In a society that aims to suppress our visibility and definitions of self, it is essential for black women to create safe spaces where we can affirm, cope, and resist a white and male dominated world (hooks 1992; Wingfield 2008). Our friendships create emotional support that encourages growth and validates our right to exist, while lending credibility to our experiences. We are able to affirm our own power by having the ability to share our experiences in our own words.
Often stereotypes about black women’s inability to be trustworthy makes our friendships seem less valuable in relation to our perceived deviance. So much so, that many women, including my own sister friends, internalize ideas about us being jealous or even hostile that they will, without shame, proudly proclaim how much they “dislike women,” or even cite those characteristics as to why they “don’t have women friends.” This is not only offensive, but it also undervalues the relationships they already have, and fails to recognize how their own relationships with other black women often subvert this tired stereotype. It also directly countered the inspiring relationships that I have with a number of black women.
I have created the best memories and shared the best moments in the company of black women in intellectual, activist, and a number of other spaces where we have been able to hang out, laugh, cry, argue, be downright mad, but always have a mutual respect for our feelings and thoughts. Most of these women have become my sisters where we engage in reciprocal relationships of support and understanding without judgment. A few of these women have been my mentors. They are amazing women who have had my back when I would have otherwise been ignored and abandoned during critical stages of my professional growth. Some of these women have been acquaintances. I cannot count the number of women that have come into my life only briefly, shared opportunities with me and been willing to be selfless enough to help this stranger despite not knowing me personally. All of these women have taught me and given me so many things, that on this day dedicated to showing love, I feel obligated to lament how courageous and astonishingly human they are and how they encourage me to be the same.
The support that I have gained through my relationships with the black women that I’ve lived, pledged, learned, taught, cried, and experienced unparalleled joy with deserves to be celebrated today on Valentine’s Day. I cherish and honor these relationships in the same ways that we are often advised to reserve only for our romantic relationship, for that is limiting. I believe that sharing love and mutual care with black women in my life is necessary for my own survival. Despite having a partner on this day for 5 years now, I find it essential to celebrate my various relationships with my black women sister friends. Though our dynamic relationships cannot undermine institutional oppressions and interpersonal obstacles we face in our daily lives, our ability to be unapologetic about our friendships gives us the ability to resist. That is reason enough to commemorate this day of love.
Jazmine Walker is a participant in Echoing Ida, a project of Strong Families. She lives and works in North Carolina. Her personal blog is Furious and Brave. Follow her on Twitter @JAZonyaMINE.
hooks, b. 1992. Black looks: Race and Representation. Boston: South End.
Wingfield, Adia Harvey. 2008. Doing Business With Beauty: Black Women, Hair Salons, and the
RacialEnclave Economy. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.