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Black women are not welcome everywhere.
Clear signs are posted in many of the places that we frequent. Our options would be few if we chose to acknowledge every single time that we have been ignored or silenced, but we persist in our fight for society’s recognition.
Recently, my best friend visited from Boston and a trip to Magnolia Market was the perfect addition to our itinerary. The restaurant had a 3-hr. wait, so I bought a t-shirt from the adjacent gift shop. Upon purchase, a promotional card was placed in my shopping bag that read “Where everyone has a seat at the table.” A curious white woman sat and stared at us through the glass wall shared by the restaurant and shop. My friend waved at her, and the woman quickly caught herself and looked away, embarrassed. Curious stares are normal occurrences for us.
The marketplace was the rustic farmhouse-chic that I recognized from TV. Moving through the space, we noticed that we were two of very few Black people present, but we credited that to being in Texas- Waco, Texas- and we didn’t think much of it. Being one of few Black faces in a space is common for us.
Pottery displays, scented candles, and shiplap creations painted with calligraphic messages and designed to feel rustic and original flanked the space. We passed displays of realistic fake plants, or “fauxliage,” as I like to call them- roses, tulips, greenery, and cotton. Yes, cotton.
I pointed it out to my friend, and we watched as white women picked up the fake cotton and added it to their full hands of product to display in their homes, perhaps in a large vase on a mantle or next to a fireplace. I even saw a mother hand a stem to her child and he waved it around gleefully as she pushed his stroller through the store. I felt triggered, and it made me remember how that same triggered feeling is a common presence for many of us.
1. How many times have we been in spaces where we felt welcomed for a while, only to be reminded that the space we occupy was never designed with us- or people like us- in mind?
2. How many times have we seen good intentions like artistic expression, inclusivity attempts, and color-blindness become offensive and flagrantly disrespectful?
As Black women, we have become accustomed to living beyond the ugly disregard that many have for us and our experiences to see the beauty of the world. Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Maya Angelou did it. Toni Morrison and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie do it. I did the same in this space where I found beautiful pieces to add to my home décor, never forgetting that a space that is not designed to be inclusive will never be inclusive if it continues to ignore the subtext of its beauty.
Feminessay is designed to be inclusive of all Black women and their stories. While some may see us as the living subtexts of a white history, here, we build our own space of resistance that includes our stories, our histories, and our voices at the forefront. The subtext label is integral to our voices, our writing, and our stories. We welcome the beautiful, happy, encouraging, and successful as well as the ugly, uncomfortable, controversial, and secret narratives. Our writing is mostly unedited because we know that our language choices are diverse and important reflections that preserve the authenticity of our many voices.
There is no other online space where we share our stories through writing and truly offer a seat at the table to everyone who is hungry for knowledge, perspective, insight, and community. I am proud to be a member of the Feminessay community, where we will use our voices, stories, skills, and the power that we already have to write and share our narratives in our own ways today and every day.
With all of the stories and perspectives shared through Feminessay, we encourage everyone to engage as a participant in the conversations- either as an active listener or an eager contributor. Here’s to building
— Tiye Naeemah Cort,
Editor-in-Chief + Founder