Artwork By: Laurie Cooper, “Face Reality (Female)”
I’ve always been that girl; loud, sassy and not afraid to speak her mind. Personally I was labeled angry, crazy, and gangsta (Born and raised on a military base, that shit’s real gangsta). As a professional, I struggled with scaling that back. I was labeled aggressive. Hard to get along with. Unprofessional. And at first I took offense to it. I vehemently fought against having to act a certain way at work, which isn’t really the right way, but the “white” way. I desperately wanted to find a way to maintain my eccentric personality AND cultural identity while still being “professional”.
THE SKIN I’M IN
Despite the negative labels, I knew one thing, I knew how to stand up for myself and no one could take that away from me. As an adult, I’ve found both value and strength in my voice. I’ve also found a balance in being my authentic self while still being professional. That includes jokes in presentations and honest responses to answers (“Sorry I wasn’t paying attention…what are we talking about?”). I refuse to fit into a mold that was created by people who don’t look like me or have shared experiences. I can be me without trying to be “them”. And you can too.
WHO GON CHECK YOU BOO?
Lately I’ve had conversations with women who say they wish they could be more like me; more carefree, less worried about opinions, able to speak up in meetings more. When they ask me how I’m able to speak up so freely, my question is “How can you not?” If you don’t speak up for yourself, who will? The worst someone can tell you is ‘no’. There’s many women in history and the present who’ve been told no, had the door slammed in their face, and used that rejection to make their own door.
That ‘no’ could be your motivation. Your salvation. Your community or profession may be longing for your voice. Your ideas. Your passion. Keeping them to yourself out of fear of rejection is keeping the world from your talents. I challenge you to speak up and out this year. Black women have a history for fighting for what’s ours, so why not fight for what’s yours? #closedmouthsdontgetfeed