Blackgirl Blue(s)


The first time I decided I wanted to die it was because I felt the weight of so much sadness

blues as deep as navy mixed with black

I was too black to be happy

Too black to be pretty

Too black to be worth anything

I convinced myself no one would care if I was gone


The second time I collected prescription pills in a cloth pocketbook I hid underneath the bathroom sink

behind Mama’s sponge rollers and fingernail polish


The third time I pulled grandma’s gun from under her mattress

and stared at it for hours


The fourth time I wrote a note

chronicling my pain and the names of people who made it worse by making me feel dead already


The fifth time I swallowed 23 pills and waited

when I woke up I felt like a failure


Nobody knew because I saved my tears for the middle of the night when no one could hear me cry

as quiet as I could

swallowed sobs heavy like hiccups in my chest

Nobody knew because I was good at imitating joy, I knew what it looked like, just not what it felt like

Nobody knew why I felt my blues so deep Billie Holliday couldn’t climb out

My wished-for death was a secret and desperate plea disguised as nightly prayer

My death, I imagined, would be a relief from the weight of pain

passed on to me like an unwanted inheritance

My life felt like a cruel symphony of disappointment and hopelessness on repeat

I wanted it to stop


This notion to die would stay with me most of my life and only recently, in the past five years, have I learned how to fully resist it.  How to live wide awake.  How to not want to die.

It meant not allowing other people to dictate my happiness

or my sorrow

It meant making my circle smaller and more discreet

It meant learning to love myself on purpose and with full consciousness

It meant feeling all of my feelings

and not doing the emotional work of others

It also meant paying attention to how people treat me

and kickin’ them to the curb before they can do damage to my psyche

It meant never internalizing my insecurities

& honoring my frailties

It meant learning I am worthy of respect, love and security

& that everything about me is a gift

And if folk miss that

that’s their loss to live with


It meant looking myself in the eye, in the mirror, every single day

and knowing that I am the shit

dreams are made of

alla that


all the times I have been overlooked, messed with, laughed at, ignored, dismissed, missed, passed by, fucked over, fucked with, lied to, left for dead

was an inexplicable misstep on the part of the other person

it was never about me


so when sadness comes

and it does come

like an unwelcome visitor

or lover I no longer desire

I sit with it a while

& we talk about old times

over wine or water

while I collect my tears in open hands

but there is no room

in my house

or my heart

for sadness to take off its shoes, get comfortable, or overstay its welcome

I won’t let sadness move in

because I have moved on


“& this is for colored girls who have considered suicide/but are movin to the ends of their own rainbows” -Ntozake Shange



Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.  Because of cultural requirements, strongblackwoman myths and the stigma of mental illness black women (and black folk more generally) are sometimes overlooked as potential victims of depression or self-harm.  This is a dangerous myth.  We are not unbreakable.  The black suicide rate has been high enough in recent years to claim one African-American every 4.5 hours.  If you or someone you know is in crisis, please get help.  Call 1-800-273-TALK or seek help and resources here and here.  Suicide is 100% preventable.

15 thoughts on “Blackgirl Blue(s)

  1. Thank you so much for this. I wanted to share with you that I gave a keynote address focusing on the emotional and physical pain/illnesses caused by pretending to me a strong black woman, two days ago in Toronto Canada. It was called “Recipes for Racial Tension Headaches” and I start by singing a song about what a strong black woman is. Part of the lyrics talks about how a strong black woman DOES cry.
    Perhaps you and your readers will find it interesting?
    Dr. A. Breeze Harper

  2. My first epiphany came at 22(the day Aaliyah died), the second at 28 my journey in Egypt, reminded of all, that past, that use to be me, but finally “And if folk miss that, that’s their loss to live with”, and today (as some days when I need to feel and hear it) I look at myself in the mirror and say real loud (no matter who is or isn’t present) and say….”SO, DAMN SEXY!!” No, not vain, affirmation.

    Thank You for this. Late getting to the read but uh, always celebrating my life, especially when I remember what I came through.


  3. This was perfect and right on time. Both my 14 year old daughter and I struggle with blackgirl blues and in the constant practice of loving myself I hope to show her that we can set new directions for our best, fullest lives. Thank you.

  4. I am not Black,nor I don’t understand being Black or how it feels to live in an oppression that unfortunately still exists, but I struggle with my own issues and your message still touched me and tugged at my heart. It inspired me and I love you for that. Thank you.

  5. I know those feelings. I am glad we are both alive – I am glad you are here and inspiring and that I am able to be inspired by you. Thank you.

Comments are closed.