The Sisters We Choose
Throughout the history of this country there has been an effort to strip community from Black women. Most notably, this took the form of children and husbands literally being torn from mothers’ and wives’ arms to be sold away to other owners. And in more recent history, this has taken shape in our system of mass incarceration, which continues to unjustly separate Black families.
This aspect of our history and our present has been on my mind a lot as I’m once again reading The Color Purple again and reflecting on the past year.
Every year, I come back to this book for many reasons, but each time, I read it the things that stand out the most are:
The recognition and naming of the vulnerability of Black women that often goes unnoticed or unacknowledged; Black women’s ability to endure pain and still retain their light; and the pleasures we take where we can and the revolutionary nature of that.
But, my most important take away from this book, which I first read as a sophomore in high school, has always been the power of female relationships and the sisterhood we build, both with the sisters we’re born with and the ones we choose.
While our past and present are painful, I draw comfort from the fact that the goal of destroying our communities (the villages we build together) has never actually been attainable, in part because of the relationships Black women hold with each other. From loud, boisterous moments at the beauty salon, to quiet reflections in church ministries, to the work of feeding the mouths and souls of our communities, we share our experiences with each other, cry with each other, laugh with each other and draw strength from each other to navigate the world that too often neglects our worth.
It is in this space amongst ourselves that we have always built power. Power to endure. Power to fight.Power to shape the world we live in.
And, as I reconnect with these messages in The Color Purple once again, I’m also reminded that far too often in our personal relationships, especially with men, we leave the power and strength we’ve built with our sisters at the door. We allow our needs to fall to the bottom of the list. We accept behavior that we wouldn’t otherwise accept. And, we forget to fight for ourselves.
There are a variety of reasons this happens, including a deep desire to build a family unit that will hold together, but in letting ourselves and our needs fade into the shadows of the needs of the men in our lives, we create an environment in which the types of healthy relationships we want to build are out of reach. These are relationships where compromise from both partners is the norm, where responsibility for the success of the relationship is shared, where patience and understanding is a two-way street and where both people are helping each other to grow, together.
So as I approach another birthday, looking back on another year lived, and looking toward a new year of renewal and growth, I’m reminding myself to draw strength from my community of women; to give the same in return by celebrating and validating other Black women in their wins and challenges; and to build power together to ensure I don’t become lost, but rather continue to build a life that I can fully claim as my own.