Living Life Purposefully

Where Purpose Meets Passion

Tag Archives: mental illness

To #RachelDolezal and Her Defenders

For the past couple of days, I’ve tried to wrap my mind around why the #TransRacial (what does this even mean?) scandal centered on Rachel Dolezal truly and deeply offended me. In the beginning, I was one of the people that made the joke of “Well it’s possible. She looks like she has a little black in her.” I even began the fun of asking her questions about Black Culture on Twitter prior to the #AskRachel tag becoming huge. Even still, there were moments I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it bothered me so much.

That is, until I briefly saw a comment on Twitter, which suggested that Ms. Dolezal experienced a sexual trauma/assault which caused her to assume an identity other than the one she was born with.

That struck a nerve.

As a Black woman born a Black girl and raised in traditional gender/societal norms, I was deeply offended that once again the idea that Black women and girls are undesirable was once again at the center of someone’s caricature of us. Why else would someone fully assume an identity of the lowest on the societal totem pole if it were NOT to be seen as unattractive?

That stings.

Some Black women can be seen as smart (that’s okay – look at First Lady Michelle Obama). Some Black women can even be seen as semi-attractive (look at the men who covet women with the exotic look of Kimora Lee Simmons and Lisa Raye).

But never both though.

Perhaps what stings more is that there were people whom others respected with a major platform defending the work that Dolezal, a white woman pretending to be Black, offered in support of the Black community. Once again, White Mediocrity was allowed to be held up as something magical because “at least she did something” and “she’s doing more for us than we are doing for ourselves!”

To that, I wondered, “You’ve got to be kidding me?!?!”

Or even still, the idea that this White Woman with her Swedish last name and her blue eyes that she NEVER changed (light complexioned black woman privilege anyone?) deserved to be defended by Black men. “What’s the difference between her assuming a Black identity and Black women wearing blonde hair?” many asked.

Beside the fact that our undesirable, Black ass hair that we were born with still kinks naturally even though it may be dyed a different color? You are stupid. That’s the difference.

To see that some believed a White woman in her Fantastical Black Womanhood was worthy of defense because of her White virtue by people who look like me, talk like me, and were brought up in Black Culture like me (a naturally born Black Girl who was raised to become a Black Woman) was disheartening. Read that twice in case you don’t get it.

But then I realized this:

Her actions were both reprehensible and wholly irresponsible. Not only that, she lacked personal accountability and basic respect for a culture and people she claimed to care about and support. She is not an ally. She is not a magical being that has done remarkable work which has led to systemic change that will improve the lives of those of darker complexions.

She is regular, run-of-the-mill, “let’s go back to the good old days,” American white bread ass mediocrity.

She is not Black Excellence. Dare I even say it? She isn’t even Black Mediocrity. She has diminished the value of women who are already viewed as less than. And if you defended her and are present in the lives of young Black girls and women, you should be disappointed that you would even allow defense of this woman to escape your lips.

A Letter To My A-K-A

Dear Sorors,

Today’s date, January 14th, marks the Eve of one the most important dates in our personal calendar – January 15th (for those who are not a part of our illustrious sisterhood, January 15th, 1908 marked the birth of THE greatest Historically Black Sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated). With respect to my organization, there is only one more day that’s more important, February 18th. On the eve of our Sorority’s anniversary, I usually reflect on the principles of my Sisterhood and my actions. I always ask myself, “How did I live up to our ideal of ‘Service to ALL Mankind’?”

This year is a bit different, my Dear Sisters. This year’s reflection left me in a state of immense awe.

If you’re new to my blog, I suffer from a mental disorder. When I’m not medicated, I’m left in a crippling state. I can barely function. So why am I in awe? Because of Alpha Kappa Alpha, women who are my Sisters from Afar, came to my aide during one of my most troubling times. You all truly personified Sisterhood (I usually suffer from what I affectionately call word vomit and many days, my Twitter Stream was clogged when I’d express my angst and troubles concerning jobs and my health).

On December 2, 2010, I found myself an inpatient at a Psychiatric Treatment Facility.  This was my last resort. Before I checked in though, I felt a sense of peace. I was reassured by the outpouring from many friends, but most importantly by you all, the Women who share a love for those things I hold near and dear to my heart – leading by example, community uplift, scholarship, but most importantly, Sisterhood. Many of you reached out to me when I struggled with something that seemed simple – scheduling an appointment with my mental health practitioner. Many of you offered me resources and suggestions when it came to navigating the (lack of) insurance debacle. But many more of you were there to just say, “Keep your head up.”

For that, I’m forever indebted.

From those women who came into the organization with me (#shoutout Spring 2007, Zeta Rho chapter) to those women who are only connected to me by recognizing Ethel Hedgeman Lyle as “The Guiding Light,” I’ve come to recognize Alpha Kappa Alpha as more than just an organization. It’s truly deep in my heart. I didn’t think it could get any deeper, but someone, I feel the warmth from you all sprouting and engulfing my soul. When I think of what it means to be a part of a Selected Few, I’m almost moved to tears. It’s that serious. *wink*

It’s more than our Salmon Pink and Apple Green. We’re more than the Pretty Girls with 20 Pearls. Our collective organization is more than the Ivy. More than our Skee-Wee.

We are the personification of a legacy that was built by our 20 Founders.

We are the spirit of our Original 9: Ethel Hedgeman Lyle, Anna Easter Brown, Beulah Elizabeth Burke, Lillie Burke, Marjorie Hill, Margaret Flagg Holmes, Lavinia Norman, Lucy Diggs Slowe, and Marie Woolfolk Taylor.

We are the tenacity of the Class of 1910:  Norma Boyd, Ethel Jones Mowbray, Alice Murray, Sarah Meriweather Nutter, Joanna Berry Shields, Carrie Snowden, and Harriet Terry.

We are the legacy of our Incorporators: Nellie Quander, Julia Evangeline Brooks, Nellie Pratt Russell, and Minnie Beatrice Smith.

We are women of THE Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

We are each other’s saving grace. You all pulled me from the ledge when I so desperately wanted to jump.

We are kind words and Sisterly Deeds simply because we believe that we should strive to do things By Culture and By Merit. You all have encouraged more personal growth within me (from our Old Heads right on down to our Neos).

Our bonds are as strong as the Ivy that represents us. We’re only as strong as the weakest among us and while there were many times that I certainly felt weak, I can say that I’ll be eternally grateful for the strength that you all lent me.

For all of that, I could never say “Thank You” enough. So I’ll say “Thank You” in my daily actions. In providing that kind word. In paying it forward. In representing our Great Sorority in the best light possible. By being true to me and true to Us. By remembering that the Collective is more important than the Individual. By reminding myself that we rarely, if ever, travel this life alone. By promising to remain forever faithful to our organization.

I’ll continue to strive – upward like the Ivy Vine.




Imagine that you’re standing on the edge of something beautiful. You look out before you and you see the ocean sparkle as though under its surface lies a million gems. In their finest form. Truly precious. You look around you, everything is tranquil. Then you feel a slight breeze. Something, a feeling of sorts, creeps up your spine.

Quickly, that picture of serenity is destroyed as that breeze becomes a gust of wind so strong it knocks you from where you are standing. You begin to fall. That picture of beauty is becoming an illustration of destruction. You’ve been tossed into the sea. You can’t swim. And the sunlight that so gently warmed your face just a few moments before begins to fade.

Now you’re caught under the waves. You kick as your instinct begins to take over. You try your hardest to break the surface, but it feels as though something is holding you under water. Suddenly, you’re thrown from the sea of destruction that wants to claim you and you’re thrown on to a jagged rock. Something you couldn’t see from your vantage point earlier. You’re stuck here. In the darkness. You begin to wonder, “How could something so beautiful hurt you so much?” That sea that once sparkled and beckoned for you to calmly wade out a safe distance has at once become a prison.

The winds still whirl around you and in the midst of your tears, something tells you to look up. You can see something that beckons you. Something strong. Something safe. You realize it’s a person. It’s a human. Someone you’ve hoped would help you. You stand on that rock as the water continues to swell around you. You outstretch your hand, foolishly, hoping that by some miracle, that person who stands above you will reach down and pull you up. You begin to scream. You realize they can’t hear you above the winds. You wonder what you must look like to them and all at once understand. In a moment of clarity, you see this person smiling down upon you. That picture of beauty that you looked down upon must be the same image they see when they glance down.

You’re caught in the midst of  storm.

They see you surrounded by beauty.

A wind comes by and knocks you down on to the rock again. This time, it’s so strong, you can’t stand. So you lie there. You’re vision is once again blurred and this time, you can’t tell if it’s your tears or the stinging from the water as it hits your face. This time, you begin to bargain. If you make it out of this storm, you’ll never get close to the edge again. You’ll exist. You’ll cease to live, but you won’t cease to have a life.

In the midst of your bargaining, things get worse. You don’t remember how long you’ve been where you are. It can last anywhere from moments to days. But no matter how long it goes on, you struggle. This battle is intense. It’s even harder because you know that there is nothing that you can really fight. This is something that you have to go alone. Once again you look up. This time, you see the person is concerned. You wonder again, “What must I look like to them?” And you bargain still. You think, “Am I the only person here?” Again, you look up and realize that it’s now a crowd. There are those that you love. They are worried. There’s no way to reach them. You bargain still. You want this to end.

And then…..

There’s a stillness.

You can get up now. As you do, you realize you’re back where you were in the beginning. In the clearing. Standing on the edge of something beautiful. You look down at that sea, sparkling in its beauty and you wonder, “How could something so wonderful cause so much harm?” You turn around to face the people who you’ve wanted so desperately to touch. They are gone. But it’s fine. You’ve found a peace and you feel that you can go on.

So, you begin to walk. You remember to dream. You go on. You don’t lie down. You don’t die.

But you always wonder, “How soon before I come back to this clearing again?”

I’ve thought of ways to describe my daily life. This was the best that I could come up with. Most days, the storm is light. Something that I can handle. Other days, it feels like the worst thing in the world. I feel like I’m powerless over anything…even the simple things that I should be able to control. On those days, I can’t get out of bed. I don’t want to talk to people. I don’t eat. And I always wonder, “What must this look like to others?”

I have depression.