“My grandmother and my two aunts were an exhibition in resilience and resourcefulness and black womanhood. They rarely talked about the unfairness of the world with the words that I use now with my social justice friends, words like “intersectionality” and “equality”, “oppression”, and “discrimination”. They didn’t discuss those things because they were too busy living it, navigating it, surviving it.”― Janet Mock, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love So Much More

We have the luxuries that our ancestors did not have. We have the right, the freedom, and the will to say what we want when we want, and how we want. That’s a privilege, and in a time when the privileges of Black women – of women in particular – are being stripped away little by little, we must take time to appreciate that which we do have.

Every human on this earth has access to something someone else doesn’t. Last night for instance I bought my neighbor some lasagna for dinner from a local restaurant my mom and I absolutely adore.

My neighbor had told me she was eating chicken pate for dinner, and I just couldn’t allow that. She’s a tiny, frail woman who doesn’t eat enough, mostly because she can’t afford to, so when I can, I do, it’s a small thing. It doesn’t make me a good person, or a bad person, it just makes me a person who is able to do for someone else, and thus I did.

Too often we don’t think about that in our world. We don’t think about what we can do for others, because sometimes we’re so bogged down with work, partnerships, relationships, and life, that we forget that we have strengths and abilities that other people don’t have. My neighbor would never, EVER, ask me to buy her food, but we both know that when I am able, I’ll do whatever I can for her.

When the opportunity came to join a group of Black women, I really spent about two weeks considering my options, because I didn’t know, or believe that the group would be a safe space for me. As it turns out, it absolutely wasn’t a safe space for me. It wasn’t a safe space for a lot of women.

Black women have to work twice as hard to find safe spaces where we can be ourselves, because oftentimes – and I do not say this lightly – not being safe for a Black woman, or a woman of Color means ending up dead.

Our physical, mental, and spiritual health, must come first, above all else in our lives, because once we lose balance there, we lose balance everywhere.

Everyone EXPECTS Black Women – SPECIFICALLY – to give, and GIVE and give, and give. RARELY do we get asked: “How are YOU today?” “What do YOU need?” “Can “I” Help YOU for a change?” It’s time we start focusing on EACH OTHER.

Every day I see more and more Black women sharing their stories, and almost always their stories include tales of abuse, savagery, violence, and trauma. Every Black woman I have ever met – every woman I’ve ever spoken to, regardless of color I might add – has had to experience some kind of trauma, and has found a way to survive.

Usually and by usually I actually do mean, “most often,” survival, means doing it alone, being alone is the one thing that can protect you above all else, because if you’re alone, if you refuse to depend on anyone, then no one can let you down. No one will hurt you if they can’t get close enough to stab the knife in, right?

The problem with this mentality is that eventually, we let someone in, and by that time we’ve set our standards so fucking high, that when we are disappointed even a tiny little bit, it feels like a much more massive betrayal than it is.

Everyone who lives under our sun will tell you how hard climbing out of the cesspool that is trauma and PTSD is, but very few of them will actually stand by you when you do it. Even fewer will help pull you out and give you the time you need to heal from all the horrible things you’ve just seen and survived.

I didn’t just LEAVE all my old friends BEHIND. They WAVED me on, as they TURNED their backs and started spreading RUMORS behind MINE. Leaving SAVED my life.

I talk about this a lot. Growing up without friends meant that when people wanted to be my friend, I did everything I could to please them, so they wouldn’t hate me. I didn’t say anything when guys touched me against my will, I didn’t say anything when girls would judge my body, intelligence, and spirit, based on my clothing and makeup.

I didn’t stand up for myself because I didn’t know how, it was my group of online friends that showed me how.

Spyc0 asked me why I apologize too much, Bobby asked why I let people get away with treating me like shit, and Geisty inspired me to paint. Barrie inspired me to write. Allison inspired me to let myself be angry. Renita inspired me to set my ground. Natalie inspired me to enjoy my beauty. Anya inspired me to hold my ground. Doctor Ashley taught me how to be proud of myself. Wally taught me acceptance. Moxie taught me honesty and truth, and fairness. Jamie never ever stopped believing in me.

Jason and his brothers traveled all the way to BC just to make sure that I was okay. They brought Chris, Robert, their family, and friends, to check on me. This is friendship, this is loyalty, this is love. Allan, Nick, and many many others came to my aid when I was at my most alone, and it took me five years, to really stop and acknowledge how much I am loved because there was just that much trauma.

Like with food, sex, and yes chocolate, I had to learn what I didn’t like so that I could understand that I have the right to say “I don’t like that.” And when someone says “too bad,” I learned I have the right to walk away.

There are people in my Ohana, that OTHER people look sideways at that, and I know what they’re thinking. “Really? This guy?Yes, THIS guy, because THIS guy to me, is someone who has ALWAYS had my back, and who has NEVER spoken down about me to my face, or to anyone else for that matter. So THIS guy is in my life, and that’s the reason YOU’RE not.

YOU have to LEARN how YOU need to be LOVED, and then YOU have to SHOW the world HOW to LOVE you, so what happened BEFORE doesn’t HAPPEN again…And EVERY time it does…you have to REMEMBER it’s STILL not your fault.

Self-preservation, has become the rule of thumb, but I still make room for the beauty, I still see the majick, I still understand that there are things that I will never understand, and while I may not like it, I know now that MY greatness will not be measured by the size of someone else’s cup. Because I know how to love myself.

Sending all my love,

Devon J Hall

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