Makes Me Wanna Holler
Written by Stephanie Renee on July 26, 2015
Standing in the mirror recently has become a serious exercise in conjuring acceptance and self-love, in a world that seems to prefer me silent, absent or dead.
I know that’s a heavy opening statement, but I mean it. It seems almost superheroic to be able to leave my house every day and find the courage to laugh, show intelligence, strut and flirt, unapologetically. In other words, be Stef. With an “f,” even though my full first name is spelled with a “ph.” That’s my little brand of self-determination. One small way for me to present myself to the world as I choose to be, rather than blindly accept all of the qualities and assumptions that are imposed on me. Funnier are the people who seem totally confused when I announce myself as Stephanie Renée and want to question my name, yet have no issue at all with artists who go by “Alicia Keys” or “Erykah Badu.” What makes one woman’s chosen persona more legit than another’s? In the parlance of our times, “Can I live?”
Can I live? That phrase has taken some of us to dark places in the wake of senseless assassinations like the 13 trans women who have been beaten to death already in 2015, and in the yet-unresolved circumstances of Sandra Bland. I do not accept anything that people may characterize as a victim mentality about the way that I move and thrive in the world, but it would be horribly naïve for me not to acknowledge that my physical presence on this Earth is under consistent scrutiny and attack. There are not many places that connote prosperity where I can stroll in and not have my belonging questioned. I feel the ever-so-slight hesitation from waitstaff when I hand them a credit card and tell them to run a tab. People who grin at my little sports car, then see me behind the wheel and my Penn bumper sticker in the back window, and the cognitive dissonance sets in. Who I am, comfortably, versus who I’m expected to be, societally, does not often mesh in the minds of the masses. And, for a dangerous subset, this perceptive reconstruction is a trigger to aid in my destruction.
Serena Williams inspires as many people as she pisses off. For all of her strength and beauty, there are legitimate haters in her world. People whose natural inclination is to denigrate her, rather than give her all of her well-earned props for her talent and spirit. The last laugh is hers, as she adds more Grand Slam trophies and purses to her stockpile. But I know there are moments where she wants to Hulk out on folks and force-feed their vitriol back to them with a shovel. Black girls aren’t given a lot of room to embrace our anger, to put people in their place, or to shine unquestioned. Society is so much more comfortable when we are humble or downright unaware of our fabulous. But we can’t afford that silence anymore.
For me, every day is Happy Black Girl Day. I’m going out of my way to tell a sista I love her outfit, her hair is stunning, she gave a great response to a question, or anything else that legitimizes her being. We must take responsibility for loving ourselves first, best and often. We must acknowledge and celebrate our authentic, awesome, flawed yet fabulous selves.