An inter-generational dialogue on sisterhood with daughters of the diaspora; can we all just get along!

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BY: SIMONE JENNIFER SMITH 

Each woman is important in this story. We need each other. The more there are of us, the BRIGHTER it gets!” Idelette McVicker

I will be honest with you, there are times when I avoid being around black women. It is not that I have a problem with them; I have always felt that they have had a problem with me. I know, I know; everyone has a story, and sometimes what I am experiencing with these women has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with them. I have always made it my duty to be respectful of others, and sometimes I expect that others will be respectful of me, but I have realized that I cannot expect anything from anyone, I have to just be who I am.

I say all of this to raise a point; how many other women feel the way that I do? How many times have we heard women say, “I don’t like hanging around with other women, they are so catty.” “This is why I don’t talk to women, they gossip too much!” I can list off at least ten different reasons I have heard about why women don’t like dealing with other women but let us shift this narrative for a moment. Let us go into a world of fantasy, where women embrace each other and hold each other in high esteem. Let us go into a world where when we see other women suffering, we put our feelings aside and help each other. Let us go into a world where we don’t walk around talking negatively about each other, but instead uplift each other with positive words and affirmations. Can a world like this exist?

Black women are unique in their experiences because they have been in survival mode for many years. Not only do they have to fight to find men, they are also fighting for the survival of their children. In the midst of that, many of us struggle when working within the corporate world. If you are “too black,” you are seen as aggressive, and sometimes even bitchy. This means that at times we have to suppress who we are in order to stay employed, even though at times, racism and sexism are real in our lives. It is no wonder that when some black women see other black women doing well, they begin to compare themselves, and this comparison can lead to hate, criticism, judgment, and defensiveness. So, how do we deal with this effectively? How do we begin to dialogue about how we feel, and open up to a more efficacious way of dealing with each other?

On Sunday, March 11, 2018, I was invited to speak in Hamilton at the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association. It was an International Women’s Day gathering, lunch and honoring celebration. The purpose of the celebration was to begin this dialogue between sisters in the community. The other speakers included: Ann Miller, who they nicknamed “Sage,” Halima Al-Hatimy; a beautifully fierce Mental Health Advocate; Shamso Elmi, a Somali Women’s Community Advocate; Alexandria Montague, a 19-year-old with the wisdom of a 50-year-old, and Erika Alexander, descendant of the great Lincoln Alexander. We were all invited by the President of the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association, Evelyn Marie to talk about some of the communication issues that exist with women in the African Diaspora. Her brilliant idea was to assemble women from different cohorts to discuss how we can build sisterhood and begin to change the current narrative that exists.

The beauty of this event was that I had an opportunity to experience something that I do not experience often; women building with each other, encouraging each other and helping heal each other. I left feeling connected to each and every woman that I spoke with, which left me thinking. Could it be possible that black women can co-exist in a peaceful and harmonious way? I truly believe that this is possible; we have to continue to provide spaces where women can voice what they feel knowing that they will not be judged, but embraced and upheld for being who they are, FABULOUS!

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