Dear [I haven’t settled on a name yet sooooo…],
My real hope is that the world changes for you, but if it doesn’t, I hope I can teach you how to cope.
I hope you love yourself
You do not have to look like Beyoncé, get accepted into all of the Ivy Leagues, or be a CEO by the age of 12 to be excellent in your Blackness. You can do all of these things, but you will be exquisite and worthy of love no matter what. In a world that tries to tell you that every facet of who you are does not measure up, I hope you have a radical self-love.
I hope you know you can be and do whatever you want to do
Often times, people try to jam Black women into boxes. One is labeled good, smart girl, and the other is labeled twerking, ratchet girl. You can be both. You can be neither. You can be one or the other. Whatever you choose does not take away from your worth or your intelligence or your beauty.
I hope you know that “You’re not like the rest of them” is not a compliment
Black women are an integral part of this country’s history, Black history, and your family’s history. Their minds, bodies, and spirits have made movements, scientific discoveries, communities, families, and they have survived interlocking systems of oppression. You want to be just like that.
I hope you know how to stand up for yourself and others that are marginalized
I hope you protest (***WARNING**** this is probably the only thing I will bail you out of jail for). I hope you occupy buildings. I hope you write to your representatives. I hope you are present in the spaces where decisions are made and speak up. I hope a thread of social justice runs through your life in some way at all times. Most importantly, I hope you know that standing up looks like self-care sometimes. Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”, but she also said, “Your silence will not protect you”. I hope being silent about oppression makes you uncomfortable. In the midst of life, I hope you learn to balance those two things.
I hope your White washed history classes don’t get to you
Your Black womanhood is not a hindrance. It is an asset. Just because we are not in the history books does not mean we didn’t make history. Your teachers also may try to convince you that slavery, colonization, segregation and other forms of outright oppression were necessary. Never, ever accept that. Challenge them, challenge the class, and if those don’t work, tell me.
I hope you never question the necessity of HBCUs
Whitley said it best, “No other place will teach how to know yourself and love yourself like [an HBCU]”. People ask me all the time what was different about Spelman. I try to put it into tangible things for them. For you, I will say what it really was. Spelman is the kind of place where you get built, nurtured into something beautiful. Duke is the kind of place where you get broken, and you then have to figure out how to rebuild and make yourself into something beautiful. In a world where Black children are being broken by poverty, families broken by incarceration, and subpar education, we need places that take the time to build them. I hope you agree. I really hope you choose Spelman, because I truly believe that no other place will teach you how to know yourself and love yourself like Mother Spelman.
Finally, I hope you don’t become bitter
Living life being pressed from every side and being acutely aware it is happening from the micro aggressions of your peers to the macro aggressions of a racist and sexist society is exhausting. You will know the crimes this country has committed against people of color and women here and abroad. You will understand the relationships between power, privilege, and systems of oppression. Sometimes, this will overwhelm you, but I hope it never drowns out your faith in humanity. I hope you understand the worst of humanity but believe in its best.
Don’t worry these are just a few of my hopes and dreams for you. I haven’t figured all of the things on this list out, but that’s why you’re here. My only real hope is that you are better than me, that this life and this world seem kinder somehow.
All my love,