3 Healing Reminders For Young Black Creatives

High anxiety is one of my biggest individual struggles as an entrepreneur and a writer. I can explain most of these feelings away and remind myself that anxiety is something created in my own mind. I remind myself that what I'm creating is worthwhile. I remind myself of the hard work that I've put into my business as a 22-year-old self-sufficient entrepreneur. But no matter how much I remind myself of what I know to be true, anxiety can still creep in. It's the fear that you'll never be "successful". It's the fear that you'll never be "recognized". It's the fear that whatever you're building will crumble to the ground if you look away even for a moment. Anxiety is a common motif amongst young black creatives -- especially young black women. I see brilliant women every day questioning their worth constantly.Anxiety is a common motif amongst young black creatives -- especially young black women. I see brilliant women every day questioning their worth constantly. I'm not immune to this. This week, I wanted to write about reassurance and how to remind yourself that you don't need the world to validate you, especially when it's slated to invalidate you at every turn and diminish your accomplishments.

  1. Remind yourself that anxiety does not always represent reality. You might feel like you are not doing "enough". But this negative self-talk doesn't help you accomplish what you really need to in the long term. When we punish ourselves for not being "enough" by some arbitrary standard, we impede our ability to reach our true potential. This isn't just B.S., it's real. I need to remind myself often that anxiety doesn't help me. It is an obstacle created by my own mind and doesn't represent who I am. In general, when we are bogged down by where we "should be", we prevent ourselves from getting where we need to go.

  2. There is no timeline we need to adhere to when it comes to "success". I tend to find success is a word that we can only define for ourselves. Still, we tend to constantly look outwards for a definition of success to live up to. This plays a role in clouding our self-image and leads to a lot of judgment of ourselves.

    To me, success means accomplishing the goals I have set for myself within the timeframe that I have chosen for myself. It doesn't have to mean the same thing for everyone. Success doesn’t define my happiness — although it does make up a part of it.

    We tend to look around us and see people who are far younger than us or sometimes far older than us who have already arrived where we want to go. (Or where we think we want to go.) We view them as "successful" in juxtaposition to ourselves when we may not even have the same goals as the person we are comparing ourselves to. The comparison doesn’t make logical sense, yet we fully identify with it.

    We may feel envy, we may feel inadequate and all of these feelings stymie our growth. The place we want to go seems further away when we look towards other people as our benchmark for how well we are doing. When we look at how we are managing our own lives, and how we are adhering to goals that we set for ourselves, we often find that our views of ourselves become far gentler. I advocate a more gentle view of ourselves in relation to "success". I advocate for success taking on a different definition than the one we see around us and the world.

    3. Rest and recovery are more important than any “benefit” that may come with working ourselves to death. Sometimes when you become invested in your goals, your ideas, and the things that you want to accomplish, you can forget to take care of yourself. This happens to a lot of creative people and also happens to a lot of entrepreneurs. Instead of continuing to run in circles and exhausting ourselves to the point where we become physically or mentally sick, I want to advocate for rest and recovery.

    We need to take our health seriously and begin to prioritize our health above external goals that we may be chasing. (*Note: in some cases, many people do not have a choice and I do not intend this to come off as judgmental.) Self-care has become almost clichéd in online circles but this is because typically in our society, we glorify people who do not take care of themselves, people who put work and the lack of sleep and accomplishments over self-care.

    It is not necessary to delete ourselves from existence in order to be successful or to feel happy with where we are in life. Young black creatives need to remember that taking care of our health will actually enable us to accomplish more over time. It is easy to get sucked into different messages we may hear that tell us otherwise, but I strongly advocate for paying attention to our internal clock and our internal needs.

    Do not look to the outside world to determine what you need, instead, determine it for yourself. Take care of yourself. Invest your energy into becoming aligned with your internal needs and work towards fulfilling these internal needs. It is not up to other people to determine what you need for yourself. It is up to you.

    All of these snippets of reassurance seem elementary but it is shockingly easy to forget them when we get sucked into the daily grind. Anxiety creeps up and self-care can seem dangerous. We tell ourselves that putting ourselves first is letting down our family, our community or ourselves. However, it is important to ground ourselves in reality rather than listening to the anxious voices that are racing through our minds telling us that we are not good enough.

    Good enough for what? Good enough for who? Our allegiance needs to be to ourselves and to our health first.

    I want to write as a final note to the young black creative folks out there to keep doing what you do best. Make art. Take photographs. Write. Share genuine love with each other. In trying times, all we have is each other and our support systems. We need to build these support systems and make them strong. But we must take care of ourselves in order to do so.

 

Intersectional Feminism: 5 Ways Class Changes Your Experience of Womanhood

Socioeconomic class influences all of our daily routines in the Caribbean. What we do on a morning (full, balanced breakfast vs. bread and tea), how we commute from place to place (bus vs. sedan vs. luxury four wheel drive), where and how we work (cashier vs. civil servant). Socioeconomic class is not "taboo" in a country where people flaunt even the most meaningless status symbols -- from Jansport backpacks to Audi's on the verge of getting repossessed. But when it comes to women's liberation as well as LGBT liberation, the majority of people are silent. All of a sudden, class becomes invisible when it might force you to look at a situation from a nuanced perspective.In reality, your socioeconomic class affects everything. You can't avoid discussing it when discussing women's liberation or you will never succeed in true equality. Additionally, you cannot (as a wealthy person, let's say) take a condescending role of "leadership" over the needs of all women. Being patronizing doesn't mean you've all of a sudden developed a nuanced understanding of what women in poverty need. Try again.

Here are five ways that class is likely to affect your experience as a woman in the Caribbean.

1.Access To Education

Opportunities for women who live in poverty are stymied from the time they're in primary school. In Secondary School and beyond, your level of education, as well as the quality of your education is still very much linked to your socioeconomic class. Can you afford to do get a degree? The ability to travel for a university education, to continue school beyond A-levels and more is all highly dependent on your family's ability to either afford school or take out a loan. This leaves a large portion of women in poverty who simply have no access to education -- the same education people claim will free them.Scholarships for a few individuals DO NOT change the entire landscape for women living in poverty whose lives were predetermined from the time they attended primary school in a specific region.

The socioeconomic class you were born into therefore has an effect on how you experience the world. To someone whose parents could afford to send them to Canada/US/UK for continuing education, achieving a bachelor's degree will seem "easy". But for a woman who grew up living in extreme poverty, achieving a bachelor's degree will not be the same.These discrepancies don't just apply to the tuition required to further your education. This affects young girls from the time they're in primary school: Can their parents afford to send them to school every day of the week? Can their parents afford bus money or school books or food? Achieving an education is tilted in favor of the middle class and upper middle class. It is not simply a function of "working hard", contrary to a belief held by much of the sheltered classes of our region.

2.Perception Of Womens' Immediate Needs

Wealthy women in this region have a very different perception of what women's immediate needs are. This typically leads to a feminism that looks very bourgeois at best and violently exclusionary at worst. Considering the immediate needs of women in our countries should not focus on the immediate needs of wealthy women -- which tend to be largely around acquiring more social capital and power than necessary.The needs of women in poverty tend to be more about survival than about simply feeling good. There are very real issues in our countries that would be better solved by wealthy women donating money and labor rather than holding exclusive roundtables. Continuous community action doesn't have the same luxe feel as an exclusive charitable event, plus it requires continuous long-term planning. When we choose how to help women based on the immediate needs and desires of the wealthy, we will find it impossible to achieve social equity.

3.Access To High-Quality Health Care

Women living in poverty receive very different treatment from health care professionals than women who don't live in poverty. From doctors to nurses, women are judged based on their perceived socioeconomic class and the treatment they're given is dependent on this as well. Disparities in health and health care exist outside of the Caribbean too and we can look to previous research to understand how the effect play out in our own countries.The discrepancies in the quality between our private and public hospitals also point to a glaring example of how much worse the quality of care is for poor women than it is for wealthier women who can afford (or manage) the hefty price tags associated with private hospitals. This doesn't even touch on the affordability of health insurance for women living in extreme poverty, where you're certain to see this same discrepancy.

Poor women get far worse health care than wealthier women and this affects their experience in the world, their approach to illness as well as the long-term prognosis for serious illness.

4. Impact Of Rape, Abuse And Domestic Violence

Poor women are less sheltered from abuse and domestic violence and they're less sheltered from the long-term impact of sexual assault as well as abuse. Poor women are more likely to suffer from the aftermath of domestic violence and are also more likely to suffer from domestic abuse.  The link between poverty and surviving domestic abuse goes beyond the increased likeliness of being a victim. Approximately 50% of domestic violence and assault survivors lose their jobs as a direct result (see source linked above). In homes headed by women, where women are the sole income earners, this can have devastating effects.

Women who are not poor still face issues of being vulnerable to rape, abuse, and domestic violence, but they tend to be more sheltered from the events. It might not be as life-changing to lose your job if you have months of money saved up for example, or tons of assets and a well-connected family to help you through the difficult times. However, for women who are living hand-to-mouth, the impact of rape, abuse, and domestic violence differs.

Child maltreatment via neglect is more common for people who grew up with poor mothers; this isn't for moral reasons or due to "education", but rather due to the economic realities of living in poverty. Being a poor woman means less time to dedicate towards child rearing and can lead to abuse. This can have two effects. Women could be on the receiving end of this while they are children and they can also perpetuate this abuse when they become mothers. Considering both poverty and abuse are cyclical, it's not hard to see how childhood maltreatment can perpetuate from one generation onto another giving poor women a markedly different experience of childhood and abuse from those in wealthier economic situations.Poverty and sexual violence share an analogous link. People who commit sexual violence often target poor women due to their vulnerable positions in society; perpetrators intentionally target women who will be in socially weak positions to seek justice or to retaliate. And again, as with domestic abuse, experiencing sexual violence puts women who are already vulnerable at greater risk of losing their jobs or suffering other financial consequences.

5. How Other Women Treat YouI added this last point not necessarily because it has been studied at length but because it's true and it's especially true amongst women who consider themselves to be educated. And women who consider themselves to be feminists.Feminist circles are rife with classism. There is a moralistic stance taken against women who don't have fancy educations regarding feminism and against women who don't express themselves in certain ways deemed acceptable and appropriate. It shouldn't be hard to guess therefore that what's considered "acceptable" is behaving in a way that is posh, fancy or more upper class. Women who express themselves in ways that are deemed too "declassé" and "unrefined" are ignored, dismissed and discounted constantly. If you're a frequent flier on my blog, you should be able to guess which racial demographic these women tend to fall into... Even in the Caribbean.

Especially in upper-class circles, there's also a negative, condescending attitude towards younger women and their views on feminism. As there is a great degree of younger women who do not believe that women's rights should be exclusive to the bourgeois class, many older women take this opportunity to discount the valid work of younger feminists and younger women in general. They do this via tone policing or flat out dismissal of younger feminists opinions. Basically, they latch onto any excuse for things to remain the same as in truth, they are not interested in women's liberation but getting a cushier spot within their already secure position at the top of the status quo. Again, this is rife with respectability politics that actually have a negative impact in the long-term quest for women's liberation.You don't have to dress like a nun to be a feminist, although, to many middle and upper-class feminists, especially in the Caribbean, you do. Maintaining your image and acquiescing to the rules of patriarchy becomes more important to the wealthy than change. To them, feminism is simply a tool to acquire the power that men have and it isn't a genuine movement to dismantle systems of oppression like the cis hetero patriarchy.

(Just a full disclaimer here this term is NOT my own. I hope I've cited it well enough so just click the link and give credit where it's due.) This is because, in order to dismantle systems of oppression, you do have to take a hard look at socioeconomic class and bringing liberation to the poor, something that most middle and upper-class people possess a deep fear of doing.This is all to say that due to this fear of poor women and what their liberation would mean, as well as an allegiance to patriarchy on some level, wealthier women treat poor women as their lessers. And they might have fancy excuses for why they're doing so but the reality is something different and it's largely based on unexamined prejudices, personal philosophies as well as flat out bias.I am not going to add any disclaimer here about not wanting to "hurt feelings" or whatever you want to call it. The fact of the matter is that middle and upper-class women should feel uncomfortable, especially if they have never thought about ANY of these points before.I especially want to direct this to young feminists who are eager to label themselves feminist while pursuing patriarchal approval with equal fervor. Their desperation to inhabit to worlds that are totally incongruent leads to many contradictions and flaws within Caribbean feminist groups whether official organizations or simply groups of Caribbean feminists in general. Ask yourself: Could your actions and your personal philosophies require greater scrutiny? Is there more fine tuning and education for you to accomplish? How can you be a better person without relying on the smoke and mirrors of a label unfettered to genuine action?

Additionally, I want to ensure that women who read this take the time to really check themselves for the condescension that is typical of the "educated" classes in the Caribbean. I want to personally remind you that your degree is just a piece of paper, but how you treat the women in your community is very very real. How you live in the world is where all your significance lies. Your identity need not rely on putting other women down. Rather, we need to open our hearts to all of the women on our islands and allow our women to speak the truth of their oppression, even if we don't like what they have to say or how they have to say it.