Sojourner Truth was woke before woke had a double meaning. She was a critical thinker. She asked the questions Black women already knew the answer to. "And Ain't I a woman?" Sojourner exposed the hypocrisy of her place in the world with that speech. Women didn't have equal rights. She said to be a woman during that time meant that you were taken care of. You were doted over. To paint a picture she referenced that women were helped into carriages and over mud puddles. Women were not doing laborious jobs. They weren't doing anything that was considered to be men's work. They didn't have the right to.
Being a woman was not synonymous with being a Black woman. It wasn't then and it isn't today. White women are held to a high esteem. Black women are not esteemed. White women are protected. Black women are not. Society has different expectations of Black women and has placed unfair burdens on them. Black women are expected to be strong despite their adversities. That alone is exhausting.
During Sojourner's time Black women were already doing the same work that Black men were forced to do. Their anatomy didn't afford them the niceties and privileges of being a woman. They didn't own their bodies. They had no agency over their time. Black women were treated like vessels expected to breed on command; and their offspring were sold to the highest bidder. Imagine having your child snatched from you at birth or worse watching your child grow only to live in fear of the possibility of them being sold. Black women have had to be physically and emotionally strong for centuries. The emotional trauma that comes with that is passed down from generation to generation. Black women were never going to be treated like White women. Make no mistake, Black women were going to have the fight of their lives to get the same rights as White American men. To be designated as 3/5 of a human being was to be a Black Woman.
In order to survive we've had to be strong Black women. Now we have innumerous amounts of Black women suffering from Strong Black Womanitis. We've taken on this persona to the detriment of our self-care. Our mommas are strong. Our aunties are strong. Our nanas are strong. We've been taught to be strong. Many of us have not been taught to be strong and prioritize self-care. We consider it an oxymoron but that has to change. There needs to be a space for duality. Being strong is prioritizing self-care. The weight that comes with being a strong Black woman has to be balanced with taking care of ourselves. Let's take agency over our bodies and our health. Sojourner Truth knew that she deserved to be treated like a any other human being. She was vocal about it. I'd like to imagine if she had more choices she would have chosen to prioritize self care; the same way she prioritized making sure her voice was heard.
During Women's History Month I want you to remember the voices of Black Women like Sojourner Truth. Remember the women who fought for the rights we have today. Let's take the power that we have today to exercise our rights and preserve our beautiful and bountiful Black bodies. Let's redefine what it means to be a strong black woman and let that definition include self-care. We deserve it! Happy Women's History Month.