Bad-Assery. This is a term, that’s not new, but Shonda Rhimes has made it the term of the year. There’s a saying that goes for every successful woman you meet, there is a group of strong women behind her encouraging her. I am grateful for the tribe of women I have in my corner. A strong group of educated, black women making power moves in their fields. I think about them and I am happy to be apart of their lives, but today I wanted to highlight women in history who have been distant representations for me and who have influenced my journey and everything that I do. These are women who are change-makers and who have influenced me to embrace my weird, quirky, empowering and revolutionary “Dejism,” yes, that’s a thing. They are unsung heroes in history and what better time to highlight them than women’s history month? Read on, you might learn something.
Some days…well most days I channel my inner Grace with an IDGAF attitude. I’ve been blessed thus far in this life and I’d like to think it had a whole lot to do with God and also to the fact that I do what I want. I dance to the beat of my own drum. I don’t try to follow or keep up with trends. I don’t try to be who I’m not and life works just fine in my favor.My friends often joke that I am my own category. There’s normal, weird and then there’s Deja. I love Grace Jones because she is the epitome of bad-assery. Uncensored, unfiltered. She is who she is and NEVER apologizes for it. Who do you think influenced the androgynous movement in the 80’s? Prince might have been the face, but he certainly didn’t set that trend. She’s gone on to bend genres in music, styles in fashion and is an icon in pop culture. She influences hundreds of artist such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Santigold and the list goes on. It’s not always easy keeping up with the Joneses.
If I remember correctly, It was my junior year in undergrad and I registered for a Race, Gender and Literature class. I had seen everyone walking around campus with this book called “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name” and I was so curious about it, but luckily it was a required reading for the course I registered for. I fell in love with Lorde before that class was over.Being the black sheep in her family for a plethora of reasons, she struggled with communication and turned to writing and poetry as her way of expressing herself. I can definitely relate. She often focused her writings and studies on the “outsiders” I love her work because she captures each stage in her life from struggling with race identity, gender identity and living her life as a queer woman of color. I pray that my writings have the same powerful reach as hers and that people will live their lives through the words of my writings.
When I tell you she is why I write! She is why I write! I had the privilege of meeting her back during my undergrad years. She was headlining a writer’s series on my campus and because I was the vice president of the Black Organization of Students at the time I was blessed with VIP seating which meant the first couple of rows in the banquet hall. I sat in anticipation waiting for her to come out on the stage and when she did I couldn’t control my tears. This past year has been a wild ride in terms of figuring out what I want to do with my life and when I found myself stuck at a job I hated to pay bills and staying up late to finish my first manuscript I thought back to an experience she shared during her writer’s series. She held down a 9-5 when writing her first book that didn’t get nearly as much stain as her later works. It was an exhausting and depressing time in her life, but she pushed through. So whenever I find myself struggling to finish a chapter, map out a story idea, or finding the motivation to meet a deadline, I think of her and her words.
It was my senior year in college and I only had two classes left to take before graduation so I took a course called “Black Radicalism” taught by a hippie white guy with a curly blonde Afro and vans that paired well with every blazer and Cosby-esque sweater he wore. I had a major crush on him partly because of his passion when he taught. He was a Ph.D student doing his dissertation on the Russian response to the Civil Rights Movement. Throughout his class he spoke so much about this woman Ella Baker, that I did a book review on her and I was just so enamored with her. She studied Journalism like I did. I loved most that she came from privilege, rejected her social standing and manned the trenches with those less fortunate because she felt that’s where the revolution truly lied. She rejected talented tenth standards, left the elitist NAACP, and founded SNCC because she believed in the power of youth culture. This one of the disciples and unsung heroes behind Dr. King’s Million Man March and didn’t get nearly as much credit as she should have. She’s behind the pushing of the NAACP to focus not only on middle class black issues, but the poor black issues. This woman fought with leading men such as Dr. King, WEB Dubois and more to include women and children in the revolution. Pure bad-assery.
I often credit Jill Scott as the initial start to my discovering and embracing womanhood. I would sit and listen to her albums, the lyrics in her songs, the sexual references and how different they were from the blatant sexual music that circulates today and I loved how she would make things like sex and womanhood so empowering and sensual. I love how she owns it. She appreciated the sexual being that she is and the sexual being that he is and owns it. And I’ve loved that about her. Jill Scott is a lyrical and soulful badass.
Who are the badasses that’s influenced your life?