We take for granted this luxury we call empowerment. Rarely do we even question what it means to be empowered. We buy the t-shirt and wear it and shout at the top of our lungs to whoever is listening. Through the years it’s gone from "I am Woman" to "Girl Power" and now it's "Black Girls Rock!" Regardless of the slogan, the message has always been the same: Look at me. I am beautiful ; I’m special; I’m powerful and I have every right to be here.Like the water we drink and the air we breathe, most of us cannot imagine a world without this feminine power.
We enjoy the privilege of living in a country where women have so many rights although this is not the case around the world. We have…the right to vote...the right to change our minds...we have the right to marry…or not…to procreate…or not….and regardless of our faith or our politics, we all benefit from current laws that say we have the right to our own bodies. At least for now.
Although women are not paid quite as much as their male counterparts, we are still represented in the marketplace and when we see a woman headed to work-outside of the home- we don’t immediately assume she is a nurse, teacher or secretary.
When I was younger, there was a saying and it went like this: “we’ve come a long way, baby!” Yes, we have come a long way but…We’ve come so far that many of us have taken our power for granted and we now are willingly giving it away. Oftentimes giving it to those who are unworthy.
I teach. I teach English and creative writing at a college in Florida and I volunteer so I’ve worked with young women for a long time. Everyday I come across women of all ages who take their power and wrap it up beautifully and then hand it over to someone who rips it open and then devours it and leaves her bruised and bleeding. I guess my question is do you possess your power?
If empowerment is a process that fosters power in one’s life and then enables one to impact the community and then society, then I really, really need to know whether or not you have fully embraced your own power because if you are powerful, then you make me powerful, and then we make the world better.
I am often saddened by the young women who don’t recognize their own power and diminishthemselves by playing down their abilities, intelligence, or natural beauty.Sometimes it’s because they don’t want to intimidate their man…or outshine their friends because heaven forbid someone think they are trying to act cute or be better than the rest of them.
Sometimes these young women don’t hand over their power to anyone in particular but instead let it evaporate spending years in limbo too afraid to move outside of their comfort zone.Then there are those young women who mistake movement for progress and dilute their power by being on this committee and in that club. They are so frazzled and frustrated that they don’t do any real good.
I guess the luxury of getting older is you stop caring what anyone thinks about you and you’re no longer infected with the disease to please, but more importantly those of us who have some mileage on us have lived through some stuff and we’re able to speak from a place of experience and hopefully wisdom.
We may remember a time when we willing handed over our power to anyone who would take it as long as they agreed to be the designated driver in our lives. Admittedly it’s nice to have someone else be in charge for a while but the problem is once you give your power a way it’s hard as hell to get it back.
You have to fight for it.
That’s what the protagonist, Jessie Winters, in my novel The Other Side of Through faces. She has lived as a passive observer in her own life. Basically she is sleep walking through life because it is too difficult for her to face the anger that is seething within her. She is mad at her mother, she is mad at her mother-in-law, she is mad at her husband, she is mad at the church, she’s mad at God and she’s mad at herself.
In the novel, Jessie willingly gives what little power she has left to a sexy stranger named Marcus whom she meets in a coffee shop one day and she follows him down a path of despair and quiet desperation. She makes the mistake of confusing pleasure with happiness.
It takes the guidance of an older woman to get Jessie back on a path to herself, a path to empowerment. A path to self-love.
Those are the words that change it all.
When we get to that place where we love ourselves unconditionally and free ourselves from the dogma, the doctrine and the negative internal dialogue, we get to a place where we are powerful beyond our wildest imaginations.
We don’t have to run from ourselves because we love ourselves.
We realize we can do anything,
This self- love frees us from picking at ourselves and criticizing every thing we see as an imperfection or hindrance.
So what if I’m a size 26 or a size 6 my love is still the same.
Who cares if my hair is natural or if I’m in the salon every week. It’s what’s in my head that matters.
I might have a hummer or a hooptie-whichever it is it can get me there.
And the beauty is that when we stop tearing ourselves a part we stop tearing each other apart.
There’s no place for the cattiness and the bitchiness and backstabbing and fighting. We see that our empowerment is dependent upon our sister’s empowerment, and this happens with the simple, revolutionary act of loving one self completely.
Jessie realizes that she is powerless to face her life until she learns to love herself, and that in order to love herself she must realize that she is alright just as she is.
Not only does Jessie have the wisdom of the woman who has walked the path before her, she also has her friends Lydia and Crystal who are doing life right along with her and she has her husband David who truly loves her.
These loved ones encourage her to self-empowerment through artistic expression. They remind her that she was created to be a creator, each of us was, and whether we paint like Jessie, or write like me, or cook amazing dinners or crochet or knit or sew…whatever… we don’t feel the fullness of life if we deny what we were created to do…
So Jessie painted.
What do you do?
What longing do you have deep in your soul?
Is it to get that poem published? Is it to write the next great American novel?
Is it to paint a masterpiece or just your bedroom?
Could it be to begin a journal to write down all of those life experiences if for no
other reason than to see just how far you’ve come.
Because you know, after all, you’ve come a long way, baby.
So she takes her power back, as small and fragile as it may be, and she gives it to herself so, hopefully later she can give it to the world.