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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

144 replies »

    • This post was liberating a freeing for me . The headspace that has been clouded for so long suddenly opened up and I feel heard . So thank you . I pray that you continue to harvest your gift because WE need it . 💕

    • A fine OpEd; well defined; unvarnished reality – and just think, I consider myself a Macho Macho Man. When I think of Harriet Tubman, Betty Shabazz, Angela Davis, Michell Obama, etc. among a long list of Black female heroes, Hannah Drakes’s insight reminds me of how important it is to be a supportive husband to my wife and caring father to my two daughters. Kudos to the sisters. Keep the faith and keep up the fight.

      • Black Women I’m Tired This was a Wake Up Call Like No Other. THANkYOU I PRAY GOD Continues to Show Us All The Way.

    • This is so very true at all levels. However, I am so sorry for the loss of another beautiful black queen.

  1. Hannah – I was stunned when I read about death of Cheslie Kryst and you write about it so powerfully. among many things, It makes me wonder if you feel that the benefits of social media outweigh the drawbacks or vice versa? because so much of social media IS about those curated moments…in some cases, an artificial personal narrative to present an image of contentment, success etc…is that even more damaging in terms of perpetuating a myth to, about and for ourselves? really – how did we find affirmation or being reality checked prior to 2007/2008 when Facebook really started taking off? or before a photo on insta, and its subsequent “likes” affirmed our lives are happy, or worth honoring or worth receiving consolation? were the lonely and depressed among us able to receive the care and attention they needed before? where does the balance lie? what is the best path to relief, support, enlightenment, understanding? love and respect to you – Theresa

    • I agree with where you’re speaking from… also I want to add that the strength we receive and have is of God… our grandmother’s, mother’s aunt’s, etc. passed that down from generation to generation… what’s the foundation of your strength?…. it shouldn’t be your material gain but the love of God in All Areas of your life… the word says so.

    • Theresa – and there is the essence of it, in fact. It is not so much that social media is about those curated moments, as it is that those curated moments have now replaced real life. We don’t even KNOW what people really look like, what cellulite or wrinkles or lines of care or AGE look like, or realize that much of what we experience on a daily basis or believe we know about one another is now regularly edited for distribution. Our telephones are trained to take photos automatically set to enhance our environment from the get go, and publishing them – something that only happened during slideshow parties or an open wallet during bragging rights moments – has replaced the other deeper, more meaningful exchanges we had with others in the past. Anyone who really knew Cheslie Kryst had been given evidence of something broken; but deadened as we have become through bombardment with horrors once singular and outrageous through the magic of our online existences and social media, even if we hear them, we’re programmed to respond with today’s gorgeously-fonted one-line platitudes or philosophical catch-phrases… Do we even KNOW how to truly listen anymore? I do believe I am wired to withstand superior forces stacked against me, because it is part of my DNA as the daughter of my mothers having done the same, and having passed it on to me through time. What is different now for me is more the casual, superficial understanding of it, the way much of it has been co-opted for entertainment purposes – much of it by white people – and the way in which it is so glibly taken for granted.

    • The way I exhaled while reading this as if someone released me from my marching orders. Im tried and goodness there are days when I want to just stay in my bed. Well said, thank you.

  2. Black women, “Do You.” Get M.A.D. Meaning Make A Difference in your life with self care first before you exhaust yourself taking on the cares and burdens of everyone and everyrhing else. Stop putting yourself on the back burner. Do You unselfishly!

  3. Thanks so much for this powerful writing! As a woman of color I embrace all that I am. However I too am tired. I’m still learning how to be vulnerable and totally free even in my seventh decade. Each day I get closer to my goal. It will happen soon.

  4. I don’t believe she committed suicide! There is no conclusive evidence that she did, police are still investigating. We shouldn’t be too quick to accept the conclusion of the early reports. After all there had to be cameras in this upscale N.Y. high rise! Let’s see what they show us! This young woman seemingly had everything to live for she just as easily could have been pushed or thrown over.

      • And her mother confirmed it as well and that her daughter was depressed. Something she stated she kept from even her until recently. It was sad reading her mother’s statement.

  5. I don’t usually respond to articles but this one resonated do much with me that I am compelled to thank the author for her insight. I have to agree with so many others, I, too, am tired. One thing I would like to emphasize is there is often strength in numbers and so often we are our own worst enemy. We act as if we are competing against each other instead of working together to embrace a dream that we all can share. I expect push-back and the non-support of others but I am always disappointed and outraged when we do it to ourselves. I think my being tired comes from decades of being strong when I want to cry, being there when I want someone there for me and supporting others when I want to be supported. It was encouraging to read about so many things I have felt as it lets me know there are others out there just like me but until others see what we see and know it to be true we will live to fight another day. Thank you Hannah Drake!

  6. I agree with all of this, but let’s not rush to conclusions. She wrote in Allure magazine about her struggles with ageism. That might have been a factor as well. Please do not use her as a poster child for your article and respect that this incident is still being investigated.

    • It is clearly stated in my article I don’t know what she was facing. However she was very clear on her social media about the constant microaggressions she faced, racism, etc. Which I understand all of that very well. Thank you for reading.

    • She also wrote in that same article about how she was often targeted by trolls because of her skin color and body.

  7. I shook my head in agreement with EVERY.SENTENCE.OF.THIS.ARTICLE!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!! This is the truth!!! This hit home!!!

  8. This is good! Thanks for speaking on this and for sharing this. The struggle is so real. I personally carry a lot of weight as a woman, mother and many other titles that I hold. And holding those titles aren’t easy. I’m in the process of knowing what I’m volunteering to hold on to and what I need to give up. Each title requires a different me sometimes and this alone is tough. It’s a daily fight to rise above it all. Being persistent and surrounding myself with ALL things positive: words, friends, thoughts, family, etc. helps tremendously! When I’m in a dark place, I acknowledge it and fight like hell to get out.

  9. This blog was powerful and well written. You said everything I felt but could not articulate into words. Rest in Power Ms. Kryst and please my Black Sisters find your happiness through prayer, journaling, therapy and a supportive community.

  10. Beautifully written!! You speak to the depth of truth. It’s time for change. Actually, it’s past due. Thank you so much for pushing this to the forefront. I’m taking heed. I pray my sisters do too. #savingourlives

  11. Beautiful article. I’m 64. When I look back over the years, I too had many capes. In fact, I know it was only the grace of God which allowed me to do so many things. But now, I live by these words. “Seek, then do God’s Will. Nothing More. Nothing Less. Nothing Else.” This allows me to have a goal (God’s Will) and to stay within that goal. By doing so, I don’t have to worry about pleasing people. I don’t have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses. I set aside time for things like wine and jacuzzi 😉 or going to a place with water for solitude with the Lord. For those of you who don’t know or who don’t feel loved, just know that God loves you and so do I.

  12. I felt all of this. I told my husband last night that I am scared that being strong is going to send me over the edge. He couldn’t understand it but many Black women do understand. I’m reclaiming me.

  13. Thank you for sharing. I wish black women had more love and support, not just being the supporting role. Sending love and healing energy to you all.

  14. Wow, what a powerful article! I had to sit with this for a moment. I felt every word that the sister has conveyed in this article.

    • My goodness, finally I’m heard. Not my voice but through the lense , voice and experience of others. Thanks for the words unspoken which have fallen on deaf ears..

  15. Hannah, thank YOU so much for speaking your authentic truth; as your Blog was powerful, poignant and so relevant, As a Black Woman who has been on this Earthly Plane for 54 years, I thought it was empowering for people to view you as being strong! However, what happens when that perceived, ‘Strong’ Woman needs someone to lean on? Who does SHE turn to? As there have been moments where my cape was tethered; and I didn’t feel as strong; I am so grateful and thankful to have a ‘Tribe’ that when I needed them the most~~they were there! Continue to speak your, authentic #Truth!

  16. I too like soooo many others of my dear sisters, can relate on so many levels to your true and profoundly written article. It has been NOTHING but GODS strength, that has literally carried us through, when we couldn’t carry ourselves. Thank you so much for dropping this knowledge, my continued prayers for Cheslie Kryst’s family during this difficult time. Today I choose to take off my cape, and stop being Miss fix it for everybody and Miss Superwoman,,, I surrender my cape, we were not created to carry burdens, only to cast them on the lord.

  17. Thank you for sharing this. It truly brought tears to my eyes. As I continue to read. Yes , we have to be a strong Black women in this world. We don’t know whats behind a pretty face , smile and how a person feel inside and out.Our Black women’s need to stick together and lift each other up. Instead of letting each other down. Because we don’t know. How that person feels or what she is going through in her life. You know the hardest thing is being a Black woman. To all of our Beautiful and strong Black women, its time for us to come to stick together and instead of tearing each other down. My prayers goes out to her mom, She was such a Beautiful Black woman. And left a powerful message to Black women. May she rest in peace. From another Black woman.

  18. This article is a very wonderful description of the normal day to day of what a black woman silently faces. This is an eye opening, tear jerking, unashamed way to let all know what we deal with and what we will no longer let keep us held hostage. Truth is what I see in her words and let these words set all who read this free.

    • This article speaks from my soul words that I’ve only thought in my mind and never spoken from my lips. Some words that I’ve shared with only some people and only spoken to trusted others that agreed and aligned with me as we put our masks back on in public. Thank you for sharing and thank you for speaking your truth. Our truth. THE TRUTH. I’m a way that many can’t even dare to read and many won’t even understand. For those of us that know, WE know. Thanks Sis! 🤗

  19. Thank you for being a vessel of love and hope. I pray many readers find solace and comfort in your words, but most importantly know that we can Take Off The Cape!!! You and your words are a blessing!

    • Thank you so much, Andrea. That truly touches me. That is all I want for my work. To make people and this world better. Reclaim you. ❤️

  20. I have tears as i read this. Tear of anger. Tears of joy. Tears of embarrassment. Tears of fear. So many tears…..because when TRUTH hits you like a brick that one time. You HAVE to stop everything and start asking yourself the questions about yourself that you KNOW you’ve been avoiding for a long time. Imposter syndrome for Black Women is REAL!!! Today I will have to face myself. Am I ready and willing to let go of my cape today? Thank you Andrea!

  21. I am also a black woman who has worn too many hats. My cape is tattered I am destroying it so that none who saw me wear it will think that they have to do the same. I am wearing my hair down without a hat! I want the world to see the beauty of me striding not flying into freedom of life with my beautiful hair flowing freely not covered with a hat nor burdening rag of mental slavery. Thank you.

  22. Thank you for this article!! This resonates in so many ways!! I need to bury my cape. I felt every word and depression and anxiety will have you do irrational things like suicide because you want the pain to go away. I am a survivor and so proud I made it on the other side!! 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽

  23. Thank you. This has been me for almost 58
    years, as I’ve continued to wear “all the capes!” I’m done!

  24. This articulates the journey I have been on, freeing myself and helping others to be free as well. The release is indeed liberating, for when we let go of all the oppressing roles and expectations, we find our true selves.

    The struggle to save others is perpetually exhausting because it is impossible. We can support, love, and encourage, but never save. Let’s get off the hamster wheel that keeps us busy, saps our energy and resources, but takes us nowhere. Dare to live- fully and without apology.

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