Yara Shahidi On What It Means For Her “To Be a Black Girl”

February 17, 2018

By Yara Shahidi for Google Arts & Culture

To be a black girl is to be one of the reasons the universe thrives.

Our lineage has taught me that I am integral, that we are important, even when society dismisses us, hiding the wonder of our presence, a trail set for and before us by generations of powerful and empowered Black women.

Bell hooks, Angela Davis, Janet Mock, Cicely Tyson, Patrisse Khan-Cullurs – an ever growing list of undisputed change-makers and boundary-expanders.

Each and every one of us, embracing our obligation to serve as a mother-shepherd to our society, experiencing with a knowingness the excruciating pains of labor in hopes that the continual rebirth and evolution of our nation will be one that revels in our existence, that lifts us as empowered beings, and that remembers the tenderness of our care.

A study of my history tells me that I will soar, despite the continuation of oppression, neglect and objectification. We will soar. I’m inspired by my own family of powerful black women, I carry the intention to continue making space for black girls to be black girls.

Bluer eyes may tell us of the glory of “Mary Jane,” but we mustn’t forget the glory from which we came.

Living in our ancestry are the stories of queens, pioneers, mothers, warriors, poets, and unifiers.

As Nikki Giovanni says, “Art is not for the cultivated taste. It is to cultivate taste.” We are the cultivators, uncredited, but ever present.

Colonized by people who truly believed Rock and Roll was an innovation of Elvis Presley, never speaking the name of Sister Rosetta Tharpe – who pioneered the mixture of gospel music with rhythm & blues – but we continue to push forward, sharing and telling of our evolutions.

Knocking down barriers, our achievements, your achievements, my achievements, allow all to rise—from propelling suffrage and civil rights movements, to propelling the first man to the moon.

God bless Black women, in the form of my mommy and caretakers, my aunties and rulebreakers, sisters and sister-friends, who have nurtured both you and me; whose grace under pressure has made it possible for us to be.

In this day and age, the chaos may seem so overwhelming and new, but I turn to the past and see the path that was already cleared by more than just a brave few.

Reflecting upon our vast history, the one thing I know for sure is:

Leaders – we are all leaders in every form that we assume.


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