I Stopped Playing the “Strong Black Woman”

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By Shawn Ricks | yes!

I never saw my grandmother rest. From morning to night, she appeared to be in service: cooking and cleaning, helping and caring for others.

She died of a heart attack at 69.

As I reflect today on the high rates of heart disease, stress, obesity, and other physical as well as mental ailments among African American women, I wonder what would have been the impact had she said, “I ain’t cooking tonight, everybody is on their own,” or “I’m headed out for a walk,” or simply, “I’m tired, and I need to rest.” What messages might I have inferred from watching her take 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning to “get centered.”

Instead, I observed what appeared to be a never-ending pace of busyness, problem-solving, and making ends meet. As a result, I found myself behaving similarly. I didn’t dare go to her or the other Black women in my life with what I couldn’t do. I worked hard to figure things out—to trudge through my storms. I mimicked what I saw and became a professional at it.

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