In my third year of university, troche I had to GET OUT. I had to get out of Canada and I had to fly as fast as I could back home to the UK. I was tired of explaining that there were black people in Britain and that my accent was not South African. I was exhausted by the constant reminders that I was not “really Nigerian” and that I was definitely not “really from” the UK. Through my university’s “cross-cultural exchange program”, I decided to take my ass home and try to figure out where I “really” belonged.
I found myself at a university in the midlands, breathing some of that fresh country air and giving a dutiful smile or nod to each black person I saw, a couple of times a week. It was magic.
On a Friday night, I found what I had been missing.
I was performing in a play called Fallen Petals and it was finally show night. With an all woman and all black cast & crew, I had gotten to know the girls fairly well over the weeks of rehearsal. But something about that night was different. As we said our lines and became our characters, something clicked into place. While the audience applauded, we only had eyes for each other. We were amazed and we were proud of each other.
Black Sisterhood, sometimes I wonder how I survived without its fullness for so long. On that Friday night, they stood next to me on the stage or they sat cheering in the audience. I had never felt so supported and affirmed. These girls were down to hypothesize about life or cut shapes with me on the dance floor. They believed my stories and understood my experience. They were for me, beside me and with me.
A completely different story has been popularized about black women and their friendships in media and in culture. I remember being told by some white people in Miami that I was not like other black girls. I was “polished” and “well-spoken”. They dismissed my frustration and assumed I had misunderstood the ‘compliment’.
We are told that we can only be jealous, angry and catty towards each other. We are told that only one of us can win. They have driven wedges between us, and hoped that our sisterhoods will shatter completely under the weight of their stories.
But Black Sisterhood cannot be stomped out or erased. It is the soundest of truths. In its embrace, we are woman and we are black. Our joys, pains, and pursuits are seen, heard and understood. Because our sisters hold us up, we are resilient. Because their love revives us, we can be hopeful. We embolden each other to demand space and believe it is ours. We say “yes, sis!” and mean it, as we bask in the glories of our girls. Our sisterhood is self-care and we are better because of it.
Written by Deborah Shorinde