For Black Girls Only
I have an early memory of a conversation that I once had with a distant aunt of mine who said to me, “you’re such a dark beauty. Even the white people used to want to kiss you and play with you whenever your mother took you with her to East London.” As a child, I took this as a compliment – white people loved me.
I also recall a time in high school where I had to do laundry for my older cousins solely because they were male. At the age of 18, you would think they would know how to use a washing machine. It didn’t matter that I was already doing the brunt of the work – cooking, cleaning and taking care of my younger siblings.
We are conditioned to believe from a very early age that our worth is derived from the pleasure of others, whether it be white people or even the approval of our fellow black men. The unlearning of this conditioning can be a gruelling and tiresome process, however necessary. My journey of unlearning has been made easier by the amazing group of women I’ve met on this expedition of self-discovery. Women who have taught me that it is okay to be the unpalatable black. Women that have taught me that it is okay to stand up for myself even if it makes others uncomfortable. Women who have taught me to stand firm in my truth. Women I now call my sisters.
So when I got the chance to attend For Black Girls Only which was held at the Women’s GAOL at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg last month – I jumped. What had once been a women’s prison was now being used as a space to unshackle us from our present-day oppression. It promised to be a safe space for us to come together as sisters without any allies to celebrate and revel in our blackness. It was a safe space for us to rant and rave if need be, to air our grievances and recognise our triumphs. A safe space filled with love and no judgements. A retreat from the daily micro-aggressions, the racism, the sexism, the patriarchy, the misogyny and the repulsive hate for the LGBTQI community.
It was a day of picnics, talks, music, stalls and book exchanges. A day filled with love, light and laughter.
Written By: Zuleka Pukwana, Staff Writer, #mygirlsquad
Images: Nthabiseng Maloleka