- Kola Boof, Egyptian-Sudanese-American novelist and poet
I had feared that I would be one of those Black women who is truly loved after she is dead. I have been to funerals throughout my life where Black women lay in their caskets and the people that now love them look down in deep sadness and sometimes surprise that she, their rock, their shelter is gone. I feared I would join them, getting my reward after I had spent a lifetime not living my life, but doing what I must to make life better for others.
I, like too many Black women, often only find our love reciprocated after we have sacrificed time, money, energy, and dreams in an effort to be enough, be worthy of love. What I have, in the past felt loved for was my utility. Whether in the church, mosque or home. I, and most of the Black women I have known, are not treasured and certainly not viewed as precious. We are, like our female ancestors, valued for our labor. No longer the plantation, those fields are now reconfigured, we now labor for family and community, often doing work in isolation. In fact, the more solitary my activity, the more arduous, the more strain it caused me the more accolades I received.
I feared that I would always have to barter work for love. I would perform the alchemy of turning my loneliness and pain into the fuel that would enable me to do even more, give even more, and therefore, be even more. There was no one that would come to me and say "You've done enough." As I observe women who are literally giving themselves to death, they like my former self, may be waiting for someone who loves them to give them permission to just be, to stop and just be loved.
On my sixty-second birthday I realize that I no longer have to fear having a funeral in which those who ignored my preciousness will howl at my departure. My life s peopled by those who see me as worthy, as wonderful, as precious and for them the only thing I have to do is breathe. Their arrival in my life only occurred as I began to step into my own heart, my own spirit, my own dreams. My movement was and often continues to be tentative, but all along my journey there have been those that moved toward me, the courage with which they lived their lives encouraging my own strength. I thank all of them and myself for choosing to live our lives in authenticity and courage.
I am celebrating my birthday by writing--my gift, my joy, my journey.
It is a wonderful and wondrous thing.