• Sonja Cherry-Paul

The Odyssey Of An Angry Black Woman

You wear the label proudly

It is justified, your superpower

When the breaking point happens

It is your anger that rescues and restores you.


Right from the start you

the only Black K-12 academic teacher in that district

KNEW

Your emotional safety was at risk

They were more comfortable with

An Assimilating Black Woman

Not

an angry one.


Scene 1


A White parent complains

you are

Doing “too much Black stuff”

You swallow the indignity

Meet with her and the White principal

Textbook in hand, to prove, that yes

3/5ths clause is actually IN the curriculum. She replies,


“Bobby

already

feels bad enough

about this kind of stuff.”

You return to your classroom,

head

high

truth-teller

teacher

you are

And your students thrive

Cause your anger is

awe

inspiring.



Scene 2


Lunch

in the faculty room

White women colleagues discuss

sunburns

one proclaims

“Oh, but you don’t have to worry about that Sonja.”

You navigate this othering

and ignorance

Tell them about

the gift of melanin

And how all gifts must be

protected

After that day, you learn to eat lunch

in your classroom

Cause your anger is

your armor.


Scene 3


End-of-the-school-year BBQ

Asked how you’d LIKE your burger cooked,

Your lips part,

a White male colleague interjects

“..like she LIKES her men.

BLACK

and hot.”

You get confrontationally close to this colonizer,

Wielding your anger like an axe

Toward him and all others around you

To dissolve such speech

Cause your anger is

acrimony.


Scene 4

“AnyGivenGoddamnedDayofthe180DaysoftheYearinaPredominantlyWhiteSchoolDistrict”

A discussion about racism

blonde, White woman colleague asserts,

“I don’t see color”

And

“I can’t go to Harlem; I’d be a target.”

BS you think, “absurd” you say

Which surprises your colleague

who. then. cries

When you advocate for yourself

against the microaggressions

you’ve experienced

and the various ways racism

thrives in this school district.

You are

Accused

of playing “the race card”

Accused

of being “too sensitive.”

You are Always “too” something here.

The real issue?

You are just

“too”

Black.

Cause they are more comfortable

with an Apathetic Black Woman

Not

an angry one.


Scene 5


Dozens of White seniors

On the steps of their high-school building

chant the N-word

as they sing lyrics to a rap song


You report this behavior to all district administrators

The superintendent says

”I’m sure that was awful for you.”


He suggests you speak with the seniors

let them know how that made you feel.


Hell. No.


The onus to address racism

Is not the sole responsibility of the Angry Black Woman


Instead


You co-found the Race Matters Committee

Collaborate with teachers

parents

the community

Leverage your power

to provide

Professional development on race and racism for the district

Co-write curriculum

that helps White students develop racial literacy

Cause your anger is

avenging and availing.


Scene “The Final Last Act”

The White elementary school principal

calls your brilliant

beautiful

Black daughter

‘slave labor’

upon meeting her

for the first time

You file a harassment claim

six-weeks of investigation conducted by district lawyers,

the verdict was in.


“We do not find that these actions rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment.”


The White superintendent hand delivers this letter

to you

in your classroom. At lunchtime.


You read the letter, hands trembling, and finish the remainder of the school day

And do this, splendidly.

Cause your anger is astonishing

you’ll never let them

take away your shine.


Then you pick up your bag and leave


The breaking point had come.

You retreat. Mediate. Pray.


And you do not return.


You wait for your spiritual mothers and earthly sisters and aunties to speak.

Days turn into weeks.

Weeks turn into months.

Until finally,

you hear them.

Maya.

Then Ruby. Then Toni. Then bell.

Ellen. Rachel. Yolanda.

Barbara.

Their words move through you like a storm.


You ask how to arm your daughter against racism

Claudia answers.


Nothing you say equals what she see you do

How you value yourself

What you put up with

What you don’t


You know what you need to do.


You’d reached your breaking point.

You have been antagonized, but you are not broken.

Despite their relentless attempts, they failed in that regard.


And yet, something does break inside of you.

Your allegiance to an institution

ripe with racism,

but too blind to see the bleeding.


Instead


like Rankine,

you pledge allegiance to your own agency in the world

and in doing so, find and create new spaces

to thrive.


Cause your anger is audacious

and you will always

resist.





This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by [Marian Dingle] (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog circle).



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Educator. Author. Racial Literacy Advocate.

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