A few days ago, one of my favorite sites, Blavity, posted an article about the stunningly gorgeous, Sudanese-born, Aussie-raised model Ajak Deng. I wasn’t too familiar with the east African beauty at the time as I’m not educated in the fashion industry, nonetheless, I clicked the link to her Instagram page and watched the four black and white videos she posted following the murder of Alton Sterling. In the video, Denk painfully recounts her own experience with NYPD two years ago. Although the video shows no colors, you can see the rage in her eyes and hear the hurt in her voice as she talks about the racism she faces in the fashion industry and the lack of support she received after her attack. The videos are heart wrenching. I had to fight back tears while I watched them at work, however there was one thing she said that a stung me more than anything else:
“I had to go through this alone. I have to be the strongest black woman I can be by myself.”
Anyone who knows me (or has read any of my social media posts) knows how I feel about being a Black woman. I love it. Sisterhood is so vital (look out for that post in the future) ESPECIALLY living in this society. I have my own circles of sista friends and my own coven of Queens that I can go to and laugh, cry, vent, do whatever I need to do in order to stay sane in this country. Every Black woman deserves that. Knowing Ajak doesn’t have that breaks my heart because it isn’t fair. She deserves it just as much as I do. So with that I decided to write Ajak a letter:
We’ve never met in real life. I recently just learned of our divine existence. I don’t know you personally, but I do know that you are a Black woman in America, and I’m a Black woman in America and which that, we share something in common. Regardless of the industries we work in we share common experiences here in the mythical “land of the free”. I don’t want to be preachy or anything like that, as I’m sure people have been responding the videos you posted about your experience with Police brutality. I just want you to know one thing:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I know how it feels to be in an environment and be seen as the “other”, socially and professionally. The one thing that helps me deal with it is knowing I have a circle to go back to. I have something or somewhere to return to where I can be myself and be around people who understand what it is to be Black in America. The fact that you don’t have that readily available to you bothers me to no end. I can’t physically hug you, but virtually I’m giving you the biggest sister hug my short arms can muster and know this: you ARE NOT intense, you ARE NOT crazy, you ARE NOT stupid, you ARE NOT extreme. You are fine. You are exquisite. You are beauty defined and strength embodied. You are intelligent. You are a Black woman. You are divine.
So if at anytime you feel alone, and you feel like you need to release, to scream, to do whatever, know that you have sistas such as myself who say “GO FOR IT.” We stand behind you. We stand beside you. We support you. And if you need a physical space to release, I do live in NY and I promise I’m not crazy lol.
Malikah A. Shabazz