Sometimes we forget to SAY THE NAME of our Black women artists whom have been muses to our souls as their lyrics played in the background whilst we crafted our own life stories. One such artist is the almighty Queen Lauryn Hill.
As Black girls were navigating the unforgiving terrain of adolescence, Lauryn Hill was reaching out to save our lives. Beyond adolescence, she helped so many Black young women survive a world that bastardizes Black femininity and exploits Black girlhood. In the 300 plus page book, "Celebrating Twenty Years of Black Girlhood: The Lauryn Hill Reader", authors showcase Lauryn Hill not only as lyrical genius, but they also demonstrate how Hill raised our racial and gender consciousness. Every lyric, outfit, and sound was a freedom cry.
At at time, when much attention is given to our pain, and necessarily so in order to heal, "The Lauryn Hill Reader" (edited by Drs. Billye Sankofa Waters, Bettina Love, and yours truly, Dr. V) reminds us to unapologetically celebrate vulnerability alongside agency and resistance (as art) as an intellectual stance. This book is right on time for more media attention has recently been given to the exploitation of Black adolescent girls by adult men.
Timing is Everything!!
Most of this attention has derived from efforts in traditional media and social media to bring attention to girl victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. Two notable cases flooded our social media timelines and kept many of us cussing, fussing, and crying online and offline. In particular, the Cyntoia Brown guilty verdict had girl advocates like myself seething with rage, and later after she was granted clemency, we were once again hopeful that someone was hearing our cries for justice. Of course the other case, I refer to was "trial by media" (nicely articulated by @melanin_muse), and that is the #MuteRKelly campaign. The verdict is still out on whether Black women and girls advocates will find justice for the direct and indirect victims of the Chicago native R&B singer (hint: name rhymes with B Jelly).
Nonetheless, alongside Black girl pain we have artists like the almighty Queen Lauryn Hill and the authors' narratives and articulations in "Celebrating Twenty Years of Black Girlhood: The Lauryn Hill Reader" reminding us of Black girl joy as a site of resistance. Let's lift up our women hip hop and R&B artists' names who help us persist and resist in the face of patriarchy, racial oppression, and class exploitation. A hip hop feminist consciousness brings the balance needed in using art and story to heal trauma.
In the struggle for our humanity,
Dr. Venus Evans-Winters
"Not your mother's therapist, or your brother's life coach."
I write this letter to you as a daughter, sister, mother, and friend whom has been wounded in the past by personal acquaintances, strangers, and enemies alike. Reading about the horrific death and possibly alleged* assault of Kenneka Jenkins was like handing my psyche over to a public firing squad.
Sister, over the next few days or weeks people are going to blame another young sister for Kenneka's death and alleged assault; others will attempt to blame her Black mother for not supervising her whereabouts; and people will blame Kenneka herself for being at a hotel and being overly trusting of her friends.
People will even blame the police and media for not covering the story and seeking out answers. In turn, the media will turn the lens back on Kenneka herself, her mother, friends, or Black people in general. Inevitably, somehow Black women will become simultaneously the overlooked victims and targets of this tragedy.
Compassion and empathy will be lost to blame. Sister, how do we begin to move the conversation from self-blame to healing?
For me, I was overwhelmed by the nonchalant attitude of possible witnesses of violence* occurring in various renditions of circulating videos, but I was more disheartened by the amount of young women who openly admitted that they needed to stop watching or could not watch any longer the videos and tweets titled, #KennekaJenkins, because it brought back too many memories of their own rape or experience with physical violence and betrayal.
Last night, I went to sleep feeling emotionally exhausted and saddened. I even had a nightmare that involved guns and the threat of rape. The hypothesis of Kenneka's final moments before her death coupled with the realization that dozens of Black women were admitting online in social media that they were once violated and survivors of rape caused me to be emotionally depleted.
Women spoke of the words and images describing the brutal assault as a trigger.
These public disclosures made me wonder:
1)Exactly how many young Black women are survivors of rape and never report the rape?
2) How many young Black women are required to cope in silence with their memories of a rape and/or assault with no one to talk to?
3) How many Black girls and women have to live out over and over again their assault via music, television, or social media?
4) Worse yet, how many mothers are burdened with the helpless feeling that no matter how much she loves her daughter, tries to protect her daughter, and teaches her daughter to stand up and fight for herself that she still will not be able to protect her daughter from being physically harmed, maimed, or death?
At some point, we even have to consider the pain of the so-called friend depicted* in the video. How much pain must a young woman must have experienced in her lifetime that she could sit back, record, and numb herself to another nearby sister in pain or in harm's way? It is easy to point fingers and to place blame, but I also wonder how have we failed this young sister.
Sister, we will do more to heal you and to protect your future daughters from rape, sexual assault, and other forms of physical abuse.
Dr. Venus Evans-Winters (a.k.a. DrV)
Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Why We Must Focus on Black Girls: http://www.theroot.com/sexual-assault-awareness-month-why-we-must-focus-on-bl-1794400667
Women of Color and Sexual Assault: https://endsexualviolencect.org/resources/get-the-facts/women-of-color-and-sexual-assault/
*Indicates language change related to updates of the Kenneka Jenkins case: http://trib.in/2xo4DMz
Dr. Venus Evans-Winters (a.k.a Dr. V)
Activist Scholar. Cultural Worker. Healer. Mother.