Finding Strength in Softness
Welcome to my page! My name is Pilisa Nicolette Mackey and I identify as a 26 year old Afro-Carribean poet/activist/dreamer/artist and lover of all things soft and pink. Growing up I was always moving through the world with a more sensitive air. I tend to feel things very intensely and deeply and growing up, this made me an easy candidate for labels like "irrational" "overly emotional" overly sensitive" etc. etc. Add to that, I struggled through depression, self harm, abuse, eating disorders, bullying and of course daily assaults of both racism and sexism. All things that I struggled to cope with. Many of the Black and Brown adults in my life attempted to encouraged me/challenged me with these words "Don't worry our people are tough. You're a strong Black woman no need for you to cry." I suppose in their own way they were trying to help me....after all what could be so bad about telling a young Black girl that she's strong.
This phrase, "Strong Black Woman" and its inherent assumption of Black female strength is certainly empowering and helped me later in life to endure and develop resilience in the face of many issues of discrimination, injustice and rejection I would face as a Black woman in the US. But it also caused me to feel great shame....Shame when I did things that didn't fit with the narrative of "Strong, invincible, resielient Black woman"...things like crying....or writing poetry, showing weakness or needing a break. According to this archetype, these were all things a real Black woman didn't say or need. In the attempts of both mainstream media and some in the Black community to idolize Black female strength, the full humanity of my Blackness was sadly limited. I didn't know Black girls could be vulnerable....or were allowed to be needy...to weep....were worthy of and deserved protection and assistance. I learned to reject the softer, delicate sides of myself. Partly because of the SBW stereotype, but mainly because in a Racist society, Black women are always portrayed as inhumanely strong, aggressive, tough and independent.
Even though I did posses these characteristics, I also possessed others too. Loneliness, frailty, weakness, shyness, Innocence, gentleness, fear, exhaustion, love. In the pages of my poems, in my own words, I found the safety to bring all of myself to the table. My strengths and weaknesses....and to define my Black womanhood in shades softer than endurance and more vulnerable than invincibility. In my poems I gave myself permission to feel the multitude of my feelings and to define myself for myself. I hope and pray they help you do the same.