahalo from Hawaii…Again Thank you so much..Blessings 🙏 Always

  17. I am a Strong Black Woman & Proud of it. Thanks to my Mother. But, I also know how to share My Cape!!

  18. We cry together Internally! I wish sooo many times that I could’ve wiped the tears from my sisters eyes and as they’ve wiped mine! But it’s too late they’re gone!

  19. No matter what color your cape may appear, Pray to your Heavenly Father and trust his answer. He’s always there and he is for Real.

  20. Don’t call me magic and expect miracles. Great post. Thank you for writing this Hannah

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